three cheers for Katherine Paterson (and dragons)
Last week I saw that John Scieszka‘s reign as the first National Ambassador for Children’s Literature is coming to an end, and Katherine Paterson, author of Bridge to Terabithia, The Great Gilly Hopkins, and more, will take up the mantle.
In the New York Times article about the appointment, our new Ambassador talks about who she writes for.
But it wasn’t her experience as a mother that gave her the ability to tap into the emotional landscape of children.
“People often say, ‘Now that your children are grown up, how can you still write for children?’ ” she said.
“And I say, ‘I never wrote for them.’ I always write for the child in me, and she is still in there.”
I love this view of writing for the child within – whether that child is four or pushing on the door of adulthood.
To paraphrase G. K. Chesterton,
We don’t tell children stories to teach them that there are dragons.
Children know there are dragons; they meet them every day.
We tell children stories to teach them that dragons can be slain.
A storyteller who can tap into the memories and feelings of childhood and adolescence can make a story resonant and compelling. Children do not need writers (or illustrators) to talk down to them – they need us to see them, to hear them, to reflect their experience in honest ways.
Cheers to Katherine Paterson!
listening to: Loreena McKennitt, The Mummer’s Dance