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An Occasional Post

Passion for books

It’s been a while. Did you miss me? I’m not sure I’m cut out for blogging, but I’m sticking to An Occasional Post. Following the sublime experience of the Camp Lakeside reunion, I had to sleep a lot, but I think it was emotional and not physical exhaustion. The glorious intensity of the experience left me drained.

When drained, what I do is read, so I read a whole bunch of grownup books while subconsciously (I hope—how does one know?) contemplating revisions on my novel-still-in-progress. (I'm going for the record.)

Books included FREEDOM (Jonathan Franzen), THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET (David Mitchell), and THE LACUNA (Barbara Kingsolver). I loved all three, and admired each for different reasons. Both Franzen and Kingsolver share my political preoccupations—and write brilliantly in different ways—and David Mitchell is a genius.

Then along came The New York Times article (last week) on the decline of the picture book. Ugh. Sure, the Times may be exaggerating, misrepresenting, whatever. Responsible journalism (and how about the decline of that, yes? Remember the Times on the WMDs? I digress.) could be a topic for many blog posts.

When I used to read and review just about everything published for children and young adults (as part of our Vermont review system for librarians), I complained about too many books. Books everywhere: in my office, at home, on shelves, in piles, in the bathroom, in the basement. “A moratorium,” I pleaded. Plus lots of the picture books published really weren’t very good.

Be careful what you wish for!!! I began submitting my own manuscripts pretty much at the same time as the rumored decline began.

I hope all the national organizations that care about children and books will take this issue on. ALA, ALSC, the IRA, the CBC, the ABC, the Authors Guild, and other alphabet organizations I’m not thinking of can surely come up with a campaign to remind parents, teachers, publishers, and everybody else that children need picture books.

There are so many reasons. In fact, is it too much to say that a functioning democracy depends on the right book at the right time? No, it is not. Picture books matter.

Several people have discussed the expense of the individual book and suggested that libraries are the place for picture books. Not enough. Books should be in the home. Besides, publishers can't afford to publish only for libraries these days. A picture book, which can be re-read, treasured, and passed on, costs less than lunch out for the family. Let's get a grip.

Yours in solidarity.
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