Recently I listened to someone being interviewed on NPR who was recounting his youth. He said he had been a nerd, not one of those fortunate people sprinkled with social fairy dust. I was charmed by the term. All of us have known those people blessed with social fairy dust. They sparkle, no matter where they are.
In a curious twist of the thought process, my mind transcribed the term: Literary Fairy Dust. Years ago, before I ever thought about writing for children, I would read novels with a pen and paper in hand, and write down sentences that just knocked my socks off. How did they think of that, I wondered. Literary marvels. The books of Carol Fields, the deceased Canadian writer, filled several notebooks. Her sentences were magic. A LESSON BEFORE DYING by Ernest Gaines affected me so profoundly I could not physically detach my fingers from the book for several moments after I closed it.
Then, wading into the world of children’s lit, I discovered all kinds of literary fairy dust. The perfect grimace on the face of a kid in an illustration; the perfect come back in dialogue; the perfect title; the perfect story that sticks to you and won’t let go; the perfect pause; the perfect inner dialogue; the perfect surprise; the perfect conclusion; the perfect idea; the perfect laugh line….. So much fairy dust! Blow some my way!
Would you agree with some of my literary fairy dust picks? The brilliance of telling the story of growing up behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis, in THE WALL; the entire genius of telling a fantasy story with no words, like David Wiesner’s FLOTSAM; the gut-wrenching fairy dust in Jandy Nelson’s story of loss in THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE; the laugh-out-loud fairy dust in THE CANNING SEASON by Polly Horvath; the ebullient Mina in David Almond’s SKELLIG, so brilliantly cast opposite the pensive Michael; conversations between Jess and Leslie in BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA by Katherine Paterson; HOLES, the book, everything about the book, by Louis Sachar; Carolyn Coman’s first line, “When Jamie saw him throw the baby, saw Van throw the little baby, saw Van throw his little sister Nin, when Jamie saw Van throw his baby sister Nin, then they moved” in WHAT JAMIE SAW…
HEARTBEAT by Sharon Creech, the sparse language, rhythmic – thump-thump-thump-thump – understated telling of Annie’s story… and that apple! The last three paragraphs in Trent Reedy’s WORDS IN THE DUST, and how about that title?
I remain in awe of literary fairy dust. I challenge you to start paying attention to your reading and noting those sparkles you find on the pages. They really are everywhere, but not really, if you know what I mean. When they jump up and grab you, you feel as though you’ve been sprinkled a bit, too. May the literary fairy dust of you and all our many colleagues fall upon our fingers and spread the magic around!