I have had a Katherine Paterson quote on my bulletin board for a number of years. “As I look back on what I have written, I can see that the very persons who have taken away my time are those who have given me something to say.” The truth of the quote comes alive in her book, Stories of My Life, where it is repeated. The book is not an autobiography but a series of essays giving episodes taken from her unusual life.
It’s a good read on its own merit, but especially for fans of her books. Woven into her stories are clues to the inspiration for some of her gazillion books. Newbery winner Kate DiCamillo, in her introduction, says the book is Katherine’s valentine to her parents, to her children, to her life, to stories, to us. I found familiarity as she recounted the people and places she had moved from her life into her books.
Among her many awards are two Newbery Medals, a National Book Award, both National Book and Newbery Honor books, and the Medallion for her body of work at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Children’s Book Festival. The book brought to life a human being behind all the awards with common life joys and sorrows along with a few extra associated with fame. She tells of attending dinners where she is the honoree. After congratulations by the attendees sitting on either side for whatever award she was receiving, they sometimes turned to their dinner companions for conversation and never said another word to her all night. She returned home to whine to her husband, “Why can’t they just treat me like a human being?”
I found we have a few things in common. We both hold a special affection for Jacob Have I Loved which holds the honor of being my favorite of her books, and I’ve loved every one I’ve read, which includes most of them. Terror at amusement park rides caused both of us to hide our faces when our children insisted on riding and to feel hatred at every stomach-turning minute when we were cajoled into riding the “easy” roller coaster. We are tied for the number of times we rode – exactly one. We each have had a husband who always wanted to do things for us – whether we wanted him to or not. And if you’ve been reading this blog for long, you’ll know that the people who take my time are the ones who give me something to say.