We do story time on Saturday at the bookstore. A dozen-plus families pile into the space, and someone sings, plays instruments, and reads books.
That person is not me. After I sang “Row Row Row Your Boat” to two kids I babysat for some years ago, the three-year-old patted me gently on the knee and said, “Please don’t sing.” Mine is a specific kind of musical talent, which is to say, the missing kind. But someone comes in and does story time for us, and we get a lot of kids listening these days.
Story time is hectic, and there’s always plenty to watch out for—toddlers pulling on books as they cruise around the room; babies crawling underfoot; that one two-year-old who always tries to ramble right on out the front door—but it still makes Saturday my favorite day of the week. The little kids are fun. The parents, many of whom are regulars, are generally lovely. And best of all, older siblings frequently tag along with the tiny ones, and I get to do my favorite part of my job: talking about books with kids, not just for them.
It’s one thing to write about, and talk with other booksellers and parents and librarians about, which Jason Reynolds novel is our favorite or why the comic-book-panel setup works in Julia’s House for Lost Creatures. It’s another thing entirely to actually get to share the books we’re talking about with the kids they’re written for.
So much of what happens in stories is what plays out inside our own heads. That means that any discussion I have with other grown-ups about what a ten-year-old might think of Number the Stars is ultimately academic; what matters is the reaction that ten-year-old has to actually reading the book. It’s a privilege and a pleasure when kids are willing to open up about their experiences.
So here’s to the kids who told me this weekend about the puns they loved in A Series of Unfortunate Events and how excited they were that Crooked Kingdom was just as good as Six of Crows. Thanks for making my job well and truly worth the occasional customer who thinks I should be able to get him a paperback copy of a book that’s only been published in hardcover. You never fail to surprise me with the things you notice and discover.
And here’s to story time. Thirty people in a room listening to one book makes for a morning where it doesn’t matter if you’ve read Shh! We Have a Plan so often that you know it by heart; for a few minutes it’s a different story than you’ve ever read before, because someone there is hearing it for the very first time.