We took her to the vet, and it reminded me of how I had wanted to be a veterinarian when I was little. I've shared this story at several writer's conference, but thought I'd might as well share it again here as it relates to children's books.
I loved loved LOVED animals as a kid (still do). We never had pets, though, except for fish and parakeets, because of various family member allergies (I'm allergic to cats myself), but I always adopted the neighborhood dogs and cats as my own. I remember loving one black cat in particular named Midnight, and my piano teacher's Collie named Lady.
I kept with my decision of becoming a veterinarian when I grew up for many many years. And then one day, when I was probably around 10 years old, I read a book. My love of animals had always spilled into which books I read. I read all the dog books (Where the Red Fern Grows, Ribsy), all the horse books (Black Beauty, The Black Stallion), all the rabbit books (Rabbit Hill, Watership Down), etc. etc. I don't remember the title or author of the book in question, but what I do remember was it was about a girl whose father was a veterinarian. She had always wanted to be a veterinarian herself, until one night something happened to her dog, and her father asked her to help him care for her, which involved giving the dog a shot. At that moment, she discovered she didn't have the stomach for doing that, and realized that however much she loved animals, she couldn't be a veterinarian.
At the same time, I thought, I don't think I could give an animal a shot, either. I guess I can't be a veterinarian, either. And from then on, whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I no longer answered "A veterinarian," and instead answered, "Well, I used to want to be a veterinarian, but now I'm not sure."
I actually think this is a bit sad, that a book had so much power as to change my mind about what I wanted to become so completely. And I realize now that, as I'm not really that squeamish, I probably could have become a veterinarian if I had wanted to. At the same time, I realize that I probably would have eventually changed my mind anyway, and as I feel I've found my true calling as a children's book editor, perhaps it ended happily regardless. But I also take this as an example of how powerful books can be. One can never predict the message a child will take away from any particular book (Alison Morris has a somewhat related post on this idea here) and it's pointless to try to predict how something is going to be received, or to censor one's self too much, but I think it's a helpful reminder as to how impressionable kids are, how much of what they see, hear, and read is absorbed.
And by the way, Maggie will be fine.
Anyway, I'm off to Bologna, Italy for the Bologna Book Fair this Friday. It's my first Bologna trip, and I'm super excited. If you're going to be there, let me know, let's try to meet up! I'll try to post while there, but it may not be possible, so my apologies in advance.