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Monday, April 13, 2009

Four Most Powerful Words

TLA was simply amazing! Those aren’t the four most powerful words. But they come close. The Texas Library Association is a great chance for those of us who spend most of our life at quiet desks, tinkering with nouns and verbs, to meet the people who give life to books by connecting them with kids and readers. Librarians and media specialists are the best conversationalists you’ll ever meet. And I had some great conversations.

I talked with a woman who said she was finally able to raise a young student’s test scores because the girl became an enthusiastic reader of our Library of Doom series. In fact, the girl brought four of her friends into the school library to turn them on to the books too.

One media specialist thanked me because the Stone Arch books were the only books that one of her problem boy readers would pick up . . . and finish!

Joan Berge, the president of Stone Arch Books, Heather Kindseth, the creative director, and I hosted a breakfast focus group with a dozen librarians.1 We discussed everything from scary books to comic superheroes to the popularity of the Twilight series. 2

One day on the exhibit floor, scores of high-school students were roving in nomadic bands, hunting for advance copies and posters and fun giveaways3. It was fun to talk about graphic novels as well as traditional novels with these young people. They were so passionate about their favorite books.

The welcoming and literate and diverse crowd at the conference reminded me of my first introduction to Texas hospitality, when I worked at the Renaissance Festival outside Magnolia, Texas a number of years ago. I was part of a wandering troupe of players that would improvise stories yelled out from the crowd – “Rapunzel! Jason and the Golden Fleece! Cinderella! Ben Hur!4

It seems every time I’m in Texas I’m either telling a story or hearing one. I heard some great stories and anecdotes from the media professionals about the stories that our authors tell in our books. It was like a powerful chain reaction of literacy, or a massive Southern oak sprouting from a seedling. Oh, and those four most powerful words – tell me a story. Thanks to all the people who told me their stories in Houston this year.

Michael Dahl
Editorial Director

1 Why don’t they serve biscuits and gravy up here in Minneapolis? Yum!

2 Several librarians said that their girl patrons loved the books not because of the romance between Bella and Edward, but because of the vampires. Vampires, it seems, never lose their cool quotient.

3 We literally had girls (and boys!) screaming with excitement over our lenticular Superman/Batman bookmarks. I have to admit, they do look cool.

4 Uh, yes, one afternoon we improvised a version of Ben Hur. Complete with a chariot race and a sea battle of Roman warships.

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