Yesterday we were extremely lucky to host Judy Schachner for the launch party of her latest book, Skippyjon Jones and the Cirque de Ole. Judy’s events are always delightful. The combination of so many excited kids and grown-ups, and a slightly quirky Judy, makes for some real fun.
What I love about Judy is she just says what she’s thinking. This would be why during a PowerPoint presentation of the animals in her life she started singing a verse of “I am the Walrus,” and it totally made sense. Part of the reason so many adults without children come to see Judy is there is some real grown-up humor in all talks. Judy is honest. She showed a picture of herself from kindergarten and said, ” Me in kindergarten. I looked happy but I wasn’t.” No one expects a children’s author to say things like that to little kids, but it’s a fact with her. The kids probably were delighted with her honesty and the adults were laughing.
I loved hearing her talk about how she starts each book. Every book gets its own journal. In this journal, Judy sketches, cuts out things and pastes them in the book, odd facts are recorded, melodic words are written down, etc. This journal is a treasure trove of ideas and it’s just bursting with creativity. She also said she always starts with the title. The title is what focuses the work. And, in sharing the story of all her of animals, she said the stories wrote themselves.
Kids were a little restless as the event began and I was having a hard time getting their attention to begin the event. I finally got them when I said, “I’d like to talk about the snacks now.” Eighty little faces turned towards me. We had gotten a Skippy cake for the launch. Sandy, my co-worker was in charge of the cake. I know this might sound silly, but it would have never occurred to me to pre-cut the cake and that would have been a huge waste of time. She was totally set when the barrage of kids came up to get their cake.
The kids and adults were riveted by Judy’s reading of Cirque de Olé! She is one of those authors who can really perform a book, getting the audience members involved with repeating fun phrases and clapping along with the songs. Even the tiniest attendees were wide-eyed and smiling with delight, and shouting Olé! unselfconsciously. It was great.
One of the cutest things I saw was a nine-year-old boy who was among the oldest kids there, who convinced his mom to buy all the hardcovers, “so I can have the whole set.” He clearly loves these books and has found memories of them growing up. The Skippyjon Jones books have this effect on many of their readers, young or old.