|Christianbook.com: The jacket says you read 2000
children's books a year, and that is amazing.
Ms. Silvey: Yes, if you love children’s books, it’s a
great thing to do. There are some people for whom
that would be torture, but for me it was just wonderful!
Christianbook.com: It sounds as if reading comes very
naturally to you. How did you come to love reading?
When you were little, were you read to a lot?
Ms. Silvey: Well, I had two things. I had a
grandmother who loved books. When I went to her house,
we were surrounded by books. She lived in Marietta,
Ohio. She’d take me to the Marietta Public library. I
went back there a few years ago, and I went up those
steps and remembered that as a kid, I felt like I was ascending into
this wondrous space; and whenever I would visit her,
we’d get a group of books for me to read. Then we’d
read them together and talk about them.
She went to college in the early 1900’s to be a
teacher. (I come from a long line of teachers) and
then she got married and couldn’t teach in public school
anymore. But she taught Sunday School for the rest of her life, and
was just a born teacher. She was absolutely
wonderful! She really taught me that physical love of
Then my mother, to get me to do dishes, would read
poetry to me. She’d sit and read her favorite poetry,
none of it remotely related to children. Like The
Charge of the Light Brigade. Dylan Thomas once said
when you hear the sound of the words, you get the
language incorporated into your minds, and that’s what
she did for me. And years later I went back to Oscar
Wilde The Ballad of Reading Gaol, " each man
kills the thing he loves", though I didn’t have a clue
what this was about as a child. But it was hearing the
sound of the language imprinted from two key people in
my life, and absolutely from teachers after that;
teachers who used 15 minutes of the classroom time to
How long did it take you to put this wonderful
Ms. Silvey: The terrible thing about it was it had to
be in a fairly compact period of time. You couldn’t
have one essay written in 1990 and another written in
1995. You couldn’t have too much space if you were
going to have any editorial consistency. So from the
time I conceived of the project until I delivered
that final enormous manuscript to the
publisher was about two years.
Christianbook.com: For whom did you write this book?
Ms. Silvey: It was the audience I edited the Horn Book
for: teachers, librarians, any professionals in
the children's book world. It’s an 800-page reference
book, so you can’t have just a passing fancy in
children's books. There has to be some dedication. If
you are a teacher, you can have a quick synopsis, instead
of going to three or four different places.
|Like any author, you create the book you want to have.
Here I was - I was editor of the Horn Book, I had the
best professional collection possible available at my
disposal. We kept a copy of everything that had every
been published about childrens’ books there and I
could go to them; but even then, if I were looking for
information like, when did this author live and write,
and what were their most important books, I couldn’t
find a quick snapshot.
Christianbook.com: But you already had this enormous
amount of information in your head, and didn’t have to start
Ms. Silvey: Yes, I was very fortunate. Being the editor of the
Horn Book, I knew all these people who were experts on
certain authors. I knew who to talk to, and we already had a
|Another thing, and I had talked about this in the
introduction, is that so much of what’s written about
children's books has always been from a British
point of view - a British view of what was valuable in
children's books in America. From an American standpoint
there was nothing like this in a large volume.
Christianbook.com: I was especially interested in the"Voices" section.
How did you choose the selections to include?
Ms.Silvey: I did what I always did when I was editor of the Horn
Book. I came up with a dream list. I had a lot of contacts. And
also, because I was editor of the Horn Book, I had sat with a
lots of artists and got them to talk to me about books.
I made articles about that. About people who often didn’t
write; like Dr. Seuss, who never wrote, ever, about his
work; but I had some tapes to begin with, and I
transcribed them. And I just love that piece on Dr.
Seuss. It just so captures his whimsy.
I would say to an author: I want to include you, and this
is some of what I would like to use. And in some
cases, people were just willing to do the writing.
There were the ones that had made a really significant
contribution, and if I featured their voice, I was
giving them more space in a book. And then I tried to
include a balance with some of my own sensibility, and
use authors and artists with some newer voices, I just
thought they had such great talent. And I came up with
75 of those pieces.
Christianbook.com: I felt like I was reading about my friends.
Ms. Silvey: Including the voices of the writers was one thing I
wanted to do, not normally done in a reference book.
It made the book come to life.
Christianbook.com: Is there anything you would like to say
to homeschooled families?
Ms. Silvey: Childhood is such a short period of time to
read good books. There is such a great canon of children's
books, and if we just educated our children using
those, our children would be as well educated as we
could possibly make them. I think this volume allows
any homeschool parent to get to that. These are the great
books we want to get to our children!
If your child is into picture books, you take the
Virginia Lee Burton essay, then you take a look at
Mike Mulligan; there’s no reason it couldn’t be used
in homeschool the same way it’s being used in the
And again its in one volume, it’s within the realm of
a family, or group of families, to be able to use it.
Christianbook.com: You've done an excellent job!
This is a title every family would love to have in their homeschool library.