I grew up in Brookfield, Missouri, a small town of about 5,000 people in the northeast corner of the state. There are a lot of great things about growing up in this community. It’s quiet. It’s safe. An ambulance siren shrieking through the neighborhood is an event.
But there are a few downsides too. One of them is that there’s not a lot to do. I spent my childhood in the days before the internet and VCRs, when the television only had 13 channels, all of which disappeared during bad weather.
So, I turned to books. The local librarian, Mrs. Burns, and I knew each other by name. The only award I received during my school years is for reading the most books in the fifth grade. I’m still proud of that. I read everything I could, including the Encyclopedia Britannica. I liked non-fiction but a good tale that I could escape into? Sign me up!
The thing that I loved then and still do is the lack of pretention in children’s books. You’re not likely to find a 60-word sentence describing a sunset. Nope. Nor are there any of the horrors that are so often captured in the daily newspapers. Usually.
As a mom, I shared my love of reading with my children. When a long road trip loomed, we checked out armfuls of books on tape. I read to them at each and every bedtime. When my kids were old enough, sometimes they would read to me. That didn’t always work out well, though. Often, I’d fall asleep.
In children’s fiction, and I propose in all great fiction, it’s all about the story. The three most important words: what happens next.
On the back of this photo, scrawled in my mother’s handwriting: Annette Drake, 7 years, December, 1975.