I was asked the other day why I chose to write books for children, instead of perhaps tackling the adult or teen market. And even though I hadn’t thought about why I was drawn to children’s fiction in any great depth, the answer was simple: children’s books were my first, closest, most unfailing friends. The stories I read in my middle grade years are woven so deeply into the fabric of my heart, I carry them with me wherever I go, and I wanted to pass that gift - that love and forever-friendship - onto a whole new generation of readers, whilst still retaining much of the classic style of telling stories that I cherish so dearly.
Some of my earliest and most treasured memories are of being read to by my Mum (something I believe is vitally important for young children), paying a visit to the local library eagerly searching for the perfect book (again, something I believe is important), or curled up in bed at night reading by the light of my trusty bedside lamp. Without ever having to leave the comfort of my bedroom, I was able to race through mid-western meadows with Laura Ingalls-Wilder, explore the delights of Cherry Tree Farm with Enid Blyton, fly through powder-blue skies with James and his Giant Peach, and speed though the English countryside on a madcap adventure with Toad, Ratty, and Mole as my companions.
Those precious books were my life-line, my best friends and constant, loyal companions. We moved around a bit when I was a child, and in-between trying to fit in to new schools and neighborhoods (I won’t even mention the horrid nuns at my strict convent school), missing my parents who worked full time and always seemed busy, and an older sister, who for her own reasons had little time to spend with her lively, inquisitive, possibly annoying little sister, books provided a safe place for me to land. They nurtured me and comforted me and created a rich inner world for me to inhabit. I always knew that no matter how fierce the upset or turmoil in the real world might be, my imagination, ignited by the stories I pored over, would always offer hope and a safe place for me to hide.
I truly love books, and that love was instilled at an early age by having access to and reading heroic, inspiring, and enchanting tales by such classic children’s authors as Beatrix Potter, Noel Streatfield, Roald Dahl, and the beloved Judy Blume. Some books take you on enchanting journeys you could only ever imagine in your wildest of dreams, whilst others introduce you to characters just like you, with struggles and worries just like you, who comfort you and give you strength when things all around seem to be crumbling. The infinite possibilities and timeless companionship the right book can offer a child can never be underestimated and should be sought out at all costs, like the Holy Grail.
And I urge children not to be put off or deterred if the only books they have encountered thus far have been rather dry, curriculum-based school books that they didn’t connect with and struggled to wade through. As much as I adore reading and books, I certainly don’t fall head over heels in love with every tome I pick up. I hated some of the books I had to read in school; I found some of them so boring, and the characters depressing or just not my cup of tea. But I had the good fortune to know that not all books are created equal; you just have to find the right one(s) for you. Look for a book on whatever it is you happen to like (soccer, swimming, dancing, tales of adventure, fashion) and just see what a huge difference the right topic or author can make. We can’t all be expected to embrace every TV program or enjoy every flavor of ice cream, now can we? And books and their authors are no different.
So that is why I chose to write for children…because a simple story really can make an enormous difference to that one child it touches; that and the fact that I’m an overgrown kid who still believes in fairies, gets beyond excited on Christmas Eve, and essentially never really grew up.
Do yourself a favor and release your inner child today! And be sure to pass on the precious gift of reading by sharing one your favorite childhood books with a young person you know and care for.
B.A, Keating is a writer, ex-ballet dancer, and children’s author. Her books include ‘Tales from the Land of Forever’ and ‘The Academy – First Year’. Visit www.bakeating.com for more details.