Normally, I focus on my bookselling self at the store and my author self at school and library visits and writing retreats. Obviously, there’s some overlap, since both selves are involved with children’s literature. But I’ll be honest: I’m always a little startled when someone comes to the store and asks me to sign one of my books. Of course it’s wonderful and flattering, but it feels a bit awkward to autograph a picture book and then ring it up. It’s like being both waiter and guest at a dinner party.
Today, I received a phone call from the bookstore at the end of the work day. I’d been at home working on the store’s annual holiday catalog. (It is impossible to get anything like that done at the store.) My co-worker, Sandy, was on the line. “I had to share the cutest story with you,” she said. She told me we’d had a call from a woman in San Francisco, wanting to order a signed copy of How Do You Wokka-Wokka? for her son.
Apparently, he started preschool this fall, and had a hard time separating from his mom when she dropped him off every morning. At some point, their teacher had read Wokka to the class, and this little boy took to it. Now he won’t let his mom leave him at preschool until they read the book together, because when she starts reading it, the other little kids drift over and listen and do wokka-wokka dances, and they all play. Once the book is finished, she gives him a kiss and he lets her leave without a fuss. I love thinking that the book is a comfort for him, and I will be honored to autograph his own special copy for Christmas.
Of course, the signature won’t mean anything to him; if anything, he will wonder who was allowed to scribble in his book. He is too young to understand the concept of what an author is or does; at that age, books just exist. And he may think his mother has simply taken away the preschool’s copy, since the notion of separate copies of the same book is also hard for tykes to grasp. But I love the thought that this book, which I will sign and we will wrap and ship all the way across the country, will land under the tree of a little boy who loves it for his own unique, mysterious reasons.
I’ll tell you, today, it was pretty nice to have my worlds collide.