word craft


A gift only an author can give

Shakespeare's Sonnets dedicationI was just going over a man­u­script for the last time—it need­ed to go to my publisher’s copy editor—when I real­ized I was in a posi­tion I have been in (hap­pi­ly) many times. To whom, if any­one, should I ded­i­cate the book?

This is, of course, only some­thing the writer of a book can do, and it has always been a plea­sure. Con­sid­er­ing the num­ber of books I have pub­lished, there are a lot of ded­i­ca­tions. It once occurred to me that I could write a book, call it Ded­i­ca­tions. It would be all about the peo­ple to whom I’ve ded­i­cat­ed books, explain­ing why they are cit­ed, and their impor­tance to me. It would con­sti­tute a mem­oir, of sorts.

There are the famous ones, as in Fitzgerald’s Great Gats­by, “Once again to Zelda.”

Or Robert Park­er who ded­i­cat­ed all of his many books to his (same) wife.

Or here from The Lit­tle Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

“To Leon Werth. I ask chil­dren to for­give me for ded­i­cat­ing this book to a grown-up. I have a seri­ous excuse: this grown-up is the best friend I have in the world. I have anoth­er excuse: this grown-up can under­stand every­thing, even books for chil­dren. I have a third excuse: he lives in France where he is hun­gry and cold. He needs to be com­fort­ed. If all these excus­es are not enough, then I want to ded­i­cate this book to the child whom this grown-up once was. All grown-ups were chil­dren first. (But few of them remem­ber it.) So I cor­rect my ded­i­ca­tion: To Leon Werth when he was a lit­tle boy.”

One choos­es a ded­i­ca­tee for many rea­sons: Love, friend­ship, a way of show­ing appre­ci­a­tion, admi­ra­tion. One of my books has no ded­i­ca­tion, because the per­son want­ed their name to be a secret. I’ve ded­i­cat­ed books to folks who nev­er say a word. To a trio of pub­lish­ing friends. To my dog. One per­son, a ded­i­ca­tee said, “It’s about time.” Most often, heart­felt thanks. Indeed, I’ve even read advice on how to receive a ded­i­ca­tion: “Say thank you before you read the book.” But when this year’s Calde­cott win­ner, Bri­an Floca’s Loco­mo­tive, was ded­i­cat­ed to me, I thanked him first, read the book, and thanked him even more.

This post is ded­i­cat­ed to my blog read­ers. With love.

5 thoughts on “A gift only an author can give”

  1. And we love you! My favorite part of books is the dedication…I always try to fig­ure out “why” if the author does­n’t elaborate…but I love them most when the author tells why! My stu­dents LOVE writ­ing the ded­i­ca­tion for the books they “pub­lish” and they always save it for last! It is indeed a great gift!

  2. Thanks, Avi. Anoth­er enlight­en­ing post — I espe­cial­ly loved the inclu­sion of the ded­i­ca­tion from THE LITTLE PRINCE. For some rea­son, today it res­onat­ed. Maybe because I love think­ing there’s still a “lit­tle girl” in me as a read­er. No won­der the big (and lit­tle) girl in me loves your books! [I think you should write that mem­oir through ded­i­ca­tion book — I’d read it!]

  3. Oh my first, per­haps only, ded­i­ca­tion! I’m hon­ored. I have a very few blogs that I read and I always read yours first — so I take this very per­son­al­ly. Thank you Avi for shar­ing your words, wis­dom and now your ded­i­ca­tion page with us!


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