Last night was such at treat. I posted yesterday about the release of Wildwood, the new book written and illustrated by the collaborative efforts of Colin Meloy of the Decemberist and his wife, illustrator Carson Ellis. The event was hosted by Powell’s books and I think turned out to be a HUGE success (must have been–the tickets were sold out!). I was interested to see what kind of crowd the event drew. Like I said yesterday, the book is technically a “children’s novel”, however it definitely has an adult sophistication to it. I was pleasantly surprised to see the number of children-teenagers who were at the debut. I definitely didn’t have the chance to do anything like that growing up. I will take a momentary pause to say that it was not my parents’ fault. How wants to debut a highly anticipated novel in Texarkana, TX. I’ll tell you. No one.
The one thing I was disappointed about was they did not do personalized signings. All of our books were signed already when we arrived and were handed out as we walked into the theater. I was a tad bummed, but I completely understand why they did it. The Bagdad Theater holds 590 people (yup, had to google that) and we would have been there all night if each guest had 1-2 books signed and personalized. I was thrilled, however, to see that they both signed each book. Not sure why I assumed that only Colin would sign them but both of their signatures are there on the front page! Personalized or un-personalized, this marks my FIRST signed first edition book. That the book is a children’s novel, set in Portland, and I attended the premiere makes it all the better.
In case you’ve never been, the best part of a book premiere, hands down, is hearing about the book from the author(s) themselves. This experience was unique in that we heard from both the author and illustrator. They talked about their inspiration, process, struggles, future plans, etc. etc. For some reason, hearing a reading from the author makes me enjoy a novel SO much better. I think it derives from hearing the enunciation and tone the author’s voice gives the passages. You hear how the characters’ voices sound in the author’s head, the ups and downs of their voice while reading–it makes the experience for me.
There would be no way for me to go through everything they talked about last night, but I have jotted down a few of the things I found most interesting to share.
- The illustrations in the book were created with pen, well ink, and gauche.
- Wildwood is the first edition of a three-part (potentially more) series. Colin is already about 40 pages in to the next installment and they hope to have it on shelves in about a year.
- There is a brief mention of a badger carrying a rick-shaw in the novel. Colin said it really didn’t fit but he put it in the book just because he knew that Carson would love to draw it. Turns out, the publisher pushed to remove the illustration but they fought to keep it.
- The process of developing the coyote soldiers was very interesting. They started, in her first sketch, looking more dog-like, on all fours, wearing armor. They went through a few different sketches before they decided to take a Wind in the Willows approach to animalanthropomorphism and make the coyotes a little less realistic and a little more imaginative. Thus, the coyote soldiers depicted standing on two legs wearing Napoleonic regalia.
I fell asleep while reading last night but I am already hooked on this book and encourage everyone to go out and grab a copy!! The last thing I’ll mention, because I’ve had a few comments posted regarding this, is yes, the language in this book is challenging. That said, Colin addressed it so well last night when asked about it. There is no reason a middle school aged child couldn’t read and digest this novel and understand its content. There is also no reason why we shouldn’t be challenging young readers to have a better understanding of vocabulary. SO, in answer to the questions, I don’t see any reason why a young teenager couldn’t read this. I admit I even had to look up one word last night on the ‘ole Webster’s app on my phone. It’s simultaneous learning and reading enjoyment! (and isn’t that the best kind of learning anyway?! The kind disguised as something fun!?)