Monday, February 14, 2011

Picture Books: A Love Story

I thought I'd take this lovely Valentine's Day to introduce myself, share a bit about how I got here and, most importantly, share with everyone what I love most about my job and children's books!

One cold, rainy night on the mountain campus of Berry College, I had an epiphany. I had spent the past 30 minutes reading Shel Silverstein's The Missing Piece Meets the Big O to some underprivileged individuals (a few friends of mine who had never read it!). The day before, they had asked me what the book was about. For shame! They were preparing to be elementary school teachers - they needed to know this book! I made it a priority to enlighten their literary minds. What followed was a hilarious debate about the true meaning behind the story and in the midst of our hoots and snorts of laughter, one friend asked, "Tell me again why you aren't an early childhood education major? Or something to do with kids' books?"

Oh. My. Goodness.

"You're right," I said. "You are absolutely right! All this time I've been trying to figure out what I'm going to do with my journalism degree since I can't stand newspaper writing and the answer has been sitting on my bookshelf all semester!"

It was my junior year and somehow it had not dawned on me that perhaps there was a significant reason for the fact that one section of my college-issued bookshelf was always reserved for my favorite picture books. I packed and unpacked them every semester, always leaving room for the new treasures I'd find in the coming months.

Staples on that shelf were Corduroy, Madeline and the Bad Hat, the Velveteen Rabbit, Caps for Sale, and the Runaway Bunny. I also brought the Secret Garden, the BFG, and the Boxcar Children. I started collecting books by Mo Willems, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and any other new favorites I discovered. These books soon became such a part of me that my friends would call me from the store when they found one to add to my collection. They'd give me picture books for my birthday, including one that fast became a favorite: Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. The dialogue especially cracked me up while I read it aloud in our local Panera, sneaking glances with the 5-year-old who was enjoying the reading tremendously from the next table. I felt ever so slightly like a complete nerd because that sweet, book-loving kiddo wasn’t the only one listening, but we had a good time and I still love reading that one to my friends.

The best part of this story is that it ends well. I found an internship with Peachtree Publishers that summer after junior year, absolutely fell in love with the publicity department and the company as a whole and a few years later I got the marvelous opportunity to return!

So here I am, once again surrounded by picture books and the creative teams who take them from conception to the shelf and I can't believe my good fortune. In no other industry do you find talking birds, sarcastic elephants, piglets who only want to tidy their rooms and a donkey who says, "What a fantastic pebble!" Just the other day, I sat in on a meeting where for thirty minutes we discussed the personality of a penguin.

I think I love my job!

Happy Valentine's Day!