The truth is, I haven't always loved books. When I was a kid, most of the kids in books were nice. Too nice. WAY too nice. They weren't anything like me. So, the truth was, I preferred making up my own stories.
Libraries, then, were stuffy, too Even though Mrs. Crysdale liked hugging me, which I liked, there were these RULES about libraries. For example, neatness. And quiet. And no giggling. So, when I had time to fool around, I did it outside, not in the library.
In my grade school, I didn't even have a library. The only books at St. Joseph's Catholic Grade School were about saints, which I wasn't. So I liked making up my own stories, starring me, and sometimes my dog, and sometimes bees, none of which were saints.
Two things changed my not-so-good opinion about books and libraries. The first one was Lorita. Lorita lived in an apartment in Chicago, which I thought was very fancy, because I lived in a country house. She lived across the hall from my grandmother, so I could visit her whenever I liked. Lorita, who wore a tiny bit of makeup, was an only child, a city child, and she had her own room. In her room was a bookshelf, and on the shelf were her very own books. One of the books was Eloise, which she let me borrow whenever I wanted.
Oh I absolutely loved Eloise. She was a city child, like Lorita, and naughty but nice, like me. It made me like books and it made me want to write stories like that.
Books changed and libraries changed, too. Now they are SO FUN! They're full of squirmy ideas and lots of people having a great time and juicy books and magazines and computers and classes and art. And here's the thing-- Adults are always telling you what to do, where to go, what to think. I mean, aren't they? But in a library, you can choose for yourself. You are the Boss. The library is your place and my place. In the library, you can escape from the blah-blah ladies, like Mimi and Joe do in Hot City. In the library you can read about people who are like you . . . and people who aren't like you. You can find out whatever you want. You can fall into the pages of a book and BECOME the story.
All those things--curiosity, knowledge, thinking for yourself, imagining, choosing--all those things make us better people, don't you think? In a democracy, we need the best people we can get.
Sometimes people say, "Hey, this world is a mess. Where are the people who will fix things around here? Where are the heroes? Huh? Where are they?"
So I say, "The heroes are in the library, reading books."