I've done a few Skype visits lately, and this pesky question keeps popping up: what do you hope readers take away from LEAVING GEE'S BEND?
It's a valid question, a good question. It's only pesky because I never know what to say.
And since Katherine Paterson is my all-time kidlit hero, I decided to read again a favorite book of her speeches and articles called A SENSE OF WONDER.
I found my answer on page 275:
"Nobody has ever told me that she was uplifted or refreshed by reading Bridge to Terabithia. People tell me how angry they were or how much they wept. But you see, my job is not to expand vocabularies or teach proper, reverent speech, or even, in the most obvious sense, to uplift. My job is to tell a story - a story about real people who live in the world as it is. And I dare to believe that such stories, even when they are painful, have a power to illumine the reader in the way that a nice tale with exemplary characters does not. But then, I know that the only raw material I have for the stories I tell lies deep within myself, and somehow when I go inside I find there a troubled child reaching up for comfort and understanding."
Katherine Paterson, ladies and gentleman. My hero.