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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Zilpha Keatley Snyder is one of those writers who had a constant, though unobtrusive, presence in my childhood.

Five years ago, if you'd asked me her name, I'd have struggled to tell you who she was or what she wrote. Yet, when I was on my quest to find rich literature for my young neice to read, her name kept coming up again and again. I'd pull books from the used shelves at the library bookstore. They'd immediately strike chords of recognition--these were books I'd read and savored as a child. They were books that made my heart beat faster when I picked them up, so keen was the memory of the enjoyment I got from their pages.

But with the callousness of youth, I'd been so enamoured of the characters and the stories that I'd paid scant attention to the name of the author.

The first book of hers I read came from my older cousin. She loaned it to me because the two main characters shared our names: Bridgette and Robin. My cousin especially liked that her name belonged to the young, intelligent, beautiful protagonist while mine was the old, eccentric woman. Not that I cared--for both characters and the entire story of The Velvet Room fascinated me. It instilled in me a dream of a secret place that would be my own retreat, a place where there were books and comfortable chairs and a peaceful silence. It's a retreat I still carry with me in my dreams and it often has the look of Snyder's Velvet Room.

She's perhaps best-known for her book The Egypt Game, a book that takes us into the game of several children. In a letter to my neice, I told her, "It takes awhile to realize the world is different from ours. It’s the world that ours could be. It’s the world that is created through tolerance, imagination, and friendship.

Their story continues with The Gypsy Game, a story that ends up being somewhat darker, but still just as touching and compelling.

The Witches of Worm helps us to understand the pangs of loneliness. Snyder takes us into the mind of a child who does things most of us find rephrehensible. She pushes the blame upon a newborn kitten, a kitten she is convinced is an evil witch who is attempting to control her. Along the way, we learn more about the heart of a child.

She's also written three series: the Castle Court Series, Stanley Family Series, and the Green Sky Series.

Her books are always fascinating and she has an amazing ability to create characters that are real and meaningful to teenagers. Her books resonate with her respect for them and teem with imagination.

She is herself a gracious woman who has been writing stories since she was 12 years old. In the interview on BookHelpWeb's home page for the next two weeks, she shares with us a little about her books, how she writes, and why her books are so popular.

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