September 20, 2006
Post #2070 – 20060920
Dear Mr. Pinkwater-
Mid-morning, aound 25 or so years ago, I was at home from school. I was that kind of kid who attracted all kinds of colds and other virulent non lethal airborne stuff so this was not terribly unusual. My absences from school exposed me to something more radical, more secret, and more influential, than anything you could find inside or outside of Hollywood CA (which, at the time, is where I lived) and that was The PBS Daytime Instructional Programming Network. Our TV upstairs only worked on 2 channels- 3 (for the Betamax) and 28, our local public broadcasting station. At some point, the downstairs TV broke. Being Hippies, my parents threw out the Broken TV and put art supplies on the table instead. The state of the TV upstairs was by design. This is one of the only things my parents did right when they were getting me past the edible/disposable stage of childhood, and I am forever grateful to them. The 1980’s was an abysmal decade for mainstream media of all kinds.
The thing about instructional TV that I lived for were the reading and creative writing shows. I especially liked Mr. Robbins. He would read a chapter or two from a book (actually he pre- recorded it) and while the story played he would take colored pencils and pastels and he would illustrate a scene from the story. He was a brilliant illustrator, and unbelievably versatile. I found this format absolutely hypnotic. I made lists of books from the show and checked them out at my library, or sometimes bought them from library sales.
The first episode of Mr. Robbins’ program I ever saw featured Lizard Music. Once I had your name, I read everything at the tiny west Hollywood branch library you wrote (Lizard Music,Wingman, Snarkout boys, Hoboken Chicken Emergency, Alan Medleson, Yobgorgle) and since then sought out everything I could get. I read other books recommended by Mr. Robbins and credit him for encouraging me to read rather than force my social life, but you achieved cult status as an author.
I have especially enjoyed Uncle Boris in the Yukon, as I am a dog trainer by profession, and live with dogs almost as smart as Jake (that is, they communicate with me but haven’t yet mastered even a rough imitation of human speech, and will do what I tell them to do with more vigor and enthusiam than sense) especially recognizng tiny aspects of your characters within the descriptions of your family members (or maybe I’m getting that backwards. I am dyslexic) I find the evolution of a story as interesting as the story itself, because it demonstated how much of YOU there is in every story. All writers do this to some degree, but most young adult books fail to capture that essence of both fantasy and belivability. The truth is, I could not believe in Trans-dimentional Magic wardrobes where a big lion acts as god, but I cannot tell you how many times I tried to stay up and catch the lizards playing on PBS before the color bars took over for 4 hours.
I have given your two anthologies to numerous cousins, nieces, and friends’ kids, in the interest of promoting independent thought and non-conformity to future generations. I am enjoying the serial format of the Neddiad. and so are my roommates. Just finished American Gods, another way cool road trip novel, and was delighted to see you doing one (uniquely pinkwater and without so much promise of violence, which nowadays is comforting)
I thank you, truly for the work that you do. Everyone, no matter what age, needs to hear it’s ok, hell, Even way cool, to be strange, free thinking, and physically imperfect! Especially kids, as they are often judging themselves based upon an unrealistic social standard.
As I don’t have children, I have read your books to my dogs as puppies, and they like you too. In fact my middle dog’s name is Magnus, who narrowly escaped becoming Manus due to the fact he needed a strong consinant in his name. I also didn’t like the idea of people thinking I was failing to make a distinction between the two species. (If they knew about story time, and dog movie night, it would be all over)
My dog, Lulu can say her name. Which she does in response to the command, ""What is your name?"" And she can also read it off a 3x5 card. She is also able to read the words, ""sit, down, paw, speak, kiss, and quiet (which also has a drawing of a lemon--as a trainer, you will understand). Lulu's dog, Maxine, can read ""sit, down, kiss,"" because those are all the commands she knows--but unlike Lulu, who just recognizes the word, Maxine sniffs each letter before doing the behavior...so it appears she has grasped that the letters together make up a word. She has been known to rear up and sniff the letters on signs in the park, trying to work out what they say. I taught Lulu to read. Lulu taught Maxine.