The day I helped at the book fair

“Calvin’s mom!” “Calvin’s mom!”

My true name was revealed to me when I volunteered at the Scholastic Book Fair at my kids’ school.

“Do you like to read to kids?” asked Herr Hayes, the school librarian. (Remember,it’s a German school.)

He told me to pick out a couple of books before Calvin’s kindergarten class came in. I would read to them and then help them pick out books.


Kindergartners are squiggly. Calvin and Max with their friend Shalin. (Shalin is in Calvin’s class.)

Reading out loud to my own kids is one thing, but reading to Calvin’s class made me a little nervous.

Luckily, they were an easy audience. Or should I say, a squiggly audience. After they got the “Calvin’s mom!” out of their systems, most of them sat still and listened. (Calvin beamed at me from the front row.) There were a few in the back that couldn’t sit still but most seemed to enjoy my attempt at rousing renditions of Please Mr. Panda by Steve Antony, The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara and Mark Fearing, and The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat.

I made the rookie mistake of letting them get up when I was done but Herr Hayes rushed over and made them sit back down and listen to instructions. I guess 22 kindergartners on the loose isn’t always a good idea.

Here’s what I learned that day: my kids are pretty normal. They aren’t the only ones who squiggle, don’t listen, and tell on each other.

One girl told me a long saga about how her friend said her necklace wasn’t as pretty as hers.

Let’s pick some books, I suggested.


This book allowed me to impress little kids with my alien sounds. It was a big day!

Once they left, I was a seasoned pro and read to the first graders. I noticed they were quieter and asked more questions. I did hear a bunch of them laughing about a book that had poop in it.

More proof that my kids are normal!

And the next time I visited Calvin’s class, a bunch of the little squigglers ran over and hugged me.

More book info

Steve Antony also wrote one of our favorites, The Queen’s Hat, featured on this very blog. He also has a new book coming out, The Queen’s Handbag.

Beekle is another family favorite and Caldecott winner! Listen to this NPR piece about it.

The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot was a great new find and illustrator/writer Mark Fearing illustrated one of out most-loved books, How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans.

Taking my blog on the road

My book club and I are gaga for Ann. (Center. In the DRESS.)

My book club and I are gaga for Ann. (Center. In the DRESS.)

I took my blog on the road last week. On my way to the Tribe Conference in Franklin, Tennessee my fellow writer and friend Melissa and I stopped at Parnassus Books. The store is a literary mecca in Nashville, Tennessee.

Author Ann Patchett is the co-owner of the store. She’s also the author of my book club’s first read Truth and Beauty. We celebrated our tenth anniversary and love of all things Patchett by hearing her speak at the Cincinnati Mercantile Library’s Niehoff lecture in October.

May I digress? Ann talked about the importance of independent owned bookstores. We met her during the cocktail hour and she shared that her fabulous dress was a gift from her friend Liz (author Elizabeth Gilbert). We smiled, gushed, and probably spit like teenagers with braces when we told her that we love her work. She was gracious, engaging, and an intriguing speaker.

The Queen, her beefeaters, and corgi take off.I try to make it a point to hit independent bookstores when traveling with or without my boys. I found some gems at Parnassus. It has a beautifully stocked and comfortable children’s book section.

For Calvin I found, The Queen’s Hat by Steve Antony. Calvin has an obsession with buses and cities. His beloved London double decker buses and London Bridge feature large in this tale about the Queen losing her hat on the way to visit a certain baby. (Can you guess?)

Calvin also scored This is San Francisco by Miroslav Sasek. This was gold, pure gold, since we were there in June (see my blog post California Love) and he adores Sasek’s This is New York.

Max loves all things Star Wars these days. He was happy to get Star Wars Epic Yarns: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars Yarns: A New Hope by Jack Wang and Holman Wang. These clever books show Star Wars figures made of yarn and the one word a page are great for new readers.

Melissa, me, and my gold handbag visit Parnassus Books.

Melissa, me, and my gold handbag visit Parnassus Books.

The Tribe Conference (for writers, bloggers, and entrepreneurs), the bookstore, and a little time away from my two kindergartners left me feeling inspired!

Ps. At the conference we were challenged to ask for email addresses for our blogs. I got around 60! Thank you to all who responded!

Where to find the books and other info

Check out your local bookstore or library for all the titles mentioned above or visit Powell’s City of Books for the The Queen’s Hat, and This is San Francisco.

Star Wars Epic Yarns: The Empire Strikes Back can be bought from Chronicle Books.

Read my friend Melissa’s blog post about The Tribe Conference. (Hint..she writes poetry.)

Elizabeth Gilbert will be at Parnassus Books on October 21 with her new book, Big Magic.