Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When We Were Very Young

My kids and I were reminiscing about the books we remembered reading (or having read to us) when we were young. My daughter came up with The Lonely Doll, When the Sun Rose, We Like Kindergarten, Jessica (Kevin Henkes)and The Story of Holly and Ivy.

Those were her "young 'un" favorites; these were from her pre-teen/teen years: Alice in Rapture, Sort of (the Alice series -- Phyllis Reynolds Naylor), Just As Long As We're Together (Judy Blume), Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret (Judy Blume), Stacey's Book (Baby-sitter's Club -- Ann M. Martin), California Diaries series (Ann M. Martin), Daughters of Eve (Lois Duncan) andGirl Goddess #9 (Francesca Lia Block).

My son liked all of Marilyn Sadler's Alistair books, but his favorite was Alistair Underwater. He also remembers the Boxcar Children books, Grover (from Sesame Street) in The Monster at the End of the Book, and a book he thinks was called "How to Make Money." I didn't recall that one, but he said, "It was a picture book I got from the library 100 times. It told me to build a bike path in the backyard that I wanted to charge my friends to use, etc." Oh yeah, I remember that.

I also remember my son being fascinated with a book that told the story of how crayons were made. And I have a clear memory of the two of us choking up while reading Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins out loud -- the same way it choked me up when I read it at about age nine.

From my own childhood, I recalled the Slottie books my grandparents gave to us (I think they came from a book club) -- Columbine the White Cat, Fair Brown and Trembling and others. I still have a beat up but treasured copy of Laura Bannon's The Little Sister Doll -- I disliked the name Timmy for years because of the mean kid in that story. I loved all of Tasha Tudor's books, but especially The Doll's Christmas. Later, I fell in love with Paul Berna's classic A Hundred Million Francs, which was later made into the Disney movie, The Horse Without a Head.

For my sixth birthday, I was given a copy of A.A. Milne's Now We Are Six -- I was sick on my birthday, and for some odd reason I remember it better than just about any other. In addition to the book, I got a set of pretty days of the week undies and a bracelet with a penny charm on it. That was 51 years ago, and yet I can forget where I set my glasses down five minutes ago. I also had a copy of When We Were Very Young -- one of those books contained the poem, "King John's Christmas" which is still an all-time favorite of mine.

The most treasured of the treasured books -- my daughter loves it almost as much as I do -- is the Tall Book of Make Believe, with the most wonderful collection of stories and illustrations a child could ever want. Susan's Bears, Bad Mousie, The Land of Counterpane, Georgie, The Very Mischief, The Everlasting Lollipop -- oh, the memories that book brings back.

Read to your children, and your grandchildren -- do it for them, but do it for yourself, too.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In Print Again

Well. It's a little embarrassing to admit, but years ago, my daughter and I co-wrote a book about 'N Sync. I just found out it's available, through a Barnes & Noble exclusive, as a bargain book. This has really brought back memories!

It started with the Backstreet Boys, oddly enough. My daughter and her best friend were completely addicted to that band. They were budding writers, too, and they introduced me to the world of fan fiction. The two of them wrote several fan fiction short stories, and I thought it would be fun to write a full-length fan fiction with my daughter and her friend in the starring roles. Now that I think of it, that was my first attempt at fiction.

I had the book printed and bound and, on my daughter's 16th birthday, left copies for her and her friends on her bedside table. They, of course, loved it. I didn't think it sucked too bad, so I jokingly sent a copy to my garden book editor. She called me the morning it arrived: "You won't believe this," she said. "I just came out of a meeting where we were asked if any of our writers could do a teen voice. How'd you like to write a book about 'N Sync?" (They'd already published a Backstreet Boys book.)

I'm freelance, so of course my answer was a resounding "yes." I asked if my daughter could write it with me, though, since she was the boy band expert. (Although I knew waaaay more than most people my age should have known, and I'd seen both bands in concert by then.) My editor thought that was a great idea.

This is what happened. 'N Sync was at the peak of their popularity then, to the point that even major newspapers and magazine had to do interviews by conference call. I learned all the tricks of how to write a book about a famous band without an actual exclusive interview, and it was harder than you'd think. But my daughter and I wanted it to be different from all the other books.

Even back then, my daughter and I were on the computer a lot. She hooked into some online fan clubs for 'N Sync, and posted an invitation for kids to email us. We came up with a list of questions and invited fans to respond with their own stories. It was the first book to include the fans, and the kids loved it.

We recruited a group of kids from my daughter's high school, a mix of 'N Sync and Backstreet Boys fans. (Most of them liked both bands, even if they had a favorite.) We had pizza parties as we pored over teen magazines, and the kids came up with suggestions for things to include in the book. I picked their brains for little known facts, and took copious notes. More kids got involved (just look at the dedication/acknowledgement page!), and a few of the moms joined in, too.

My daughter wrote the captions and acted as advisor and fan contact as well as co-author, while I did the bulk of the writing. I'd say we pretty much split the research. When the book was published, we were on local TV with a bunch of the kids who worked on it. (Johnny Bench was on with us that morning; the girls had no clue who he was.)

We donated copies to the high school and middle school libraries, as well as our local branch. My daughter autographed her first books. We had a blast.

The book is out of date now, but it might bring back some memories for you, too. Thanks, Barnes & Noble, for this blast from the past. You just made my day.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

New Website, At Last

I've finally set up a website! I understand it will take a few days before it works -- right now, if you go to www.beckedavis.com you get a sort of holding pattern. You can access the new blog by clicking the title to this post.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Appreciating Autumn

My new blog is up at Barnes & Noble's GARDEN VARIETY, just in time to catch the fall color in the cooler parts of the U.S., Canada and Europe. Click the link to read more about this delightful annual display.