If I taught third grade, I’d be reading aloud to children Because of Winn-Dixie. If I taught fourth grade, I’d be reading aloud The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. If I taught fifth grade I’d be reading aloud Flora and Ulysses. The list goes on. Every book was written by Kate DiCamillo. She has a way with words, and a keen understanding. No wonder children love her books. No wonder I love her books.
Kate’s newest book is Louisanna’s Way Home. Louisiana is one of three characters in her earlier book, Raymie Nightingale. The book is not a sequel, but a standalone story of this girl. In Kate’s words, “Louisiana did not go away, her story had to be told.”
Kate is from Minneapolis, so the chances of her being here are slim, yet she was here. Oh, I signed up early. Good that I did. As it turned out, even the waiting list was sold out. And here is the story of what happened:
Concord, Massachusetts is steeped in history, so it comes as no surprise that their library is simply magnificent. This is the area where Kate spoke. Yes, wow!
Three of us traveled together to hear Kate at the library. We walked to the front door and it was locked. A small sign said that people who were here for the Kate DiCamillo presentation were to use the side door. Okay. So, we walked around to the side (no door) and then to the back (no door). We backtracked to the front, and low and behold, there was Kate, walking along, going the wrong way, too. I said, “Kate.” She said, “I’m late.” I said, “The side door is the other way.” So we walked together. Yes, together. Me and Kate DiCamillo.
“Kate, I just finished reading Louisiana. It is so good.”
“Did you like it?”
“I absolutely loved it. Of course you have to write about Beverly Tapinski.” (She is the third character in the book.)
“It’s so hard for children today. Growing up is…”
We reached the door and the rest of her words were swallowed and mixed in with others, including my two friends. As soon as we checked into the library and got settled I said to my friends, “What was the last thing Kate said?” They said, “We couldn’t hear because she was walking with you. We were behind.”
If my chance meeting wasn’t enough, Kate began her presentation with a “ya’ll.” I turned to my friend who is also from West Virginia and we both smiled. Music to our ears, and a piece of home. Because home is a central theme in Kate’s new book. And in all her books. Finding your way, figuring out who you are and where you belong – all written with an understanding that pulls in the reader and makes one realize that ‘she knows’.
Kate read aloud the opening pages of the book. Sigh! She also read aloud the opening pages of her first book, the one that launched her into success, Because of Winn-Dixie.
This is what I took away from her presentation and answering so many questions from the audience:
“I didn’t read Charlotte’s Web as a child. I had read Black Beauty And was traumatized by what happened. So, every time I went to the library and saw the cover of the book, I wouldn’t read it. Have you seen the expression on Wilbur’s face? And of course you know the first sentence in the book, “Where’s Papa going with that axe?” And then, at last, I read the book. Charlotte’s Web is my all-time favorite.”
“I can’t do character development because they’re real. Some characters take over the story – I never know what’s going to happen. There are stories that need to be told.”
“My favorite books growing up include the Laura Ingalls Wilder series and the Beverly Cleary books. I was very sick as a child, so I had plenty of time to read. And I did!”
And my favorite words that Kate said, “There’s room for magic and humor, and it all ends with hope.” Don’t you just love that?
Before she left the podium to get ready for book signing she said, “For all of you who are teachers and read out loud and put books in the hands of children, you have no idea how much that means.”
By the time we got to the the book signing, those words were still fresh in my mind. Kate smiled and said, “I saw you.” I put my hand on her arm and said “I’m the reader-aloud. I actually read chapter books to preschoolers.” My friend said, “We’re reading Charlotte’s Web.” I said, “Yes, and Charlotte has just written RADIENT.” The nearby audience loved this conversation. So did Kate. She beamed and said, “You have no idea how much that means. Thank you!”
I showed her the post card she had sent me some years ago. She loved that!
Then she signed my well loved, well worn copy of
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.
Thank you, Kate DiCamillo. Keep writing, and I’ll keep reading.
I love your stories on meeting your favorite authors, Jennie. I would be so thrilled to meet some of mine.
I’m so glad you love these stories, John. Thank you. I still have to pinch myself. If you go to your favorite authors’ website, s/he may be doing talks. You never know if one may be close by. While I’m not a big FB person, I do “like” and follow favorite authors. Because of doing that, this Kate DiCamillo visit appeared. Otherwise, I would have never known. I was lucky. Best to you, John.
This was so wonderful to read! Once again, you were in the right place at the right time to make a personal connection with the author. Her newest book sounds intriguing.
Thank you, Becky. Yes, somehow I was in the right place at the right time. Lucky me! Her newest book is really good. Did you read “Raymie Nightingale?” That was the first book.
No, I didn’t, but now I need to!
How special to not only get to hear Kate read and speak but to have had a short conversation with her. You are indeed lucky. Love the picture with the two of you. Were the friends attending with you, two of your students?
Honestly, I still can’t believe that I was ‘just walking along with Kate DiCamillo’. She is really funny. When she talked about looking at the face of Wilbur in “Charlotte’s Web”, the audience was laughing. I could have written about her humor, her Mercy Watson books, and more. It would have been too much and too long for the blog post.
I was with my assistant teacher. Her son dearly loved the Mercy Watson books. And, I was with a friend who writes for BookPages, the major library publication. She interviewed Kate DiCamillo, front page cover. Kate remembered and loved her interview, and signed the BookPages interview.
It was the part where you wrote, My friend said, “We’re reading Charlotte’s Web.” that I thought it might have been a student with you. Of course, your TA could say that too. How wonderful for your other friend to have interviewed Kate for the publication! I am sure there was so much more you could have written. Perhaps another post?
I can see why you thought I was with students. 🙂 My friend was thrilled to finally meet her in person, after the interview. Maybe another post. Thanks, Darlene.
Congrats to Kate!
Yes, indeed! 😀
What a great experience 😍
One of the best, Ritu! 😍
Another magical encounter for you, Jennie.
I have seen the film of ‘Winn-Dixie’, and it was great. But I have never read any of her books.
Best wishes, Pete.
It was magical, Pete. Who knew I’d be walking along and talking with her! You are the first to know that the original is most always the best when it comes to movies. I can promise you that the ‘Winn-Dixie’ book, the original, is far better. Many thanks, Pete.
I have no doubt the book will be better. 🙂
What a wonderful treat, Jennie. I’m so glad you got to meet her and to reaffirm your own ideas.
Thank you, Dan. It was terrific! 🙂
How marvellous to meet her when you know Kate’s books so well. M
Thank you, Meg. It was indeed marvelous. 🙂
So great to meet favourite authors!!
What an absolutely magnificent story of such a memorable meeting, Jennie! I enjoyed it as I too were there! You definitely have a way of relating these things.
Thank you, Anne! 🙂
I knew that name was familiar. I remember reading her novel “The magician’s elephant”
She is a great storyteller and how wonderful to meet her. 🙂
Yes! “The Magician’s Elephant” is a lesser known book, but I loved it. She really is a great storyteller, and she feels that stories need to be told. It was really wonderful to meet her. Many thanks! 🙂
I must get onto her other books then. X
They are so good!
I love Kate’s books!
Great retelling of this fun event. I’ve got LOUISIANA’S WAY HOME in my to-read pile. You must have quite the photo collection of you with famous authors! 🙂
Thanks, Marcia. You will love the book! The few photos I have with authors are near and dear to me. I hope the collection keeps growing. 🙂
Jennie, what a gorgeous post. I’m sorry to say I haven’t read any of Kate’s books. On your recommendation, I’ll have to change that, and soon. Thank you.
Thank you, Norah. You will love her stories and her writing.
I have no doubt. They come highly recommended. 🙂
What fun for you! I also love Kate’s statement, “For all of you who are teachers and read out loud and put books in the hands of children, you have no idea how much that means.” But I think you do know, Jennie. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
As you can imagine, hearing that statement was THE best. She truly meant it. And I do know. 🙂 it was a terrific event! Thank you, Diana.
Oh, the synchronicity here is astounding!!! You have to know that it was meant to happen that way. I loved reading this story and fully understand about meeting your favorite authors. I traveled alone down the mountain from our home in Arizona 4 hrs each way to spend 4 days so I could catch a writing class and 2 authors I had enjoyed reading in person. They came to a favorite independent bookstore in Mesa, AZ. I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun. I love to read stories about synchronicity as well. I’m so delighted for you.
I felt exactly the same way, Marlene. This must have been ‘meant to happen’. The synchronicity was just there. What a perfect evening. Good for you that you drove far to spend 4 days (what a dream) to catch a writing class with favorite authors. I bet you never had so much fun. We are the lucky ones! 🙂
You do go to such wonderful author events, Jennie. We don’t have much along these lines in South Africa. I had never heard of Kate. I will look here up. Thank you.
Thank you, Robbie. I feel so lucky whenever I can attend an author event. Many authors settle in New England, and a few have events. So, to have a favorite author who is far removed, yet came to speak, was remarkable.
Yay!!! I love Kate DiCamillo’s books! And I just finished reading LOUISIANA’S WAY HOME too! Sooo good. I loved RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE, so I was glad that she wrote a companion book.
I love her books and writing! Raymie and Louisiana are fabulous. I hope she writes Beverly.
I thought I heard somewhere that she will.
That’s good news!
You do get around Jennie. How wonderful to meet one of your favorite authors and make a wonderful connection. 🙂
It was wonderful, Debby. I mailed her a copy of the blog post along with a handwritten thank you note and photo. Just seemed like the right thing to do. 😀