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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Barbara O’Connor

Wish

wish200I did not grow up in the south, but my parents did, so I like to claim a little southern heritage. When my kids were younger, I loved reading them books set in the south—willing into their souls the humidity, barbecue, iced tea with lemon, and accents that have the rhythm of rocking chairs found on great big porches. They enjoyed hearing how my grandparents called me “Sugar,” and I felt it vitally important they understand that Missouri peaches just might be better than the famed Georgia peaches. (It’s true–no offense to Georgia.)

I’m a big fan of Barbara O’Connor’s novels—whether they’re explicitly set in the south or not they feel southern, and when I pick them up I know I will enjoy them. So as soon as I heard her latest book, Wish, was coming out, I put a reserve on it at the library, where it was already ordered for when it came out months down the road. This is my system so I don’t forget about great books coming out. (Which seldom happens—for the really great books, anyway—but maybe that’s because I use this system, who knows?)

By the time the library notified me my copy was in, I’d already bought the book and read and loved it. So I pulled my reserved copy off the hold shelves and went to the check-out desk to let them know I didn’t need it anymore. I took my place in line behind a little girl standing with her mother. She was wearing a winter coat even though it was about sixty degrees that day. Minnesota had a lovely extended fall this year, which Minnesotans were in awe of as we ran around in our short sleeves almost to Thanksgiving, but newcomers still thought it was cold.

I heard the girl’s mother talking to the librarian. Her voice was a gentle rocking chair voice. They were signing up for library cards. The girl stared at me, eyeing me up and down. Somewhat suspiciously, perhaps. Maybe it was my short sleeves.

She looked at Wish, which I was holding down by my side. “Is that book about a dawg?” she asked, tilting her head the same way as the book.

“There’s a dog in it, yes. His name is Wishbone,” I said, pointing to the beagly looking dog on the cover.

“What’s that girl’s name?” she asked pointing to the girl on the cover with the dog.

“Her name is Charlie.”

“That’s a boy’s name,” she fired back.

I handed her the book because I could tell she wanted to look at it straight on.

“Her mama named her Charlemagne. She liked Charlie better,” I said. “It’s a really good book.”

“What’sitabout?” she asked all in one word.

“It’s about wishes…and friends…and home…and family. It’s about a girl living in a new place and she’s not sure if she likes it or not.”

“Does anything bad happen to that dawg?” she asked warily.

“Nope,” I said.

She handed the book back to me.

“Maybe you’d like to read it?” I said. “I’m not checking it out, I’m returning it.” It was my turn at the library desk.

I explained to the library worker that I didn’t need the book and asked if the little girl walking toward the door with her mother could check it out instead. Alas, someone was waiting for it, and things happen in certain orderly ways at the library, so they couldn’t check it out to her. I decided not to be irritated by this and checked it out anyway since it was still technically my turn.

I followed the girl and her mother out the door to the parking lot and gave them the book. I told them I borrowed it for them and I told the mother I thought she’d do a great job reading it out loud. I told the girl I thought she would enjoy it a lot. They both thanked me. The mother said, “Bless your heart!” about five times.

And my heart was blessed.

“What if they don’t return it?” the library worker said when I walked back in the library. “It’s checked out on your card.”

“If they need to keep it, I’ll pay for it,” I said.

We’ll find out in a few weeks, I guess. But I’m not worried.

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Skinny Dip with Barbara O’Connor

 

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

Missing MayMissing May by Cynthia Rylant. I read it at a time when I was struggling to find my writing voice. I was so struck by the strong sense of place in that book. It was obvious that West Virginia was Rylant’s heart’s home. So I decided to write stories that were set in my heart’s home—the South—and specifically the Smoky Mountains. I wrote her a letter to tell her the impact her book had on me and she sent me a lovely hand-written note back, signed “Take good care. Cyndi Rylant.” *swoon*

Favorite season of the year? Why?

SUMMER all the way!! I love the heat. The flowers. The long days. Love it all.

What gives you shivers?

Heights. OMG….. And one more thing: snakes. *shivers*

What’s your hidden talent?

Tap DanceI’m actually a pretty good tap dancer. I took tap lessons for years, from childhood all the way up until just a few years ago. I love to tap dance. It totally suits me much more than yoga.

Morning person? Night person?

Morning all the way. I turn into a pumpkin about 8 o’clock. My writing day never extends beyond about 3 o’clock … cause I’m heading toward Pumpkin Town. (Trivia for you: There is actually a town near my hometown of Greenville, SC, called Pumpkin Town.)

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Skinny Dip with Augusta Scattergood

What is your proudest career moment?

bk_Destiny_5x8_300My proudest career moment? Being invited to the American Library Association’s mid-winter conference to introduce my new book. As a career librarian turned middle-grade novelist, it doesn’t get much better than that.

I was also honored to have my first novel, Glory Be, which takes place during Freedom Summer, chosen by several groups highlighting the fiftieth anniversary of that event. Como, Mississippi and Oxford, Ohio were both important to the Civil Rights movement, and both places invited me to their commemorative events.

What’s the first book you remember reading?

A green, oversized Better Homes and Gardens Storybook collection. Classic children’s books, poetry, a few original stories. I can still quote almost the entire poem that begins “The Goops they lick their fingers. The Goops they lick their knives…”

What TV show can’t you turn off?

bk_BetterHomesWay too many to confess to. Breaking Bad would be at the top of that list.

What 3 children’s book authors or illustrators or editors would you like to invite to dinner?

Kirby Larson, Barbara O’Connor, and Susan Hill Long. Because I’ve had a couple of dinners with them and the fun never ended.

Were you most likely to visit the school office to deliver attendance/get supplies, visit the nurse, or meet with the principal?

Deliver attendance and get supplies while chatting with the principal.

 

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Peace

Peace is elusive. It is a goal of some people at some time in some parts of the world. As John Lennon wrote: “Imagine no possessions / I wonder if you can / No need for greed or hunger / A brotherhood of man / Imagine all the people sharing all the world …” Is […]

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Joy-in-Words Day

Isn’t it about time for a holiday? It’s been three weeks since the Fourth of July and we won’t celebrate Labor Day for another five weeks. Well, I hereby declare July 25th Joy-in-Words Day. Help celebrate! What’s your favorite word to say out loud? What word gives you joy as it rolls around in your […]

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Shoe books

No, not the books by Noel Streatfield, but slice-of-life books that I think of as “walking in someone else’s shoes” books. They’re written in a convincing, ready to assume the loafers or tennis shoes or flip-flops manner that allows me to become the main character from the front cover to the back cover … and […]

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Monday Morning Roundup

Barbara O’Connor‘s book How to Steal a Dog is a real children’s favorite. This book about a homeless girl’s plan to save her family by stealing a dog has, to date, been nominated in twenty-one states for a children’s choice award. We’ve recently learned that the book is a winner in three states, receiving the […]

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