- Roundtrip drive to the
middle of nowhere, ConnecticutUConn: 2.5 hours
- Standing in line to buy books: .5 hour
- Standing in line to get said books autographed: 1+ hour
- The privilege of eating Sunday afternoon college cafeteria food with my toddler: …let’s not go there.
- Checking off the ol’ bucket list and talking about the awesomeness of Sigrid Undset and Kristen Lavransdatter with Tomie de Paola for like a whole three minutes: I just about peed, it was so great.
On what Luke is now referring dryly to as “Tomie de Paola Sunday,” Lucia and I went on a “date” to the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair last weekend. (The morning began auspiciously with my date’s meltdown/refusal to wear clothes, but Mommy put her foot down on that one, yes she did).
Long (probably very boring) story short, the man is even higher in my estimation now. Starting off the morning with a 20-min q&a (most the q’s coming from kids — “What’s your favorite color,” “What’s your favorite Strega Nona book,” etc.), he immediately struck me as very genuine and jovial. The tone of the event was also very casual, with toddlers and baby-wearing moms roaming the back of the room, a mute Strega Nona costume character bobbing up and down in one corner, and kids practically standing on chairs with their hands raised.
Then, off to the book-signing portion of the program, which he technically had an hour for, though it was clear he’d need longer than that. Across the length of the ballroom, one line stretched from nearly one wall to the other just to buy the books, only to turn around and form a new line in front of the actual author table on the other side of the room. I felt bad for the other authors who pretty much spent their time texting behind their empty tables along the other walls of the room, but….I was there for The Man. As were a couple hundred other kiddie book lovers, apparently.
He could’ve kept the line moving by not personalizing the autographs….but he didn’t. Or he could’ve sped things up by not chatting with each person, taking the time to ask and answer questions…but he didn’t. And he could’ve called it quits after his scheduled hour….but he didn’t. Truly a joyful, gracious man.
So all in all, I had over an hour to contemplate how to not commit word vomit/formulate what non-dumb fangirl statement to deliver when I finally got to the table. (Don’t worry, I scratched, “I like your scarf!”) Because you’re dying to know, it went down like this:
Liz: [Big Stupid Grin]
Nice male assistant (henceforth, NMA): “Okaaay, so….these are for Lucia and Felix?”
Liz, super perky: “Yep!” [thinking: What was I going to say again....?]
TdeP, to Lucia: “Do you have a baby brother named Felix?”
Lucia, wearing a paper crown at this point: [disinterested scowl]
Liz, recovering: “They have The Clown of God at home, and for the first month I couldn’t read it without choking up.”
TdeP and NMA, in unison: “Awww!”
TdeP: “Thank you! Yes…that is one of my favorite books I’ve done.”
[Silence as he signs the board books. I take the plunge.]
Liz: “So…I saw on your website that you like Kristen Lavransdatter.“
I swear he lit up and could not look more like Santa Claus if he tried. He paused the signing and we chatted a little about how great KL is, and how he’ll burrow in and read the whole trilogy in two days (he nodded and laughed when I said it took me two years — “oh, yes, the first time, sure!” — and that he’s also read The Master of Hestviken but likes Kristen better (I was so agreeable with his opinions at this point), that he did like the film version, and that Sigrid Undset “was a very interesting woman.”
I ended with a random and way too excited, “I want to go to Norway!” before stepping away. Day made. Thank you, Mr. De Paola.
I’m a little sad at the lack of photographic evidence, but know that a picture would’ve looked like this:
Anyways, one of the books I bought on Sunday is Joy to the World, a collection of three Christmas stories along with several illustrated carols.
De Paola pulls off his usual folk tale magic with The Night of Las Posadas and The Legend of the Poinsettia, both stories taking place either in the Catholic Southwest or Mexico (bonus points for setting the first story in Santa Fe, my favorite city to spend a day in when visiting my parents in New Mexico). The Story of the Three Wise Kings is just a straightforward retelling of the biblical story, but the illustrations are probably my favorite in the book, with de Paola pulling on Byzantine and Romanesque tradition to depict the Magis’ journey. I also picked up/had signed a couple board books for the kids (Bible stories and fairy tales), but I hope this collection stays a family favorite for many Christmases to come.
Thank you, Jessica, for giving me a place on the Internets where fellow moms/bloggers/readers of way too many picture books won’t find the above tale way too weird for comfort :)