Meeting Yet Another Author

Mount Holyoke College in Western Massachusetts hosts children’s book authors, and recently Patricia MacLachlan was a speaker.  Remember Sarah, Plain and Tall?  It was the first book that made me cry as an adult.  Mandatory reading for my children when they were in third grade.

Sarah, Plain and Tall also won the coveted Newbery Award.  That’s the brass ring, the Holy Grail in children’s literature.  My copy is very worn and well-loved.  Patricia smiled when she saw the book and said, “This is one of the first copies.”  It seemed to bring back memories for her.

When I arrived at the speaking event, I was surprised.  The room was old and lovely- fireplace, sofas, big casement windows.  It was filled with students from the children’s literature course… and me!

“Please, come up front.  I’d be happy to answer any questions before we begin”, she said.  “I don’t see well with my macular degeneration, so please come closer.”

The students didn’t move.  I did!  I walked up and introduced myself, with my books in hand, including The Poet’s Dog, her most recent book.  It is outstanding!  My husband the book lover and voracious reader claims, “This is the best piece of literature I have ever read.”  He is right.  The opening sentences in the book reads,  “Dogs speak words.  But only poets and children hear.”  The story is told through the dog.  I wrote a blog post on this book alone last October.

“It should have won the Newbery” I said, holding up my book to the author.  And I meant it.  Patricia smiled and said, “Thank you.  Please call me Patty.”  Wow!

We chatted a bit and I looked at the big coffee table in front of her, filled with the books she had written.  There were plenty, including a picture book that I know well, The Iridescence of Birds.  It’s the story of Henri Matisse as a little boy, and how he found color in his dreary French town, and was both encouraged and influenced by his mother.

I had forgotten that Patricia MacLachlan wrote the book.  I was sorry I hadn’t brought it along for her to sign.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  “I have that book, too.  It’s wonderful.  I’m sorry I didn’t bring it along.”

Patty:  “Actually, this is my favorite book.  I loved writing it.”

Me:  “I read this all the time in my preschool class, especially when I introduce artists and their art.  I’m sure you know that Matisse’s grandson lives in my town of Groton.”

Long Pause…

Patty:  “No, I didn’t know.  I should probably send him a copy of the book.  What do you think?”

What?  This world famous author is asking me if I think she should send Matisse a copy of her book about his grandfather?

Me:  “Of course you should.  He would love the book.”

Patricia MacLachlan gave me her email address, and the next day I looked up Paul Matisse’s address and sent it to her.  After a few emails back and forth, she mailed him the book along with a note that read:

“I am typing this letter to you because I can’t read my own writing.  The redeeming quality of being this blind is that when I look into the mirror I look beautiful like an impressionist painting.”

Beautiful, indeed!

Paul Matisse wrote back to say that he thought it was charming, and he planned to share it with his grandchildren when they visited this summer.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in Author interview, Early Education, Imagination, Inspiration, Patricia MacLachlan, picture books, reading, reading aloud and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to Meeting Yet Another Author

  1. Wonderful post again Jennie and I can only imagine your delight at this one to one encounter with Patricia MacLachlan. One to be treasured and thank you for sharing.

  2. beetleypete says:

    That’s a lovely story of a very moving encounter, Jennie.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. Aw this is great. Lucky you getting to meet another wonderfully prolific author. Fun to learn which of her books is her favorite. 🙂

  4. Micki Peluso says:

    What a delightful, amazing story!! I had a Writer’s Digest teacher, Bonnie Golightly, well known writer and screenwriter when younger, help teach me how to write a memoir right before she died. I wrote the book and a young man, after reading my book in which I had acknowledged her, emailed me for info on a book he was writing about her life. She ran with the Truman Capote group when young and later tried to sue him for using her last name in ‘Breakfasts at Tiffany’s. Small, huh? I really enjoyed your post.

  5. lisan1128 says:

    Jennie, what a great story!

  6. What a wonderful experience, and story! My daughter read Sarah Plain, and Tall in grade school. I don’t think I’ve read it.

  7. Meg says:

    I cried when I read Sarah, Plain and Tall too, Jennie. i must catch up with The Poet’s Dog. Thanks M

  8. Di says:

    Hello Jennie,
    Another beautiful post. You are really making me want to hunt out these books and read them too…there is a beauty and a message in many children’s books that are for us all to discover.
    I hope this message reaches you…
    Thank you for sharing this lovely occasion with us 💐

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Di! You will love the books. They carry the heart and same messages that you do. ❤️

      • Di says:

        What a kind and very warm thing to say, Jennie. Thank you so much…you have made my day.
        Also, I will seek to find these books to see what messages they hide between their pages… 💕💐

  9. What a glorious account of a special occasion, Jennie!

  10. Well, Jennie, your story made me cry. What a wonderful accounting of your meeting with such a lovely and special lady. Thank you! – Susan

    • Jennie says:

      You are welcome, Susan. I’m so glad you liked the story. She is amazing- what an event. Have you read “The Poet’s Dog”? It really should have won the Newbery.

  11. Darlene says:

    How fortunate for you to meet Patricia MacLachlan and have a nice chat with her. These are the occasions that give us reason to smile later on. She sounds as lovely as her books.

  12. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Thursday 10th August, 2017 – Story Reading Ape with Yecheilyah Ysrayl, Wendy Scott with John Howell and Jenny Fitzkee | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  13. dgkaye says:

    What a great experience!

  14. This is so wonderful! I think I have a new author to read!

  15. Elaine Lascher says:

    Beautiful story Jennie. Special things happen when we get outside of our daily operating zone and connect with our heroes. Love your blog!

  16. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

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