Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Do you know a kid? You should see this calendar!

When I was a little girl, I would have crawled on broken glass to the nearest bookstore or library or hole-in-the-wall whereverland if there was an author signing books.  I lived way out in the country where the nearest thing to civilization was the ice cream parlour/burger joint at a major intersection just a stone's throw from the egg farmer. But I would have done it.
My pilgrimage to Green Gables. The best I could manage at the time.
The thought of actually meeting the Person Who Wrote the Book That I Read Last Week, or who wrote the book I might read next week - the person who wrote something good enough to be published - was unreal to me. After all, most of my favourite authors were British or dead or both. I'm just old enough to have grown up as the Canadian children's publishing industry was about to take off in a big way.
I remember my mom bringing home Dennis Lee's Alligator Pie when it came out, and Gordon Korman's MacDonald Hall series (Whoa! He wasn't a whole lot older than I was! And the books were set in Stouffville, just a bit beyond the egg farmer's place!), and Jean Little, of course. But the notion that I might actually meet any of these people? Nah. Never going to happen.

Today, however,  many children in Canada have so many opportunities to meet authors and illustrators either online or in person at schools, libraries, and bookstores. Lucky kids! I've been to a fair number of events over the past few years, and the best ones have lots of young readers there - little ones responding enthusiastically to the stories and asking lots of questions, or teens chatting oh-so-casually with the author about dirt bikes or journaling.
With Gordon Korman (30 years later). I sent this one to my mom within about ten seconds.
Now here is the Big News: Being able to engage with Canadian children's authors and illustrators just got a whole lot easier. This year, the Canadian Children's Book Centre launched a new website that highlights and promotes book events across the country. Any CCBC member can post an event. And ANYBODY can check the calendar to see what's happening on any given day of the week.
My 10-year-old self would have been beside herself if she could have had access to these sorts of opportunities. I think my head would have exploded if I could have met Jean Little when I first read From Anna.
Whee! Bookish types know how to have fun!
Do you have plans for this weekend? How about next weekend? Do you know kids who like books? Who think they hate books? Check out the calendar and see what's happening in your neck of the woods. Take those kids to a book launch or a reading. If you are a teacher or a librarian, let your students and their parents know about the calendar.
Chances are it won't cost a thing to participate in the event (though you'll probably be eager to buy the book after you hear all about it!). Bribe your reluctant readers with the inevitable free juice and cookies. If it's a Fitzhenry & Whiteside launch, I promise that there will be cake.
See? Told you there'd be cake! (A "novel" idea.)
And there will be at least one author - maybe an illustrator. Maybe more than one of each. Readers (children, teens, and adults alike) can hear a story, ask questions, get to know what went into making that particular book. They can meet other people who also really like the book and/or the author and/or the illustrator. Or maybe they will simply meet people who are fans of books in general and are there for the bonus cookies and cake. And somewhere between the apple juice and the autographs, a few on-the-fence readers might take more of an interest in reading a great new Canadian children's book. How could you NOT want to make that happen? 
Presenting Gabby at  Story Planet & Intergalactic Travel Authority
But fair warning - it might also make an avid book-loving kid's head explode. And that will be SO worth it.

Sent this one of me with Dennis Lee to my mom, too. And then my head exploded.