Blowing the Horn: I'm Here Too

A fifth grader once told me — with all the blunt honesty that comes with being a ten-year-old — that her mother didn’t like any of my books.

“I like your books, but she doesn’t. We just read You Go First and she didn’t like that one, either,” this girl — let’s call her Alice — said.

“She said your characters should talk to their parents more. That way, the parents can solve their problems for them.”

“That’s a nice thought,” I said. And it is.

Photo courtesy of Erin Entrada Kelly.

Imagine being ten (that’s me, at right), walking into a room, and telling your parents all your problems. Then you sit back and watch those problems vanish, one by one.

Imagine what that room would need to look like.

Someone would need to be there, firstly. Sitting in a chair, perhaps, waiting for you. And it couldn’t just be any Someone. They would have to be compassionate, loving, kind, and patient. They would have to listen without judgment. You would have to know that they love you no matter what. Otherwise, why would you go inside? Best-case scenario, it’s someone like Alice’s mom, who reads books with her daughter every night — books she doesn’t even like.

You have to be ready for the room before you go in, anyway. How can you talk about your problems if you aren’t sure what your problems are?

Maybe you’re not ready to go in at all. Maybe you want to figure things out for yourself because you don’t want to disappoint anyone in the room. Maybe you’ve watched the person in the room struggle with problems of their own, and you don’t want to add to them. Maybe you’re scared that it will be empty when you open the door, so you linger in the hallway, just outside. You’re trying to sort it all out. You wonder: Has anyone else ever felt this way? Did they make it? Did they survive?

You look down.

You see a book.

You pick it up.

It’s a story about a kid standing in a hallway.

I’m here too, the book says. I see you.

This is my hope for the future of children’s literature. That every child has that book within reach.

From the May/June 2024 special issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Our Centennial. For more Horn Book centennial coverage, click here. Find more in the "Blowing the Horn" series here.

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Erin Entrada Kelly

Erin Entrada Kelly won the 2018 Newbery Medal for Hello, Universe, and a 2021 Honor for We Dream of Space. Her latest book is The First State of Being; Felix Powell, Boy Dog is forthcoming (all published by Greenwillow).

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Louis Lavalle

"From the mouths of babes"..... Every parent would be fortunate to have a daughter like Erin. Kudos to her for having absorbed some of life's most precious and poignant facts and for having the courage to reveal them. God bless parents who encourage offspring to read!

Posted : May 12, 2024 09:30



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