cover image The Moon and I

The Moon and I

Betsy Cromer Byars. Julian Messner, $12.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-74166-2

For Byars, meeting an enormous blacksnake on her front porch becomes a springboard for tracing her lifelong love of animals, and also her likes and dislikes, successes and failures as a writer. The result is an appealingly idiosyncratic narrative that seamlessly weaves together the Newbery winner's life and art. In a personable, highly conversational style studded with wry observations and shot through with humility and perspective, Byars shares her views on the relative significance of various elements of a story; the importance of names in inventing characters (``I never had any trouble creating a terrible character as long as his name was Bubba''); the necessity for ``lots and lots of good scraps'' from real life; and the impossibility of writing when one is being watched, even by a snake. She uses lists, questions, examples from several of her works and even excerpts from fan letters--flattering and not--to illustrate her points. And, of course, she traces her developing friendship with Moon in its often hilarious ups and downs. It is pure pleasure and privilege to be thus invited into the world of such a warm and engaging artist. This goes far beyond most memoirs in its ability to engage the reader. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)