I was ecstatic last month to learn that my new favorite documentary “Library of the Early Mind” was available to purchase on DVD. After ten days of impatient waiting it arrived, after a particularly bad day at work.
Today, I had my mother and brother sit down with me to watch, framing it as a film that would help them understand the industry and community I am trying to be a part of.
I first saw “Library of the Early Mind” screened at the NESCBWI conference in Fitchburg in 2011. The documentary’s framework is formed through a series of interviews of industry professionals and bestselling children’s authors. Each of them provided their thoughts on how children’s literature affects our psyche or an anecdote from their own careers.
Notable anecdotes included R.L. Stine teaching himself how to type with one finger, Jack Gantos’ experience smuggling drugs before deciding to write for children, and how the character of Lemony Snicket was born out of furious letters to the editor.
Author interviews are the most valuable to a writer. To hear what our predecessors and idols have to say about the work they’ve created is always informative and inspiring. Plus it was really amusing to hear about Jack Gantos’ positive prison experience. He reminded me a bit of my dad.
They also talked about how what we read during our formative years affects us even down to our moral compass. This is very true.
If I think hard, I can track my morals about good and evil back to my first fairy tales. If you’re lazy, but also clever, you can get all the gold, the princess, and half the kingdom. The influence of Harry Potter on my generation’s childhood can’t be ignored. Hundreds of tourists throw themselves against the wall at Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross every day.
Of the many great stories in “Library of the Early Mind” David Small and Nancy Garden’s were the ones that really impacted me emotionally.
David Small talked about how all of his work as a writer and illustrator were metaphors for a story about his unique childhood traumas that had to eventually come out. “Stitches” was that story. “If I hadn’t become an artist, I would have become a serial killer,” he stated matter-of-factly.
Nancy Garden spoke of her experience growing up in the 1950’s when “homosexuals didn’t exist” and falling in love with another girl. Annie on my Mind is considered by many to be the first positive book about homosexuality for a younger audience, at a time where characters who discovered they were attracted to the same sex either committed suicide or were conveniently killed in car accidents.
As an aside, a similar treatment was given to feminists in novels of the 19th century. Women who were independent thinkers died tragically or took their own lives such as in The Awakening by Kate Chopin.
I ran out to buy both of these books and was rather proud to get Annie on my Mind signed by Nancy after the documentary panel.
Trailer “Library of the Early Mind”
When I first saw the film, I promised the producer I would buy fifteen copies for my friends and family. I haven’t quite lived up to that number, but I recommended it to a random guy I met in a coffee shop reading Tuck Everlasting the other day.
Today, my mom sent me back to Boston with the promise that I would be writing all night. My family was just as affected by the magic as I was last year. Mission accomplished.
The DVD can be purchased off of the website for $30 or streamed to your computer as a “rental” for $4.95. http://www.libraryoftheearlymind.com/