E.R. Bird, Children’s Librarian

25 07 2007

“The French,” begins Miss Bird, “are different from you and me.” Vive la différence, and vive Miss Bird, prolific Amazon reviewer who in the thoroughness (mystifyingly unmotivated, but let’s not give gift horses oral exams) of her commentary saw fit to honor me beside Alexis Siegel with a mention for my work on Tiny Tyrant in these choice words:

Not for the first time would I wonder to what extent translator Alexis Siegel and (uncredited) Edward Gauvin added their own personal touches to these exceedingly funny bits of wordplay. Princess Hildegardina, for example, speaks with a lofty convoluted speech that frequently leaves Ethelbert tongue-tied himself. How many of these words are direct translations of the French and how many the delightful vocal curlicues of Siegel and Gauvin?

Being spoken of benevolently by a children’s librarian is like being summoned, by a voice from the placid past, down aisles of laden shelves, somehow all shorter than you remembered, to receive a commendation in that vanished heaven of childhood over which presided that stern and kindly race. Ministers of hush and order, peering over spectacles from whose frames hung pendant chains of glass beads, the children’s librarians, whether employed by school or county, held the keys to wondrous kingdoms, yet they were as much dear grandmothers as fearsome Havishams. Ah, but I presume, I presume greatly, and what’s worse I traffic in stereotypes. To go by her thumbnail, the good Miss Bird is neither spinster nor martinet. Her judgment is informed, her words trenchant and well-chosen, her evaluations lovingly detailed, and her attentions tireless.

Still, at her unsought praise, a strange peace comes over me, like a pardon all these years later for those lost and overdue books, and the blessing, after the duly stamped card was slotted in the back cover pocket (this was in the days before barcode), that accompanied the handover of an approved and beloved tome.

The quest to locate child-friendly graphic novels is amusingly difficult. You wouldn’t think finding quality comics would be so hard,” protests Miss Bird. Her quests also leads to these kind words about my employer Archaia’s first hardcover volume, of the certainly praiseworthy Mouse Guard: “a beautifully bound edition of six or seven of those comic books, now in a handsome edition. More than library-worthy.” She ends on this note: “Petersen’s created a lovely little graphic novel here. Let’s hope people give it its proper due.

Thank you, E. R. Bird!

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