everything grows with love

Stories about My Experiences with Writers & Illustrators Who Bring Light into the World…by Bonnie Ingber Verburg

The Dillons’ Kitchen Table: A letter about making If Kids Ran the World

I was recently asked to write a letter to librarians and booksellers about IF KIDS RAN THE WORLD. A few hours ago I returned from the American Library Association Convention, where the 45th Anniversary of the Corretta Scott King Award was celebrated. It is such a warm, welcoming, loving community, and I had just received the first hardcover copy of KIDS from the printer. i slipped it into my bag and carried it with me the entire weekend, sharing it with friends who had known and admired the Dillons forever…. Lots of memories, lots of hearts touched by the splendid art as well as the generous sentiment–so typical of Leo & Diane.

Meanwhile, here’s the letter:

A Note from Bonnie Verburg, editor of If Kids Ran the World

For more than twenty-five years, it has been my great privilege and honor to work closely with Leo and Diane Dillon. In 1992, when I left Harcourt to become Editorial Director of Trade Books at Scholastic, I founded an imprint called the Blue Sky Press, and Leo and Diane drew our logo: a heart with wings. That winged heart is significant, because everything grows with love. And on January 11, 2011, when we began talking about creating a book called “If Kids Ran the World,” love was at the center that discussion—and the hundreds of discussions that followed.

Our original idea was to make a book that would introduce children and their older allies to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity; Heifer International; Doctors without Borders; and a full range of people and groups who exist to help others. What was initially difficult was to create such a book without including poverty, starvation, disease, war, racism—frightening issues that are tearing apart our world. It was at Leo and Diane’s kitchen table that we decided to cut all of that out of the book; I remember saying that when I imagined reading this book to my son, I didn’t want it to be his introduction to the horrors of war and other nightmares he would eventually encounter. So Leo and Diane instead built a book of optimism. Children feed the hungry, give medicine to the sick, build safe housing for those who need it, and keep the air and water clean. Certain issues had to be resolved—what would the children wear? It was important to the Dillons that children could wear any kind of clothing without being ridiculed. A child didn’t have to have that popular brand of $250 sneakers to be cool; he or she could wear the pair purchased at the Salvation Army, and nobody would laugh. Every detail in If Kids Ran the World was discussed at length; for a book with a very whimsical, light-hearted feeling, it was in fact planned with great seriousness. What an education I have had with each book I have published by Leo and Diane.

The manuscript was re-written so many times I lost track, and the pencil sketches and most of the finishes were complete when Leo became ill. When he decided to have surgery, it was beyond comprehension that he would catch an infection in the hospital and not return home to the studio.

Leo and Virginia Hamilton were my mentors, and Diane is one of my closest friends. The loss is profound. Yet the shining light left behind—and it positively glows in If Kids Ran the World—can never be diminished. In five decades of working together, the Dillons have changed the very fabric of what we consider to be a children’s book. And their commitment to include all people in their books— every race, religion, and socio-economic group—has not always been popular, but it has changed the lives of generations of children who were finally able to see their own beautiful faces in the stunning library of books that emphasized the beauty in each one of us…including you.

I hope you love If Kids Ran the World as much as we do, and I’m including Leo here. Every thought and brushstroke is an act of kindness and grace.

May the sun always shine upon you, may you always remember to be grateful for your many blessings, and may you bask in the pure joy that comes from helping others. Thank you for sharing the light.

 

 

 

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