ORIGINAL LIBRARY ART : The Cheshire Cat (in the hat)

The Cheshire Cat for Read Across America Week

     This year I am eschewing Dr. Seuss and the Cat In the Hat for Read Across America Week. I work in a high school library, and Dr. Seuss is for BABIES. Yes, I said it. For BABIES. It's fine up until you're 5 or whatever, but to me Seuss does not have the lasting quality that Sendak, or some other classic children's writer/authors do. Anybody can just make up shit to fit a rhyme. I appreciate Seuss's art a lot more than I do his "writing."
     I'm fully aware that Read Across America Week was created to coincide with Seuss's birthday on March 2nd, and that's nice. It's fine to give a nod to Seuss. But it's short-sighted and simplistic to think EVERYTHING about Read Across America Week has to be ALL SEUSS, ALL THE TIME, EVERY YEAR. Unless you're just not familiar with the great wealth of children's, teen, and young adult lit we have to draw on.
     Especially for junior high and high school.
     So I came up with the idea to decorate the library like Wonderland for the week of February 29th through March 4th, and my flyers and promotional stuff will all feature my version of the Cheshire Cat, wearing the Mad Hatter's Hat, and the tagline,
"Uh-oh! A different cat in a different hat is taking over Read Across America this year in the library!"
     This will give me a chance to highlight Lewis Carroll's original works, plus related works like Beddor's Looking Glass Wars, Gaiman's Coraline, books on mathematics, chess, poetry, dream interpretation, Victorian England, etc. (And yes, even my own Wonderland graphic novel that I wrote and Sonny Liew illustrated for Disney Press/SLG)
     My campus is doing a week-long celebration in cooperation with our Alumni Association for RAAW 2016, and I'm on the planning committee, along with our admin. The Alumni are spotlighting alumni authors, and published works that are influenced somehow by our school. We have a bunch of local authors scheduled to do author forums in the auditorium on Monday and Friday of that week, and there will be a display in the library of books by alumni, and books about our school.
     Throughout the week I have planned Wonderland-themed contests, and will give out prizes. There will be a Cheshire Cat scavenger hunt, a house-of-cards building contest, and a Queen of Hearts "guess how many candy hearts are in the jar" contest. Plus the library will serve as a hospitality room for any guests during the week, so I need to make sure it all looks really nice.
     The culminating event of the week will be the author forum on Friday, and immediately following that will be a Mad Tea Party Reception in the library, which I'm currently planning with my awesome Volunteer Mom. Petit fours, multi-colored macarons, cucumber sandwiches, and a selection of teas will be offered.
     I suggested that maybe for that week the Main Office could be Seuss's "Whoville," to appease Seuss-enthusiasts, and maybe the English building could be Hogwarts or something like that. I think all it would take would just be a little effort to decorate, and put some signs up. They could even have students do that part of it.
     We have SSR at my school, although sadly many teachers don't observe it. For RAAW, we plan to reinforce SSR by having a different staff member on the video announcements for "Staff Book Breaks," in which they can share a favorite book, and maybe read a passage from it.
     I've ordered paper lanterns that we're going to string across the library, and we're creating a Read Across America-themed backdrop for the presentations that will take place during the reception and also serve as a photo op. There is a very long, old, heavy wood table in the library that we're going to place in the center of the room and decorate as the Mad Tea Party table. One of the strange things we found in the library's back room when I started working there was a full silver tea service, so of course we'll use that! Plus the Nonfiction section will be transformed into the Tulgey Wood. I'm making myself insane with all of this, but I think there's enough time to get it in order by February 29th.
     Incidentally, I recently finished reading Gregory Maguire's After Alice, and really enjoyed it. LOTS of food for thought. A very smart, multi-layered little book. Probably above the heads of most teens, though. It was almost over MY head.


The answer is yes.

          Our Back To School night is tonight, and just yesterday my principal emailed me to say, “The library will be open for Back To School Night, right?”
          I thought, “Crap...” But I wrote back, “Does that mean you’d LIKE it to be open?”
          So of course she wrote back, “Yes, I think that would be nice.”
          I sarcastically referred to myself as “Your Humble Library Servant,” and she responded by signing off as my, “Grateful Master.”
          The trade-off is that I get to leave early on Friday, which is a nice carrot to dangle before my scabby pink nose.
          But today I will have spent THIRTEEN HOURS at work by the time I leave. Hello, Baby Jesus? Are you watching? I hope so.
          So here I sit.
          Back To School is when the parents have to go class-to-class, meeting all their kids’ teachers, so there’s not really free time left for the library. But having said that, I’ve already had about 20 kids in here (mostly 7th graders), and several parents, and it’s not even half over. I’ve even been checking books out. So... you know, whatever. I guess being here won’t KILL me.
          I’m processing new books. A bunch of Kerouac one of the teachers donated. That was exciting because being a college prep school with some angsty philosophers, I’ve been asked for Kerouac before, and been empty-handed.
          Just had a chatty father in here. He’s a nice guy, and came to my last signing at a local comic shop (promoting issue #1 of The Royal Historian of Oz) with his daughter and son. His daughter is now my 3rd period Library Aide. He wanted to tell me he read my graphic novel, Skelebunnies, and thought it was really funny. That happens to be my filthiest work to date, and I WARNED him when his daughter came up to me at the signing with it, but he said it was okay. I signed it, “I’m terribly sorry for all the horrible things you’ll see in this book.” For example, my parody of Hello Kitty/My Little Pony, which is called “My Little Penis.”
          And now that poor girl is my Library Aide. But she’s cool enough not to be scared. Or scarred.
          Her father said she was excited to get to be my Library Aide. I had her doing non-fiction inventory today for a full hour, which is tedious, and she didn’t even complain. She gets bonus points for that.
          45 minutes left of Back To School Night.  Sigh...
          One of my teacher friends is telling her new little 7th graders that I’m a writer/artist, so they’re coming in and asking me about it. Since I’m not in self-promotion mode when I’m at work, and I’ve been at work for ALMOST 13 HOURS STRAIGHT, I’m kind of slow to respond. I’m like, “Oh, well, yeah. I write and sometimes illustrate comics.”
          The tiny 7th graders stare expectantly while I continue methodically putting clear contact paper covers on the new paperbacks. I finally catch on.
          “Oh! Did you want to see some of them?”
          So I show them Wonderland and Royal Historian, which are the only 2 school library appropriate things I’ve done. We do NOT have Skelebunnies in the school library.
          I notice a kid reading my hand-made poster explaining the “spine label” and “call number” of a library book. Good. Every child should learn what a call number is.
          The attendance clerk just called me, and apparently two of our parents' cars were broken into this evening, right across the street.  This shit just got real.  Is Back To School Night over, yet?!