I’m off today to present tomorrow at Oakland University, Linda Pavonetti and Jim Cipielewski’s “Author’s and Illustrator’s Art & Craft” course, and doesn’t this, from the syllabus, say it all:
“[The] focus [of this course] is on the aesthetic elements in children’s literature, not directly on ways we might use literature in our teaching. We will also explore how we choose books for children, how we develop an eye and an ear for literature, how we act as ‘selectors’ of literature, not ‘censors’ of books.” [Emphasis original.]
Happy the classes taught by these students, in the years to come. Though that presupposes an administration behind each one that is honest enough – and courageous enough; curious that courage should be required, but it is – to stand behind teachers who choose to select the best, rather than pre-censor what might offend some screaming parent with a gored agenda, if I may mix my metaphors, which I’d better do today and not tomorrow.
And don’t let’s forget the joy of it, the sheer pleasure of introducing to someone who’s not read it a book that you love. Isn’t that the whole premise of word of mouth? “Oh, I adored this – try it, see if you do, too!” (Isn’t that why grown-ups go to book clubs?) And when the person to whom you’re handing the book has a good chance of being nourished for the rest of his/her life – really, the rest of that life! – how fast do you want to get the book into his hands, her hands, their hands? Charlotte’s Web! Harriet! Lynda Barry! (Why are Lynda Barry’s Marlys cartoons not required reading in middle school?!)
Working on Planchette has me reflecting that I read Dracula when I was 10 years old. Did I “get” everything that was there to be gotten, reading that book at that age? Nope. Did I know something was happening to me while I read it? Oh yeah. Did I read it again later? Many times. Did it change my life? Yes, it did.