…give us wings. You who are powerful and strong, help us to escape into the faraway. Build us azure palaces in the midst of enchanted gardens. Show us fairies strolling about in the moonlight. We are willing to learn everything that we are taught at school, but, please, let us keep our dreams.
Paul Hazard, 1944
French Scholar Paul Hazard came up with the concept of the “universal republic of childhood.” How exciting, and evocative. It brings to my mind refugee children, waiting for books ( #EducationForRefugees). These kids need to be remembered.
It also resonates with a wonderful story I’m going to share with you, from this past weekend’s SCBWI children’s writer’s and illustrator’s conference, “The Power of Story.” It comes from the charming Megan Shepherd’s keynote address. She was talking to us about her background, and some of the magic things that happened to her, to bring her to writing children’s books. We bloggers promised not to reveal the techniques and storehouse of creative writing toolbox treasures we learned from this weekend, since all that is the intellectual property of the workshop presenters. But I think it’s o.k. to share this, since it’s a story, about the power of story.
Megan was working at a summer camp as a teenager. It was an awesome boy’s camp, that taught exciting adventurous stuff like hang gliding. Every day was full of noisy fun and glorious mayhem. One day Megan went to get the mail, as always, and the mailroom person said, “We have a problem.” There were about fifty book-sized packages, which did not fit into the tiny mailslots given to campers. So Megan decided to give them personally to each boy. It turns out that inside each package was a copy of the latest newly-released Harry Potter book. Each boy had made his parents promise to send them the book as soon as it came out. And they did. So on that day, fifty boys put down their hang gliding apparatus, went to sit on the grassy hill, and read. Megan said it was the only day in her whole time at the camp, where there was absolute silence, all day. And she realized at that moment, the power of reading and it’s absolute value in childhood.
What a fabulous story! And what a fabulous lesson. All kids, everywhere, need to read; need to cross the borders of their own life and feel what it’s like to be someone and somewhere else.
I came away from that conference really inspired, remembering why children’s book writers (and illustrators) are so necessary. It’s our calling, and it truly rocks.