Library of the Early Mind

Last week, I was in Putnam, Connecticut at the Getrude Chandler Warner Museum for the interviews that Open Road Media will be including in the upcoming enhanced eBook editions of The Boxcar Children books. More on that trip next week…

While I was driving through the blinding rain to Putnam, I passed a few signs that seemed to indicate I was not very far from Willimantic. As I was drying off at the hotel and checking emails, I decided to send Susannah Richards from Eastern Connecticut State University an email. “I’m in Putnam. How far is that from you? Are you free for dinner?”

Happily, Susannah was around — although she had a conflict. They were showing Library of the Early Mind in the student center. Did I want to come? Sure!

And am I glad I went. “Library of the Early Mind,” which debuted in October, is a great documentary featuring many children’s book creators and children’s literature specialists. Basically, it’s part history, part literary analysis, part bio, part art theory — all featuring some of th best known and most influential children’s book people in the country. Some of the luminaries included are Chris Van Allsburg, Lois Lowry, Jane Yolen, David Small, R.L. Stine, Nancy Garden, Leonard Marcus, and Anita Silvey.

The film’s creators, Edward Delaney and Steven Withrow, were there for the screening, and with the weather, we were a small group. This made for a fabulous discussion afterwards. We were one publisher (that’s me), one published author, two professors, and three students (all member of the campus SCBWI chapter).

We discussed the overrepresentation of men in the film and whether the film was for children’s book insiders or for newbies or for the general public. The director (Edward Delaney) assured us that his most favorable comments came from outsiders. Since they know very little about children’s books, the film is a revelation to them. For insiders like us, while we really like the film, we know what was left out — and usually mention it.

It would take at least a 10-part miniseries to really cover the entirety of the children’s literature world. This approximately 90-minute snapshot reflects the location, budget, connections, and interests of the producers. At the beginning of the process, they focused on authors and illustrators who were close by (you’ll note a distinctly New England flair at times). Later, they began to ask who else could bring them further along their path, who was available in the time frame, and who could they see while on other business trips to keep expenses down.

There are more screenings scheduled and I highly recommend the movie. You’ll get a great up close and personal look at many of this country’s finest writers and illustrators — 40 authors visits in 90 minutes.  Not a bad deal at all!

Library of the Early Mind