Jacqueline's little two-year old

Every author has other authors they’ve looked up to and admired.

Unfortunately many of mine: Mark Twain, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, are dead.

One of my favourite authors: Eloise Jarvis McGraw died before I got up the gumption to write to her. So after reading about Phyllis A. Whitney’s 100th birthday, I did send her a letter about how much her books meant to me growing up. Mysteries, like Phyllis A. Whitney’s, got me turned on to reading. Some people look down their noses on mysteries, but I think they hook many a young reader!

But imagine that an author that you’ve admired for over a decade, writes to  you and tells you how much her children loved your new book BIG RED LOLLIPOP?

Imagine what that feels like?

There’s a scene in Disney’s MULAN where Eddie Murphy’s character, that little dragon thing (can’t remember his name) is composing a letter to Mulan’s love interest, can’t remember his name either, while they’re in the tent of Chi Foo (sp?), the guy in charge, the Emperor’s advisor.

Eddie Murphy’s character is looking at a picture of Chi Foo (the Emperor’s advisor) shaking hands with the emperor. Chi Foo’s got this real goofy grin on his face and he’s pointing at the emperor, as if to say, “Look who I’m shaking hands with!”

Well, that’s how it feels.

I know it’s silly.

We’re all human.

I’ve often wondered why it is we put other people on pedestals.

Why some people are celebrities to some and not to others.

With writing though, so much of your own self comes through, and after you’ve read a book that has thoroughly touched you, you feel as though you *know* the author in some small way.

In WORLDS OF CHILDHOOD, Katherine Paterson (another author I’m a huge fan of!!!) said that this lady had come up to her after reading her book and said something like, “Now I really want to get to know you.” And Katherine had thought, “Lady, you already know me more than I want.” Or something like that. I’m just remembering something I read a long time ago.

She likened really good writing to stripping naked in a crowd so everyone can take a look at all your figure flaws or blemishes and make comments. (I’m paraphrasing.)

I think her analogy is apt.

 After reading this author’s work, I just get the sense of such a kind soul. A deep thinker, and to think that she took the time to tell me how much her children loved my book, that just confirms that she’s kind as well.

My first introduction to her was when someone suggested I pick up a very quiet looking book called The Other Side.

The words float. They lap like waves over the shores of your subconscious, building to a very subtle conclusion.

Subtlety is hard. It’s hard to make it satisfying! Yet Jacqueline Woodson is able to recreate the thought processes of these two groups of kids, one black, one white, eyeing each other from their side of a fence, straddling the fence and then eventually being able to play on the other side. And in the process, Ms. Woodson, takes no sides!!!!


Having her write to me sure made my day!

And here, below is her letter (reproduced with permission!)

Hello Ms. Khan,

I hope you are well.  Today is my son’s second birthday and his main request — to have BIG RED LOLLIPOP read to him three times!!  My editor at Putnam sent me the galley to see the work of Sophie Blackhall who is doing a book of mine.  My kids (ages almost-8 and now-2) LOVE it.  We’ve read it dozens of times.  When the galley pages start falling apart, my oldest daughter hurries to put them together again.  We are very much looking forward to the book!

I hope you have a great day.

 Jacqueline Woodson


 Later on she sent me a picture of her little son reading the book, unfortunately somehow the program isn’t allowing me to paste it in here, and techno nerd that I am, I can’t figure it out.

But I will say that this is what Jacqueline said about literature and I totally agree!

I think this is what fiction does (and Jackson-Leroi proves) — that books speak to us for reasons we can’t articulate.  Whatever it is about Rubina, Sana, Maryam and Ami, it  touches my two year old in some old, deep and familiar place.  (Well, maybe just deep and familiar).  And this is how literature changes the world, isn’t it?  

Reminding us each day of its power and necessity, of its ability to move us. Of our deep need (even in the middle of a birthday celebration) for a connection.  Thanks so much for making JL’s day so special.

 Well, I thank Jacqueline for sharing this with me. And I hope everyone will check out all of Jacqueline’s amazing books! There’s like two dozen or something! Her website again is: www.jacquelinewoodson.com