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.
Anita, you have just encapsulated the “secret sauce” behind my love of working in publishing: “the creative process behind a book”. It is my most favorite selling technique, linking the book, the story behind the book, and the effect the book has upon readers to gain the widest possible audience for every book I represent. It’s no wonder then, why I’ve loved your project from the beginning. Hats off to you (pun intended), for undertaking such an ambitious goal and succeeding so spectacularly.
I love the backstories behind the books, too. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m an author or because I have an insatiable curiosity for behind-the-scenes stories of all kinds–probably a bit of both! But that your Almanac has such a huge following is a testament to both the quality of the stories you share and that we love hearing about our favorite books and how they came to be. Thank you for all you do!
When I give book talks, having the back story creates an aura around the book that makes it even more enticing for students. Book blogs that share reviews, including the background are so helpful, and yours is a favorite! Thanks for giving your ‘back story’!
I use your almanac on a regular basis. It is a terrific source for ideas and inspiration as I plan my library lessons each week, and I am so grateful to have a resource like this to help me share the joy of books and reading with the next generation. THANK YOU!
I second Lisa’s comment! I ADORE your almanac, both the online and the print editions! Adding your tales and tidbits about books adds so much to booktalks! Kids and adults are always captivated and eager to read so many glorious children’s books. Thank you!
Thank you for spreading love for children’s books and putting your time and energy toward such a worthy cause~ and thank you for mentioning Miss Rumphius in this post 🙂 Barbara Cooney is one of my special loves.
I love your blog Anita! And what commitment you have posting daily on only the very best children’s 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.” – I certainly am praying that’s true because there just isn’t enough time these days to read all the fabulous books out there.