Author love

My 10-year-old just wandered downstairs to get a book. Specifically, he came for Calvin and Hobbes. I can always tell when he’s reading Calvin and Hobbes because his giggles infuse the house; it’s not necessarily ideal bedtime reading. 

I have no doubt that he wanted the book, but I think he also wanted to know what I was up to because I had refused to read one more chapter tonight even though the title of the next chapter is “The Basilisk” and even though we are pretty sure the dragon has unwittingly settled down for sleep in the basilisk’s cave. (Dragon Rider, Cornelia Funke, in case you’re wondering.) Normally I’m a pushover for “one more chapter,” so he really needed to know what had called me away. What could be more important than reading?

“You’re writing,” he observed nonchalantly, reading over my shoulder. “What do you write about?” I explained the idea of a slice of life and confessed that I was stuck tonight. He had a few suggestions for topics, including favourite books. His faves include the Spy School series and, he thinks, probably the Dog Man series because “even though they’re easy to read they are really funny.” But his favourite of all is The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. It took us a while to read that one aloud, but both of my children were rapt throughout. As he recalled the story, he remarked that he also really loves Witch’s Boy and Iron-Hearted Violet, also by Barnhill. In fact, I think Kelly Barnhill is the first author he has fallen for. He likes his series, but he loves Barnhill for her style and storytelling.

On a whim, we looked up her website – perfect activity for a parent procrastinating writing and a kid avoiding bed. Her tagline reads, “Author, teacher, mom. Newbery medalist. Terrible gardener. Maker of pie.”

“Mom!” he practically shouted, “you’re a teacher and a mom, too. Maybe you could write a book.” He paused, then mused under his breath, “And she makes pies. That’s really good. Grandma makes pies. That’s good.” He leaned in towards my computer and we began to peruse Barnhill’s site.

“She’s writing MORE books! I hope they come soon. I wonder what they’ll be about. I like the titles.” He was so wiggly with excitement that he did a kind of tap dance around the kitchen table. (He will be unhappy if he reads this. He will say he did NOT dance. Twirled around my chair? Moved his whole body with excitement in a little circle?)  He stopped,  suddenly serious. “Is she a New York Times bestseller? She must be a New York Times bestseller. Can you look?” I asked him why this mattered. “Because that means that so many people like her books. They know about her.” His eyes were starry with the idea that others might have experienced the magic that he knows.

I was about to suggest that we could write to her when I realized that his head might explode at the mere thought. And it was past his bedtime. So tonight I will hold the brimming potential of his excitement in my heart; tomorrow, together, we will write.

Ah, Kelly Barnhill, and all the writers out there, thrilling the hearts of readers, thanks for the magic.

 

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10 thoughts on “Author love

  1. Your household is a literacy loving place. That screams loud and clear in this piece. Between the read alouds that are clearly a staple, to the pleasure and joy your kids find in books, to modeling what it means to be a writer.

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  2. What a great picture of a rapt reader! Your mix of physical description and dialogue leaves me feeling like I’ve met him, and I’m glad for the encounter. Have you and he spent any time with Anne Ursu’s books like _Breadcrumbs_ or _The Real Boy_? (I see Barnhill read-alike potential in these titles while awaiting her next installment.)

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  3. Reading aloud to kids is so important because it builds relationships. You with your son. Your son with Kelly Barnhill. Authors are so accessible these days. I hope to hear soon about the letter you two write to her.

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  4. Oh how I love the scene you have shared here. It reminds me of evenings with my daughters when they were young. The nights we laughed together over books, and those nights when we were all in tears. The nights we talked long into the evening, and the nights we fell asleep mid-chapter. The bonding that takes place between a parent a child and an author is a powerful one, and you have written beautifully about it here. Now how do we give this experience to all children in all classrooms and bedrooms across the world?

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  5. I love bedtime reading. I hope my children never outgrow it! When my niece was 10 or 11 we started doing long distance book sharing. It was lovely. She’s 19 now and too cool for all of that. 🙂 She says too busy, but I know she’ll never be too busy for books!

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    1. I am still a book-provider for my nearly 14-year-old niece. I’m already trying to plan out this year’s Christmas haul for her… fingers crossed she keeps talking books with me for years to come!

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  6. Oh, what a beautiful scene you recreated for us here! I love reading about your son’s book enthusiasm and all those read aloud favorites. In our household, we are always ready to reminisce about favorite childhood read alouds–and my children are all in their 20s. I love your slice from start to finish! Thanks so much for sharing this moment.

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  7. My son is 15 and we still do bedtime reading. We’ve had some growing pains with it and he’s quit a few times (“I’m grown up now and we can’t do this anymore”) but he always comes back to it. It’s a really special part of our relationship and given that otherwise he is not a reader, a part that I try even harder to hold onto. There is real power in falling in love with an author and finding out more about them and reaching out. Even my college students lose their minds when they tweet an author and the author replies! I’m also reading a couple of Dogman books this week for my work as a Cybils judge–my first encounter with the series–and I’m glad to know they’re a favorite in your house. Makes me more cheerful about picking them up!

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