“If you have no imagination then you have no wings.”
I will always be in debt to Ann M. Martin for making me a reader. Without her books to guide me through the difficult years of early reading I would have simply given up.
But it is Cherie Bennett who I credit with broadening my reading world beyond the Baby Sitter’s Club. After buying Sunset Island in late elementary school I was seduced away from the babysitting life to the exotic world of an au pair. I was the first one in my grade to move away from Ann M. Martin and my copies of the Sunset series were quickly circulating around; through all the girls and even some of the boys.
I admired Cherie and wrote her countless letters. The amazing thing was that she always wrote back. Just a few handwritten lines at the bottom of a form letter, but they meant the world me. (Between 1991 and 1998 Cherie received over 12,000 letters. It is an honor to know some of them were mine. It takes a special kind of author and very dedicated person to answer all her fans personally.)
Recently I was able to reconnect with Cherie briefly and thank her for the joy I felt in receiving her letters. She responded to thank me and shared some sad personal news. I decided to read the book that inspired me to reconnect with her in honor of her news and encourage you to keep her in your thoughts and hearts.
Zink is a powerful novel with a touching back story. It is dedicated in part to her parents and is defined as her by written by her mother. The dedication reads:
“For my parents – Roslyn Cantor, who loves me as much as Diane loves Becky, and Dr. Bennett H. Berman, whose love from a world far, far away inspired me to create Papa Zeke.”
But the book is also dedicated to the memory of a very special little girl. A little girl whose mind and story grew into a play, followed by a novel. Cherie talks about this girl in the Acknowledgements of Zink,
“In 1982, a girl name Kelly Weil was born. In 1991, she was diagnosed with cancer. Two years later, despite spectacular advances in childhood cancer treatment, she was dead.
A few months before her death, Kelly wrote a one-page story about a polka-dotted Zebra named Zink.”
This story was very moving and a great honor to the memory of Kelly. The book is illustrated by various children who have been affected by cancer. It adds yet another layer to the story. And their bios are also included in the back of the book.
Even though I have never met Cherie personally, she is one of the warmest and most generous people I know. As a young adult I even considered her my hero. Thanks again Cherie for all you have given me.