I don’t write for children, but I love reading to children. Last week I attended an event sponsored by Delta Kappa Gamma, an international organization that supports the professional and personal growth of women educators and excellence in education. The event was titled Celebrate Reading, and included a short presentation on Little Free Libraries, a selection of reading-themed gift baskets, a “Buck a Book” table for charity, a story teller, and a featured speaker, Mary Marchi, the author of several children’s books, including The Web in the Halo, The Golden Pumpkin Crown, and The Littlebits.
Learning about the origin of the Little Free Libraries that seem to be popping up in every neighborhood I visit was fun (click on the link to learn about these gems of international wonderfulness), I found two books to take home for bedtime reading, and I thoroughly enjoyed the tale told by the skillful storyteller. The luncheon, which consisted almost entirely of desserts washed down by lovely strong coffee, was delicious. However, the highlight of the day for me was meeting Mary Marchi and comparing our thoughts about writing and reading.
I was quite moved by Mary’s professional approach to writing children’s books. Since we were exhibiting and autographing our books at the same table, I saw at once that hers were attractive and beautifully illustrated. We talked about why we write, what we write and how we feel about writing. Mary self-publishes her books, but that does not diminish her contributions to the world of children’s literature, nor her passion for excellent writing.
Self-publishing was a pragmatic decision for Mary. As she quipped later that day – “I didn’t start writing until after I retired from teaching, so I didn’t have time to wait around for a publisher to discover my manuscripts in the slush pile — I needed to get them into the hands of children as soon as I could.”
Mary believes as I do that children’s books should be of the very highest quality. She strives for her books to be rich in words, rich in meaning, and rich in imagination. She likes stories to have a purpose and to carry a message. They should be read for pleasure, of course, but the written words should also stir the minds and hearts of the young listener or the young reader.
Her words have stayed with me all week, and each time I selected a children’s book from my personal library to read to my granddaughter, I found myself examining it to see if it met Mary’s criteria.
Here are five books that did — and our little girl liked them, too. Some are new; others are classics. That part doesn’t seem to matter.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip C. Stead
Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey
Ten Oni Drummers, by Matthew Gollub
If You Give a Mouse an iPhone, by Ann Droyd.
What books would you add to this list?
Who are some of your favorite children’s book authors? If you are a bit out of touch, I encourage you to spend an hour in the children’s section of the public library, or of an independent bookshop. You’ll be amazed at the number of wonderful, entertaining, and powerful children’s books on the shelves. Share them with all the children you know!