New York City

08/05/2009 - 3:08pm

Peter Sis grew up in Czechoslovakia when the country was still a satellite of the Soviet Union. He remembers not having enough paper for drawing and only one kind of ink. Once a teacher caught him sketching in his notebook at school. She made him write over every page. In Czechoslovakia, there was not enough of anything, and drawing in a notebook was considered to be very wasteful. There were other sad things about living behind the Iron Curtain. The government controlled what could be said in public and written in books, especially if what was written criticized the people in charge.

10/29/2009 - 11:39am

Elaine Lobl Konigsburg has always loved reading. As a girl, she discovered the magic of The Secret Garden and learned about life in a middle-class English family from Mary Poppins. These stories became part of her childhood, and, as she relates in her excellent book of essays, TalkTalk: A Children's Author Speaks to Grown-ups, classic stories become a bridge between today's children and earlier generations.

What she was looking for as a child and did not find, was a reflection of her life in a Pennsylvania mill town. In classic books, the mothers were just that. The women in Elaine's neighborhood worked as maids for extra money. In classic tales, there were maids, but they were always on the sidelines, and the classroom rolls were filled with Smith's, Jones', Edwards', and the like. Where were the Ravinsky's, Machotka's, and Spinelli's?

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