Not long ago, a colleague of mine brought his daughter to visit the office. She was about seven.
A confident little girl, she walked into my office and immediately engaged in conversation.
Then her dad encouraged her to tell me what she wants to do when she grows up.
“I want to write children’s books,” she said.
How at the age of less-than-ten does she know she wants to write children’s books? I mean, she is a child.
For me, I’ve known I wanted to write children’s books since I was a little girl too. It wasn’t that I wanted to simply be a writer; I wanted to be that specific kind. But why?
I suspect is it had a lot to do with coming under the influence of a certain book. (I know you have a “certain” book too.) For me, this book was Childcraft, Volume Two, Storytelling and Poems, copyright 1949. It was part of a 14-volume set my grandmother had purchased originally for my mom and her sister when they were little girls. Volume Two was filled with poetry by Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg, among many others and a stunning variety of illustrations by exceptional artists. My mom kept the set intact in the hall closet of my childhood home for years, but somehow that precious Volume Two vamoosed to WhoKnowsWhere.
Over the years, I thought about Volume Two. It may sound silly, but I longed to see those images of Miss T. dining with her grandparents, an elephant on the telephone, the dancing potatoes, the tiny black kitten curled on the blue rug. And I wanted to read those poems again. Those amazing poems. The combination of art and rhythmic words was like an incantation. So powerful. So magical.
I am happy to report I finally found Volume Two online and it is now at my house. Sure enough, seeing it again took me to the same place of contentment and delight that made me want to write for children, even while I was a child myself.
My little Snickerdoodles, let me encourage you to reread beloved books from your childhood. Not to study them, but because they are dear to you and can help you remember why you do what you do. It’s not about recollecting, so much as it is rekindling. Sure, when you reread childhood favorites you may be surprised by how out of step they feel with modernity or wonder what on earth attracted you to this book when you were a kid, and that’s okay. But, there will still be that certain book that has built a cozy blanket fort in your heart. Get your flashlight and a box of animal crackers and enjoy it again. Experience the magic and it will motivate you to write some incantations of your own.
Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
The IMPOSSIBLES, the WONT’S
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be
~Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends