A few years ago, when I was back visiting my dad in Kansas City, I picked up a bunch of my old children’s books, thinking it would be fun to share them with the kids. Last night, I pulled down one of my all-time favorites to read to Kato.
I read the book to Kato, and he was appropriately delighted by succession of foodstuffs falling from the sky. We finished reading, and I was just about to put the book back on the shelf, when I found the following note, neatly folded between the front cover and the first page.
Reading the note, my mind searched for answers. My father’s name is John, so perhaps this note was written to him. But who was Laura? If she was one of his friends from work, I have to question her penmanship and grasp of the letter J. Furthermore, the book in question was not, in fact, John’s but mine. MINE. Why did my father loan Laura this book without my permission, and why was it he and not I that reaped the benefit of Laura’s appreciation? And what did I do while my favorite book was missing from my bookshelf? Did I suffer? I must have. How did my father explain the book’s absence? The episode must have been so painful. Does my failure to remember it now suggest that I have repressed the trauma but that, like some insidious parasite, it continues to gnaw away at me?
The questions pile up in a dizzying heap, and I’m guessing that, across the span of 30 years, the answers have been lost.
And so I will fold the note and place it back in the book, to be found again one day, perhaps by Kato’s son or daughter, that they might ponder a while on the galling mystery of it all.
On Monday, we posted a drawing prompt on the Bobbledy Blog, charging kids with sending us a picture of themselves riding on a “wild animal.” The responses were wonderful (“wild animal” being variously defined as seven-legged giraffe, blue chicken, wolf, “long neck,” elephant, and “wild snowman”), and we’ve posted them this morning.
As I was building the gallery of the kids’ drawings, I realized the blatant hypocrisy of which I was complicit. While encouraging others to take up their pens and draw, I have been sorely remiss in my own artistic obligations. I’m referring, of course, to Matthew Draws, of which there has not been an installment since…February. I could launch into a litany of excuses, or I could simply buckle down and do my worst.
Yesterday, we got two orders from Iowa. We were vaguely surprised, but didn’t think much of it. We know the citizens of Iowa to be forward-thinking, literary sorts. But then, this afternoon, things started to get a little weird. Between 2:07pm and 4:31pm we got nine more orders from Iowa. And three more throughout the evening. We haven’t gotten 14 orders from Iowa in the entire six-year history of Idiots’Books, let alone in the same 24-hour period.
Was this an elaborate ruse? Or had we suddenly gotten “Big in Iowa”?
And then the answer came to us. A few weeks ago, we got an order from the textbook manager at Drake University, where we will be speaking in late September. In advance of our visit, one of the professors had assigned Homer Was an Epic Poet for one of the classes we’ll be meeting with.
A little sleuthing revealed that another professor has assigned her students to each identify and order a copy of one of the books from our site. Hence, today’s deluge of interest in long-forgotten titles.
Presumably these students are going to be asked to read our books, think about them critically, and come to some conclusions. Which means we might find ourselves in the awkward position of being held accountable for our creations. If asked by a group of earnest students what we were intending to do or say with a given title, how will we respond?
It’s an honor to be taught in a college course, but suddenly this unwitting emperor is left wondering if he’s wearing any clothes.
Usually, once we’re done with a book, we have to move on to the next so quickly that we don’t even catch a whiff of the proverbial roses. But today, we forced ourselves pause a moment to celebrate the arrival of the very first Bobbledy book.
This morning, Robbi dropped me off at my office in Baltimore and then drove down to Columbia to pick up our books from the fine folks at Indigo Ink. They did an amazing job. From the paper to the printing, to the simulated endpapers, I couldn’t be happier with how the books turned out.
We were feeling so good that we thumbed our noses at the gods of frugality and picked up some sushi on the way home.
After dinner, we decided to memorialize the milestone by signing a first copy of the book for our archives.
We can’t afford to dwell for long on the moment. Tomorrow, it’s on to something else. On to eight other things, in fact.
But tonight, for about five minutes, we felt really good about what we had done.
It’s a funny thing, starting a new blog. When we switched from The Barnstorming to Idiots’Books, all we changed was the name, the look, and the URL. We effectively closed down one blog to start another one with the same content. Lest you worry about our intentions this time around, Idiots’Blog will keep going strong (as will Idiots’Books) and the Bobbledy Blog will carve its own, parallel path.
As time passes, we’ll get a better sense of what sorts of stories belong in which place. Our sense is that Idiots’Blog will stay pretty much the same, a place to talk about work, life, family, travel, etc. For the most part, Bobbledy Blog will touch on the same kinds of stories, but with content more skewed toward (and appropriate for) youngish kids and their parents.
One of our hopes for Bobbledy Blog is that it eventually creates its own community of kids and parents interacting around a shared interest in books, music, and creativity in general.
To this end, we’re going to have regular prompts: whether it’s to draw something or write something or make something. We hope that kids will respond and then send us a picture (or a scan) of whatever it is they create for posting on the blog. The first such prompt is up this morning. If you are a kid or have a kid who might be interested, head on over there to check it out.
Robbi, Alden, and I each tried our hand at doing the first drawing.
This afternoon I was walking down the street, minding my own business, when my good friend Mickey appeared in front of me and said, “You’ve got good timing,” and handed me a watermelon that he grew from his own garden.
This morning I put some mustaches on the kids, Alden and Kato. August is still too small for a mustache.
What’s the connection between the afternoon watermelon and the morning mustaches? At the end of the day Robbi put one of the mustaches on the watermelon and VOILA! Esteemed senator watermelon was born.
To remember his distinguished visage for the rest of our lives, we made portraits of him in five minutes.
Matthew went for the 1940′s feel with a sideways head.
Robbi’s looks like a real campaign poster that makes me want to vote for him. I’ve never seen a friendlier watermelon.
And my senator watermelon, despite the buffness of his arms, is meloncholy.
He may have a stylin’ suit, a personality worth voting for, and years of experience, but at the end of the day, Esteemed Senator Watermelon needs to be eaten. I think he’ll take it honorably.
In case you missed it earlier, we’re giving away a signed and numbered, limited edition print to anyone who signs up for Bobbledy Books within the first three days. That window closes at 11:57pm this evening, so you only have a few hours left.
If you are the sort of person who likes to think about things in rational terms, a print of this size and quality would normally retail for $30, but after this, it won’t be available ever again. Since we plan to hit the big time, those of you holding one of these original Bobbledy prints will, in all likelihood, be able to march right on down to Sotheby’s and have your pick of millions. I’m not promising this result, but I’m not counting it out, either.
If you know what an Eph is, this post is for you. If you don’t know, and care to find out, Eph is short for Ephraim, the first name of Ephraim Williams, the ill-fated benefactor of my alma mater Williams College. Eph Williams wrote up his will on the way to do battle a long time ago, bequeathing his fortunes for the founding of a small college in northwestern Massachusetts (provided the college and the town it was in be named after him). Eph went to battle and promptly died. But many of us are grateful for the bequest, on account of the fine time we had living for four years in the town that bears his name.
Onward to the business at hand: Robbi and I have been commissioned by the visionary Ashley Weeks Cart (be sure to check out her blog) at the Williams Office of Alumni Relations to create a special something to welcome first-year students to the Purple Valley. Basically, we will be making an illustrated map/checklist of all the things that a Williams student must do before graduation, a kind of guide to getting the most out of one’s years in Williamsmtown.
Eating every flavor of Hot Tomatoes Pizza, for example. Or taking a sunrise hike up Pine Cobble. Or stealing books from the Amherst College library. You name it. The resulting piece will be a detailed, sprawling poster that features all of these items roughly related to one another geographically, with short descriptions, and a way to check off an item when it’s done.
To get the best possible list of ideas, we are asking all you Ephs to share your favorite experiences—at Williams, in Williamstown, or anywhere in the surrounding areas. What is it that you would have the next generation of dewy-eyed freshman do as they get to know that place you love so well?
Please share your thoughts as comments for all to enjoy. If you are not an Eph and would like to make stuff up, that is also perfectly acceptable. We place no restrictions here at Idiots’Blog. At least not this early in the morning.
And what a day it was. We launched officially at 11:57pm Monday evening. Before we went to sleep 20 minutes later, the first three club members had signed up. Another joined in the wee hours. Throughout the day, our inbox alerts were like a machine gun as orders and Facebook notifications streamed in. Thanks to all of you for your excitement and support. And a hearty welcome to the 66 club members who joined us today.
For any of you who are carefully contemplating whether or not to sign up, here’s something to keep in mind. As a special thanks to you Bobbledy pioneers, we are offering a, 8.5″ x 8.5″ limited edition, signed and numbered archival print of one of the panels from the first Bobbledy Book, The Girl With Frogs in Her Ears, (which, incidentally, you can read the first few pages of here, if you like) to everyone who signs up in the first three days. By our math, that means anyone who signs up by 11:57pm on Thursday night.
Here’s the image in question:
Which is to say, carefully contemplate away, but the clock is ticking…
And another thing, several of you wrote, posted, or commented today about wanting to sign up but feeling like you couldn’t sign up because you’re not a kid. To this we say, rubbish and pshaw. If you like beautiful, off-the-wall picture books, then you should have beautiful, off-the-wall picture books. If you like fun, smart, playful songs then you should be able to listen to fun, smart, playful songs. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy Bobbledy Books. You just have to have been a kid at some point in your past.
Thanks again to everyone for a great day. We can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.