Tom arrived early, saw the crowd, and began immediately, even though he’d just got off a plane. His enthusiasm, rapid-fire sketching, calling on kid after kid (most of whom he addressed as “Larry”) to involve as many of them as possible, were fantastic and he had everyone in stitches. When he asked if anyone had brought a finger puppet with them, hands shot into the air and enthusiastically waved the Origami Yodas, Darth Papers, Art2-D2s, Emperor Pickletines, Jabba the Puppets, and Princess Labelmakers the children had brought to show him. Half of them had also brought their entire collection of books for him to sign. He autographed many, many books and drew a picture in each of them. He gave children the big sketches he’d drawn and drew a portrait of a little girl who didn’t have a book for him to sign. She was in heaven.
Those kids loved him. The looks of adoration in their eyes and absolute bliss when they got to speak to him, or have their picture taken with him, or gave him a puppet they had made, were so moving. This is what’s so affirming for children’s authors — we all want to get our books into the hands of kids who will love them and read them until they’re dog eared and the pages are crinkled and soft. It's hard work, it doesn't pay well, it's full of rejection and criticism, but being a children's author is the best job in the world.
Tom asked the children in the room: “Why do you think I wrote about the weirdest kid in school?” And of course they all knew. One responded, “Because you were the weirdest kid in school.” and the rest roared their approval of the answer. And that’s the thing about children’s books — they offer hope. Every “weird” kid who is bullied or lonely can see him- or herself in Dwight (from “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda”) and not feel so alone. And any “weird” kid in that room could see him- or herself in Tom and know that Tom not only survived the middle-school years but went on to become a famous author.
So here’s to the “weird” kids. May you all grow up to create as much happiness in the world as Tom Angleberger. And thank you Tom for reminding me what fun a room full of enthusiastic kids can be.