I’m in the odd position of loving children without being very good with them. You know how there are those adults who really get how children think? I’m not one of them. But Beverly Cleary sure is.
(So is Emily, judging by her ability to articulate what she likes about SMASHED POTATOES. Plus, children always like Emily. I’m kind of like my dad: I tease kids in the one way I know how, and they either like it or they don’t, and if they don’t we’re both stuck.)
I was thinking about this lately because a few recent reads have had these little snatches of expressing something about childhood or adolescence. John Berger, observant as always, offers these small asides of descriptions in FROM A TO X, the adult novel I can’t stop talking about because I’m so proud I read one — like, “He already had a man’s voice but not the pace of a man’s voice.”
Or this one, which is now one of my favorite all-time descriptions of youth:
What the young know today they know more vividly and intensely and accurately than anyone else. They are experts of the parts they know.
There was a really good example in EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A GIRL I LEARNED FROM JUDY BLUME, too. Berta Platas kind of mentions in passing an actual event from her own childhood:
I even sighed over Randy, the guy in homeroom who had a crush on me and gave me my first Valentine ever. I read it so many times that I can still recite the little Hallmark poem inside, and the signature, “Your friend forever which is Randall.” Sigh.*
Who could make up a Valentine like that? I mean, I guess a really good writer could. But I sure couldn’t. I love kids.
* (And yes, the inclusion of the “Sigh.” is an example of what I was saying about this book, about being startled by what strikes me as the sloppiness of the writing. It’s just kind of… all like that.)