The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

Strong brave hearts in gawky sad times

Once I was a two-year-old on a ship sailing out of a harbor in NYC, and the Statue of Liberty meant nothing to me.  This spring, I gazed at the Statue of Liberty across from where I was staying in a lovely little apartment (in a building that used to be an old school house) and felt the thrill we feel when something we see in pictures pops into real view.

Once I had my nose smudged up against the glass as I wrote stories and collected rejection letters and drooled about the children’s book world, including everything that was hopping and popping at Bank Street School in NYC.  This spring, I got to talk about where authors gather details to kids at Bank Street School and have Lisa, amazing librarian, give me a tour.

Once I read books out loud to my little brother and felt so bad when Charlotte’s Web made him cry.  It was one of the first times I was struck with the way black marks on a white page make us FEEL things.  This spring, I got to be at the International Reading Association conference where he was signing his very first novel for young readers, The Pup Who Cried Wolf (and meeting fellow authors).

Once I was a gawky eighth grader starting school in Pasadena, California–going from a school in Ethiopia that had 200 students in k-12 to a junior high with 2000 students and lockers.  (I’m the one in front with the glasses.)  This spring, I left my high rise hotel–where guests for the LA Times Book Festival were housed–and walked around the neighborhood and remembered how I loved the rose garden that year in the rented house where I was 13.

Once I was a shy college student living in a borrowed house with my older sister who was working in a Pittsburgh church for the summer.  Music was comfort, and we listened over and over to the gorgeous harmonies of Peter, Paul and Mary.  This Last week, at the LA Times Book Festival, I got a kiss on the cheek from Peter–and got to tell him that his music had brought me joy.

Once I was a four-or-five-year-old learning how to read in Ethiopia, feeling bad that my friends (who were girls) didn’t go to school and didn’t have books.  Last week, I got to tell Lanie fans that Ethiopia Reads has planted 50 libraries for kids in Ethiopia and they just helped!

I’m glad that what’s happening in our lives right now isn’t what’s going to happen in our lives forever.  I’m glad for volunteers and dreamers and book lovers everywhere.  I’m glad books give us strong, brave hearts.

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