To write children’s books, I think you have to keep your inner child alive. In fact, one of my reasons for writing Hodgepodge and Izzy was, I’m sure, to nurture and strengthen my inner child.

            And, of course, children can help us with that if we take time to really talk to them. I like John Updike’s words, “If men do not keep on speaking terms with children, they cease to be men, and become merely machines for eating and for earning money.”

            A week ago I was at a memorial service for my lifelong friend and mentor, Landon Saunders. Landon didn’t write children’s books, but he was a great story teller. Also, he was a person whose inner child was alive and vibrant. He was a model for how to stay on speaking terms with children.

            Landon often said, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” And in his writing and speaking, he inspired and encouraged that spirit of childlike joy and playfulness and light-heartedness in others.

            Here’s one of my favorite stories from Landon. This is excerpted from his 1985 book, How To Win 7 Out Of 8 Days a Week.

Jimmy, a five-year-old, had a goldfish that died. He invited a woman who lived next door to attend the memorial.

 

She arrived, and since little Jimmy couldn’t write, he asked her to write on a small marker he had brought with him to the ceremony. “What do you want to say,” she asked.

 

“His name,” Jimmy replied, “was Mobert.”

 

She wrote it down. “Do you want to say anything else?”

 

Jimmy thought for a moment, then nodded. “Put down,” he said, “He was fun while he lasted.”

 

I used to think that I wanted on my gravestone just the words, “He tried.” But since I’ve learned how to win seven out of eight days a week, I’m boosting that up a little. I think I would just like the words, “He Was Fun While He Lasted.”

 After knowing Landon for fifty years, after being with him in public and in private, in all kinds of circumstances, I can say that, yes, in spite of heavy responsibilities, “He was fun while he lasted.”