I have made a little informal promise to myself that if an author I like does a book signing, I will make a reasonable effort to go to it.
All of the author events I have been to in the last year have been fabulous. And every time, I come away with a greater appreciation for their work specifically but also for all authors and illustrators in general. Plus, I love getting a little glimpse into their personalities, and I love showing my children that real people create the books we love.
So when I saw that Philip and Erin Stead were going to be at The King's English today, and I looked at our calendar and saw that the afternoon was gloriously free of piano students, I said, "Hey, Max! Want to go on a date with me?"
Luckily he did, and we were soon seated on the floor of the children's section listening to the Steads read from their books.
Philip Stead began by saying how excited they were to be at the King's English, which (according to him) is one of the more well-known independently owned bookstores in the country (always nice to feel that little twinge of pride right off the bat). Then he had all the kids introduce themselves all at the same time to his wife, Erin, because, he said, she is a little bit shy.
They read three of their books: A Sick Day for Amos McGee, If You Want to See a Whale, and Hello, My Name is Ruby (which just came out 11 days ago). They invited the kids to interact and participate. Max loved trying to say "Ugh" in just the right way.
They shared some fun facts about their books, like that the idea for A Sick Day for Amos McGee came about because Philip wanted Erin to draw a picture of an old man and an elephant playing chess together.
Then Erin showed some samples of her work to show the process of sketching, then making the wood cut, then finishing the details. Each page takes her about one week to complete.
They talked about upcoming books, and now I can't wait for next fall. (Sometimes it makes life less painful to not know about the good things on the horizon.)
I loved the dynamic between the two of them. You can tell that they both love what they do, and it was so fun to hear about the ways that they collaborate and edit and critique one another's work.
I have long wanted our own copy of A Sick Day for Amos McGee, so of course I had to purchase it today (although Max would have rather had If You Want to See a Whale because it has an imprint of a whale in the clothbound cover).
When Philip Stead read A Sick Day for Amos McGee, he prefaced it by saying that it's a quiet story. And it is. And yet, quiet in this case definitely does not mean boring or distant. Amos McGee is a zookeeper who does far more than feed the animals and clean their cages. They are his friends, and when he doesn't show up to work one day due to a nasty cold, they all rally to give back to their dear friend, Amos. The illustrations are subtle (Erin said she only used eight colors), and the balance between the text and illustrations is marvelous. This is the kind of quiet story I can definitely get behind.
Max was very patient as we waited in the signing line. And when we finally made it to them, they were very gracious about letting me snap a picture of him with them. (Max, unfortunately, didn't look at the camera, but I didn't dare hold up the line while trying to get a three-year-old to cooperate. That could've taken hours.)
As we were leaving, Max said, "They were a lot nicer than I thought they would be." Not exactly sure what he was expecting, but I have to agree that they were very nice.
When I got home, I was justifying my purchase by saying that I supported a local bookstore, supported an author/illustrator team I really, really like, and got one of my favorite books. "I guess it was a win-win-win," Mike said.
A win-win-win, indeed.