Wednesday, January 8, 2014

WONDER AND REFUGE: My Lifelong Passion for Children's Literature

My passion for children’s literature began in my elementary school library, where I found both wonder and refuge. After six years there, I could walk past the shelves and feel new worlds waiting, feel beloved books calling to me like old friends. There was The Secret Garden. There, The Wind in the Willows. My passion continued at Mills College when I read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase during breaks from studying for English Lit exams. And it has blossomed over the past fifteen years as I wrote and published eight novels for children and teens from ages eight to sixteen.

Of course, given my young readers, my books explore themes of coming of age. Another of my recurring themes is the relationship between light and dark in the human spirit. But the literary theme I return to again and again is the way nature brings us fully alive. This emerged in my first three novels, Firegold, Aria of the Sea, and White Midnight, all young adult fantasy novels. The theme came to the forefront in my seventh novel, my first realistic, contemporary book, Eva of the Farm, written for middle school children. But not until my eighth novel, After the River the Sun, a companion volume to Eva of the Farm, did the theme of nature restoring the human spirit come roaring to life.

Inspired by my love of my father-in-law’s commercial apple orchard in the Methow Valley, After the River the Sun is set in Eastern Washington. Full of guilt over his parents’ drowning death, Eckhart is a city boy who loathes the outdoors and only wants to play video games. He is sent to live with his uncle on an orchard in the Methow Valley. There, the demands, beauty, and perils of living close to nature bring Eckhart new life and hope.

For me, books have always combined both refuge and the wondrous prospect of new worlds. Maybe that’s the best thing about them. The continuing dream of my life is to write books that will so capture children’s hearts and minds, that they will embark on a lifetime of loving books When sixth graders walk past my books on the library shelves, I want them to feel old friends calling and new worlds beckoning.

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