Deja Vu books

By Charlotte Zolotow

The more I try to analyze children’s books — or the fusion of feelings and events that goes into writing for children — the more I realize what a mystery children’s thoughts are and what a mystery the whole process of writing for children is. Part of it is the imagery and events and feelings that are completely individual; part of it is the dreamlike, almost Jungian, merging of thoughts, fantasies, and desires that are universal.

I had a friend who was about to be divorced. She told me of a recurring dream: She opened a door in her house and discovered a room she had never known was there. Her dream haunted me, almost as though it were my own, and years later I used it in Someday (Harper). Last week a small girl who lives on my street rang my bell and asked if she could go through my house. “I haven’t been upstairs, ” Andrea said. She climbed upstairs and disappeared until her mother came to collect her a few minutes later. “She’s upstairs, ” I told her mother. “She said she wanted to go through my house.” Andrea’s mother began to laugh. “Ever since we read Someday, Andrea’s been searching for a new room in our house. I guess she thinks that because you wrote the book she’ll find it here.”

What a fusion this is: of my friend’s dream, with her unconscious telling her of unknown new things ahead; of my own inability to forget the dream once she told it to me; of its use in a book of mine, years later; and then of its effect on a little girl who wasn’t born when my friend dreamed her dream. There’s a continuity, a flow of something unexplainable, a lovely, slow, rich mystery that lies at the core of life. We would all like to find that room.

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