Monday, February 8, 2010

Ambassador Paterson

Bridge to Terabithia: Trophy Newbery (046594005953-40184)I was so pleased to hear that Katherine Paterson has been named the new Ambassador for Young People's Literature. It was hard to imagine who could follow comic genius Jon Scieszka in this role, but Ms. Paterson's own brand of genius is certainly up to the task.

I didn't read Bridge to Terabithia until I was in college. A friend of mine gave it to me to read over break (I don't think it was in our library because of that whole banned books thing). I sat in my childhood room and cried my eyes out, partially because of Leslie, and partially because I had missed out on this book as a kid. It's a beautiful story about friendship, imagination, joy, belonging, and grief.

We need stories like this in the world. Of course I think kids need to laugh. A lot. But they also need books that deal with and help them process all the other things that go on in life. Thank goodness for the Jon Scieszkas of the world and for the Katherine Patersons. We need them both desperately.

There's a great interview with Ms. Paterson at the School Library Journal. Here's a taste:
As children’s book ambassador, what’s your most important role?
In some ways, I feel like what they’re asking me to do is what I’ve been doing for 30 years. It just has another name. Because what I’m trying to do is to encourage people to take books seriously and to take children seriously—their spiritual and intellectual needs, as well as their bodily needs. It’s more of a platform for the things I’ve been saying for a long time.
What was your reaction when you found out that you’d been selected?
It was a big thrill. I felt like a kid, really. And then I thought, Gee, I’m 77 years old, and I’ll be 79 before I finish, since it’s a two-year term. But I still have a good bit of zip for an old lady, and I hope that they know what they were doing.
Has Jon Scieszka given you any advice about your new job?
Well, you know Jon. [Laughing.] He’s told me about the cape and the helicopter and the jet-pack that doesn’t work. But his chief advice was just to enjoy myself—and I will. I love people, and I love to talk about what I care about. So I can’t imagine the job as a chore.

For the rest of the interview, please visit SLJ.

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