I had my very own You’ve Got Mail moment this weekend. Not the my-online-lover-turned-out-to-be-Tom-Hanks-and-we-lived-happily-ever-after kind of moment. (I don’t know that my version of “happily ever after” ever included Tom Hanks.) Remember that scene when Kathleen is in Fox Books and she overhears a conversation between a woman and an employee?
WOMAN SHOPPER Do you have the "Shoe" books? SALESPERSON The "Shoe" books? Who's the author? WOMAN SHOPPER I don't know. My friend told me my daughter has to read the "Shoe" books, so here I am. KATHLEEN Noel Streatfeild. Noel Streatfeild wrote Ballet Shoes and Skating Shoes and Theater Shoes and Movie Shoes... (she starts crying as she tells her) I'd start with Skating Shoes, it's my favorite, although Ballet Shoes is completely wonderful. SALESPERSON Streatfeild. How do you spell that? KATHLEEN S-T-R-E-A-T-F-E-I-L-D. WOMAN SHOPPER Thank you.
It was one of those moments. A beautiful, book-sharing moment that left me all tingly.
I was in the children’s section of Barnes and Noble (because I wanted to see if they had any new Gail Carson Levine books). Instead of an ignorant salesperson, it was a mother, a father, and their daughter. I overheard the girl say to her parents, “I want to get a Redwall book. I can tell you the author when we get home. My friend let me borrow hers and I really liked it.”
“A Redwall book?” her mother responded. “I’ve never even heard of those. If you like them, we’ll definitely have to find out who wrote them. I don’t know when we’ll be able to come back here, though.”
As the Redwall books are among my favorites, and fabulously underrated, I chimed in, “Excuse me. I couldn’t help overhearing–the Redwall books are by Brian Jacques.” I spelled his name, just like Kathleen did. “They were my favorites when I was little. There’s a whole bunch of them–it even used to be a TV show in the Nineties.”
The woman perked up, turning to her husband. “Really? A TV show? Did you ever hear about that? And there’s a bunch of books. This is great! Brain Jacques, you said? Thank you very much!”
I wanted to go on, to tell her what I’d heard about Jacques writing the first books for blind children, and how he’d read them and use all the different voices. I wanted to name a few of my favorites–Redwall, Mossflower, Lord Brocktree, Marlfox, Mattimeo, The Outcast of Redwall–but I didn’t want to be the weird woman who detained them next to a cardboard cutout of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Better to let the girl discover the books on her own, right?
But the funny thing about that experience was that it left me feeling light. I’d helped someone, in a small way. I’d made three people smile by sharing the name of an author with them. That’s why I review books: to share them with whoever I can, in the hope that they can smile and revel in new worlds like I have.
(Fun Fact: You can find the entire You’ve Got Mail script, where I got that excerpt, here.)