What do children’s writers and illustrators read in their spare time? In this series of interviews with B.C. book folks, we discuss everything from guilty reading pleasures to the best literary villains. If you’d like to share some favourites of your own, please leave a comment!
Where is the best place to curl up with a good book?
My favourite place to read is in bed. I cannot go to sleep unless I’ve read a book, even a few pages, or for an hour or two (or more if it’s a really, really good book). The most wonderful reading experience for me is to wake up early and to read a good book while sipping very good coffee, knowing that I have at least an hour or even better, two, all to myself with a good book and a good coffee!
Who’s your favourite literary hero?
If you could have dinner with three writers or illustrators, whom would you choose?
Charles Dickens, Johanna Spyri & William Blake.
What series did you read growing up?
My Book House, a set of 12 hardcover volumes first published in 1927, collected and edited by Olive Beaupre Miller. Book One contained nursery rhymes from around the world, all beautifully illustrated by artists like Arthur Rackham and Kate Greenaway. Each volume had progressively more challenging vocabulary, concepts and story content: fairytales, long poems like Walter DeLaMare’s ‘The Water Babies’, classic myths from many cultures, and finally, the biographies of great artists, writers and musicians. It was and is a remarkable collection and it took my child’s mind up and away to a world far away from my isolated homestead in the north, sans television, computers, running water, electricity, and without access to a large and diverse library. The set we had was given away to the first sibling to produce children, who subsequently trashed them all. What a waste! When I finally had a child of my own, I was able to track down another complete collection through rare book dealer and I bought them. There is now a website devoted to them set up by a librarian in South Carolina.
Do you have a guilty reading pleasure?
I love discovering old Westerns, called, as are movies, “dusters” or “oaters” due to the dust raised by moving the inevitable herd of longhorns to market in Abilene and the horses required by the cowboys, horses who needed oats, or certainly deserved them more than semi-desert foraging. Old Westerns allowed me to identify with riding horses and camping for weeks on end, living on steaks and beans, flapjacks and coffee so thick your spoon could stand up in it. I never identified with the rarely-seen women or girls because they didn’t get to do much besides go to school or teach school or help around the house. I noticed that men wrote Westerns, never women. There was no Zadie Grey, just Zane. That’s why I love reading literary westerns today (meaning the setting is in the West and horses are still involved) by Gil Adamson, Paulette Jiles, Percival Everett, Fred Stenson and Guy Vanderhaege, to name some of the best writers who have elevated the genre one hundred-fold. Their women are just as tired and interesting and tough and no-nonsense as the men, much better reading!