Remembering Zilpha Keatley Snyder

When I was in middle school, I had a lot of trouble fitting in with my classmates. In hindsight I realize that many middle schoolers feel this way, but at the time I felt like I was the only one. It seemed like everyone else had meaningful friend groups and wore the right clothes and paid attention to gossip, and I was the weirdo who wrote stories in her notebook during class or read Babysitters Club books under her desk and raised her hand whenever the teacher asked a question.

But when I read Zilpha Keatly Snyder’s Libby on Wednesday, I didn’t feel like such a weirdo after all. Libby was like me: she was eleven years old and precocious, smart at school but didn’t understand social rules, and she was a writer, too.

Libby lived in an enormous old house (a dream of mine), where she got the entire top floor for her hobbies. She had rooms devoted to ballet and to various time periods that interested her. This also became one of my dreams. I wanted a room just for my My Little Ponies, so they could be forever spread out in a never-ending make-believe game. (In real life I had to return my ponies to their laundry-hamper home every two weeks, when the house cleaner came, so she could dust my room. In my Libby on Wednesday fantasies, there would be no cleaning ladies, and my pony room would be only one small corner of my enormous old house.)

Six or seven years ago, I was at ALA, and my friend Emily and I saw that Zilpha Keatly Snyder would be signing at the Simon & Schuster booth. We ducked out from the Penguin booth, where we were working, and quickly ran over to meet her. I told her my name and I said, “Without your book Libby on Wednesday, I would not have survived middle school.” Then I started to cry. I just stood there and sobbed. Emily had to take me away. I was really embarrassed at the time.

Today I read that Zilpha Keatly Snyder has passed away at the age of 87. I’m glad that I told her what her writing meant to me when I had the chance. That’s a memory that I think I’ll keep with me always.

(Zilpha Keatly Snyder photo from her PW obituary)