The Wild Bunch(es)

Elizabeth Bluemle - July 25, 2017

Author Jan Gangsei and her loyal helper, with treats for the Wild Bunch.

It’s been such a fun few days at the Flying Pig! We got to celebrate the launch of Jan Gangsei’s new MG novel, The Wild Bunch, and we got to help 17 exuberant ELL students in grades 2-5 pick out summer reading books. These are the days I most love my job!
Jan Gangsei is a rock star of an author. She writes extremely kid-appealing books, she gives a great presentation, and she comes armed with book-themed goodies — in this case, gummy worm “bait,” Goldfish crackers in a pail marked “fresh fish,” Raisinets labeled “squirrel poop” and an empty M&M bag (you have to read The Wild Bunch to understand this one), and s’mores made with marshmallow Fluff instead of toasted marshmallows (brilliant!).


(We served the treats outside, since marshmallowy fingers and books aren’t the best combination.)

Jan whetted readers’ appetites for The Wild Bunch with a reading, answered questions, and signed books.

We had been concerned about scheduling an event on a summer Saturday morning, since it’s pretty hard to compete with a sunny Vermont day, but the store was hopping and we had a nice turnout. It helps that Jan’s new book is a great summer read for campers and reluctant outdoors-kids, since it revolves around a kid, Paul, who’s dragged on a camping trip with his dad, his dad’s two friends, and their two sons. Paul’s an indoor kid, a gamer who would rather be on his computer, setting him up for a variety of misadventures out in the wilderness.

At one point, I thought Jan was going to have kids compete in activities from the book, since she’d brought along a slingshot toy in its package — but it turned out that the slingshot was a prize for a lucky audience member. She also did something that was so classy, and so supportive of the bookstore: she bought a $25 gift card, then had all of the attendees write their names on slips of paper, pop them into a bucket, and then had me draw a winner from the audience. (The winner spent it immediately — on Jan’s book and a few others.)

It was a lovely morning, and all day long after the event, people came in looking for signed copies of the book. Some were friends of Jan’s, and others were strangers who had seen the event in Find and Go Seek or Kids VT, but missed it. So the glow of the morning lasted all day.

As for the ELL students two days later — what joy! They piled into the store with three teachers, eager to choose their books. Everyone got to choose at least one book, and kids who had met their reading challenge for the summer so far got to pick two. It was a whirlwind of activity, with us recommending books to kids who were searching for everything from dinosaurs to alchemy. They were at the store for about an hour, and it was easily one of the best hours of my bookselling year. It’s hard to describe the pure joy of this annual event.

One of the teachers took me aside and told me that one of the boys, who had also been to the store last year for this same event, had taken the book he got last year with him to fourth grade *every single day* — taking it out of his backpack at silent reading time, proud of owning a book to call his own. She said it gave him confidence and a sense of belonging all year long. How amazing is it that one book can mean so much to a child? (Psst, Jeff Kinney, it was one of yours!)

I wish I could share the ADORABLE photo of them, but their parents weren’t there, so I couldn’t get the appropriate permissions. Just trust me that they were the grinning-est, sparkliest, funniest kids you can imagine.

Between Jan Gangsei’s event and the ELL student visit, it was a banner three days! Here’s wishing you all a banner week, too!

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