Book Love | While on tour, author uncovers tales of readers’ connections

While on a book tour, two time Newberry Medal-winning author Kate DiCamillo discovered a number of stories in which her book “The Tale of Despereaux” had made life changing impacts on readers.

Two time Newbery Medal winner and beloved children’s author Kate DiCamillo has recently been sharing her notable author-reader encounters on her Facebook page. From young children and their parents to grown adults, many have shared how this spectacular author has changed their lives through reading. 

One of these encounters was with a peculiar young woman at the end of a signing event, reminiscing over one of DiCamillo’s most notable stories, “The Tale of Despereaux,” a story of a lonely mouse who finds a love for reading amidst his quest of saving a sad human girl, a princess.

“On Friday night in Saratoga Springs, New York, at an event with Northshire Books, the last person in the line was a young woman who became a reader because a substitute teacher read aloud to her class from ‘The Tale of Despereaux,’” DiCamillo said. “This woman came all the way from Arizona for the signing that night. She told me her story, showed me her tattoo (of Despereaux standing atop a pile of books) and I was truly speechless. All I could think to do was to stand up and hug her—one reader to another.

Stories are light. And also, can I say? This woman is a reader because someone read to her.”

DiCamillo hadn’t known this woman personally previous to this meeting, but now, because of one story, they were connected in a way by a single phrase, “Stories are light.” This also points to the importance that children, people, everyone, must be read to. Connections can happen by chance. This woman could have walked by this book a thousand times before, but because that one teacher stepped up and took it into their hands, taking the time to read it to the class, this special moment was able to happen.

Another such meeting happened a few weeks previous in another signing line.

“At the Barnes and Noble in Frisco, Texas, last Saturday night, Elijah was the bookseller who assisted me in the signing line. Every time Elijah handed me a stack of books, he smiled at me—a radiant, beautiful smile,” DiCamillo said. “And when we were done, he handed me his own books—the ones he had read when he was a kid—for me to sign. He told me that ‘The Tale of Despereaux,’ in particular, really mattered to him. He was small for his age when he read it. The book, he said, let him know he was capable of heroic acts, no matter his size. ‘You smiled at me every time you handed me a book,’ I said. ‘Is that why?’ ‘That’s why,’ he said. There he was—this grown man—standing in front of me, smiling. I could see the boy he had been. I was so grateful to be connected to him by a mouse, a story, books.”

Another wonderous connection had been made. This man was able to connect with DiCamillo’s character in such a personal way that it impacted the way he saw that story to this very day. While this collection may be small (pun not intended) it was just enough to bring this young man into the story in a way that influenced his outlook on both the book and his own life, hinting at the power that words have on readers of all shapes and sizes.

Once again, DiCamillo was met with a pair of readers pondering over their connections with “The Tale of Despereaux.”

“In Doylestown, at a signing with the Doylestown Bookshop, a mother and son come through the line with a copy of ‘The Tale of Despereaux.’ Mother: My son read this book first. And then he made me read it. Me (to the boy): Is that true? Boy: Yes. Mother: I’m not a reader. But I read this book, and then I just kept right on reading. I’m a reader now! Me: So, your son turned you into a reader? Mother: Yes. Me (to the boy): What a gift. Thank you. Boy: I just liked the book a lot and I wanted her to like it, too.”

Such a short meeting with these readers, but the impact was clear. People can say they’re not “readers” but like someone once said, they just haven’t found the right book yet. In this situation, because of her son, the mother had been shown the light, the feeling of finally finding the right book.

“That’s what it’s all about,” DiCamillo said. “That’s everything.”

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