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 peace pos­si­ble?… more
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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 brain, through your mouth, and off your tongue?… more
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Shoe books

No, not the books by Noël 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 savor my new under­stand­ing of, or my empa­thy for, some­one else’s life.… more
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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 William Allen White Chil­dren’s Book Award in Kansas, the Prairie Pasque Award in South Dako­ta, and the South Car­oli­na Chil­dren’s Book Award.… more
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