February 18

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On a Clear Day, You Can See the Truth by Gail Shepherd

It’s a particularly important time for kids to be thinking about what qualifies as the truth.

 

A big part of growing up is learning to grapple with how we know what we know, and to learn to filter the noise, the confusing and sometimes misleading babble, the constant flow of information. I wrote The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins in part because I wanted to explore ideas around what the truth is, how you know it, and whom you should trust to tell it to you. I wanted to write about the ways in which the truth can become twisted. And how our sense of ourselves as actors in history is constantly evolving. I was also thinking about what it means to be a good friend or daughter or granddaughter, and, at the same time, a good citizen, even when sometimes those roles are in conflict. What are our responsibilities as members of a community or a family, and as citizens of a republic? These are all questions Lyndie is puzzling over. Lyndie is passionate about discovering the most reliable information she can on the history of her family, her community, and her country–and as she digs for those truths, she is also discovering deeper aspects of herself, who she wants to be in the world, and how she can make her way.

 

One of the things I most love about Tom Clohosy Cole’s beautiful new cover for the paperback of Lyndie B. Hawkins is the image of Lyndie poised defiantly atop an enormous stack of books. It’s a tower of knowledge that allows her to see far into the distance, to gain perspective on the bigger picture. From her vantage point, she can see her entire known, intimate landscape, and even beyond that landscape. The art suggests that, ultimately, information is power.

 

And where does Lyndie go to find the information she needs? Well, to the library, of course!

 

The librarian in Love’s Forge, Mrs. Dooley, is drawn from the many librarians who guided me through my childhood. Mrs. Dooley knows Lyndie well—she enthusiastically supports her passion for history, she quizzes Lyndie about her reading and corrects her misapprehensions, she points her to resources, and she teaches her how to research (including how to wrangle the microfilm machine!). Mrs. Dooley is a mentor and a moral beacon and a wise friend, an ally in Lyndie’s quest for knowledge, even as she subtly diverts Lyndie from content she knows she isn’t yet ready for.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the libraries and librarians in my life from the time I was a little kid. I remember the way the light fell from the high windows of my local library, the smell of those cellophane dust jackets, what it felt like to sift through the card catalogue’s mysterious numbers, and how I wandered the stacks on a treasure hunt to find just the book I wanted. Of course, I always got diverted—how could I resist stopping to thumb through Harriet the Spy (“FI” for “Fitzhugh”) or My Friend Flicka (“OH” for “O’Hara”), on my way down the alphabet to Wild Animals I Have Known (“SE” for “Seaton”)? How many times did I find myself lost in the reference section, falling like Alice down a rabbit hole to some completely unexplored corner of the informational universe?

 

Whenever I left for the afternoon, I always held a towering stack of books in my arms. That tower wasn’t quite as tall as the one on this cover, maybe, but from it in my imagination, I could see all the way to, and past, the limits of my world.

 

 

Gail Shepherd’s debut middle grade novel, The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins, published in March 2019 from Kathy Dawson Books/Penguin Random House to multiple starred reviews; the book was a Publisher’s Weekly Flying Start, a Junior Library Guild Selection, and a Booklist Editors Choice for 2019. Gail is a fourth generation Floridian on her mother’s side, and she lives in South Florida now with her little family, her dogs Cookie and Charlie, and an awful lot of mosquitos. You can visit her online at GailShepherdauthor.com.

 

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