Sign Here: the value of a good book can be measured in memories
Last Father’s Day, my daughter Laura gave me a gift she knew I would love. No, not another tie or sweater or screwdriver. She gave me books. Books signed by the authors. I have a collection of approximately 175 autographed books, mostly children and young adult titles. I call it “The Shrine.
I’m a former librarian. I attended a lot of conferences and workshops where authors spoke and sold their books. Today, I teach children’s and young adult literature courses at the local university. When I bring one of the autographed books to class, I ask the students to respectfully go “Ooh” and “Ahh.”
“The autographed books are more than trophies and they offer more than bragging rights. They are also links to great memories. I look at some autographs and I’m transported to a certain time and place.”
The autographed books are more than trophies and they offer more than bragging rights. They are also links to great memories. I look at some autographs and I’m transported to a certain time and place. I have an autographed copy of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by author Bill Martin, Jr., who passed away many years ago. Bill was brought to Eau Claire by a local reading group and they said, “Let’s put Rob next to Bill for supper. He’ll entertain our guest.” I had a pleasant chat with Bill, who also gave us Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? He reminded me a lot of my grandfather.
When I look at Mike Perry’s inscription of my copy of his first children’s novel The Scavengers, I instantly picture Mike sitting in my campus office for an interview. We were interrupted every few minutes by my co-workers, his fans, anxious to get a peek at our local celebrity. I asked Mike to sign my copy and he casually mentioned that this was the first time he signed this particular title. I asked him to write that fact and he did: “Thank you for being the very first to speak with me on behalf of Maggie/Ford” (Maggie, a.k.a. Ford, is the main character.) I had a similar situation with local children’s author Julie Bowie. I was the first person for whom she signed her new book Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd). I asked her to mention that fact and she wrote, “The first one I ever signed! Happy reading, Rob!”
At one conference, I got in line for Lemony Snickett. If you know anything about Lemony Snickett and his series about orphans, he has a whole wise guy routine going. I asked him to sign it to Sam. He said in a snobbish voice, “Who is this Sam?” I said he was my son. He then said. “And I suppose he sucks the very life force from your soul.” I went “ha-ha” and thought “jerk” and gave the book to Sam, who loves it. The inscription? “To Sam – a future orphan.”
My girls stood in lines with me to get autographs from Lois Lowery, Robert Munsch, and Gary Paulsen, to name a few. My daughter Alice, in particular, was excited to meet her favorite author Lois Lowry at the University of Minnesota, and is still proud of her autographed copy of The Giver. Laura and Julia joined me to listen to the hilarious storytelling antics of Robert Munsch and we got his book Moira’s Birthday signed. They found it slightly amusing that I was awe-struck by Gary Paulsen and could barely get out something more than “I’m a big fan” before he signed my copy of The Winter Room.
These signings all took place 10-20 years ago but still remain fresh in my mind as wonderful father memories. Today, I’m still meeting authors, purchasing their books, and getting autographed books as gifts for my loved ones. I make sure to get the author to sign one copy for them and another copy for The Shrine.