September 16, 2011

Books Were My Salvation

Today I am thrilled (and very honored... and very lucky!) to have author Laurel Snyder guest post. Before I entered the blog world, I had read Laurel's books and once I entered the blog world, I continued to read Laurel's books. I mentioned Any Which Wall in a post, and Laurel was nice enough to leave a comment on my post. I learned that Laurel spent part of her life in Iowa City, and actually married a boy (man now!) that graduated with my husband. The world is so small... And this summer, I was able to see Laurel at The Hamburg Inn and listen to her read Inside The Slidy Diner (which my 3 year old LOVES and now wants to go see the REAL Slidy Diner). I love that Laurel is so in tune with schools and libraries, but most of all with kids. She gets them. If you've ever read her books, you know that. If you read this post, you will know why. Thank you Laurel.

As a mom, I’ve tried to create a perfect world for my kids.  Because my children are relatively small, I’ve been able to trick myself into thinking their world is perfect.  Full of popsicles, pillow forts and hugs. 
But of course, their world isn’t perfect at all.  Because they live in the world. And as I’ve watched my older son trot off into public school this year, as he’s disappeared from view for the first time, I’ve found myself remembering all the things that were hard for me when I was his age.
When I was a kid in Baltimore, life was anything but perfect. The city buses were scary.  My school was underfunded. My parents were splitting up. I had epilepsy and a brain tumor. The kids at Hebrew school made fun of me because my family didn’t have much money, and my mom wasn’t Jewish. A certain girl (we’ll call her J) terrorized me at school for no good reason, except maybe that it’s easy to pick on sad kids. It’s always something…   
I remember back to all of this, as a mom, and I’m scared to imagine what my kids are going to be facing.  But when I worry, the thing that calms me down is books. Books! Remembering books. When I think about books, and how they saved me, how I loved them, I can breathe again. I can stop worrying.

Books were my salvation. I stayed in during recess to read.  I lived in the library after school each day, because the library was a happy place.  Lots of kids hung out there, and we all read, day after day.  It’s the place I remember feeling safe.  All of us library kids were dorky, a little neglected, but we were a club.  My best friend and I came together and were bonded forever through the books we shared. To this day we get together—in her New York apartment or my Atlanta house—and reread the things we loved as kids.  Still totally dorky…
And so, when I get nervous for my boys, I read to them. We go to the library and the bookstore and we read, because books are the best tools I know for building strong, resilient, creative, problem-solving kids.  But also because books can be an escape hatch.  Books can do just about everything. And kids who know that can save themselves when they need to.

It’s hilarious to me that we argue now about what kind of books kids should read.  As though there’s a bad sort of book. As an author, I hope to write all kinds of books. Books that make the world feel safe, like MrsPiggle Wiggle or Half Magic did for me.  But also books that reveal an imperfect world that needs to be navigated—like Dicey’s Song or Harriet the Spy.   It was these books, together, that taught me how to live in the real world, and how to escape it when it was too much.
I can’t pretend the world won’t be hard for my kids, but I can  hope they’ll seek out this refuge, as needed.  That they’ll find the tools they need, to survive the playground when it sucks.  To overcome it, and be better people, year by year. Book by book.
And I can hope my own books will do this for your kids, if they ever need it.    I became an author because I believe in this particular magic, in this power.  I really do.


  1. Laurel Snyder is quickly becoming my favorite author. She symbolizes everything that is right about kid lit.

  2. A beautiful post. Books have saved me/helped me feel safe lots of times. Thanks!

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