Friday, March 09, 2012

Brad Parks, Guest Blogger

I always allow guest bloggers to choose their theme, and sometimes they surprise me. I usually expect a blog about their books, their characters or writing, and that's what I suggest. But, Brad Parks, author of the award-winning Carter Ross mysteries chose a different topic. And, he made me cry. In this case, that's good.

So, thank you, Brad. And, thank you for all the Carter Ross books, including the latest one, The Girl Next Door.

By Brad Parks
Guest Blogger
            Something wonderful happened with my kids a few months back, something I didn’t even realize until it had already come to pass.
            I guess parenting is like that sometimes. The most important milestones can often be the ones you don’t even notice at first.
            It was my daughter who helped make me aware of it. I had just picked up her and her older brother from pre-school and was asking them what they wanted to do that afternoon, giving them the usual menu of options – go to the playground, hit the pool at the local Y, head back home – when my daughter piped up in that sweet little voice of hers.
“Daddy,” she said. “Can we go to the li-berry?”
The library. My daughter had only barely started being able to say the word – it’s a lot of R’s, you know – and I suppose I knew her pre-school had been taking her there for story time. Yet, while I hate to admit it, my first thought was: what a terrible idea.
Mostly because I had tried it before. Don’t get me wrong, my kids are beautiful and smart (like their mother) but they’re also a bit of a handful (like their father). And I had made attempts to take them to the library sporadically throughout their infancy and toddlerhood.
            Inevitably, it would turn into a minor disaster. During story time, while all the other kids patiently stayed seated in their parents’ laps, my son – the kid with the non-stop motor – was the one who twisted and squirmed out of his Daddy’s arms and then proceeded to run around the library like someone had set his shoes on fire.
Or there was my daughter: the drooling, page-ripping machine. She had, quite literally, a voracious appetite for books, because she often tried to eat them. Being at the library with her meant that if I turned my back for even a second, I would inevitably find myself approaching the front desk sheepishly, asking for Scotch tape to mend whatever damage she had just inflicted.
            Taking them both to the library? Forget it. Too stressful.
            But by that point I had faltered long enough before answering that my daughter added a long, pleading, “Pweeeeeeeeease?” (Those L’s are hard, too). So what choice did I have?
            We went.
And we had a blast.
That’s when I learned we had passed that wonderful milestone: My kids had finally gotten old enough for the library.
I know that when Lesa invited me on her blog, she probably thought I’d be flogging my latest book. And, yeah, I suppose I should (it’s called The Girl Next Door: buy it or my children will starve). But I also know that a lot of you reading this are librarians, and I guess I want you to know – on behalf of all the parents of young children who are perhaps a bit too harried to say it – how much I appreciate watching my kids discover their local library.
There’s just some magic about libraries and kids. They go together. And I suspect, in the heart of every librarian, there’s a place that leaps when they see a child connecting with a book.
Maybe I just say that because of my own experience with them. I wasn’t necessarily always the most focused student – formal schooling and I didn’t always see eye to eye – but I did have a library card. My mom, bless her heard, took me often. And that’s really where I got a lot of my education and began to foster many of the passions and interests that have followed me into adulthood. As a kid, I read biographies of Presidents (to this day I still love history); sports books (which helped launch my career as a writer, since the first thing I covered as a newspaper reporter was sports); and, of course, the Hardy Boys (the significance of which ought to be clear, given my current avocation).
More to the point, going to the library never felt like going to school. It wasn’t drudgery, something I was forced to do. It was something I did for fun.
And to see my children start to form the same relationship with their library has been a special joy.
My son is a nut for superhero books. He has checked out every Spiderman and Batman book at the library at least twice. I’m using all my charm with the library director to convince her to add some X-Men to her collection. After she does that, I’ll be batting my eyes and asking for Fantastic Four.
Then there’s my daughter, who is currently on an Amelia Bedelia kick (even though I swear she doesn’t understand the jokes). But she’s also good for Curious George, Angelina Ballerina, Lulu the Ladybug Girl (she’s even got the costume), and a host of other great characters. These days when I turn my back on her at the library, the only danger is that she’ll have already picked out a pile of books ten tall that I’ll then have to make her pare down.
We now visit the library at least once a week. And it’s become more than just a nice way to kill a Tuesday afternoon. At an age when my kids and I don’t share a lot of interests – sorry, superheroes and princesses just don’t do much for me – the library is something we can enjoy together.
Best of all, I know they’re only just starting to explore the great journey that is knowing their library.
I can’t wait to see where it takes them.

Brad Parks is a winner of the Nero Award and the Shamus Award. His latest book, The Girl Next Door, releases from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books on March 13. For more Brad, sign up for his newsletter, like him on Facebook, or follow @Brad_Parks on Twitter.

Thank you, again, Brad. That post means so much to me, and I know it will to other librarians and library users. Brad will be appearing for Authors @ The Teague on April 5 at 2 p.m. Can't wait to meet him!


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I love this post. My children are now teen and pre-teen, but I well-remember the days of chasing after them in the library and reshelving the books they'd enthusiastically pulled out. I loved the moment they got mature enough for us all to really enjoy the library as a family. Thanks for the happy memory and best wishes for the new release!

Nancy said...

What a wonderful post! I think all librarians should get a chance to read this, especially children's librarians. The tears would flow. It brings back happy memories for me of the days when my children and I visited our local library and read together.

Rosemary said...

Me too - I took my children to the library from babyhood. Most of our librarians were very welcoming (- one wasn't and used to burst with fury when my youngest pulled the books off the shelves,)....I have happy memories of pushing this same baby home in her pushchair, whilst she chomped on her sandwiches and 'read' the book she had chosen. She is now the keenest reader of all three of them.

I was also taken to the Bromley Public Library every Friday by my mother. I still remember the little wooden chairs and the special low book boxes. The books I remember from then are Josephine & Her Dolls, and all of the Gwynedd Rae Mary Plain books: wonderful.

Libraries are such a precious thing. Remember Roald Dahl's Matilda? She discovers the library and escapes from her dire parents. At one point the narrator says something like: "these books taught Matilda a powerful lesson. They said: 'You are not alone'" So true.

Lesa said...

I really want to thank Brad for giving everyone the opportunity to share memories of the library, whether it's taking children to the library, or going to the library themselves.

And, thank you, Elizabeth, Nancy, and Rosemary, for sharing your comments.

I wouldn't be a librarian today if my parents hadn't taken us to the library on a regular basis. I loved our hometown library. My dream job was always to return there as Director. I did, when I was 22. The Huron Public Library in Huron, OH is still a special place to me.

Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this post, what a GREAT way to start off a day! Brought back such happy memories of my experiences with the library and how great they truly are! Thanks!

Ricky Bush said...

Thanks Brad! This reminds me of time that our local library designed a cartoon lizard icon for their newly built children's book room. They had a contest to name the lizard. My oldest daughter (30 now, 6 yrs old then) won with her entry--Reed A. Bookertoo. She was hooked for life.

Rosemary said...

Brilliant Ricky! She clearly had a glittering literary career ahead!

Karen B said...

I remember our Carnegie library back in the 40s and 50s in Duluth. Many summer days were spend there. My kids loved the library, too. I took them weekly back in the 60s and 70s - along with their friends! We'd come home and mark on the calendar how many books everyone - including me - had checked out. It made returning them so much easier and cut down on the over-due fines.

Thanks for a wonderful post!
Karen B

Lesa said...

I love the name of that lizard, Ricky! I'm glad your daughter was hooked for life.

Keep those comments coming. I just love reading about your experiences with libraries!

Karen said...

I, too, love this post. Long ago, my grandson accompanied me to the library where I was going to sort some books for an upcoming Friends of the Library book sale.

We had been up in the dusty loft for some time and, while I was tsk-tsking over how a Rosamund Pilcher book ended up in the romance section, I heard a deep, long sigh.

"This isn't a liberry. This is a boring berry!"

What? A boring berry? I came to my senses, realizing I was like a person in a mansion living in the closet! And, worst of all, I had taken my grandson into the closet with me!

Immediately, we left Rosamind Pilcher and her colleagues to duke it out in the dusty loft, went down the stairs and proceeded to the Children's Section where we explored the world at the back of the wardrobe, the loyal elephant, the sights on Mulberry Street, the twelve little girls in two straight lines, the boy who was having a very, very bad day, and others, leaving the library with our arms full.

Perhaps this story should be known as the day my grandson took me to the library!

As an epilogue, a few years ago when he was in his early teens, I asked him if he remembered this day and he said, "Are you kidding? It's one of my favorite stories!"

While I wince when I think of his telling the first part of that story, I am grateful beyond measure that his assessment of a library quickly changed from a "boring berry" to a "berry" of many, many worlds!

Lesa said...

Oh, Karen. I love your story, and I'm glad you found your wits fast enough to take your grandson to the true treasures. Most of all, I'm glad he remembers, and shares that memory with you.

Jane R said...

I have many fond memories of going to the library with my father. Even when I was a senior in high school! Likewise, I took both my children to our favorite libraries, where they could explore to their hearts' content. For the past 25 years I have been a preschool librarian and it is always a thrill to hear a child talk about a book they've 'read' or their visit to the local branch library. And, when they call me 'the book lady' it makes my day! Thanks for the great post!

Anonymous said...

Hey, everyone -- I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading through all these great library memories. This was a pretty personal piece for me, of course, and I'm glad to see reading it is personal, too. :)

And, truly, all you library scientists out there: Thank you for what you do every day!


toner_low said...

Great post--sadly for me, I live in a place, Long Island, with almost no bookstores; happily, the county has an amazing library system, and me and my kids visit one of the three nearby libraries almost every week. Another reason why libraries are perfect for kids--youngsters are often while excited when they get their hands on something, then within a day to two can completely lose interest in their prize. Borrowing (and returning) goodies like books makes a lot more sense than buying new stuff that still occupies space in the home long after the kids have lost interest. If libraries checked out action figures, I'd pretty much have a perfect life.

Lake Mills Library said...

No! No Scotch tape!

Karen C said...

I have no memories of being taken to the Library as a child. I have, however, instilled a love of books to my daughter and she has a love of the Library - and book stores - and any place where she can buy books. I have stained four 7 ft bookcases for her!

This was a wonderful post and I have enjoyed reading everyone's memories.

Bev Stephans said...

My father took me to the library every week until I was old enough to go by myself. We moved around a lot, and one of the first things I would do is find the local library.

This continued when I had children of my own. They too loved the library.

Thank you Brad for such a compelling post.

Lesa said...

I've enjoyed everyone's memories of libraries as well. Thanks for sharing!

Jean said...

I've been a children's librarian in Corpus Christi for 23 years and love every moment of it. I think one of my favorite stories about children coming to the library was when 2 year old Colton came for the first time and when he saw all the books, he ran up and down the aisles yelling "books" "books" more books." I'm now getting adults (who came to storytime as children) bringing their children to share the love of books and storytime.

Cari Rérat said...

And don't forget as your children get older, many libraries have Teen Departments now too! And Teen Services Librarians to go with them! =)

Lesa said...

Thank you, Jean, for that wonderful story! You're right, Cari. There are some terrific Teen Departments out there.