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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Gates of Excellence: On Reading and Writing Books for Children, by Katherine Paterson

Gates of Excellence collects some of Mrs. Paterson's writings on the subject of children's books, including portions of her acceptance speeches for the awards she's received, and some reviews of other authors' books. I enjoyed the book, the insights into how to read and write children's books. I enjoyed the insights into Mrs. Paterson's own character and upbringing. I would think, though, that this is not a book for many readers. If you already have a keen interest in Mrs. Paterson and would like to know her better, or you already have an interest in reading about reading and writing, then you would like this book. Otherwise, I expect you wouldn't.

"To read a great novel is to lay yourself open for a conversion experience...A great novel is a kind of conversion experience. We come away from it changed."

"Another distinction I might make as an aside is that you don't speed-read art. When I see or hear those boasts of a speed-reading-school graduate having read Jaws in an hour, I am pleased--think of all the time he's saved. But when someone brags to me that he's read War and Peace in five hours, I get sick to my stomach. You do not read War and Peace in five hours or even five days. You live for a season with Natasha and Pierre and Andre, and when at last you come to young Nicholas Bolkonski's words '...Oh, Father, Father! Yes, I will do something with which even he would be satisfied...' you are simply not the same person who weeks before opened the book..."

"And as for being the delight of logicians, it was only when it finally dawned on me that I was not dealing with rational beings, but with children, that I was able to summon the strength to survive motherhood."

"But those of us who have followed Frodo on his quest have had a vision of the true darkness. We know that we, like him, would have never gotten up the steep slope of Mount Doom had the faithful Sam not flung us on his back and carried us up, crawling at the last. We know, too, that we would never have parted with the baneful ring of power had not the piteous Gollum torn it from our bleeding finger and, in the effort, fallen screeching into the abyss, clutching his damned treasure and ours."

"I love revisions. Where else in life can spilled milk be transformed into ice cream?"

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