Jeanne Birdsall has created a life designed to deeply access childhood memories. But it’s not just the act of remembering her childhood that Birdsall does. Memories are the foundation upon which she constructs a safe and joyful haven, and it is there that she channels characters with the wonder and sensibility of children. She writes purely from the perspective of a child.
And it works. Exceedingly well.
Birdsall’s New York Times best-selling novels about the Penderwick family have received many honors, including the National Book Award, Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and Nick Jr. Magazine Best Book of the Year. They have been translated into over twenty languages.
Taking a cue from Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women,” Birdsall set out to create a 21st century update for the 19th century story about four sisters, set in Massachusetts. “But my sisters would be modern and they would make me laugh. Louisa May Alcott had NO sense of humor,” Birdsall says with an impish grin.
Her message for her legions of young readers is clear: read. “Kids that love books fall in love with the characters,” she says. “Our culture resides in our literature and kids must access it.” Remembering her own childhood, she says, “Books saved me. And now I’ve built a life based on reading and even have a career based on reading.”
Her message to adults is profound. “Remember always to remember. Memory is a gift to have and to share. I understand this more and more as I grow older and get closer to the time when my memories may start to slip away from me. Until then I will continue to watch, listen, and remember.”