Saturday, September 19, 2009

Identifying the Sassafras Leaf

OR: Kate Messner's Reading of The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.

On the way home from Newtonville Books, and from meeting Kate Messner, I got the lowdown from the experts--my kids.

Me: What was your favorite part of Kate's book reading?

Superman (5 yrs old): The cookies. Definitely the cookies.

Oldest son (9): Yeah. The leaf identification was great, but nothing topped the cookies.

Cowgirl (3): My favorite part was when Kate's daughter read the leaf book to Superman.

This should give you a glimpse into Kate's preparedness. From the time that we got there, to the moment we left, my kids were coloring, listening, figuring out the names of different leaves, collecting bracelets and bookmarks, getting our book signed, and filling up plates of cookies. (We left with a lot of loot.)

Kate quickly set the stage for the book. She handed out leaves so the kids could touch, feel and smell the experience of Gianna, her main character. She then read a short excerpt from her book. She answered questions with enthusiasm, charm, and the ease of a teacher who is used to being around kids, and including them in conversations.

Normally, when I take my three kids to an event, I have a bit of the 'what if' stress. What if one escapes the bookstore? What if one knocks over the cookies? What if one drowns out the author? What if one climbs up a bookcase and knocks it over?

I experienced very little 'what if' stress at Kate's book signing. I relaxed, while my kids occupied themselves with Kate's activities. I was able to listen. I had a blast. I would have loved to stay and talk to Kate a bit more, but I did still have three kids in tow.

I learned that it took about 4 years, and 13 drafts for TGFOGZ to be published. That Kate teaches 7th grade English, and that the kids at her school actually do a leaf identification project similar to Gianna's in the book. I learned that Kate is a genuine and warm woman, who respected each and every child in the room. And that her daughter is super nice, too. She helped Superman check out a leaf identification guide while I was busy hunting down Cowgirl.

Clearly, the leaf falls very close to the tree.

And, the quality of the book? Well, my kids wanted me to read it aloud, while I was driving them home. I had to put my foot down, but only so we could get home faster to read it.

I wish Kate all the best. She certainly has earned it.


  1. I was at the reading today too! I should have thought to look for other Blueboarders.

    Kate was SO prepared and it all went so smoothly. You can tell she's a pro. I'm glad your kids had fun!

  2. Anna--Sorry to have missed meeting you! We should carry around devices that beep when in proximity to another bb. Kate was wonderful.

  3. We really need to wear those blue ribbons around...or something! Thank you again for coming today - and for your kind words about the event. I was overwhelmed by how many great people came out, and this writeup made us all laugh in the hotel room tonight. My daughter loves helping with the leaf activities and was thrilled that her assistance was appreciated!

  4. Kate--thanks again. You put on a first rate book signing, and I was really happy to have met you. I definitely hope our paths do cross again.

  5. Thanks for the low down on this wonderful event. Lots of good information there for how to have a successful book signing.

  6. Sarah--yes. It was a good lesson in how hands-on a book reading needs to be-- lots of different types of things for each type of child. And Kate really made the kids feel included, even when the adults were asking her questions.

  7. Heather,
    I was there too! You are so right about needing a bb beeper. And about not being able to stay and talk with kids in tow. I only had one of mine along. Heads up--she came down with a nasty cold on Sunday. Which is why I haven't posted anything about the event yet. I do hope none of the kids there got her bug :-(.

    And I thought Kate (and her daughter) did a super job too!!

  8. 'Tis the season for the cold. It's so hard to know ahead of time that kids are getting sick. I'm sure everone will be fine. What a nice group of people who assembled for Kate's signing!