Before princesses and fairies, my first-born daughter had very particular favorite toys: a playdoh utensil set. The playdoh itself was fun, but she really loved the purple fork and spoon, blue knife, and yellow plate. She didn’t pretend to eat with them but insisted on carrying them everywhere like a security blanket. She cried profusely when she thought she had lost them and rejoiced when they were reunited. I didn’t think I would ever find a book to go with her quirky enthusiasm for plastic cutlery, but when her aunt bought her “Spoon” one Christmas, it was an instant hit! “Chopsticks” followed on her birthday, and I delighted in her little epiphanies when she began to understand the puns.
That beautiful strangeness and unconventionality of childhood, before the most harmless peer pressures steer our hearts and minds toward more popular interests, when spoons or pinecones can be fascinations or friends – you capture that in your writing. Seeing “Spoon” and “Chopsticks” on the bookshelf always reminds me of that quirky, spirited, unique little two-year-old who’s growing up so beautifully now. She still gets a kick sometimes out of reading them to her little sister, who likes to hold our hands and make us point to each member of Spoon’s family.
It seems like such a small, simple thing, to enjoy the enthusiasm with which my girls demand their favorite stories or play with plastic spoons. But life is made up of small, simple moments, and your books help us to find the magic in all of them.
When I read your essay, “You May Want to Marry My Husband,” I admit that I skipped over the byline. It didn’t register that it was you until I saw the bio at the end. Then, all of a sudden, my chest felt tight and a lump formed in my throat when I realized that it was the same name I had seen joyfully, playfully scrawled at the bottom of two of my children’s favorite books… two of my favorite children’s books. “Spoon” and “Chopsticks.” That’s all I really knew of you as of less than a week ago. But it was enough to make me choke up at the thought of cancer robbing the world of you too soon. Yet on the current of sadness that rushed through me, another emotion, gratitude, rode along as well.
I am grateful on behalf of my children, but also on behalf of myself, for the way you help us find beauty in the ordinary. I am grateful that you wrote two books that make characters out of cutlery! I am grateful for your heart and your imagination.
After I read your essay, I was moved to read Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal. What a treasure of a book it is! I love the concept — a meandering tour through your brain, life experiences, and musings — divided into subjects one might find in a textbook like geography, history, art, etc. In relatively few words I felt like I glimpsed snapshots of your soul. And I especially love your periodic invitations to the readers to literally text to hear songs or poems or learn more. While all good books create a connection between the author and the reader, you take that bond to the next level! I only wish I knew of your adult work back when you were sending pies to your readers or calling on them to submit potential matching tattoos because, as you say, writers and readers are bound together by ink.
The wisdom shining through your stories and anecdotes is that we are made up of our relationships and shared experiences. You bring unique expression to the universal. I found echoes of myself in your pages and yet also felt refreshed by your utter originality. I’m sure that is the experience of so many of your readers.
You create beauty for your readers to enjoy by drawing upon our connections to life, the universe… everything (thanks, Douglas Adams), and you literally invite us to create beauty with you. The particular beauty found in the interconnection of all human hearts to each other and to the wonders of the universe is called “loveliness,” because it is the beauty found in and made out of love. You beckoned us to come and create loveliness with you. “The Beckoning of Lovely,” where you invited readers to meet you at “The Bean” in Chicago 4 times (on 8/08/08, 9/09/09, 10/10/10, and 11/11/11) to make wonderful things (grand entrances, music, peace) together, is human connection at its most joyful and endearing. The connections you made to and among your readers overflow and transcend the pages of your books. That is the legacy you leave, a legacy of infinite beginnings.
You passed away as I wrote this. I don’t have the heart to go back and change the relevant sections to past tense. Somehow I think you are reading this now, whatever “now” means in the context of eternity.
You also see that I am fumbling to keep myself together as I bring this letter to an end. I need to get back to the beckoning loveliness of my daughter, and enjoy every small, ordinary moment I can with her. Your books, among other things, remind me to do that.
I end with the final words you spoke to your readers in Textbook Amy:
I love you.
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