Seen in the Wild
It’s always a thrill for an author to go to a bookstore or library and see one’s book there. A lot of authors post such images of books “seen in the wild” on social media to create the kind of buzz that sells even more books. After all, if people see everyone else — and particularly influencers — enjoying a work or event meant to entertain, they’re more likely to follow along. Why did last night’s Super Bowl attract such a huge audience, many of them first timers, after years of declining viewership? The presence of superstar Taylor Swift, girlfriend of (now victorious) Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, brought in young people and women, and commentators faced the task of explaining the game’s rules to viewers around the globe who are unfamiliar with this complex sport that has the vibe of a live-action chess match.
While my books are nowhere near the scale of Taylor Swift and the Super Bowl, I’ve also been heartened and encouraged by seeing them in bookstores, libraries, and even children’s clothing stores. At my son’s Super Bowl party, my daughter-in-law showed me new pictures of Ways to Play at Kith, where the salespeople told her they’d recently had to reorder this picture book of a boy and his big fluffy dog pushing back against Bossy Older Cousin determined to show him the right way to play with toys. With its subject — toys — a favorite topic of kids, Ways to Play has become a top choice for children’s gift books.
When Moonwalking came out in 2022, I saw many copies in bookstores over the summer and had the pleasure of signing stock during my travels through New England. The arrival of the paperback last year meant more bookstores carried the book, and some of the booksellers sent me pictures of Moonwalking with their recommendation cards in addition to posting them on social media. I appreciate all the dedicated, knowledgeable, and hardworking staff of independent bookstores for spreading the word about this verse novel of unexpected friendship amid a flowering of art and music.
Torch‘s sightings have been mostly in school and public libraries. While readers have found it to be a gripping and entertaining read, it also connects with middle and high school social studies curricula, particularly global history and the Cold War. Its multiple point of view narrative and collective protagonist also makes it a good choice for English classes, and I’ve recently put together an Educators’ Guide that’s available through my publisher here and will soon be available on this website as well. It includes the discussion questions that are already available, along with a timeline of events in Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1989, a presentation of literary devices, and activities for individuals and group projects. I’m very proud of this guide, which has many of the best features of my Gringolandia guide, but in a more concise and attractive format. Torch has many endorsements, but one of my favorites is this from Simon the Whippet, whose person is current VCFA student Dawn Simon. The pup’s name is a coincidence, as he was a rescue who came with the name Simon, and dog’s names can’t be changed.
Pardalita, a hybrid graphic/verse novel which recently won an ALA/ALSC Batchelder Honor designation for kids’ books translated into English, is everywhere! I was recently at a party of publisher Levine Querido, celebrating their eight books that won ALA Youth Media Awards last month, and my editor, Nick Thomas, told me the book “had to be reprinted.” He had a serious expression, so I asked him if there was a mistake somewhere. Then he smiled and said, “No. The first printing of the hardcover sold out, so we went back to print more.” I’m looking forward to seeing the second printing of this book, which will correct a small typo in my name that few have noticed, and even more copies in the wild!