One of the local schools has a “mystery reader” come in to read to second graders every Friday. I was the mystery reader today. (A good friend of mine has a second grader at that school, so it’s no “mystery” how I got invited to do this.)

Once again I have to praise the talented illustrator (Joan C. Waites) who illustrated my F is for Fire Fighting. (Yeah, Gung-Ho-Sales-Rep-Guy at Pelican Press will be pleased that I read THIS book…) Kids LOVE this book! And it’s not because it’s such a well-written, fantastic look at fire fighting; it’s because of the illustrations! Joan is amazing!!!

I talked to the kids a little bit about the book before I started reading…told them why I wrote it, told them how long it took to get it published (I actually had this book sold a number of years ago…in fact, you could have pre-ordered it on Amazon. But then the company went out of business and I had to start all over to find a publisher) etc. Then I started reading. I stopped at each page to give the kids a chance to find the dog that was hidden on each page. When I was on letter D, I asked the teacher how much time I had (because it DOES take a while to go through the book if you’re going to stop and find the dog on every page) and she said I had as much time as I wanted. But then she stopped me at letter K and informed me the kids had recess in ten minutes. Uh oh. I tried to speed up…and eventually (about letter R) I had to stop letting them find the dogs just so I could finish the book. I ended up finishing five minutes late.

The teacher told the kids that if they had a question, they could stay and ask me their question. About eight kids stayed and asked me questions like, “My grandpa’s a fire fighter,” “I speak Afrikaans,” and “Is your dad dead?”

The teacher told me she’d never had a mystery reader stay so long…but she said it like this was a GOOD thing, so I was happy. Plus my friend insisted on treating me to lunch first, which she absolutely did NOT have to do…so I’ve had a very nice day!

I could not be happier with the illustrator Pelican chose for this book. She gave me so much to work with when I go into schools with this book. We authors are at a disadvantage when we go into schools; we can’t dazzle the kids with our drawing abilities the way illustrators can. All we have to work with is our words.

I’ll know pretty soon whether Pelican is going to do another one of my ABC books…if they do, I sure hope they ask Joan to illustrate it! In fact, if they DO give me a contract for that new book, I’m going to ask them to ask Joan to illustrate it!!!

Mystery Reader

4 thoughts on “Mystery Reader

  • April 27, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    I’m so glad it went well.

    Here’s more small world for us (you know we have another connection of sorts): Nina Kooij and I sang in high school Madrigals together; and Joan Waites is in my SCBWI region so she and I have volunteered at a number of conferences together (she does SO MUCH for the illustrators here!).

    • April 27, 2007 at 8:33 pm

      You know Nina and Joan????

      Okay, I have to ask, how do you pronounce Kooij??? (She’s so quiet when I talk to her…quiet and formal…she’s probably the most formal editor I’ve worked with.)

      And you know Joan, too?!?! Yeah, I suppose you do…I knew she lived in your area…I e-mailed her after the first time I did a school visit with this book. I want to meet her!!!

      • April 27, 2007 at 8:36 pm

        Kooij is pronounced just like the word “coy.” And I don’t know Joan well, but we’ve spoken a few times and been in the same room many times.

        • April 30, 2007 at 2:08 pm

          Wow! I’m glad I asked…I NEVER would’ve pronounced it that way. But that’s way easier than how I’ve been trying to pronounce it.


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