Saturday, April 12, 2008

Fourth Time's the Charm

On March 11 I had my fourth Book Store Event—morning story hour at the Naperville Barnes & Noble. Once again I alerted the SCBWI list serve to the event and asked my few Naperville area friends to show up. This time the turn-out was quite good—6 or 7 bodies from my efforts, but maybe another 15 or 20 from the store’s regular story time crowd. Even before I was due to read children were gathering on little wooden benches in front of the chair where I would be reading. I had brought my suitcase full of trucks, my backpack that I carry everywhere, and my purse. You would have thought I was going to move in.

I didn’t want the children who were sitting so patiently to get bored, but it was early to begin the reading so I began to chat with them. I put my backpack on my back and told them that my guardian spirit is the turtle, who carries its home on its back. Then I took off my pack and began to show them all the things I carry with me: a book to read, so I always have something to do; my journal, so I can always write and draw; a set of watercolor paints, in case I want to paint. “Can we paint?” asked one of the kids? “I have coloring sheets and crayons,” I answered. “After I read my book we can color.”

Here I am pretending to be a turtle.

A good crowd was gathering. I closed up my backpack and opened my suitcase and pulled out one large truck and a “Viaduct” made out of a shoebox. “It’s a bridge!” one little boy said. “Yes, it is,” I answered him. “What’s this?” “Train tracks!” he said as I showed all the children the drawing of tracks on the top of the box. So we discussed what a viaduct is until it was time to read the book.

Truck Stuck is a very short book—135 words. But the pictures tell two stories, one about a truck stuck under a viaduct and another about a lemonade stand. I am learning to read in bursts and then discuss the pictures for a while and then read a few more phrases. The kids have fun following the progress of the lemonade stand and also looking at the wonderful characters that populate the pages, including an unruly troop of boy scouts, a clown handing out balloons, a country and western singer and even Elvis.

After I read the story I handed out trucks to each child. I have a truck for every vehicle mentioned in the text, if you use your imagination for some. So then I read the story again, and as each vehicle was mentioned the child with that truck lined it up behind the big truck stuck under the viaduct. This re-enactment worked well with the very young age group that had come to hear the story.

I wore my clown shoes.

Then we had a “balloon” parade, just like in the book. I handed out colored paper plates and asked the kids to pretend that these were balloons and hold them up high and follow me. We marched around the children’s section of the bookstore. When we came back to the benches we had lemonade and I handed out pictures of a truck to color. The children colored and played with the trucks while I signed books and chatted with the parents.

Balloon Parade!

I had a really fun time!

Clearly I am learning how to read my book to groups, how to relate to groups of kids I don’t know, and I am developing activities to keep the event as interactive as possible.

I also am learning just how helpful the Community Relations Manager of a store like this one can be. After everyone had left we chatted as we picked up the crayons and packed away my trucks. She recommended another Barnes and Noble that has a very well attended story hour. She told me about setting up 10 school visits for an author who then did an evening reading and signing that was attended by many of the kids he had read to earlier that day. I told her I had a book coming out next year and I would be happy to do school visits that lead to a signing. Once again I realized how there are hidden values to doing book store events, like meeting a CRM who has lots of experience with author events and is generous in sharing her experience. She has even recommended me to a school looking for authors to attend their book fair.

I left the Naperville Barnes and Noble energized and excited about more book store events to come.

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