Today’s guest author post is written by none other than the always fabulous Meg Cabot. I have to say I have a lot of interaction with authors and some can be quite unapproachable but not Meg. She is so sweet, personable and quite hilarious! I am so thankful and honored that she was able to write a post for Stiletto Storytime while out promoting her latest success Runaway which is book three in the Airhead series. My review will be up soon but trust me it does not disappoint! I know how busy Meg is and feel very lucky she was able to write a post for us. Meg’s story is wonderful and I thank her for telling it, it means a lot to me as a children’s librarian and I know it will mean a lot to my readers as well. The more I authors I meet, the more individuals I learn have been touched by librarians in their journey to who they have become and the contributions they have made to our literary world. At time of drastic library budget cuts, Meg is another important voice speaking out for libraries and librarians and the good they do! Plus the woman has great taste in shoes….check out her Hero in Heels donation. Again behind every smart woman…we keep finding a great pair of stilettos!
‘Remember just like stilettos, reading is always in style.”
“I know as someone who’s published a zillion books I probably seem like a person who has been reading since birth. But I came to reading kind of late by today’s standards, judging by all those Your Baby Can Read ads I see on TV!
At seven I had a lisp and was convinced everyone else was saying the letter S wrong. The way I pronounced it sounded just right, all nithe and thoft.
No one was in a rush back then to teach kids to read by a certain age, or get them into certain schools because if they didn’t their lives would be ruined by age 6. I liked to look at the pictures in books and make up my own stories to go with them. I liked this way of doing things just fine and didn’t see why things had to change. My mom tried to get me to read on my own, but it was like the “S” thing. I just didn’t like it.
Then things changed drastically: My dad was offered the opportunity of a lifetime: teach in a French university (his subject: quantitative business analysis).
Maybe today parents might worry about what effect plunking their kids down in the local French village school might have on their kids, but back then, zut alors!
Everyone at my new school was very kind to me because I was American and they all wanted to be my friend. Children have an enormous capacity for learning languages, and I learned to speak French (with a lisp) quickly.
I wasn’t too concerned about learning to read it, however, and frankly, no one else seemed all that bothered about it, either. My parents weren’t able to bring any of our books with us from America because there wasn’t room what with all the other necessities, such as powdered milk (don’t even ask).
Instead, they bought us French books when we got there. My favorites were about Martine, a beautiful French girl who starred as the petite rat de l’opera, fait du camping, rode in horse competitions, and put on elaborate plays in the attic of her mansion with her bonnes amies (or at least that’s what I was able to figure out from the pictures).
I loved these books so much that if my mom came home from the grocery store without a Martine book, I cried. When it was time to go back to America, I insisted on taking my Martine books (which I still have) with me.
When I started second grade back in America, I found that I was woefully behind my American peers. They were studying number lines. There were no number lines at my French village school (though you did get a free bottle of wine if you won the ring toss at the school fair).
That, coupled with the lisp and the discovery that I was more or less illiterate in the second grade landed me in special ed.
In my special ed class, we were taken to the library and told to check out books from a certain rack. I couldn’t find any books about Martine (Martine is nowhere to be found in America. I’ve never given up looking), so I promptly gave up.
The school librarian, Mrs. Perry (honestly, I can’t remember her name, but this is the name of the current librarian at Highland Park Elementary, which is where I went to school . . . although it was called Child’s School back then . . . so I’m going to call her Mrs. Perry, because Mrs. Perry looks nice on the website http://www.highland.mccsc.edu/media_center/aboutme.html ) noticed my disinterest and asked what I was looking for.
I described Martine. Mrs. Perry said she’d never heard of Martine and asked if there might be any other kind of book I’d like to read. I shrugged. Not really.
Mrs. Perry asked what I liked. I mentioned that I liked animals. Mrs. Perry led me to the non-fiction shelf. We looked through it together, but I saw nothing with the spark and vigor of Martine.
Then Mrs. Perry, through some twist of fate—or maybe somehow she just knew, because she was a librarian, and librarians somehow KNOW—opened a book on the life cycle of the kangaroo. It had a ton of pictures, including a gestation chart that showed, in graphic detail, how the fetal roo is forced to struggle from its mother’s vagina up into the pouch, a treacherous and long journey that if it does not make, it will NOT SURVIVE.
I was both horrified and excited. What WAS this book? It certainly wasn’t about Martine and her bonnes amies. But it might even be better.
I seized the life cycle of the kangaroo, checked it out, and proceeded to read every fascinating and lurid detail. It turned out if it was something interesting enough, I enjoyed reading very much.
I must have read that book five million times. To this day I remember everything about the life cycle of the kangaroo.
Finally one day Mrs. Perry, noticing how many times I’d renewed the book, gently asked, “Do you think you’re ready for something else now?”
I was not, in fact. But then Mrs. Perry offered a different book, one that had very few pictures, no gestational roos, and no ballerinas.
It did, however, have a horse. Black Beauty.
“I think you’ll like it,” she said. “Even better than the life cycle of the kangaroo.”
She was right. I loved Black Beauty so much that I demanded that my mother buy Black Beauty so that I wouldn’t have to check it out of the library anymore, but could have it in my home to read whenever I wanted, like Martine.
“What elthe?” I asked Mrs. Perry.
Lassie. Lad a Dog. Old Yeller. The Yearling. Gradually we moved out of animals and into stories about girls, like the All of a Kind Family, A Wrinkle in Time, and the Lloyd Alexander books (starring Princess Eilonwy).
Though I barely noticed, I’d learned to read, discovered what a number line was (although I have never once been called upon to utilize this information in real life), and dropped the lisp (the last straw was when they’d waved a Snickers in my face and told me I could not have it unless I pronounced the letter S properly. That was it. I was done. I conformed).
I was moved out of special ed.
I was 9 when my parents dropped the next bomb: Like Allie in my Allie Finkle books, we were moving across town. To a creaky old house, probably haunted, in a different school district. I never saw Mrs. Perry again. I even forgot her name. But I owe her everything.
Just last month I received this email from an old elementary school classmate:
I remember you speaking about how a school librarian helped you growing up. The school board just passed a budget cut eliminating all elementary and middle school librarians from the MCCSC school district. We are all heart broken about this decision, and are already coming together as a community to try to figure out how stop this. One way we felt would be to hold a city wide elementary read-a-thon. I thought you would be the perfect spokesperson to help us with this endeavor. Could you say a few words about how librarians supported you?
This was what I wrote back:
My love of reading was born in Monroe County Public School libraries. It was a school librarian who took the time to listen to and get to know me, then guide me to the perfect books for my age and interests…books that got me hooked on reading, and eventually inspired me to start writing books of my own.
Without a Monroe County elementary school librarians, it’s safe to say there’d be no Princess Diaries, or any books by Meg Cabot at all.
So save a librarian…and help make a reader for life (or even produce a future author)!” -Meg Cabot