I was selling and signing books at a recent event, and a grandmother was perusing my table, asking various questions. She was looking at my picture books for her kindergarten-aged grandkids, but she also had a fourth-grade grandson.
I’m not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but I recently released the third book in the Sycamore Detective Agency series. It just came out last week. I think your family will like the series, and I was pretty sure her grandson would, too. So, I was trying to steer her in that direction.
I showed her the books, highlighting the shiny yellow cover of Case Number Three, hot off the press, and inquired about his reading level. I asked what kind of chapter books he was reading.
She responded that she didn’t know.
Trying a different angle, I inquired about what I consider to be the modern universal benchmark for assessing elementary-grade reading ability. (Plus, I just like mentioning my books in the same conversation as hers.)
“Has he read any of the Harry Potter books yet?” I asked.
That’s when things got weird.
She said, with total conviction, “Oh, I hope not. I hate Harry Potter.”
To me, as a father, an author, and a human, this idea simply did not register.
I hate Harry Potter. The strange words rang in my ears.
She may as well have said, “I hate water,” or “Puppies are ugly,” or “I hate babies and pizza.” Any one of those things would have made as much or more sense to me.
I was so flummoxed by her comment, I wasn’t even able to continue the conversation. I simply didn’t know what to say.
If she had said, “I’m not sure. I’m not really too much of a fan of those books,” or, “I don’t know. I’ve never read any of them myself,” I might have been able to move forward with the chat. But she didn’t say that.
What she said was she hopes her grandson never reads those books because she hates them. I sure as hell wasn’t going to ask why! I have a life to lead, and in my mind, any person who is going to utter the words “I hate Harry Potter,” is a complete and total conversational and emotional wild card. Asking “Why?” would have been like pulling the pin on a “possibly dead” grenade.
Now, I realize that it takes all kinds to make this world go around, but I wasn’t even aware that this kind existed. Maybe I’ve been living in a literary bubble, but to me, Harry Potter is like a default setting. It’s the taco of the book world. Everyone likes it. At the very least, in the elementary school literary world.
With my mind spinning listlessly into the new reality of the existence of Potter Haters, I struggled to regain equilibrium on my life and on the task at hand – selling my books. After taking a drink of water and willing myself not to run away from my own author table in fear for my life, I said the only logical thing there was left to say.
“These books are nothing like Harry Potter.”
I signed all three of them, “Good luck, kid. You can read these when you’re locked in the closet under the stairs at Grandma’s house.”
See you soon,
Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen
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