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May The Force Be With You

A year or so ago I started soliciting photos of young adult authors reading in various locations for this project:  a google map showing all the places people read.  It's called "Gators Read Everywhere" - an homage to our school mascot - and it's one of my most favorite projects ever.  But this post isn't about that.  It IS, however, (at least partly) about Tom Angleberger, the author of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, who was one of the first YA authors to share a photo of himself reading for the aforementioned project. From the beginning, Tom was the picture of generosity.  Not only did he send me his own photo, but he also ran around various author/librarian/teacher conferences stalking other authors and taking their pictures for me.  And since he's a world famous author himself, there wasn't anything creepy about it at all. :)  Now, I don't know about you, but Tom's books are INSANELY popular in my library.  I've got a bajillion copies of each and the reserve list is still a mile long.  I simply can't keep them on the shelves.  So... when his latest endeavor Dark Paper Strikes Back debuted about a month ago, I knew we needed to have a premier party.

Book premier parties are something I *love* to do.  Last year, we had one when Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay came out and it was big fun.  For last year's event, I decided to hold a costume party:  both kids and adults alike dressed like their favorite character from the Hunger Games Trilogy and we partied like the next day was the reaping! At the time, Hot Topic was selling lots of cool Hunger Games paraphernalia and I was able to get them to donate some stuff for our party as prizes.  Barnes and Noble also gave me some books to give away and a local real estate company helped provide the food.  The whole idea behind the event was to generate excitement about the books, so I held trivia contests the entire week before and recruited teachers to play it up in their classes. Truly, it was a blast.  And, besides, how often do I get to wear false pink eyelashes and a 3ft tall pink beehive w/a blinking tiara to school??  (Answer: not as often as I would like).   (Bonus points to the Hunger Games fan who can guess who I am!)

Fast forward to this school year. Since I couldn't break out my beehive for this party, I decided to ask Tom Angleberger if he would skype with us during the event. I'd already heard that he was super fun to skype with from several colleagues including library wonder boy John  Schumacher, and since I follow him I twitter, I knew this was something the Origami Yoda creator sometimes did.   Once that was scheduled, I went to work planning the event - starting with food which included Yoda Soda (Sprite + lime sherbet), Darth Paper Pizza and 250 chocolate dipped Pretzel Light Sabers - prompting Beth Redford to call me the "Martha Stewart of Star Wars themed food."  In the end, the plan was simple:  1) eat 2) skype 3) make Origami Yodas/Darth Papers 4) make money for the library.

Which brings me to the point where I need to admit that not all of my intentions when it comes to these events are noble.  While the primary focus is on getting kids excited about a book, I also ALWAYS schedule them to coincide with a book fair.  And while I never charge students to get in, I DO say stuff like "it sure would be nice if you bought something at the book fair."  Sometimes they do.  Sometimes they don't.   This year, however, my fundraising expectations were far exceeded due in large part to the same local real estate company who not only helped us buy some of the food and books to give away (and put in our library), but they also  underwrote a 35% discount at our book fair for everyone who came to the party that night.   I'm still in awe of how generous they were.

So.  How did it go? Well... 

  • our central office forgot to leave the A/C on, so it was about 300 degrees most of the night.  And...

  • the Skype was pretty much a disaster.  We saw Tom for about 25 seconds - during which he was charming and funny, but still. 

On the other hand...

  • about 200 kids showed up.

  • many of them brought their parents.

  • we sold more in one night at the book fair than we did the entire rest of the week (making it our best book fair ever!)

  • after the #skypefail kids gathered around the tables and watched as I taught them the fine art of the Origami Yoda/Darth Paper folding.

  • the next day, one student after another rushed in to a) show me their copy of one (or both) of Tom Angleberger's book(s) and/or the bajillion origami Star Wars figures they'd made after going home and b) to ask me when we were going to do it again.

I guess that's spells success. :)

So, what's next?  Well, first and foremost I'm looking forward to finally meeting Tom Angleberger face to face at this year's NCSLMA conference.  I owe him a big thank you and/or a drink.  After that, I need to figure out how to make Skpe work at my school.  There's just too many great video-chat opportunities out there for me to give up now. (If you've got advice, let me know).  After that???  Well... I'm thinking we may need to have a  book premier party for Allan Wolf's new book The Watch That Ends The Night: Voices from the Titanic - I'm just hoping one of the characters sports a pink beehive.


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