Sunday, September 23, 2007

All for Kids and Village Books

Here's the drive along the Chuckanut Road that Deborah Hopkinson and I took from Seattle to Bellingham yesterday...

...after I met these three happening hair dudes who sold me a new charger for my cell phone in downtown Seattle.

This is what I told them:
This sign graces a wall at ALL FOR KIDS, Chauni Haslet's children's bookstore in Seattle. I've been wanting to come here for years. I've been wanting to sign the wall in this event room for years!

I'm experimenting with how to present ALL-STARS. It started its life as a serial story in The Boston Globe, and it is chock full of so many elements: baseball, Walt Whitman, a pageant, the 4th of July, mystery, intrigue, old guys (one dead), hahaha -
I've tried reading character introductions, the rules for playing baseball (Rule #1: No Girls), and the rules much later in the book for "How to Hit the Ball" (Rule #1: Remove all tiaras.) This works, but it doesn't feel as good as just reading chapter one, which is what I've done with the previous novels. I'll keep trying -- when I've read chapter one alone, I create a mood and tone -- I love chapter one -- and set up the mystery ahead.

But there is also so much humor in the story that I want to capture for listeners, so I try to gauge -- who are my listeners and where to begin? When I have lots of kids, I stick with trying to hook them with the humor. Maybe this isn't so smart.

At any rate, we had a wonderful signing time -- tons of stock to sign for Chauni -- and waved goodbye as we drove up the coast to Bellingham for a 4pm signing at Village Books. Here's Chauni, smiling us out the door. She sold me a music CD for my toddler granddaughter and a Graham Salisbury book for Logan: EYES OF THE EMPEROR. "Everyone should read this book," she says. So I will.

And here's Bellingham: "The City of Subdued Excitement! " Really! It's such a beautiful city, right on the water... you can watch the ferry to Alaska move slowly across the bay.

This is "A Lot of Flowers," which is almost next-door to Village Books.

And here is the lovely Village Books, where I borrow a pair of red reading glasses because I left mine in the hotel room, and because, when I see that the reading area is in the basement in a darkish back corner, I know I'm in trouble with these 54-year-old eyes. "I'll bring them back," I tell the cashier with a smile. She stares at me.

Village Books has just lost their children's buyer, who set up my visit. I feel a little lost because I never meet the new buyer, Sarah, even though I go looking for her, and I'm at a bit of a loss without a welcome or ballast. But Jonica comes out from behind the register and gets me situated and introduces me to a small but dedicated group of listeners. The lights come up in this darkish corner, and I see that it's meant to be a cozy place, and I warm to it. I put on my borrowed glasses, forgetting to remove the green triangle sticker on one lens and the "UV Ray" sticker on the other.

But it doesn't matter. I take a chance. I remember how pin-drop quiet my readers were at Thacker Mountain Radio in Oxford, Mississippi, and I read chapters one and two of THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS. I love these two chapters. I love the mood, the tone, the feel, the dead guy, the 12-year-old boy who wants to play baseball, the mystery of it all... and that dog named Eudora Welty. I hope I won't lose my RUBY and LITTLE BIRD readers who I see sitting on the front two rows, clutching their books. And I don't -- how gratifying.

Nancy Johnson, friend and professor at Western Washington University, asks me to read some of Finesse's voice, so I read from Chapter 5: "Darlings! Mes Amours! Biquettes!" and we all laugh.

I love that, at this signing on a Saturday afternoon, parents and kids have come together to see me... I am so happy to meet them.
These young readers below have presents for me.

I love them! They are both reading Deborah Wiles' books. Thanks so much, girls.

And here is a coda: Dinner at the Big Fat Fish Company with Nancy Johnson (in blue) and friends. Nancy is the author (along with Cyndi Giorgis) of a brand-new Heinemann book: THE WONDER OF IT ALL: When Literature and Literacy Intersect. I love this book.

At dinner we have (as always) intense conversations about teaching, reading, and writing. I want to tell you more (and I want to give you some exciting news about the Bond Conference at WWU and the new CLIC), but it will have to wait for another post. In the meantime, if you have opinions, I'd love to start the conversation -- we talked about this at Chauni's as well: do your teachers read out loud in their classrooms daily? Do your teachers use children's literature to teach writing skills? Do your teachers READ children's literature? How well-read are they? And how do they (you) circumnavigate the many strictures on your/their teaching time so that they can be creative, inventive, and teach to the student instead of to the test?

Up next: Third Place Books in Seattle at 1pm, then to Portland, where I'll be at Children's Place at 10am on Monday, and at Powell's, signing stock at 1pm, then off to Orange County, California -- whew!