This past Saturday we hosted Brian Lies, illustrator of More. More is a seemingly simple story about a Magpie with a hoarding problem brought on by the gift of a marble from a mouse. The words are spare (there are fewer than 20 words in the whole manuscript) and the art is quite honestly, among the best I’ve seen all year. Crisp clear details on every page make this book something to pore over. As the Magpie collects more and more things, you can keep track of what’s been brought into the nest, and then the overflow nests. Younger kids will delight in trying to identify all the objects, all from Brian’s life.
In all the time we’ve had the store, never have I seen a visiting artist paint their car like their book. Sure folks have had stickers, buttons, and bookmarks, but Brian was the first person I’ve seen actually make their into roving work of art that also announces the signing. Brian pulled up in his Cube and it was simply gorgeous. The car was as shimmery as something a Magpie would pick up and put in a nest. It was also great at drawing a crowd. But nothing drew a crowd more quickly than a five foot wide bird’s nest made out fabric.
Brian and his wife Laure are a well-oiled event machine. They’ve been together over 20 years and they are a seamless pair. He’s just barely started to say what he needs and she’s already got it. The nest is built up on an inner tube with fabric sticks Brian sewed himself. As if this massive nest weren’t enough of a draw, you can fit in the nest! So, every kid who biked or walked by hopped in for a photo and then most of those saw the book and came up for the event.
Brian’s event style is extremely engaging. He practically acts out the book, pausing long enough to walk the book around the room to show all the kids the artwork. Brian brought original paintings from the book. As lovely as they were, I always worry about the art. Brian, who clearly has absorbed the lesson of the book, told me, “They’re just things.” Yes, that may be true, but there are so beautiful.
I asked Brian about the significance of the leg band on the Magpie. It was pure artistic serendipity. The band has the numbers 314 on it. This is the beginning of Pi, which is what they call Magpies in England, and also symbolizes a multiplier of things. And, more importantly, it makes the Magpie in the book a specific bird, not just any bird. I loved that answer. This again reinforces why author events can be so enriching. Brian also told us the story behind many of the objects in the book. His grandfather’s trombone badge, keys to his first apartment, and
To continue the Brian and Laurel event show, as if the nest and the car weren’t enough, they brought all the fixings for kids to make their own nests. The kids could see all the shiny things that Magpies are drawn to. The more than 50 attendees had a great time. I was thrilled by the crowd because we were competing with many other things, chief among them the very first day of the Farmer’s Market, which draws hundreds.
I loved this event. I loved the fun of it and the magic of it. But more importantly, I loved Brian and his wife for doing everything they could to make the event special. I doubt there’s a kid around who’s not going to remember standing up in a bird’s nest and seeing the real art that was used in the book. Events can be memorable for so many reasons and Brian’s event worked on many levels. One of the best parts was hearing people in the audience nod when the Magpie hoarding gets out of control and how he deals with it. There’s nothing more gratifying than an audience that gets it and wants more.