As a little kid, my most prized possession was a hefty volume of Grimm’s illustrated fairy tales. I would find a quiet place away from my siblings—all nine of them—to immerse myself in worlds where the heroes always beat the villains. As I grew older, it wasn’t much of a leap to trade in fairy tales for tales of mystery and the macabre. On road trips at night, I would entertain my brothers and sisters with stories improvised from my own imagination. If I told the stories long enough for the youngest ones to fall asleep, I could sit in peace in the back of a quiet station wagon and watch the moon follow our car.
Decades later, I entertain my young granddaughters in the same way. When the oldest was not quite three, to relieve her boredom on the long drive to my house, I made up a story about fairies that live in a hollow oak tree in my yard. Now, at six, my eldest granddaughter, Eleanor, is both collaborator and critic. If she doesn’t like the turn of a plot, she’ll redirect it. If I meander into too much backstory, she admonishes: “Just tell the story, Grandma!”
She’s also a storyteller in her own right. At her request, we might spend a couple of hours working on a book of her creation. Page by page, Eleanor describes a scene and draws it, leaving space for me to scribe the words as she dictates them. Her first creation was about a girl who uses a magic wand from a friendly fairy to save her family from a terrible dragon. She called it “Eleanor Loves Apples.”
Her four-year-old sister, Virginia, is more of a poet. Here is her first poem, faithfully recorded by yours truly:
Hearts and Flowers
Hearts can’t bloom when they’re sad.
If hearts can bloom, there will be love.
If hearts can’t bloom, there will be no love.
You need love or the hearts will broke and the flowers will die.
And now them didn’t and there will be love.
Our mutual love of words and pictures and stories prompted me to write and publish a book for each of them: The Climbing Tree, for Eleanor, and Virginia Loves Dogs, for her sister. A third, Caroline and the Not-Mamma, for Caroline, age two, will come out later this year–by Caroline’s birthday in September.
I never planned to be a children’s book author. I used my imagination and creativity the way I hope my granddaughters will always use theirs, and it just happened. Who knows what might be next?