Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"Little Old Bear" Sells at EH Children's Fair

The annual East Hampton Library Children's Fair was a big production this year. The food and drinks and rides were all free during the afternoon of August 12 (the previous evening's authors' cocktail party and small dinners brings in the money and this is a give-back investment in future readers).

I was in the book section, discussing the appropriateness of specific books by my late mother Hilda van Stockum for different children. The conversations were held with the children themselves or with their parents or grandparents. The children outnumbered the adults; many of the children were impatient to get to the next source of excitement, but there were enough left who were genuinely interested in getting to know new books that it was fun.

Because of the construction work on the expansion of the East Hampton library, the Children's Fair was held at a nearby farm, eliminating the need to hunt for parking on the streets.

Altogether, parents purchased 42 of van Stockum's books. The biggest seller was "Little Old Bear" (Boissevain Books, 2010), which accounted for one-quarter of van Stockum sales.

I must have read out "Little Old Bear" some 20 times. I had a large-sized version of the book to read from and hold up. In no case did I lose my audience - there was always at least one child that couldn't wait to see how the story ended.

For next year, I made a few suggestions. For example, reading out books at the table seemed to get attention from both grownups and children. I have suggested that I and other authors read out more than one book and that the readings be scheduled ahead of time so that parents can target a certain time slot. Maybe there could be a way to set up a Power Point presentation that could accompany talks.

Another thing: It was a struggle to talk to people and sign books ("from the author's son" etc.) and also handle the paperwork for the books. If each person who attended would register and get a number, all I would need would be the number.

So much was going on that some parents seem to have been suffering from the Disney World effect, i.e.,  they felt under pressure to get to all the events. But what came through clearly was the earnestness of both the parents and the children to understand the nature of the stories in the books displayed all around them.

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