I’m Hoping for a Rain of Questions
Waiting, as I am now doing, for one of my books to reach the boys and girls I’ve written it for is like waiting for rain after a long, hot, tiresome summer day. One can never be sure that rain will come, but one can hope. I can never be sure that boys and girls will like a new book. But, of course, I always hope they will. When they do—it rains! It rains letters full of questions like these: “Is it a true story? Did you know the people the story is about? How did you come to think of the story?”
Perhaps I’d better answer these questions here and now—hoping of course, that the question-rain will come and knowing that all too often I haven’t time enough to answer each letter.
All of the people in The Chestry Oak are real, and everything that happens to them in the story has happened. I don’t mean that I’ve actually known them, one by one. But I’ve known boys like Michael, men like his father, and women like Nana; and I often meet people like Pop Brown and his family among my neighbors in Orange County. What happens to Michael in the story has happened to countless boys and girls all over the world. In a way, Michael’s story is my own; it is the story of all those who have had to leave their country, their family, and their friends, and make a new life for themselves in America. Yes, it’s all real.
Even Midnight, Michael’s horse, is real. It’s because I met Midnight personally that I came to write the story. Two years ago, I went to the County Fair, where the Army was showing cavalry horses. Among them were some that had been brought over from Europe, and the most beautiful of them all was a black stallion from Hungary. Looking at him, I thought how far away from home he was and yet how little difference it made to him what language people around him were speaking as long as they were kind. And I thought how wonderful it would be if human beings were as wise as horses; if we could stop building barriers of the difference in language, race, color, and creed, and learn the universal language of kindness and understanding.
Stories, like plants, grow from one small seed that falls on fertile ground just at the right time. Seeing the Hungarian stallion Midnight at an American County Fair was the seed from which grew The Chestry Oak. While it grew, it took nourishment from all the things I remember of Hungary and strength from all the things I’ve learned of America and her people. So The Chestry Oak is my own story, and it is very true.
Afterword to our edition of The Chestry Oak, written by Kate Seredy in 1949 for a promotional pamphlet distributed by the Junior Literary Guild.