I was separated from my father for a year—when my mother, brother and I moved to Florida due to my brother’s health—and I felt it was my job to protect my father. What a burden for a nine-year-old child! I had all these bargains saying, “I will do this 20 times a day as long as you make sure my daddy is okay.” I became ritualistic. Fortunately it went away after that year.
What quality gives a book staying power?
I never dreamed my books would last this long. I have a feeling that children’s books have a longer life than a lot of young adult books. A book about the newest and latest is not going to have as long a shelf life as a story that comes from deep inside the characters. A lasting book is not about fads.
How do you keep in touch with your inner child?
Can I even tell you that? Do I even know? Some people just do and some people don’t. I still identify with kids. Part of it is memory, part of it is just hanging on to the kid you know—being able to put yourself right back there even if you’re approaching your 70th birthday. I can meet a five-year-old and we look at each other and there is just something there. We connect.