Question: Welcome back, Paul. We’re glad you joined us.
Paul: That’s not a question.
Question: We’re glad you joined us?
Paul: Don’t sound so certain. You’re going to make me conceited.
Question: Are we glad you joined us?
Paul: Yes. Yes, I think you are.
Question: We asked you here because we want to know why you love kid lit.
Question: Why do you love kid lit?
Paul: I’m glad you asked. I love kid lit for three main reasons. I’m sure there are a lot more, but these three stand out. One, I love the brevity. Where else can you get an entire story with arc and character development and intrigue and emotion in two minutes (if you’re reading picture books like The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires, The Goblin and the Empty Chair by Mem Fox, Come With Me by Holly McGhee and The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken) and in 20 minutes (for an early reader like the Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo, the Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant and the Elephant and Piggie stories by Mo Willems)?
Two, I love the creative process. By this I don’t just mean the author and illustrator getting together (with beta readers, critique partners, agents, editors, publishers, marketers, librarians, book sellers and everyone else involved in the process of creating and sharing children’s literature). For any book to reach its full potential, the reader must be involved in the story creation process. It’s why writers are told, “Show, don’t tell.” Readers need the chance to insert their interpretation, their anticipation, their emotion into the story.
Third, and I’ll speak more to this the next time you invite me for an interview, I love the relationships fostered by kid lit. There is, of course, the relationship between a reader and a favorite author or illustrator, but this is rarely a reciprocal relationship. Of much greater meaning to a child is the relationship between the child and the characters in a book. That emotional bond is what gives kids a chance to begin to process feelings that we hope they never have to experience firsthand. I hope no child has to flee their home (The Journey by Francesca Sanna) or come to grips with the death of a best friend (Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Patterson) or the face the terror of confronting a seemingly unbeatable foe (Harry Potter’s fight against He-who-must-not-be-named), but I want them to have a chance to develop empathy for those who do face these challenges. On top of that emotional bond between child and characters, there is the bond between the child listening to a book (often a picture book) and the adult reading to them. I read to my daughter every day when she was little because I wanted her to love reading, but I also wanted time with her. I wanted her to associate me with books and to associate books with me. Reading was our thing. Reading still is our thing, we just mostly read separate books. Reading, and love of books, is one of our strongest bonds.
If you want ideas for picture books (and a few longer stories) to rekindle your love of kid lit, please Paul’s Picture Book Recommendations on this page.
P: Are you awake?
Q: Huh? Yeah. I’ll take a number 3 with extra…what are you doing here?
P: Nothing. Just passing by. Enjoy your burger.
P: Not a question.