The Stories That Shaped Us

We're very excited to share our new Daymaker series, “The Stories That Shaped Us.” Each week during the Summer Swing Campaign, we’ll share a unique story about how reading shapes and inspires every child, featuring perspectives from our team as well as some of your favorite authors.

Volume 3: Alice in Wonderland for Jane Yolen, Author of “Owl Moon”

I was so in love with “Alice in Wonderland” as a child. My parents had given me the boxed edition when I was four or five years old. Alice became my culture hero long before I knew what that meant. I wanted to have Wonderland adventures, magical and real. I wanted to guess the answer to the riddle, "Why is a Raven like a Writing Desk?" even though I didn't know what a raven was at first. I wanted to have tea parties, and meet the queen. The Alice books made me want to do so much. I memorized all the poems and to this day I can recite "Jabberwocky."

Jane Yolen + Alice in Wonderland v4

And on the way to writing thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and 366 published books, I wrote this poem about Alice in Wonderland because she is always with me. (Can you guess who Dorothy is? She is also from a favorite book of mine. Here's a hint: her house blew away in a twister.)

Dorothy and Alice Take Tea

Two Victorian girls,
long hair caught up,
in bunches, in bows,,
staring down into,
the brown landscapes,
of their tea,
as if finding a road there,
to get back home.

So ordinary.
So extraordinary.
Their little lives
by the every day,
now blown away,
fallen down
into new lives, liberties.

Much to talk about.
Little to say.
It is a calculus
beyond their counting.
Witch, rabbit,
shifting their priorities,
moving through wonder,
following the weird.

And the oddest of all?
They are safe home,
still longing for the wildness
where neither gender nor age
bound them, and friends came
in many shapes, many colors,
many sexes.
many tribes.

Our world is lucky to have 366 wonderfully creative adventures from Ms. Jane Yolen. How many stories are waiting to be written by the authors of tomorrow that just need a little inspiration?

Volume 2: Shel Silverstein for Abby Hanlon, Author of “Dory Fantasmagory”

When I was a child, I did not spend a lot of time reading quietly. I was too busy talking to myself -- my imagination ran wild. So my favorite books were the ones that fueled my creative energy. Shel Silverstein's poetry books, “A Light in The Attic” and “Where the Sidewalk Ends” were my literary bibles. Silverstein's poems and black line drawings, printed on thick creamy paper, astonished and delighted me. I was not a passive reader; I studied the poems carefully, I memorized my favorite ones, I acted them out.

Abby Hanlon

I loved the poems because they were silly and ridiculous -- an eyeball in the gumball machine, a fancy dive, a broiled head. Full of unexpected twists and sometimes tragic fates, his darker poems told tales of stupidity, sadness, greed, worry, lies, miscommunication and unrelenting begging. I think these books were so important to me because they were an invitation to think unconventionally and that made me feel relieved. And free to keep on talking to myself...

What if we could capture and boost the imagination of every future Abby Hanlon, whose writing has shaped so many people around the world?

Volume 1: "The Giving Tree" for Daymaker CEO, Thomas Doochin

When I reflect on my childhood, I think about the bookshelf that lived next to my bed from the moment I got my own room. I think about the window that looked out onto our front yard and the window into someone else’s world that the books on those shelves provided. I think about the utopias that authors created where good people saved the universe from the bad. I also think about truths of the world books tried to explain that I would only fully understand into adulthood. No memory stands out more than laying on my floor, reading Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree.”


For me, “The Giving Tree” was about the constant tension between our inner desire to be, play, and love and the expectations we place on ourselves to be successful. “The Giving Tree” taught me that we can find indefinite happiness in making others happy. It showed me at five years old that I could play a big part in helping people find their happiness, and that would also bring me great joy. While my adult reading has shifted to academic studies on the positive effects giving has on our parasympathetic nervous system, it all began with Shel Silverstein’s idea that lifting up others may just make us feel better than chasing all of the external measures of success. Those stories shaped me, and my hope for every child is to have the chance to be moved, inspired, and challenged by the simple power of words on a page.


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