January 25, 2018
Photo: Steve Weigle drives the bookmobile for Portland Public Library.
I read a book I loved and looked up the author. Big mistake. What? He was born a year after me and he’s published 50 books! Then I remembered: quantity wasn’t the important thing. I recalled what Nancy Werlin said in an interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith:
There’s a sort of fable I tell myself. I imagine that a single reader has picked up one of my books for free at the city dump. The book has lost its cover and front matter, so that there’s no sign of my name anywhere. The reader reads the book. The reader loves the book—for a while, it’s her favorite and her friend. She never knows who I am, and I never know about her. And let’s suppose further that this is the only reader there ever is, for that book. Let’s say that nobody else ever liked it. But for this one reader, for whatever reason, this was the book. In terms of my purpose in the world, this has to be enough.
I love that—the idea that if even one reader loved your book, that’s enough. And I’m lucky, because my books have been that book for some kids. The book. And I actually know about it, thanks to their grown-ups. One friend told me my first book was her granddaughter’s favorite, the one that helped her discover she liked reading. Another friend said my second book was his daughters’ go-to read-aloud.
And Steve Weigle, my coworker at Portland Public Library, told me about the boy on the bookmobile. Over and over, the boy climbs up the big steps of the bookmobile and asks for my third book, “The Waffler.” He’s already read it. But he wants to read it again.
Do I wish my books were best-sellers? Sure! But what if that wasn’t a choice? What if the only choice was between not being a writer, and writing a book that only one kid would read? But it would the book for that kid. Would I choose to do all that work for a single reader? One boy on a bookmobile?
In a single heartbeat.
April 8, 2015
Thirty-odd hands waved in the air. They were the hands of Mr. Custeau’s and Ms. Butcher’s fourth-grade class at Hall Elementary, answering my question, “how many of you have seen a toddler crying at the top of their lungs?” Everybody. Next question: “how many have seen a grown-up doing the same thing?” No hands. Because somewhere along the way, we learn not to cry in public.
I write for young readers in-between the wailing toddler and the keeping-it-together adult, for seven to eleven-year-olds who feel deeply that sometimes life just isn’t fair! Because I remember how that felt. If you’ve ever felt that way, too, my books are for you.
January 13, 2014
I left Brown University with something precious—a writing group. A quarter century later, we’re still going strong. This is our story.
Photo by Mark Ostow
March 26, 2013
A Windham 3rd grader writes the best thank you note ever: “Dear Ms. Donovan, I loved your story. It was the best book I ever read. From Destiny P.”
July 24, 2012
Students from Biddeford Intermediate donned bandannas to get into the spirit of “What’s Bugging Bailey Blecker?”
April 26, 2012
A student going by the pen name pseudonymous reviewed “What’s Bugging Bailey Blecker?” at Mod Book Club Two. “Bailey has some guests in her hair and they are not wanted!” begins pseudonymous, and ends with some good advice: “Find out what happens by reading the book.”
May 9, 2011
I love reading my work aloud to students, and I love their thank you notes!
These excerpts are from Jan Pelletier’s third grade class at East End Community School in Portland, Maine. They all began with Dear Mrs. Donovan:
I liked that there are cliff-hangers at the end of each chapter. It’s very lousey that Bailey has lice. Get it? Lousey?—Yours truly, C.
Thank you for reading What’s Bugging Bailey Blecker? I really liked when Mr. Adams keeps acting like he’s a soldier. And I lost my bird once I felt bad like Bailey. And will Bailey lose her lice?—Your friend, H.
You are such an inspiration to me. I love your books because they bring back so much memories. Like when you said that Bailey had lice I thought about when last year some unexpected lice came to our house and when I went to bed I could not sleep because I was thinking that I would get lice. When I grow up I want to be as magnificent as you. —Yours truly, A.