A gorgeous spring day, a recently relocated indie bookstore to explore and a favorite author on stage—my bookloving family was very lucky to have an unrelated agenda item on the calendar, putting us in Portland, May 2, for the inaugural Independent Bookstore Day, and we took advantage of the synchronicity.
Coming up on 41 years next month, A Children’s Place Bookstore is Portland’s oldest living kids’ store, but it’s been breaking in new digs just the past couple of months.
And that author we came to see take the whimsical mural-backed stage? Maggie Stiefvater. Stiefvater dropped in while on tour with her author and roadtrip sidekick, Jackson Pearce. The two well-known YA writers have collaborated on a new book for middle readers, Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures.
In the book, Pip Bartlett is an animal lover and, yes, animal speaker, who is thrilled to be heading for a summer stay with her equally animal-loving aunt. Auntie’s surprise for Pip is that she actually runs a veterinary clinic for magical creatures.
In real life, Maggie and Jackson gleaned animal inspiration via a backwoods Georgia “zoo” where protocol allowed a giraffe to get its head into their car and across Jackson’s lap, snaking its neck in a cartoon-like manner to get to the snack cooler in the back seat.
The zoo recollections lead Maggie to memories of her mother’s back door farm feeding adventures where unexpected creatures might make an appearance from time-to-time: “Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, possum!”
The ladies already had a pretty good stand-up routine going when they invited audience participation (may as well, as one toddler kept climbing up to steal the spotlight, anyway). Maggie is the creator of the magical creatures illustrations for the book, so she pulled out the big flip pad while Jackson solicited creature features from audience members to craft a new beast of similar spirit. This proved difficult when faced with the incorporation of a tail that is both bushy and plated a-la the stegosaur.
“When you say squarish head, are we talking Margaret Thatcher or Minecraft?” A reasonable artist inquiry.