What five books are most important or influential to you?
Here is how she answered:
1. Beverly Cleary's Ramona Quimby books
The thing that has really struck me as an adult re-visiting the Ramona books is the compassion Beverly Cleary has for her character. Though she doesn't shy away from awkward moments, there is a tenderness in the way Cleary deals with Ramona when she throws up in class, when she kicks her bedroom walls in anger, when she names her doll the most beautiful name she can think of -- Chevrolet.
These books have reminded me what it was like to be a child. They've nudged me to be more patient with my own children. They've encouraged me to treat my characters with compassion.
2. The Selected Journals of L. M. Montgomery, volumes 1-5
L. M. Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables and Emily Starr books (as well as dozens of others), kept a journal from the age of fourteen until the time she died. The two of us share a lot in common -- teachers who later became authors, pastor's wives, mothers to two boys -- though her life was decidedly harder than mine. As much as I love her books, I love these journals even more. Getting a real picture of her experiences, from the mundane cleaning of her kitchen chimney to her writing routine, has made her world, her moment in history, and her stories even more dear. I plan to re-read her journals this year.
3. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn -- Betty Smith
I've always felt Francie Nolan and I would have been good friends. Plus, this quote says it all: "Let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry...have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere--be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost."
4. Silence -- Endo Shusako
I have never been more moved, more disturbed, more changed by a book as by this one.
5. Catherine, Called Birdy -- Karen Cushman
I discovered this book in my adolescent literature class in college. I loved the way the history was so accessible and Catherine was such a real girl. Karen Cushman has taught me so much about writing historical fiction for young people.