Thursday, April 28, 2011 • 6:46 AM Comments ()

Living Inside Pages

posted by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Quoting Saskia, “I’m as big as Lola.”

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Quick aside: in case you don’t know Lola (and you totally should), she’s Charlie’s little sister and she’s an emphatic, confident fictional girl whose self-expression is most endearing. She loves, say, snow, and says so thusly: “Snow is my favorite and my best.”

Plus, she’s English.

My favorite and my best Lola stories are the ones that predated (utterly charming) creator Lauren Childs selling the characters to Disney Playhouse for a series on the telly. Those stories were quirkier and less formulaic, and that much more amusing than the series-driven stories.

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I keep meaning to write something about my disappointment when popularity causes picture book series to sell out (even though I love the notion that dollars and pounds—cash money, not additional weight—are finding their way into the pockets of creative people who make wondrous picture stories and characters). I might get most disappointed when the characters go over the top, almost as if becoming caricatures of their characters (cough, Olivia Goes to Venice).

But that’s not what I’m thinking about today.

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I’m thinking about how awesome it is when a character gets into your mind and heart such that, like Saskia, you are in a conversation (imagined, perhaps) together. How cute is it that Saskia is comparing herself to lovely Lola? And how funny that she’s chosen as role model the “I-Can-do-it-Charlie” Lola who happens to be every bit my daughter?

Even though she has a lot of Olivia in her—and made a fantastic Olivia for Halloween—for all her captivating charm and rule-the-roost-ishness, she’s not the leader quite like Olivia (and didn’t jump the shark to ruin Venice, c’mon now). She is a lot more Lola, aspiring toward those brothers of hers—and sometimes messing up. And often, she inadvertently teaches them a heaping dollop more than they bargained for about the cultivation of patience (us, too, for that matter). No question, she’s a three-year-old with enough personality to anchor many stories.

Anyway, while Lola was visiting our collective brain space today, I read my friend Gina’s little essay about acquiring a typewriter. She was drawn to this old-fashioned—even newsworthy in its being rendered obsolete currently—object, almost envisioning it as a vehicle for slowing her life down. Her husband was a bit… skeptical. The way her daughter related the object—typewriter—to beloved story (tiny hint, Moo) was total make-your-day material. It certainly made mine.

Her story reminded me of my own picture book crashing into real life tale from when I was four. I woke up with a stomachache. I announced, “I have appendicitis.” She did not believe me, but felt my feverish head and took me to the doctor. He confirmed that appendicitis was likely.

“How did you know?” my somewhat incredulous mother asked.

It was Madeline, of course! That Miss Clavel, she knew something was up.

When I retell the story, as I sometimes do, I like to call it a literary diagnosis.

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