Last winter I read The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo. It was an exquisite little book, all fine writing and character development. Last month, when I was re-shelving my classroom library after the renovation, I found Tiger Rising by her, a book I didn't even realize I owned. I read it the weekend after school got out, and again I was captivated by the jewel-like quality of her writing, the characters so finely wrought.
Because of Winn-Dixie has long been a favorite of my students, but I'd never read it; I finished it yesterday, and The Tale of Despereaux is next. This morning I visited Kate DiCamillo's website. There is a wonderful little essay about writing there, where she says this:
The world, under the microscope of your attention, opens up like a beautiful, strange flower and gives itself back to you in ways you could never imagine. What stories are hiding behind the faces of the people who you walk past everyday? What love? What hopes? What despair?
(You should read the whole thing-- it's worth it.)
During the school year I teach my students to approach their independent reading with the eyes of a writer, and I do the assignments with them, but many times they are no more than exercises. That is not so as I read DiCamillo's work; she has earned the admiration of my inner reader and inspired the writer in me, too.