Forever a Word Nerd by Carol Weston

When I was a kid, I was more tomboy than bookworm. I had brothers and boy cousins, and rather than read, I played Spud and Kick the Can. When I did read, I read more comic books than book-books. More Archie and Richie Rich than Ramona and Nancy Drew. But I always enjoyed returning to the colorful and comforting picture books of my childhood, and I liked reading Aesop fables and Greek myths and Grimm fairytales because they were short and packed a punch.

My parents were writer / editors and we played a lot of Scrabble. I also kept a diary from about age eight on. I still have those early diaries.

Yes, Nerdy Book Club, while I was not a natural born reader, I was a word nerd from the get-go.

I even remember learning the letter “I.” It was just one small line with a smaller line at the bottom and a matching one at the top, yet it meant soooo much. What a useful thing, this letter, this word, these lines. I was so impressed!

Later, when I learned how to spell “here” and “there,” I was unimpressed. Why didn’t “here” and “there” rhyme, for Pete’s sake?

Confession: there’s a lot of me in Ava Wren, the ten-year-old diarist in AVA AND PIP.

In middle school, at bedtime, rather than curl up with a book, I wrote in my diary about friends, crushes, and babysitting jobs. By high school, however, I’d become acquainted with enough wonderful short stories and novels that I finally “got” it: Reading opened up worlds! I spent twelfth grade in France, and at Yale, I majored in French and Spanish Comp Lit and powered through long books like The Red and the Black and One Hundred Years of Solitude. In the original, no less. I went on to earn my M.A. in Spanish through Middlebury.

Words, words, words! I couldn’t get enough of language and languages!

Rob Ackerman and I were married and moved to Manhattan. In 1985, my first book,Girltalk, came out — and it kept coming out in different editions and translations. My editor, Irv Levey, then of Harper & Row, told me I had a voice. I didn’t know precisely what he meant, but this seemed like a good thing

Rob and I had two daughters, and in 1991, I joined a book club. I’m still a member! I keep a notebook in which I write all the titles of books I’ve read. I add a check if I really like the book.

Our kids were little when I landed a plum assignment at Redbook to run their Top Ten Picture Books of the Year Awards. For four years, I read every single new picture book. Among our chosen winners were Teammates; Mouse Paint; In the Tall Tall Grass; Animals, Animals; andThe Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau by Jon Agee. When our girls were about ten, I joined two different mother-daughter book clubs. Each lasted several years.

Books books books! I’m proud that my daughters, now grown, both read for pleasure. And that now I do too.

I’m also proud that Jon Agee blurbed my new novel. I had to scour the Internet to find his address, but since he wrote not just Felix Clousseau, but Go Hang A Salami, I’m a Lasagna Hog, I knew that he was a word nerd and I hoped he’d like Ava and Pip and Anna and Bob, my fictional family with a passion for palindromes. Y-A-Y! Agee did!

Now I hope kids everywhere will like reading about Ava Wren, the good kid who does a bad thing and who learns about the power of words.

ava and pipCarol Weston is the author of the soon-to-be released AVA and PIP which is illustrated by Victoria Jamieson. (Sourcebooks / Jabberwocky Kids, March 2014). You can find her online at http://carolweston.com/ and on Twitter as @carol_weston.