I can still remember my first Kate DiCamillo book (it was only like four years ago, so you would hope I could remember it). I listened to The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and I couldn't believe how such a short, simple story could impact me so profoundly. I think that was one of the first moments where I realized that anyone who thinks children's literature can only be enjoyed by children is CRAZY.
Edward Tulane was soon followed by Winn-Dixie who was followed by Despereaux. Once my kids were old enough, we devoured Mercy Watson (they became our stand-by, comfort books) and Bink & Gollie. When I heard Kate DiCamillo had a new book coming out this year (Flora & Ulysses), I was so ecstatic, I wrote about it here.
I was going to go with a friend, but when she sadly ended up with a migraine, I asked Aaron if he wanted to go instead (it was only fair since Maxwell got to go when the Steads came two weeks ago).
In a word, Kate DiCamillo was delightful. She's short (just like me!) and funny. Her humor feels spontaneous even though I'm sure she's told many of the same stories and answered the same questions again and again.
We loved hearing about the inspiration behind Mercy Watson. One day (I think while she was traveling), she had a picture of a pig come to mind with the name "Mercy" under it. (When I related this story to Mike, he said, "Okay, that's a little weird," to which I retorted, "You've had plenty of strange ideas yourself, mister, and we all happen to love Mercy Watson around here, so I wouldn't be criticizing how she came about if I were you!"). Then awhile later, she thought of Mr. and Mrs. Watson and realized they weren't going to be pigs but humans. The last piece of the puzzle came one morning when she was driving her friend to the airport. Her friend came out to the car with a large piece of toast, which she proceeded to eat on the drive. Kate eventually asked her to save the rest until they were at the airport as she was getting greasy crumbs all over her brand-new car, but instead of stopping, the friend proceeded to give all the reasons why buttered toast was the perfect food.
I loved hearing this story because it demonstrated how stories come a piece at a time and how it's so important to pay attention to those little flashes because eventually they add up to something much bigger.
I had been planning on buying her newest book, but then the line was so long and I had another meeting I had to be to in the evening and I thought Aaron was probably getting tired and restless. But Aaron said he really wanted to stand in line and meet her. So we did, and I'm so glad.
Even though she hears it from everyone, I was glad that I personally could tell her how much we love her books. Our lives really have been so richly blessed because of them.