|From the NY Times|
E.P. Dutton about 1971
He was everything a kid would want in an author. Alexander was very suave; cool without being aloof; very friendly; adult yet very interested in what those of us still in our first decade in life had to say about his books and books in general.
He was also one of the people who inspired me to become a writer.
Back in the late 60s I was part of what I now realize was a very special group. The absolutely wonderful and fabulous Birdie Law (winner of the ALA's 1981 Allie Beth Martin Award--only the third winner at the time), Head Children's Librarian at the Oxon Hill Library had, a few years before, started a book discussion group called CRABs, or Children Raving About Books. It was there, every Friday afternoon, that my friends and I found other misfits like ourselves who really, really liked books. We loved reading them and we loved talking about them.
The first generation of CRABs (just a few years older than we were) had all read Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain. (Alexander won the Newberry award for the sixth and final book in the series, The High King) That group of kids wrote a group letter to Alexander, expressing their appreciation for the books and his writing. They were stunned several months later when he wrote back saying he was going to be in the DC area and wondered if they would mind if he stopped by for a visit.
This was a very active, performance-oriented group of kids. In true Andy Hardy "Let's Put On a Show!" spirit, those first CRABs put together a play based on Lloyd Alexander's characters and performed it for him during his visit.
Those kids who put on the play were given the title of Royal Prydainians. It was a very big deal.
They alone were the only ones allowed to sit in the chair Lloyd Alexander himself had sat in during his meeting with the CRABs. They alone were the elite of the CRABs. Forget about being older--they had been blessed by Lloyd Alexander himself.
The last time Lloyd Alexander visited the CRABs it was understood that a new play was going to be written by the CRABs playwright (Stephen Hayes) and that the older kids (who were already Royal Prydainians) were going to perform in it. I had only read one of his books, Time Cat, and somehow (thank you, Mrs. Law) I was asked to play the part of Jason, the human character in Time Cat, in the play.
That makes me the last person inducted as a Royal Prydainian.
So, what does all of this have to do with Alexander as a writer?
If winning the Newbery Medal, the National Book Award (multiple times), the School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and being a founder of Cricket Magazine isn't enough, if writing engaging, fun and adventurous fiction for boys and girls isn't enough, then it's simply this:
Lloyd Alexander made a heavy-set, awkward misfit of a kid feel special. He made me feel that life could and would be better. And even if he never said it, he made me understand that if he could write and get published, so could I.
Thanks, Mr. Alexander. Thanks, Mrs. Law.