This place was a Book Addict Jr.’s heaven. I wandered around, wide eyed at the shelves that stretched taller than I was and the rows and rows of children’s books. When I was a kid, I would have entrenched myself here and would have never left. As it was, my adult-self didn’t want to leave either.
I was on a mission. If I had just wandered into the kid’s section of the bookstore after all these years thinking, “Oh I’ll just buy a few books for the baby shower” I might have been rather intimidated. There was everything from fluffy bunny bookies to monster trucks. But I knew exactly which book I was aiming for: the one that had set me off on a book addiction that nearly needed therapy.
I found it – the hot pink and orange cover of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. I smiled as I picked it up, my fingers running carefully along the edges of the pages. I had a copy for myself at home. It would be perfect to start the library of my friend’s soon-to-arrive little man.
As I flipped through the pages that Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault had penned so many years ago, my mind wandered back. It was that dynamic duo that had started all this; it was those two men who had fueled my addiction not just to write, but to craft stories. I was little more than a tyke when those two had stopped by our small town in rural Indiana for a visit. I remember sitting in the front row on the floor of the gym, looking up at tall John Archambault as he told stories and jokes that sent us into fits of giggles. I wanted to be that clever, that witty.
I raced home that day and began filling up note books with drawings and stories as well as I could with my limited 5-year-old writing skills. The next day in school, we made our own hardcover books. I still have mine on the bookshelf upstairs. It’s crap. But it started something fantastic. A fever to find a story wherever I look. A desperation to write them down; spinning and crafting those letters into words and words into worlds. And a hunger to read, to learn, to expand my horizons as far as I can stretch them.
So thank you, Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault. You encouraged me to love reading at a young age (and writing too) and that has made all the difference for me. And thanks to all the other authors out there. You’re making a difference for some person – young, old or in between – out there somewhere.
And if you have kids – get ’em started early. Put a book in their hands and encourage them to read, to learn, to grow. You won’t regret it if you do.