If you notice that the next couple issues of Kirkus don't appear on time—or at all—here's why: business cards.
We are all getting new business cards, which is great. But in addition to the usual elements (name, address, telephone number, etc.), we were asked to add a very personal datum: our favorite book.
"ONE? Favorite? Book?" I protested. How on earth could I be expected to select one single title from among the grillions that I have read and loved over the 40-plus years of my reading life?
Do I choose Uncle Scrooge comics, which were the first printed matter I can remember reading independently? Do I choose Corduroy, by Don Freeman, which I must have had read to me while snuggled in my mother's lap, so instantly cozy are my associations? Do I choose Fog Magic, by Julia L. Sauer, which had me looking for magic villages every time I heard the foghorn? Do I cheat and choose a whole series, like the Lord of the Rings, which I read with stolid determination when my brothers told me I was too little? Do I choose I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith (who also wrote The Hundred and One Dalmatians, yet another favorite), which my eighth-grade English teacher lent to me, changing my life forever?
Clearly, I could navel-gaze entire days away.
Once the challenge of narrowing my favorites down to a manageable few was met, though, I realized there was another problem: Inevitably, my choice would say something very important about who I am beyond my work title and e-mail address. What do I want to tell the world about myself through my choice?
Where the Wild Things Are, obviously, would reveal discerning artistic sensibilities. Also that I experienced universal childhood emotions. Superman comics, on the other hand, would indicate a certain gender-role-busting tendency. Also that my older brothers had an extensive comics collection. A Wrinkle in Time? A scientific, philosophical bent. Also that my mother bought books with gold Newbery stickers on them.
Clearly, this could go on for a very long time, grinding all productivity to a halt.
Finally, though I'm not sure it tells the world everything I want it to, I chose The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I think I first read it when I was 7, because I remember the confluence between my age and the number of books in the whole series. I resolved to read the whole series through seven times, an accomplishment I was proud of but that caused my older brother to make snide comments about my ability to read. I don't know what captured my fancy—who can really say, when talking about a book encountered so young that has resonated so loud—but I loved it with unmitigated fervor. I loved the talking animals, I loved the fact that the little sister was the real hero of it all, I loved the unfamiliar British words, I loved the notion that on the other side of a door a magic kingdom might await.
Over the years, I returned to all the Chronicles of Narnia many, many times, always beginning with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (which will always be the first in the series to me, no matter what HarperCollins does). When I took a class in children’s fantasy in graduate school, I felt all over again the rush of excitement as the White Witch's hold over Narnia loosened and spring raced through the land. To my mind, Lewis’ evocation of Lucy and Susan's experience riding Aslan-back is one of the best pieces of descriptive writing I will ever encounter. It didn't matter that I had already read the book so many times there were no surprises left; I was instantly 7 again and just as thrilled as the first time around.
If that doesn't qualify as "favorite," what does?
And: Now that I've managed the task, what's your favorite book?Vicky Smith is the Children's and Teen Editor of Kirkus.