It is a strong year for Back to School picture books. If it were a normal year two charming and clever books, Puppy Bus and Little Yellow Bus, would vie for the crown of Best New Back to School book. Yet this is not a normal year because it contains the arrival of Rick the Rock of Room 214.
The aspirations of the rocks in our lives have been the subject of deep philosophical contemplation for us humans from time immemorial. Consider Sisyphus. We understand that he felt a sense of futility in repeatedly rolling a rock up a hill only to have it roll back down. Yet how did the rock feel about it? Julie Falatko pulls back the veil on the inner world of rocks in her sensationally entertaining new picture book, Rick the Rock of Room 214. Rick’s there and back again adventure off and back on The Nature Finds Shelf of Room 214 is the sort of riveting exploration of aspiration, heart, wisdom and experience which philosophers have sought to decant for eons.
As reported last week, the bookstore recently became possessed of an evil toy baby who an opportunistic local merchant divested herself of in the guise of giving us a prize to give away at our Find Waldo Local party. Though we were initially leery of handing on this evil being to an innocent child, the baby persuaded us to carry forward with that plan.
Nonetheless, as the party approached we found ourselves still beset by doubts as to the wisdom of our actions. Someone suggested having a seance to speak with the baby directly and clarify matters. This seemed like an excellent idea, though Meg did put forward that a tarot reading might be safer. But time was pressing and so Meg, Nick and I gathered together for the seance, of which a transcript is below.
Meg: Oh, thou Baby, mighty perfidious one, we summon thee to speech.
Nick: Oh, formidable one, Changeling of Babylon, we call upon thee.
Kenny: Oh, Bringer of Calamity, oh Infamous Infant, we adjure you to open your mind to us.
Baby: I am here. What ails your flaccid minds?
Meg: We seek assure that no ill shall befall the receiver of you as a Waldo party prize.
Baby: As to that, limpid ones, I was in Alexandria before the library burned, in Pompeii before Vesuvius spoke, in Chicago before the fire caught, on the Titanic before it sank, and I am here still. I am fine. Nothing ill has befallen me. There is nothing to fear.
Meg: Oh, thou Baby, mighty perfidious one, we thank you for assuaging our pathetic fears.
Nick: Oh, formidable one, Changeling of Babylon, we thank thee for dispelling our unworthy concerns.
Kenny: Oh, Bringer of Calamity, oh Infamous Infant, we commend you for inducing us to renounce our facile moral anxiety.
And so we carried forward with our original plan, both for the party and for the baby. I must say it was really nice to see the party return after its two-year absence. Things started out with kids picking up their coloring contest supplies.
Here is a young lad handing in his entry.
Next, it was time for cake.
While the kids were noshing and drinking, Meg and I scrabbled to do the contest judging.
Then it was time to give away all the prizes… including the Baby. The Baby spoke with my voice and lo, it had a new home.
We got a nice note with the photo below from some of our prize winners the next day.
The Baby had been right. All was well. And all would remain well. Forever.
Whether it be Melmoth’s nefarious wanderings or the fatal accordion in Annie Proulx’s Accordion Crimes, the holder of a cursed object, entity or destiny, if they are not enjoying the balm of ignorance and are aware of what they hold, become also owners of a profound moral dilemma. Should they pass the evil on and be rid of it? And so it has befallen us here at DDG.
This macabre predicament originated in a most unlikely way during, of all things, preparations for our Find Waldo Local Party. We have participated in Find Waldo Local since its inception at Candlewick 10 years ago, the year after its invention by that justly renowned bookseller, Carol Chittenden. As part of our party preparations I sent Nick out to collect prizes from participating merchants. I feel strongly that every child should leave the party with some sort of little prize.
About a half hour later Nick came in the back door, his face ashen. “We have a situation,” he said. “Look what I was just given. I’m totally freaked out.” I knew what we were dealing with right away. This was not a normal doll, it was a changeling. It raised all sorts of issues.