Libraries have been my home away from home since a very long time.
In one aisle of this castle used to be the library where I spent so much time in middle and high school. In my new novel Chronicles From Château Moines a library and its librarian play a significant role.
Yesterday afternoon, I spent a few hours with a delightful group of middle school students in a beautiful library. The kids were curious, funny, lively, and kind toward each other. A dream.
The librarian had set a table in the sunny yard. She had bought cookies and filled water pitchers. It was a perfect fall day.
The kids’ laughter and after school conversations reached me inside while I was checking my power point presentation. Excitement and a little bit of apprehension churned inside me. It’s not bad, I’ve found out, to be a little nervous before speaking in public. This unsettling combo forces me to concentrate.
If you ever met me in person you would quickly understand that I need an additional introduction to any presentation I do. I wear my French accent like a tattoo. I mean permanent, of course.
So, before questions flood the room, I always use a few slides about France, my native Normandy, and Paris where I lived before moving to the US.
Kids, unlike many adults, have no issue with accents. As long as I agree to translate for them a variety of words and expressions – the sillier, the better – we are in business. Yesterday was no different.
After complying with their request and even agreeing to say anything in French, I went back to my slide show. Hands popped up as I spoke about writing in another language and about my published stories and novels.
I had prepared five copies of my first novel Trapped in Paris and highlighted short passages to illustrate my presentation. Having children or teens read excerpts of your book is a good idea as long as the group isn’t too large and you get some volunteers. Yesterday I was lucky, everyone wanted to read.
- Listening to students read your story aloud is a great experience.
- They are active and you don’t feel like being a talking head.
- You can finally let go of the anxiety to fully enjoy the excitement part.
When I visit a library I always end on a slide with a quote from Dr. Seuss:
“Be Awesome, Be a Book Nut.”
Before I know it, I’m finished and always a little sad that it is over. Fortunately, there are questions and comments. And the nicest part is compliments. Kids are like that. They thank you for the chance you gave them to meet you. Really, I thank them for the opportunity.
What I like most when I have guests for dinner is when they linger and that conversations go on and on…
The same is true when I get to meet young readers.
This is when I’m finished that the real fun part starts. I can talk with them, ask them what kind of stories they like, who their favorite authors are, how they pick a book in a bookstore or a library.
You want to know too, right?
This bunch of mostly sixth and seventh grade girls favored fantasy, mystery, action, and graphic novels. They like real life stories too.
Some of their favorite authors are Rick Riordan, Veronica Roth, James Dasher, Gayle Forman.
Pretty impressive list, I know. They also told me that they pick a book based on its title, cover, and back cover, regardless of the author’s popularity. If these elements trigger their interest they will read the first pages and get the book or … not. The fact that they aren’t only into big names is encouraging. The fact that their choice is made so quickly is not that different from the way adults pick one book versus another one.
They all wanted my book. Sweet. The library copy of Trapped in Paris had been checked out and I hadn’t brought enough copies with me.
“Can you come back next week?” a girl asked.
How do you say no to a pair of big brown eyes? The librarian smiled and nodded. Yes!!!
By 4:30 p.m. some kids were picked up. Some decided to go get a book upstairs. I stayed behind with a group of four girls and we continued our conversation. About books, of course.
That’s what they said:
- They don’t care if the main character of the book is a girl or a boy. They don’t care either if the author is a woman or a man.
- They said that the boys they know read less than they do and favor boy characters. I couldn’t ask, the boys had left for sport practice, but it is a fact that the majority of kids who were at the library were girls.
- They haven’t read each Harry Potter book (all were born after 2002) but devoured each and every book from the Percy Jackson and Olympians series.
- They love characters who appear to be regular people – like me, said a girl – but who have special powers.
- As for books made into movies, most see the movie before reading the book.
On my way out, under very nice thank yous and mercis, goodbyes and au revoirs, one of the youngest called me.
“There’s that book I just read,” she said. “I loved it and I think you’ll love it too. It’s called Drita My Homegirl. Maybe you can check it out?”
I went to the kids’ floor and got the book. It’s author Jenny Lombard’s first novel.
Like these kids, I always read the back cover of a book before buying it or checking it out.
“…a story that presents in alternating first-person chapters the evolution of an unlikely and difficult friendship – that of a African-American girl from the neighborhood and the unwelcome new kid in class: a girl from Kosovo who speaks no English.”
I smiled to myself. The sixth grader had noticed that Chronicles From Château Moines is also told from Scott and Sylvie’s perspectives. She had also compared the two plots. Scott moves from the US to France and has to adjust to a foreign country, while Sylvie has to accept that this new boy is changing life the way she knew it. The sixth grader had also understood my own challenges when I moved from France to the US.
She’s right, I thought. It’s definitely a book for me.
I always knew that I learn more during a library visit than anywhere else.
P.S. Chronicles From Château Moines will be released very soon. Stay with me!