I love asking customers — especially kids — to guess how many books we have in our store. “One hundred?” the littlest ones ask, looking around at the full shelves. “One thousand?” revises an older sibling. “One million?” asks the wiseacre class clown. They are all amazed when we tell them there are between 25,000 and 30,000 books in our small store. Yesterday, a group of second-graders from the local school came to the Flying Pig for a publishing party with parents and teachers to celebrate the books they had written, illustrated, and hand-bound. As surprised as they were to hear how many books were on the shelves around them, they were just as surprised to hear this fact: that every single book in the store, including theirs, including the ones written by their very favorite authors, began in exactly the same way: as a blank page.
After welcoming the kids and parents to the bookstore, their teachers introduced the book project, explaining that each young author had written at least two drafts (“I did three!” one boy proudly exclaimed), then had carefully handwritten the story onto special lined pages. Their art teacher had talked with them about their story illustrations (which were utterly charming, as you might imagine), and helped them make and hand-sew their paper bindings. The books are treasures. One young author’s book title is, “I Was Stung Seven Times,” which we all agreed was a killer title. Who could resist opening that book?! (Authors, take note.)
About 15 families then scattered to different corners of the store, where the children read their books to their visiting parent, then autographed the book. The parent then wrote a comment in the back of the book. It was a lovely celebration of books, and once the young authors had shared their stories and autographed their books, they roamed around the store in an explosion of excitement.
While a poll of the second graders revealed that 100% of them enjoyed illustrating their books more than writing them (not surprising at an age where spelling — and sometimes even forming the letters — can be a challenge), there were some natural storytellers in that crowd, and some impressive artists. I told them I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Flying Pig hosted book signings in the future featuring Shelburne authors and artists from the second-grade Firefly team.