“No one can possibly tell what tiny detail of a drawing or what seemingly trivial phrase in a story will be the spark that sets off a great flash in the mind of some child, a flash that will leave a glow there until the day he dies.” Robert Lawson (author and artist)
I re-discovered this quote as I was thumbing through one of my favorite go-to books for inspiration, The Art of Reading: Forty Illustrators Celebrate RIF’s 49th Anniversary (2005, Dutton Publishing). Reading is Fundamental is the nation’s largest non-profit literary organization. RIF’s mission is to put “books into the hands of children.” As part of the 40th Anniversary, 40 illustrators were asked to “re-imagine a book from their childhood.” The result is a delight. Illustrators share an essay about their inspirational childhood book along with an original illustration. The book is beautiful and memorable.
One of my favorite essays and illustrations is from Patricia Polacco writing about Horton Hatches the Egg. Her drawing is a young girl sitting on a sofa reading a book. We are looking at the reader from behind, so we can see Horton in the book’s illustration. Sitting right beside the girl with his head turned ever so slightly, as to give us the hint he is paying attention, is Horton listening. Polacco shares her difficulties with learning to read, and she shares how Horton inspired her creativity and childhood mischief. More importantly, Polacco explains that reading about how Horton carefully cares for the egg, she learned about faith. Horton does not doubt; Horton does what it takes to hatch the egg.
Just as Horton inspired Polacco, many writers and illustrators of children’s books have blazed the path for reading for endless children. I always say “the right book in the right hand at the right time” makes all the difference for engaging readers. This Anniversary edition in my hand at any time is just the inspiration I need to continue on the quest of helping young readers, adolescent readers and adult readers find their special books.