Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thankful for the Language

In a conversation about author appearances and the questions people ask, Amy Tan lamented to Stephen King that "No one ever asks about the language." And in that sentence, King's author-memoir On Writing was inspired.

Amy was right: nobody ever asks about the language. They ask the DeLillos and the Updikes and the Styrons, but they don't ask popular novelists. Yet many of us proles care about the language, in our humble way, and care passionately about the art and craft of telling stories on paper.
Why bring up Stephen King for a post about children's books? Because I believe children's books are relegated by many to the same kind of lesser-class status of popular novels. As are children's book authors and illustrators. I'm not sure exactly why this is the case, but it seems to revolve around a distinction drawn between writing that entertains and writing that is "Worthy."

A few weeks back, Greg over at GottaBook asked, why write for kids? And some replied: Why not? or, Why write for adults? Madeleine L'Engle, you'll remember, said something in a similar vein:

You have to write whichever book it is that wants to be written. And then, if it's going to be too difficult for grown-ups, you write it for children.
Greg's commenters and L'Engle are not being overly defensive, evasive or cute. They are simply standing up for a part of the literary world that they are proud of, a part of the literary world that produces some of the most wonderful writing out there.

And it is that wonderful writing which makes me thankful. The breathtaking words I grew up on, the humorous words I shared with friends, the words I still remember long after first reading them. I am thankful for the language of children's literature.

A short time ago I invited people to contribute their ideas of the best passages from children's literature. The response was great, and produced 220 quotations across well over 150 books.

Frankly, I don't think that even scratches the surface.

So I welcome you to take a look at what we collected so far, to spend some time laughing over the funny lines and crying over the beautiful lines, and then to keep adding more! Follow the links below for:

The Funniest Passages in Children's Lit

The Most Poetic Passages in Children's Lit

The Most Memorable Passages in Children's Lit

Happy reading!

1 comment:

jules said...

Ooh, I can't wait to linger over those lists later when I have more time. Wanted to quickly say happy Thanksgiving! May you have a peaceful day with lots of pie. I'm thankful for your always-informative blog.