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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

A gentle nudge

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book

What's the name of the children's book that influenced you most?

Sometimes we get so caught up in discussing the literary merits of a book that we forget who the intended readers are.

Sometimes we enjoy playing the game of who will win the awards so much that we forget there are all kinds of readers who are touched by books in many ways … and most of them unpredictable, even by the experts.

Sometimes we find beauty and rhyme and the feel of the paper to be so important when comparing one book to another … forgetting that publishing for children is truly all about “the right book for the right child at the right time.”

That’s why there are a wide variety of books.

That’s why book clubs should never expect to agree that they all like or dislike the same book.

That’s why starred reviews are all well and good … but thank heavens for those editors and authors and illustrators and teachers and librarians who understand that we must know books well enough to suggest the right book to the right reader. That requires a wide-ranging view of what should be published, an encompassing knowledge of what is available, and an understanding that, for children, most books are new and their stories are not tired.

Reading Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book (Roaring Brook Press), I am reminded of this over and over. It isn’t necessarily the “big” books or the classic books or the books that win awards that influence children. It’s the right book.

Whether you are curious or passionate about children’s books and reading, Anita Silvey’s book will fascinate you. I spent many happy hours reading stories about people from all walks of life and the books that influenced them.

We are getting ready for the Northwoods Children’s Book Conference (hope we’ll see you there), which has adopted the ideas from Everything I Need to Know for its focus this year. The names of influential books are coming in from faculty and attendees … and it’s fun to see their choices. I’ve never heard of some of them.

We need that gentle nudge once in awhile to remind each of us that it’s just as important to think about the reading needs of Every Child as it is to want them to have books with literary merit and award-winning illustrations. Sometimes the right book has no stars, no award stickers, and no buzz. It’s that well-worn book that one child loved and read until it fell to pieces. That’s another definition of a Good Book.

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What’s the children’s book that influenced you the most? Post your choice as a comment below and we’ll publish them on the CLN site. Think about the conversations this question could start in schools, libraries, book clubs, communities … knowing this about someone else brings us all closer together.

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