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Light Through Connection 

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I was skeptical about interviewing the author of a children's picture book with only one word in it.

But it wasn't just any writer behind La, La, La, a story told mostly through brilliant artwork by illustrator Jaime Kim. This was Kate DiCamillo, best known for her beloved children's novels Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux. Both were made into movies, one I read as a kid.

My skepticism was quickly and righteously dashed.

Although La, La, La started out as a doodle, a way for DiCamillo to turn away from words for a moment, in just a few minutes she's able to describe this story about a little girl with a song to sing in a way that gives it depth and humanity.

"I can't draw, let's be very clear about that," DiCamillo says, shushing her dog Ramona, named after Beverly Cleary's quirky character. "But I storyboarded a whole thing out."

From DiCamillo's simple two circles, Kim created a vibrant, colorful world, bathing the girl in light as she ventures out to share her tune.

"It's this feeling of wanting and needing to connect and finally connecting, and she captures that so beautifully," DiCamillo says. "It's the same story that I'm telling in all the novels. It's that search for light through connection."

When DiCamillo does speaking events like the one she'll do in Spokane, there are often adults there who read her books as kids, and that, too, makes for powerful connection.

I let slip that I read Winn-Dixie growing up, and before I know it, we're talking about our elementary school teachers, growing from readers into writers, and she's apologizing for tearing up.

"I cannot get over that," she says. "That the kid you read that book."

My emotionally-distant journalist facade crumbles, and I also have to clear my throat, totally ruining my reputation as the only person in my family who doesn't choke up at the drop of a Hallmark commercial.

When DiCamillo was young, it never occurred to her that books were written by actual people, so she does her best to show others she's a broken-hearted, messy person, in hopes maybe one kid will walk out thinking she, too, can be a writer.

"The more human you are — 'cause I'm nothing but a messy human — the more suited you are to be a writer and to tell the stories about your heart," she says. ♦

Kate DiCamillo • Sat, March 3, at 7 pm • Purchase of La, La, La ($17.99) required (admits two) • Spokane Public Library • 906 W. Main St. • auntiesbooks.com/event/kate-dicamillo-la-la-la

The original print version of this article was headlined "Light Through Connection"

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