Writer, friend, and beautiful pregnant lady Betsy Boyd and I went to NYC this weekend and visited with our agent, the lovely Alice Tasman. Here we all are, near the cool book display at the entrance to the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency's offices.
In belated celebration of World Read Aloud Day, I wanted to share an image from one of the many posters that my great-aunt Nancy Kirk created decades ago for the Maryland Academy of Sciences' weekly lecture series. All her graphic work was done by hand, before the days of Illustrator, Photoshop, and TrueType fonts. Three of these posters hang right behind my desk, reminding me of one of my earliest and most profound influences. Today, she would have turned 105.
On World Read Aloud Day itself, I had a great time Skyping with a class in Pennysylvania and sharing some thoughts on picture books with Bon Bon Break. Sharing books--good for penguins, good for us.
Today, after way too many days of chill, Baltimore hit a high temperature of 50 degrees. It came as a relief. I'd been starting to almost look forward to more frigid weather, which seems in retrospect to have been a meteorological version of Stockholm Syndrome. Baltimore's not Montreal, or Oslo. We are not built for this.
The old snow still lies on the ground, looking puckered and almost fake, as if someone tilted a can of shaving cream onto lawns and roadsides and hit Spray.
But the frigid winter days have been a good time for reading, and binge watching television. I've been catching up on lots of things. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, for one. Girls, for another. My whole household is falling into the weird dream that is True Detective. But mostly we're just waiting for spring.
In the meantime, here's one photo from a school visit last week at my own alma mater, Roland Park Country. The girls were just so cute--much cuter than I ever remember being.
I happened to read THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER, which won a Newbery honor this week, the day before the ALA awards were announced. I loved it--its structure, its tone, and so many of its lovely sentences. Reading it made me remember how much I'd also loved Kevin Henkes' CHRYSANTHEMUM and WEMBERLY WORRIED. Kevin Henkes has a way of quietly putting his finger on kids' emotional truths.
I just--finally--read R.J. Palacio's WONDER. (Here's my dog Lulu with the library copy I read.) Books are like movies or restaurants or anything else--sometimes you've heard so much about something, you start to doubt (or wonder...) how the whatever could possibly be as good as people say. You start to think that maybe you'll be the one person whose eyes DON'T fill when they talk about the whatever. But with WONDER, I had no let-down, only admiration. Auggie is such a charming, believeable main character; the alternating narratives work beautifully to shed different perspectives on characters and scenes; and the teacher's--and students'--precepts are uplifting and true without being preachy. And now my eyes are filling too.
In its heartfelt but not cloying emphasis on kindness, the book reminded me of the wonderful George Saunders commencement speech that was circulating last year. It's every bit as powerful, just boxed up in a different form.