Book Groupies, we are…

February 6, 2010 § 9 Comments

BACKGROUND:Nory in creamy turtleneck; Pearson, seated and signing; a library helper: and, me in dark red and scarf …down by the station. FOREGROUND:That’s Grandma just to the left, also snapping a picture. Photo by HM and his crackberry.

Last week, on a rare sunny day, we went to the Train Station in Kirkwood, yes, a veritable station, rather large, very old, all of wood and windows and benches, yet somehow cozy inside.

It was sunny as I mentioned and it was freezing outside so that everything was crisp, including the sunlight. Inside, we sat on a folding chairs at one end of the station. There were as many children as adults (as wranglers/parents of said children.) While HM was on my right, on my left was a tiny little girl named Sophie. She had worn her favorite shirt with glitter on it for this event, she said. “You have more books than I do,” she said, looking at my stack of the Starcatcher series on my lap. “Just one more,” I assured her. Nory had given me all of them for Christmas.  Sophie nodded. She was also buy eating a little snack pack of crackers and cheese and was being careful not to get cheese on her glittery shirt. Her parents and I began chatting. Grandma was chatting with another grandmother who had brought her grandchildren. HM and Nory were chatting about business (they work together). The place had a certain buzz, not nervous, not rock concert crazy, just pleasant. We were all children, waiting to hear more stories.

Author Ridley Pearson was there to speak. His Peter and the Starcatchers series was discreetly for sale on one side of the room prior to his speaking. I had all four of the series to date on my lap. Nory had the first Kingdom Keepers book (based on escapades in DisneyWorld)on her lap. HM and Grandma both came along; the prior as chauffeur, the latter out of sheer curiosity, having read one of his mysteries for which he most noted.

I rambled on about Pearson in a post sometime last fall, after hearing him speak at a club luncheon. He was to prove as dynamic and entertaining and well structured a speaker this time as last. Though he repeated one or two anecdotes HM and I had heard before, this time, there were tales of his youth, to draw in the children in the crowd. And we all laughed and sometimes clapped. Sophie was delighted. So was Nory! And I found we were able to piece together just as much of the “who” of this author as the “what he writes” author. Which is intriguing. (Suffice it to say that I am a succor for a story well told and while many will say that in prior lives they were queens or ladies in waiting or somewhere in magical medieval England, I would have to guess that I was, back in time, seated as much as possible around a fire, listening to tales of bravery, adventure, of other people…)

Pearson grew up in Connecticut, in a huge Victorian house, an only child. For his 13th birthday, he was given a spider monkey (and  a glorious cage in which it lived.)  He and the monkey would watch TV together. The monkey learned to open doors by wrenching the knob and leaning back with enough monkey weight to twist it and could therefore get out of the kitchen where it was usually kept  would often let itself into Pearson’s room to watch a blank TV even when Pearson wasn’t home. 

We learn that at one time, he kept a wounded pigeon ’til it healed and during that time, he would talk with the pigeon, “learned pigeon,” as he puts it and then he demonstrated his coo-ing abilities and absolutely, he sounded right on. We learn that he was a Boy Scout.

Why mention these things? Because they come up, they become useful when one is a writer. Yes, there’s a monkey in Peter and the Starcatchers. Not just because. No, he is indeed a character with a point.  And yes, Ridley’s ability to speak pigeon translates into his abilities to “speak porpoise” which also comes up, very importantly in the Starcatcher series.

Wait, what? Not sure of these books? Pearson and Dave Barry teamed up to write Peter and the Starcatchers, the prequels in essence, to the story of Peter Pan. Because Pearson’s daughter asked him how Peter Pan could fly.

Harumph, you say, sounds rather packaged, maybe like cheating with a story to already lean on. Oh, no, I answer. Though intended for young readers, it is entrancing, well done, and with Barry’s humor and Pearson’s ability to create suspense and dramatic tension, you have a delightful read, no, you have a really good read, an adventure – dare I say a page-turner?  With illustrations (in case the kid in you still loves a picture or two.)

Pearson’s talk was, on the surface, for the kids. And they were agog. Here was a man not afraid to imitate a pigeon, act out how his monkey learned to open doors, pretend he was climbing a tree (Pearson loves tree-climbing) and when a train when whistling loudly right past the station while he was talking to us, Pearson stopped talking and “hooo -hoooed” right along with it, and this, too, brought shouts of delight from the kids.

It’s not every day an author can tell a story out loud as well as on paper. It was a rollicking 60 minutes. Perhaps best of all, Pearson talked about how two authors, (he and Barry), collaborated to write their Starcatcher Trilogy. Which now has four books! and there’s one more to come. But “writing advice” from Pearson is for another entry.

And after all, don’t you want to know what’s up with Tinkerbelle and where she came from?

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§ 9 Responses to Book Groupies, we are…

  • Lisa D says:

    Oh my gosh – this was delightful to read! I know the exciting feeling of meeting an author as I met Hal Higdon last October and was totally star struck. It was at a running expo, though, so he didn’t speak and instead just signed my book, but that was so so so exciting, so I can’t imagine hearing a beloved author speak!

    These sounds like such awesome books! I need to check them out & then keep them in mind for my nephews when they get older & are ready for longer books!

    Fantastic post! 🙂 Happy Saturday!

  • oh says:

    Thanks, Lisa! oh, yes, these books will be great for nephews. The adult who reads it to them (you, Auntie?) will enjoy them as much as the kids will.

  • ds says:

    Ahh…so that’s the story, eh? I did indeed think that the combo of Pearson & Barry was a publisher’s “package.” Will take a close look at the trilo-tetralogy at work tomorrow. Because you’ve intrigued me. And because I need to know. Literally.
    You are rather good at telling stories yourself, you know (“everything was crisp, including the sunlight.” Yum.). I suspect that while you were sitting around that fire listening, you were also speaking…

    • oh says:

      DS, Hope you’ve found the Pan series…and hope you find it to your liking. I know that sometimes a book appeals because you’re reading it at the right moment and are receptive to it. And maybe read at another time, it would strike the reader a totally different way. Nevertheless, the series is good at least to read to children who are willing to completely suspend their belief and fall into it.
      As for telling stories, how I would love to spend more time trying to do it. At the end of a work day, it seems the best I can do is read other people’s stuff! So it comes down to crunching stuff into weekends…yikes! Onward!

  • ruth says:

    Yes, I love how you tell stories, Oh.

    And this was especially interesting to me, because my husband the 3rd grade teacher is really just a big boy, and a story teller. Countless people have told him he needs to write children’s books. One day, I think he will. And he will go around like Ridley and tell stories and children young and old will listen, enthralled.

    • oh says:

      Hi, Ruth, Isn’t it great to hear a great story? One of the fine things about blogs/the internet is that people get a chance to express and share their talent without needing an agent or TV or a movie screen. Those who write children’s books have the best handle on “magic” of sorts than any other artist, i’d say. Lucky you to have such a “story-er” in your family! (do you think he’s write down his stories? wouldn’t that be grand?)

  • jeanie says:

    This was the richest, most beautiful post! I’m not familiar with these books, but I have a feeling (particularly given my passion for Peter Pan!) that they will become new friends!

    Really, you do tell the best stories — I just felt as though I was there with you all! It sounds like an almost magical venue and afternoon!

  • oh says:

    Jeanie, thank you…you’re so kind…and yes, absolutely, you would enjoy the Peter series. And I suspect many of us wouldn’t mind actually sitting around and listening to them being read to us! I was listening to ULYSSES on cd on the way to work last year (it’s 40 cds long for Pete’s sake!) and found that I was so entranced in the story, I couldn’t really drive and listen at the same time. Ah, but a story hour? there’s a “horse of another color” as the keeper to Oz would say. Thank goodness we all still love stories told one way or another.

    Hey, I have to write to you – I am trying something with the little journal you gave me and I wonder how exactly do I use gesso and do I need it? You likely know. And I read about it on the Internet but am not sure whether or not its really necessary when painting on pages in a journal….more later!

  • shoreacres says:

    Until I read this I’d forgotten our first grade “story circle”. There was some Dick and Jane stuff, of course, and other “salutary” reading. But every now and then our teacher (whose name escapes me just now) would put us in our red,yellow and blue chairs and tell us stories.

    I think the most magical words in the world are “Once upon a time….”

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