Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book

NERTCL presented this program with Anita Silvey-author of the new book “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book”.

She usually tells how other authors made their journey’s, but today she wanted to talk about her own journey, especially since NELA has played a big part in her journey as a part of NERTCL years back.

In early 1970’s she came to Boston and interviewed for an assistant editor position with Horn Book and at the age of 22 began working with authors like Maurice Sendack and Ezra Jack Keats. When she came to present book awards at NELA she felt she was in heaven with all the great authors present. After seeing Jean Fritz at a conference, Silvey felt she really wanted to write non-fiction for children. From there she set to do just that and went through a time of writing some not so great books.

Silvey continued in her career as Editor and Publisher, but her dream as an author continued. Silvey admired authors like Jim Murphy and James Cross Giblin whom were previous editors whom went onto write non-fiction.

When Silvey’s employer was being sold, she decided to take a leap of faith and work as an author again. Dinah Stevenson pushed Silvey to write non fiction for children. Silvey decided to write about Deborah Sampson but found most history on her could not be verified.

She however did find a lot of information on women in the Civil War.  Thus the book “I’ll Pass for Your Comrade-Women Soldiers in the Civil War” Reality was that many civil war women decided not to let their men leave them behind but go with them. One was to provide provisions to the troops or do laundry. Some wanted a more military life and enlist. While there was no laws against women joining, they were told so. Many became “daughters of the regiment” and then leave the side lines and go into actual battle.

Some women this was not enough–they wanted to be part of the troop–not support them. Dress of the time made it necessary for women to dress as men. The huge number of boys (under 18) joining made it easier for women to dress as men to be part of the troops. These women had to do what men did such as training. There was field hand to hand combat. Hospitals and prisons were troublesome for a woman trying to pass as a man.

Silvey is also the author of “100 Best Books for Children” and “500 Great Books for Teens”. Coming out next year is “Henry Knox-Bookseller, Soldier, Patriot” with paintings by Wendell Minor.

While writing “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book” about 1/3 of those notables contributing to the book opted to be interviewed by Silvey. She spoke of some of her favorite interviews and contributors book choices. There is a huge link in what children read and what they do as adults. These books not only direct our careers, but can give us a sense of place, family or social perspective. Some books tie generations of the family together.

What did Silvey learn in writing this book? That the contributors not only remembered the book, but who gave them the book, the library or librarian or what was happening to them at the time.

We are hunting for the Right Book for the Right Child at the Right Time. We as librarians are affecting the next generation. This book should help us as librarians to understand the importance of what we do.

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