Monday, September 29, 2008

Jane Yolen: All Those Secrets of the World

In the Books I Wish Were Still In Print category, let me introduce to you Jane Yolen's All Those Secrets of the World. Sadly, you won't be able to find this book easily. There are a few copies from used sellers on Amazon. And if you're lucky, your library will have a copy, or can track one down. But this lovely little picture book is worth some searching.

The story is roughly based on a true incident in Jane Yolen's life. The little girl in the story (Janie) is 4 years old when her father leaves for World War II, and the ship he boards seems impossibly small when it is far away. This is how Janie learns about perspective, and how things appear bigger or smaller depending on our relationship to them.

When Janie's father returns, two years later, he comments on how much she has grown. Janie quietly explains to him that she only seemed small because he was far away. Now that he's home, she she seems big again.

A simple synopsis can't begin to contain the magic and beauty in this book. Leslie Baker's watercolors bring a thoughtful dreaminess to the scenes. The prose is eloquent, poetic, and moving. Most importantly, this book is extremely relevant. Every child I know has someone they love who is far away (some of my students have a parent in the military just like Janie) and they can relate to this book on an intimate and very deep level.

A short note about the author:
I came across All Those Secrets of the World almost 15 years ago. I didn't buy it (back in those days, my local bookseller was very kind about allowing a mousy high school kid to spend hours reading picture books in her store), but the essence of it stuck with me. I recently tried to track it down but couldn't remember the title (the words Jane Yolen, little girl, perspective, sea do not make a good google search). I naively thought I could just look at a list of Jane Yolen's books and pick out the one I rembembered. Now, Jane Yolen has been one of my author-heroes for quite some time, but even I didn't realize she has authored over two hundred and eighty books. Finally, desparate, I sent an email directly to the email address on Jane Yolen's website, thinking that maaaaybe some intern would have a vague sense of what I was looking for.

Jane Yolen wrote me herself. The same day. She knew exactly what I was talking about, informed me that it was out of print, and even offered her assistant's email address if I had trouble tracking down a used copy. Awfully accessible and kind for such a busy, prolific woman, don't you think?

Here is Jane Yolen's fabulous, informative website.
Here is a recent interview with Jane Yolen on Seven Impossible Things for Breakfast.

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