Sailing to Cythera and Other Anatole Stories Critical Context - Essay

Nancy Willard

Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Nancy Willard’s highly literate books of poetry and prose for young audiences have garnered her an unbroken string of awards and honors, including a 1974 Lewis Carroll Shelf Award for Sailing to Cythera and Other Anatole Stories; in 1973, the collection was also named one of the fifty best books of the year by the American Institute of Graphic Arts. The critical and popular success of this volume has spawned such sequels as The Island of the Grass King: The Further Adventures of Anatole (1979), another Lewis Carroll Award winner, and Uncle Terrible: More Adventures of Anatole (1982). Further, Willard won the prestigious Newbery Medal in 1982 and a Special Honor Book Plaque from the Society of Children’s Book Writers in 1981 for A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers (1981), a book of poems for children.

These awards (and the many others that her books have attracted) attest the high regard in which Willard is held by both her audience and critics. In noting Willard’s accomplishments and contributions to her art, such critics most often cite the sensitive manner in which her works, at their best, create an imaginative world where a pervading sense of magic blends effortlessly with a reverence for concrete, even homely detail. This unlikely fusion of fantasy and reality poses no real dichotomy for the author herself: Willard has asserted that “there are two kinds of truth—the scientific answer and the imaginative answer. And we need both of them.”