On Monday, Pat Zeitlow Miller introduced herself as our newest EMU hatchling, and, as she put it, a “Book Geek.” As I read her comments, I saw many traits that seemed familiar, but I am not sure I like the term “Book Geek.” Sounds a bit, um, maladjusted to me.
When I was a kid, the term “Book Worm” was more often applied, but I can’t say I care for that one either. Especially since they were always drawn in cartoons like slimy earthworms, or those nasty worms you get in apples, wearing glasses. And since I started wearing glasses at the age of five, I wasn’t all that keen on the “book lovers with glasses are worms” implications.
So the question is, what is the right term to use? What conveys the correct sense of what the young-lover-of-books is really all about?
As it so happens, I am in a position to address this question, because just this past weekend, I met with a young book group for the first time.
The group consisted of one dedicated grandmother, three young lovers-of-books, and a little white carp named Goldie. They had chosen Katerina’s Wish as their book for this month (although in truth, I’m not convinced Goldie read it–she was pretty quiet in the discussion.)
I knew they were gathering at 12:30 to discuss the book before I arrived at 1:30. This was a good plan, I thought, because it gave them the freedom to be perfectly honest about the book, just in case. As it turns out, meeting ahead of time gave them time to do more than that.
When I rang the doorbell, they all greeted me at once, wearing blue hair ribbons! (For those of you who don’t know, early in the book, two wishes are granted: one for blue hair ribbons and one for plum dumplings.)
So, guess what was waiting around the corner for me in the kitchen? That’s right–the table all set, with place cards for everyone, paper dandelions for a centerpiece (also a reference to my book):
and a big plate of fresh, warm plum dumplings! We also had goldfish crackers and apples. And let me assure you, it was all quite delicious!
Then the hard work began–I had to answer their questions. Of course, it wasn’t really hard work; they asked GREAT questions: who was my favorite character, did I think of Mark as a good guy or a bad guy, how do I take criticism from my editor, and even did I see the lessons that my characters learned as important lessons or struggles in my own life. Boy, do I ever!
I asked them plenty of questions too, and adored their answers. Here are a few highlights:
- They each had a different favorite character, but among them, they picked all my favorites too (Holena, Martina, Old Jan, and Trina)
- They liked that it ended without everything being perfect for the main character, because that’s how life is.
- They thought Mark was his own worst enemy, because he was always being negative and putting himself down.
- They were glad Trina chose the path she did and not the other one.
- One of the girls was even gracious enough to compare Trina’s youngest sister Holena to Beth in Little Women.
Then I shared with them everything that went into the book, from the first, handwritten draft, through the copies that came back from the editor, the bound galley, to the finished book. They were complimentary of my handwriting and maybe a little horrified by how many trees died in the process of producing all that paper.
I was supposed to leave after an hour, but I couldn’t tear myself away quite that soon. And when I left, I felt so lucky to be writing for such a bright, exuberant audience.
So, back to my question: what do we call these young-lovers-of-books? These kids like the young Pat Zeitlow, or the young Jeannie Mobley? Like the members of that wonderful book group (with the possible exception of Goldie)?
Book Geeks? No way. When I looked at those girls I was impressed to see such a solid, well-adjusted, socially responsible foundation for the future!
Book Worms? You’ve got to be kidding! Nothing slimy there. I saw so much clever, creative intelligence. Those young women are not going to crawl through the dark underground–they are going to shine, shine, shine!
Advanced Readers? That sounds kind of dull and academic, doesn’t it? I mean, these kids knew how to joke and laugh and have fun, too!
Hmmm. That feels right, but maybe not quite enough. How about
AMAZING KIDS WITH BOOKS!
AMAZING KIDS WITH BOOKS, A COOL GRANDMA, AND A GOLDFISH!
I think that sums it up well, except it’s going to be abbreviated AKBCGG, which, frankly, is the worst acronym ever.
I’ll keep working on it. And in the mean time, I will just rejoice in knowing such great kids are out there. And I’ll be writing more books for them. After all, I have to. They told me what I needed to put in the sequel! 🙂