My Mission Statement

I write to serve, to unite, to educate. I write to share literature and flesh out ideas that may be of interest to others. I write to document an emotion, experience, or a blip in time. My mission is to write in such a way that the reader is reminded that we can find humor in all situations. It's one of the great blessings of life.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dear Mr. Jerry Spinelli,

Dear Mr. Spinelli, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your new book, JAKE AND LILY. It will be the first family read aloud of the summer, and I know it will grow to be a family favorite. I love the twin relationship in the book. I love the separate struggles of Jake and Lily. I adore the Poppy character with his long white ponytail. Every character in this book is so well-drawn, and as always, you have perfectly depicted the minds and hearts of children. It is lovely, masterful, kind, and well-drawn. The world NEEDS JAKE AND LILY, just as the world of children's literature needs Jerry Spinelli. Mr. Spinelli, you have a magical way of luring us in with familiar characters and then--BAM--smacking us with tough issues. You do it in such a way that it isn't just your characters struggling through these issues, it is all mankind (or childkind?). Goober hunting drew me in like a car wreck makes you look, but before long, I was up to my neck in discomfort. But it felt like we were all in it together. Jake and me and Bump and Nacho and Burke and even Ernie. I didn't just want Jake to wriggle out of it. I wanted EVERY CHILD who has ever been unkind to find his way to grace. And I wanted to fist-bump them all in celebration. You are the reason I write for children although my every sentence pales in comparison (but I press on!). My first year teaching was the year Durham consolidated schools (finally!). Though it was years after desegration, it would finally really happen in Durham, and here I was, a first-year teacher, in the midst of it. So guess what novel I taught first? MANIAC MAGEE. We plunged right in to the delicate topic of race and railroad tracks and differences and ultimately, sameness. MANIAC MAGEE transformed us all. It took a divided class of 8th graders and made us into a family. When I saw the POWER of one book, the power of your words, the power of this precious, fictional yet larger-than-life boy, Maniac Magee...well, I knew the world needed more of it. I could go on all day about the days I fell more in love with you---SCBWI meeting in New York when I met you for the first time, Highlights Institute at Chautauqua when my love grew to include your sparkling wife, Eileen, and now with JAKE AND LILY...but that might detract my readers from the point I want to make. (Yes, this letter is addressed to you, but I wrote it for my readers, too. Be sure and show Eileen how accidentally poetic that last sentence was...ha) My friends and colleagues, read JAKE AND LILY. If you are young or not well-read enough to have read MANIAC MAGEE, pick it up immediately. And there are many delightful Spinelli reads in between--among my very favorites--LOSER, STARGIRL, and MILKWEED. Then, spread them around because our world needs more Jerry Spinelli. Today and every day. And Mr. Spinelli, dear man, keep writing, and speed up some, would you? I'd like to see you fill the world with your work. We need you, Mr. Spinelli, and your unique and precious characters. We need your truth, your sensitivity, and your compassion in the world. More than ever. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us all. We are ever grateful and ever changed. Sincerely, Donna Koppelman


Julie Hedlund said...

I enjoyed reading this letter so much, having just met the Spinelli's last week. I hope you make sure Jerry sees this. Well-deserved praise indeed.

Anonymous said...

Lovely letter. Just lovely. (And Julie, I just sent this over to Jerry!) Rebecca

Isabel by Donna Jones Koppelman

Isabel by Donna Jones Koppelman

Major Bear at the Grove Park Inn by Donna Jones Koppelman

Major Bear at the Grove Park Inn by Donna Jones Koppelman