Scholastic Books Acquires A Secret
Can you keep a secret? Children’s author of The Secret Olivia Told Me certainly can-and unfortunately she did. Because of that secret she kept, the children's book, which received the American Library Association Coretta Scott King Honor, is turning out to be both a gift and a curse for this author. Does Scholastic Books have the spell breaking antidote for the latter?
Two years ago when the children’s picture book was awarded this prestigious honor, the author saw this as nothing less than complete favor. It was during the author's celebratory praises that she had a revelation. It was then when the true meaning of the book she wrote over sixteen years ago, but wasn’t published until fourteen years later, came back to mind.
In the summer of her freshmen year of high school, the author's younger next door neighbor told her a secret. Like the narrator in the book, the author promised she would not tell, and she didn’t. It haunts her to this day wondering what might have happened had she told the secret her neighbor had shared with her. Her neighbor had gone to visit a friend from her old neighborhood and she’d taken along a new friend to join her. Later that week, in a casual conversation, the friend shared a startling secret. Over that weekend, the girl’s of whom they’d gone to visit step-father convinced them to engage in their first sexual experience with him.
The friend swore the author to secrecy. The author never told, not even three years later when she saw the story on the news and read the news headline on August 12, 1989 that a Columbus, Ohio COTA bus driver named Ronald E. Waugh had plead guilty to raping 14 children, ages 3-15. At first it seemed to be a coincidence, but then reporters began to tell the story of how the perpetrator used his stepdaughter to lure some of the victims over. The stepdaughter gave a list of names to investigators of girls she knew her stepfather had raped. The author's neighbor and her friend were on that list, but when they were questioned by authorities, they denied it; they didn't tell.
“I don't know why I didn't tell,” the author states. “I don't know how many children may not have had to endure the rapes had I told.” Eventually someone did tell though. Someone had picked up the phone and telephoned in a tip to a child abuse hot line, but it wasn't the author. “To this day I'm baffled at my own actions. When ever I’d hear of a child being raped, I could never understand why they just didn’t tell. I never once looked back to my own situation. I can't justify my actions. I mean, I could see if I was in elementary school, but I was in high school and I still kept the secret.” Yes, the book has pretty pictures, but the true story behind the book isn’t pretty at all. What the author is hoping is that the questions posed to the readers at the end of the book regarding keeping secrets(what's a good secret, what's a bad secret, etc...) will provoke and give someone the courage to tell.
Thankfully, Scholastic Books has purchased the book club rights from the publisher. The Secret Olivia Told Me is currently on tour at Scholastic Book Fairs across the country. Lastly the author says, "My hope is that every parent, every teacher, every counselor, every mentor and every guardian will use this book as a tool, not to badger tales out of children, but to encourage them, on their own free will, to tell; something I didn't do."