My reading life, it seems, has always been organized in stacks. First there were the stacks of children's books my mother made sure I had from the beginning. These coexisted with the slippery stacks of comic books my brothers left lying around and graciously shared with me. Every once in a while I would load the former into a bookcase or curl up with the latter before returning them. Happily for me, the Uncle Scrooge comics became mine, but I always had to give back the superhero ones.
Read Children's and YA Editor Vicky Smith's last article on teen romance.
I never bothered with the horror mags, though one brother valiantly tried to teach me to read from them: "Look, there are the guts. G-U-T-S." When my mother realized what he was doing, she put an end to those lessons. To the best of my knowledge, I emerged entirely unscarred. Others may disagree.
As I grew up, so did my reading habits, though I kept stacks of my favorite children's books around to reread during vulnerable moments. I found A Wrinkle in Time particularly salutary. And in the summers during college, I loved going back to the children's room of the library to revisit favorite authors and find out what they'd been doing since I moved along.
Eventually, I decided to stop moving along and just stay with the kids’ books. I spent about a decade and a half as a children's librarian. Given how important reading kids’ books had been to me, I found it positively thrilling to introduce children to my old favorites and find new ones for them. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, better than having a kid come up to you to tell you that The Book of Three is the best book ever, and could he have the sequel now, please?
And from a personal standpoint, I was happy as a clam at high tide, because now didn’t I have stacks and stacks of books just waiting for me? That they were organized beautifully alphabetically or by Dewey and placed in orderly rows on straight metal shelves was just icing on the cake. (Or plankton in the foam, to extend the tidal metaphor.)
I always found it more than a little irritating when a parent told me that her brilliant 8-year-old was just too advanced for children's books, and what could I recommend? Wasn't I, a grown adult with a couple of graduate degrees, perfectly happy splashing around with children's books? Honestly, who needs grown-up books?
Which brings me to my current job, which features stacks beyond belief, but, alas, not the Dewey-organized kind. My system is archaeological—I locate books according to which stratum they find themselves in. Editing book reviews means that I am always a few months ahead of most of the rest of the world, so if I need to look back at, say, Wild Wings by Gill Lewis and illustrated by Yuta Onoda, I have to find the April 2011 stratum, which is underneath the May-September strata at this point but still relatively accessible.
In my new blog, From the Stacks, I plan to explore all my stacks: my childhood stacks, my libraries’ stacks and my current, shifting, teetering ones. This should keep me busy for quite some while—I hope you enjoy it.
Vicky Smith is the Children's and YA Editor at Kirkus.