I am, I most devoutly hope, a long way from biological grandmotherhood. That didn't stop me from acting the proud grandma with the friends and colleagues I talked with at the American Library Association's recent conference. "Look," I said, thrusting out my phone with the picture of the weary papa, newborn daughter splayed out on his chest, reading aloud to her from The Wizard of Oz.
Sure, it was an adorable picture, guaranteed to elicit "Aww"s from my audience of fellow librarians and book lovers. But if that babe wasn't my granddaughter, why was I making such a big deal?
It's because that bearded man was once a little boy, a rising first-grader when I met him as an avid reader almost 20 years ago, searching for and selecting books with owlish solemnity. He was in the library all the time, plugging away at his summer reading with a sort of joyous diligence. When school started, he still came in, with his teachers or with his mom, and then by himself as he grew older.
When he was 10, he confessed years later, he stole Michael Ende's The Neverending Story because he loved it so much. (His mother discovered the felony and made him return it.) When he was 15 or 16, he was a core member of a group of students we took to Boston to address ALA's Best Books for Young Adults committee. His remark that a certain book ought to "come with a fork so you can stab yourself to stay awake" drew laughs and attention from an editor, who quoted him in an article in the Horn Book magazine, much to our glee.
And now he's a grown-up and one of Kirkus' newest reviewers. He's also, of course, father of young Astrid. It’s almost like being a grandma. Congratulations, John; here's to your new reader. —V.S.
Vicky Smith is the children’s & teen editor at Kirkus Reviews.