It's no surprise to anyone who's ever read this blog that I love reading. My house is filled with books. As far back as I can remember, I have loved books and reading. Something I have enjoyed doing over the years is going to hear my favorite authors reading from their latest book and then signing them after wards. My shelves are filled with books signed by writers like Toni Morrison, Reynolds Price, Annie Dillard and Kazuo Ishiguro among others. So when the opportunity to take Cava to see one of his favorite writers, Robert Beatty, and get his latest book Serafina and the Twisted Staff signed. I was thrilled to drive him to Barnes and Noble.
We bought the first in the series, Serafina and the Black Cloak, at one of the Scholastic book sales at his school. I knew how much Cava loved this book while I was reading it to him because he would ask, "What's going to happen next?" (a question every writer wants their reader to ask) and then, "Will you read the next chapter to me?"
The books we read during childhood have the hugest impacts in our lives. These books can help shape and define us in a way that no other books can. We invest more of ourselves in those books than any we will read after then. I know this because the books I read as a kid (Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time, Charlotte's Web) still have a strong place in my heart and imagination even after all these years, which is why I am happy when I get to share them with my own kids. Having spent most of his formative years in orphanages, Cava missed out on a lot of books that most of us take for granted growing up, so when he latches onto a book or book series it does my Papa heart proud.
For those who are unfamiliar with this New York Times bestseller, it is set in one of my favorite cities, Asheville, at the Biltmore Estate. I loved how Beatty interwove his mystery thriller with historical figures, like George Vanderbilt, with his fictional ones, such as the main character. Both Cava and I were asking each other about what we thought was going to happen next and I loved how it kept us both guessing and asking more questions and talking about what we'd read. All of those are qualities of a great book. When we'd finished, we couldn't wait until it's sequel, Serafina and the Twisted Staff came out.
The Barnes and Noble where the book signing was held was packed with people. I was afraid that Cava, not one who deals well with crowds or waiting, would not be able to handle it but would feel overwhelmed and want to leave. We got our wristbands as soon as we walked in the door and were told that we would be in group eight. Each group had thirty people in it. There would be thirty groups total. I knew we were going to be there awhile. The event didn't start until six pm and we had gotten there shortly after five and had not eaten dinner. Still, Cava was excited by the opportunity to meet a real author and one who'd written a book he loved.
Before the event even started, Cava spotted the author and darted over to introduce himself to him. that boy is not shy. He just couldn't wait to tell him how much he liked his book.
When he came back over to me, Cava was beaming his big Cava smile. "I shook a real author's hand! It was so awesome!"
Mr. Beatty was introduced and he told everyone about his latest work and showed the trailer for Serafina and the Twisted Staff. Then he asked if anyone had a question for him. Cava's hand shot up. "Will they be making Serafina into a movie?" This was a question he had asked me all throughout our reading the book and he hoped that the answer would be, "Yes." While there are some producers that have shown interest, there is not a film in the works to Cava's dismay. "Disney published the book," he told me, "so they should make a movie of it!" "I think Mr. Beatty would agree with you," I replied.
Since we had not eaten dinner before we got there, Cava was relieved that they had some free snacks (cookies, brownies, and small squares of pizza) and either tea or water to drink. He was disappointed that he couldn't get one of each type of cookie, brownie and pizza but could only get one cookie, one brownie and one tiny square of pizza. Of course when he was quickly done with his, I gave him mine.
Since we had plenty of time to wait, I let him browse the bookstore. He was content since he can be worse than me about doing this and he was continually showing me something new that he wanted to get and tried to persuade me to buy him along with the copy of Serafina and the Twisted Staff, but to no avail.
The event was only supposed to last from six pm until nine pm, but our group was called shortly before nine (and we were only in the eighth out of thirty, mind you) so I knew that wasn't going to happen. We got in our line of thirty and Cava kept telling me, "I'm sooo excited! I'm soooo excited!" I was glad that he was after having patiently waited for so long, which is not what he's best at (I guess it helped to be waiting in a bookshop). I was happy to see him this way and, if I had gotten to meet one of my favorite childhood authors (such as Madeleine L'Engle) when I was a kid, I would've been the same way.
Robert Beatty was personable and talked with Cava as he was signing his book. He started off with, "I remember you from our talk earlier. Thank you for being so patient." I informed him that this was such a big deal for Cava to meet one of his favorite authors and, like a trooper, waited.
As he asked Cava how he liked the first book and a little about himself, it came out that Cava was from Ukraine.
Upon hearing this, Mr. Beatty reached into his leather courier's bag and pulled out a special Serafina pin, like the one he wore on his jacket, and a Serafina notebook. "You can write your own story in this," he said as he showed it to Cava.
This super charged Cava's imagination and the whole ride home he was asking me how old you had to be to become an author, and how he wanted to write books and have them made into movies, and how he was going to write a story about a boy who gets lost in the forest and is befriended by talking animals (like owls and falcons and hawks). He told me the name of his main character would be George. "I can't believe he was so nice," he said of Robert Beatty, "he signed my book and gave me that pin and that notebook and talked to me." This clearly made a big impression on a young boy who is still unsure of his own worth. I am grateful that Mr. Beatty was so generous with his time and got to to know a little about each of his readers as he signed their books. I'm sure he was exhausted and his hand was cramped by the time he was done.
When we got home, I opened up Cava's copy of the book to see what the author had inscribed to him. The inscription read:
It was so good to meet you!
"Stay bold!" is a line from the book the characters tell each other whenever they feel discouraged and think about giving up. It's an apt line for Cava in his own life.
The official website for the books and its author can be found at:
The official book trailer for Serafina and the Black Cloak:
The official book trailer for Serafina and the Black Cloak:
The official book trailer for Serafina and the Twisted Staff: