What is a book without a reader?
It could be a doorstop, an aspiration, dry paper.
What is a book with a reader?
It can be a living thing, a friend, the start of a conversation.
This week I was lucky to be part of two communities of readers where books are opened, explored, read, shared and celebrated.
On Monday I was a guest speaker at Oakland University in Michigan, where Dr. Linda Pavonetti and Jim Cipielewski run an amazing program. On Tuesday I spoke at the summer conference at the Mazza Museum of Findlay University in Ohio, which is well run by Ben Sapp.
In both places I felt deeply appreciated for what I do – in fact I felt like Cinderella at the ball.
In both places I was inspired by the work of other authors and illustrators. Oakland had an exhibit of Ashley Bryan‘s work, including sketches, prints and paintings.
At the Mazza Museum I saw original art from Maud and Miska Petersham, Wanda Gag and scores of more recent artists, such as Chris Raschka, who will be speaking at Mazza today.
Jon Klassen was leaving as I arrived ( and yes, he had his hat). James Dean spoke about the origins of Pete the Cat. Michael Hall gave an elegant presentation which made me see shapes and letters in different ways.
I felt especially lucky to meet and hear Ed Young who spoke about his life and work with candor, calm, wisdom and grace.
When I create a book I start my work alone. I collaborate with many others along the way. But the final collaboration with the reader is often abstract. It was a pleasure to be among readers, teachers, students and librarians who care so much about children’s books and who share that passion with the world.
Now I am home from the ball. Unlike Cinderella, my daily life is pretty good. But the memories of Oakland and Mazza will feed me as I get back to work.