In spite of the rain – remnants of Hurricane Patricia racing across Texas and dropping much-needed rainfall on my now-swampy yard – there was a pretty good turn-out yesterday at the Maud Marks Library in Katy, TX. I love meeting young readers and their parents! Some of the kids came in costume and enjoyed an early round or three of Trick-or-Treat. See that full candy dish? Two young superheroes grabbed fists full of candy and stuffed their treat bags. Seeing no parent in sight, I suggested maybe they ought to leave a little to share with the other kids. That only prompted them to shovel nearly all of it into their bags! Little did they know that I had more hidden away under the table.
I leaned over and said, “Fine, you may have all that candy – if you’ll just do one thing for me.”
Wide-eyed and eager, they asked me what I wanted them to do.
“I have all this candy, but none of it is chocolate. I would love some chocolate. Across the room, near the doors, there’s a plate of Oreos. Please bring me one. Maybe two.” I smiled. They nodded solemnly. They had their mission, and off they went. I hid the large candy dish and learned it’s best to put out just a handful or two at a time. I did not really expect them to return so quickly, but I was prepared!
Next thing I knew, the little boys were back! One held up both hands – full of Oreos, all for me! I took the cookies and thanked him profusely. The other had pilfered six or seven snack-sized chocolate bars and Tootsie rolls. He shoved them across the table. All for me! I thanked them and marveled that they were not dressed as Robin Hood and Little John.
Five minutes later, they returned again. They opened their hands and offered up more chocolate! I was now Fagin, and they, my Artful Dodgers.
I offered to share with the authors on either side of me. They looked at me as if I were mad. “I don’t know where those little hands have been!” said one. I shrugged. After raising two children of my own, that thought didn’t even cross my mind. The Oreos were delicious.
I had not seen their parents, and thought I’d best find them and confess to corrupting these adorable little minions. I found the boys hiding out under one of the nearby author’s tables, gobbling all the candy they’d kept for themselves. It turned out that their mother was the author – I told her she might want to peek under the tablecloth and be forewarned that they would soon be bouncing off the walls like a pair of super-bouncy rubber balls, having ingested approximately a third of their own body weights in sugar.
Some time later, a precocious little girl made a beeline to my table and reached for Trockle’s bright red truck. She opened and shut its doors, lowered and lifted the tailgate, and attempted to cram as many plastic spiders into the cab as would fit. (Two, if you’re curious – more or less. If they don’t mind hanging out the windows, waving about half their legs at passersby. Another two can be jammed into the cargo area.) She had no interest in reading, but wanted that truck in the worst way. I told her father where to find one, but he said, “She’s a girl, she doesn’t want a toy truck!” I nearly choked laughing; that toy truck was all she wanted! I’d bet money she has her toy truck by today.
I do wish parents would explain to their children that the people behind the tables are the ones who wrote the books. A couple of hours into the event, it became clear that although the parents knew this, their children didn’t. “You mean…you wrote this?” asked the kids, if they stuck around long enough to ask questions or chat about the books. I realized that there are libraries and book fairs at school, but the authors don’t come to the book fairs. Authors go to classrooms and read during author visits, but the children don’t associate tables full of books for sale with “these are the authors who wrote the books.” The books were much more interesting to the ones who made the connections. There were about thirty authors there – and only a small number of children realized it, as best I could tell. That’s a bit of a missed opportunity for all involved!
One little girl picked up A Puppy, Not a Guppy, and began to leaf through its pages in earnest. Her mother glanced over her shoulder. I began to tell her how Irma – like my own daughter – had to cope with her disappointment over not being allowed to have the puppy she really wanted, and how she had to figure out how to get along with the dumb old guppies her parents reluctantly allowed her to keep, and how she learned that maybe there was a way to play with them, after all. “Have you heard of Albert Einstein, the goldfish?” I asked. “He’s in the Guinness Book of World Records. He can do the Limbo and play soccer. Irma’s guppies are a little like Albert Einstein.”
They bought the book. I hope she went home last night and tried training her fish to play fetch!
I drove across town in heavy rain, had dinner, ate some Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids, and fell sound asleep. It was a fun, busy day!