“I think I requested this book from Net Galley because I was so astonished Avi is still writing books. I remember reading The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle when I was in seventh grade—and now I have a seventh grader myself.”
A good number of years ago I read—I don’t recall where—that a work of children’s literature achieves semi-permanence if it can last for something like twenty-five years. A generation. The quote above—recently posted online—is a perfect example of this phenomenon.
That’s to say, one generation of readers passes on a particular book to the next generation. I’ve done it myself. My two-year-old granddaughter—Etta—is fascinated by trains. Knowing this, I sought out a book I loved when I was a child, The Little Engine That Could.
Why does this transmission happen? That book was—apparently—so successful an experience for me, I never forgot it. How easy it was to recall “I think I can. I think I can,” and pass it on to my grandchild. My wife, remembering the books she gave the children, selected some of those same titles for Etta. So, it goes. And indeed, it does go on.
In truth, parents are often frustrated when picking out a book for a child. What is good? How much easier it is to recall what was once read and pass it on. It is, so to speak, safe. Nothing wrong with that. And there is a comfort—and special joy—in an adult sharing a book they once loved when young with the new young. It creates a singular kind of bonding.
These days, having published for more than fifty years, I often see comments from adults who recall—positively—reading my work when young and going back to them. I have no doubt some of these folks pass on the same titles. It’s very gratifying.
And indeed, Things That Sometimes Happen, my first book, published in 1970 is still around, albeit in a revised version. So too is No More Magic, my first novel, (published in 1975). Poppy has been around for twenty-five years. And there are many others which also have had a long life.
This is a special aspect of children’s books, which is not always noted. It’s a wonderful thing.
Long live children’s books. How wonderful that they do live long. Think about it this Christmas. Birthday. Any time. Yes, pass them on.