Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A pebble dropped in a pool

An envelope came in the post last week.
Inside it was another envelope with German stamps and an airmail sticker.

Inside that envelope was another envelope.

And finally, inside...oh - you know what I'm going to say, don't you?
Yes. You're right. Here it is.

But I bet you didn't guess about the star, did you?
Anyhoo - inside this fourth envelope were two very special things.
The first very special thing was this.

I wish our computers could do glitter, but they can't. You'll have to put the sparkly, glittery stuff on with your imagination. I think this princess is beautiful,
with her aquamarine eyes and fuschia blushes on her cheeks. I love her dog too - with its golden muzzle and matching tummy.  

I sincerely hope I've got this right, Emma - if the princess is actually holding the reins of a horse, please accept my sincere apologies. I don't really think it matters. I love this picture for lots of reasons, and the dog/horse question isn't one of them.

Anyhoo. The other thing in the blue envelope was a letter. I'm not going to post a photograph of the letter because it is private, and Emma, who wrote it, is entitled to think that her beautifully written letter was only going to Debi Gliori, not to the WorldWideWeb. Emma wanted to let me know she's really enjoyed one of my stories - she may have said to her mummy or daddy -I really liked that story - and they might have said - Why don't you write to Debi Gliori and tell her? So Emma did. Emma, being small, might have assumed that her mummy or daddy would know where Debi Gliori lived.

Well. They didn't, but they knew who would know. Somebody in Emma's family was paying attention, because they read on the flyleaf of Emma's book that Debi Gliori lived outside Edinburgh, and they knew exactly who, in the huge city of Edinburgh, would know where to find that ex-directory, not listed in the listings, rather hard to find Ms Gliori.

Yes. A librarian. At the rather grandly-titled Central Library, in Edinburgh. With total confidence in the vast knowledge-pool housed in the Central Library, Emma's parents posted their daughter's letter with its precious contents all the way across to Scotland, and a few days later, I had an email from a librarian,

explaining that a package had arrived from Germany and would I be willing to furnish the library with my address?

All of this against a backdrop of Terry Deary's pronouncements that the service is rooted in an outdated Victorian sentimentality. And the death from a thousand cuts which are felling libraries in some of our poorest regions. And the desperate campaigns to 'save' libraries. The petitions. Marches. Speeches. The feeling that we are plugging a colanderish dyke with nothing like enough fingers. And a growing sense of the deaf, deaf ears our pleas are falling upon.

If we lose our libraries, we lose something infinitely precious. Open, unrestricted access to the written word. In a library you do not have to pay to read. To download. To fill your head with the wisdom of centuries of human thought. Anyone can use a library. And sometimes it is just one book, one chapter, one encounter with the written word that a life turns upon. A pebble dropped in a pool with ripples spreading outwards, all through the years beyond the initial moment where stone met water. For children raised in homes where books are not, a library may be that child's only chance. Nope, that didn't take. I'll say it again. A library may be that child's only chance.

And breathe.

Back to Central Library in Edinburgh. The generosity of the librarian's gesture was humbling. Emma's parent's faith in the library system was deeply encouraging. The whole episode was hugely cheering ; a lovely example of the goodness of people, the kindness of strangers and the way a book, a story can make a difference, however slight to people's lives.

It would not have had anything like the same impact if the entire correspondence had taken place by e-mail. I held Emma's drawing in my hands and glitter fell off onto my kitchen floor. That's a real connection. I will treasure her home-made star and I will hang it on my Christmas tree for years to come. And when I do, I'll remember who sent it, but I won't forget who made sure that it reached me.


Tomi Adenekan said...

Dear Debbie

I'm only 1 hour into my work and my day is made already!

Thank you for your generous words. As a children's librarian it's always a pleasure to get a whiff, from however far off, of a child expressing delight about books. I was so impressed about Emma and her family taking the trouble to get the drawing and letter to you that it was a pleasure sending it on. We had a little giggle in the office about the many roles of the librarian!
And thank you for your kind words of support. I won't say anything about you-know-who's stance.

Cynthia said...

What a lovely chain of events! I'm going to send this to our wonderful children's librarians.

Witchygrrl said...

awwww this is a lovely story. How heartwarming.

1of8Bibliophiles said...

My children and I love your Pure Dead series. We wish we could write you. Could you add contact info to your blog?

Debi Gliori said...

Hello, 1of8Bibliophiles

The simplest way to send physical mail to me is either via my publisher at
Bloomsbury Childrens Books,
50 Bedford Square,
London WC1B 3DP
or via my literary agent

Penny Holroyde
Caroline Sheldon literary agency
71 Hillgate place
London W8 7SS

If you scroll through blog entries for last year till you come to a lengthy one called The Tobermory Cat, the Trolls and me, you'll see why I would prefer not to put my own contact details on this blog. I'm so cheered that you and your children have enjoyed the Pure Dead series - this comes at a time when I'm just about to let go of the house where all six of the books were written, so it's a bittersweet time, but leavened by your post. Thankyou!

Kind regards


lori5alive said...

What an absolutely delicious story. The journey of a star, differing from many other stories about journeys by stars, or to stars.

The journey of a star, from a young bright star to another appreciative star, via a superstar. So Lovely. (Loreen)