Singing the Praises of the Rarest Kind of Best by Anita Silvey
Recently, the fine people at Nerdy Book Club ask me how I came up with the idea for Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac. I wish I could respond, “Oh that’s me. A great idea a day.” But so much of my life as a writer has been collaborative – with publishers, agents, and editors. In the case of the Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac, the idea came from Simon Boughton of Roaring Brook Press.
After I finished compiling Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book, I began to think about the books, published today and in the last 15 years, which could have a profound effect on children in the future. I’d given Simon a proposal with this concept in mind – a very challenging project that would have included 1,000 entries. Fortunately for me, as he was reading my proposal he also was looking at one for a Children’s Almanac; Simon realized that I could accomplish my goals in a more manageable form. Others on the editorial staff suggested that I release the book as I was writing it, one day at a time, on a website. I said “that sounds great,” without even thinking. Of course, four years later, I know how much dedication a daily, weekly, or monthly blog requires.
However, the content of each essay has always been mine. Every book has three stories – the one it tells, the story behind it, and what happens when it connects with readers. I particularly love the backstories of books. I believe that if I am a good children’s book person on earth, I will have unlimited time in heaven to read children’s book manuscripts in archives. For the Almanac, I also examine biographies, journal articles, interviews, or anything that helps me understand the creative process behind a book.
On the Almanac, every day, I talk about the great books for children – the ones that have already become classics and the newer titles good enough to become classics in the future. In these daily posts I take what I have learned in forty glorious years of working with books and children and pass on any wisdom I have gained. My readers share their own stories of connecting with these books and authors. In the Almanac’s fourth year I post a new essay each week, and on other days an essay appears from the archives. So every day I get to remind myself – and my readers – why we love children’s books as much as we do.
Miss Rumphius wanted to make the world more beautiful; I think recommending an exciting titles and connecting with readers adds every day adds to the beauty of the world. As Walter de la Mare said, “Only the rarest kind of best in anything can be good enough for the young.” Each day I sing the praises of a book that exemplifies that rarest kind of best.
Creator of the Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac, Anita Silvey has served as Editor of the Horn Book Magazine and Publisher of Children’s Books at Houghton Mifflin.