The End Is Actually Just the . . .

Birds of Paradise, children's illustrated book

© Shelley Steinle, Birds of Paradise

I never would have guessed that the third stage of publishing a kid’s picture book – the stage in which I actually read said book to kids, would produce knocking knees and sweaty palms.

But last week I found myself at my grandson’s elementary school, nearly ending my children’s book career at the front desk.

“Have you been here before?” the school secretary/security guard/frowning matron asked me after I’d buzzed in and the door unlocked so I could sign in.

“Yes! I pick up my grandkids from time to time,” I answered with aplomb.

“Have you filled the CORI form?” The question popped out like the sound of a BB gun.

“Um?” I answered.

“The Adult Personal Criminal Record Request Form,” the lady responded, truly not interested in the fact that I was shaking in my shoes, now afraid that I wouldn’t have a chance to fulfill my grandson’s dream – to have his grandmother share her story with his classmates. “All volunteers must fill it,” she added.

The sweet woman finally relented when I explained that I had an approved form from children's illustrated bookanother town where I teach (“Legally, doesn’t count – we need one for each school district,” she explained a bit more gently) and after I showed her my book.

Released, I walked down the institutional hallway, through one double doorway, then another, turned left, then right, and then – the elementary library.

As I stood at the front of the library’s reading room, I watched a gaggle of 7-year-olds walk into the room, whispers following them: “We have a guest!” “Who is she?” Clark had requested that his teacher and the librarian keep my visit a secret until he had a chance to introduce me.

book signing, elementary library, Birds of ParadiseAfter the kids sat at their place on a marked alphabet rug (“I’m an “O”; “I’m the S”), the librarian requested Clark to stand next to me and announce the special guest.

“My grandmother wrote us a book,” he said proudly but with a little quiver to his voice. “She’s going to read it to us now.” He sank down on the rug, rung out.

“Nice, Clark, but will you please tell your classmates your grandmother’s name?” the librarian said.

Clark popped up and stared at me like a deer in headlights. I could literally see the question mark over his head. He leaned toward me and in a stage whisper asked, “Madre, what’s your name?!”

I stage whispered back, “Madre to you, Ms. Wight to others.” A look of comprehension flooded his face. His grandmother was not just “Madre”!elementary library, reading in a library, book signing

Finally, I began. Twenty pairs of eyes stared at me and the pictures in the book as I read the story of Bert and Bessie. Their eyes widened when the cat caught Bert’s tail. Their expressions glowed when Bessie stood up for the bullied Bert. My voice grew stronger as I realized these 1st graders loved my story.

Not only did I receive applause at the end of the reading, many students bellowed out “Bravo. Bravo!” as I read the last page, “The End Is Actually Just the Beginning.”

Birds of Paradise, Pamela S. Wight

© Shelley Steinle, illustrator.

But the true success of the day? Clark’s chest puffed in pride.

     His grandmother was an author.

     And his friends thought that made him special.

Me? I walked through the double doors and back out into the spring weather with feet as light as feathers and with shoulders that sprouted wings.

Birds of Paradise, 3rd grade readingAnd then, I did it all again the next day for my granddaughter’s 3rd grade class.

Those students spent 10 minutes after the story discussing the meaning of “the end is  actually just the beginning.” One boy shouted out definitively: “It means SEQUEL!”

My wings grew another inch.

Birds of Paradise, Pamela S. Wight

156 thoughts on “The End Is Actually Just the . . .

    • Not sure I can handle the stress of another grandkid reading – much harder than when I did readings of my adult books! :-0 Thanks so much for your comments – really fun having you here, and I had a great time over at your site.

  1. How sweet! This brought back such wonderful memories of reading from one of my books to my grandson´s grade three class. He also got to introduce me. I´ll never forget what he said. “Today we have a special guest. Her name is Darlene Foster and she has written two books and is working on a third, and she is my grandmother.” It was all I could do to hold back the tears. Definitely a dream come true! I just love reading to classrooms, the icing on the cake for a writer. You will have many more of these opportunities!

    • Who knew that reading in classrooms was more pressure-cooked than at an adult gathering? Well, you did! And your grandson was well-schooled in his grandmother’s name. A friend just told me that her grandson doesn’t know her ‘real’ name, but he knows the name of his other grandmother, who uses it as the password for him to get the TV clicker!!! Now that’s true blackmail. :-0

      • How clever of that grandmother! When my grandchildren arrived, I had them call me Grandma Darlene as I didn´t feel ready to be called Omi, Grandma, Nan or Granny etc. I only just recently realized that Madre is Spanish for mother or matron. I love it and think it is wonderful that it´s the term your grandchildren use for you! We just had Dai de le Madre here in Spain.

        • Yes, Grandma Darlene. 😉 My daughter spent a college year in Florence, Italy and ever since she’s called me Madre, so she wanted her children to do the same. I love it.

  2. This is just great Pamela. Such a heartwarming post, especially the part about your grandson not realizing you had an actual name other than what he knows you by…. delightful. Cutest photos too. If you can hold that audience of kids, real time, and obviously the book and you, did that and more, you got yourself a winner of a book! Congrats!

    Peta

    • Peta, I have a feeling that children can be the toughest audience of all. They don’t hold back on what they think. Perhaps that’s why I was so nervous, and then so skippingly happy when they clapped and shouted at the end of the reading!!

    • Yes, that’s what we writers try to do, Mary. Share the joy, triumphs, but also failures and difficulties in living a full existence. I have learned much from your blog, for sure.

  3. Just so you know, authors are celebrities to children at school!!! Now that you’ve done it twice you should feel more confident reading to other children in school. The hard part is over!!! You passed with flying colors!!!

    • I didn’t know that, Karen. But obviously you do because your career was teaching in an elementary school. I wonder why that attitude changes, when children become adults? Authors should be celebrities to us all. So, next month, I’m reading at the Tiburon Library Storytime. Gulp. Any suggestions? 🙂

  4. Love the moment when he is asked your name. It’s moments like those when a child starts to see someone as more than just a grandmother, more than just a mother, etc. and starts to see someone as a more complex human.

    Well done, to both of you!

    • Seeing the comprehension light in a child’s eyes – a moment of maturity, indeed, and of a little boy growing into a man. Sigh. But don’t we kind of wish we could keep the complexity out? ;-0
      Many thanks for your comments – wonderful. xo

  5. I got all teary-eyed, Pam! Such a wonderful post. I love how proud your grandson was–and how cute that he had to ask your name.
    (The school security thing though–sigh.)

    • The school security thing is an example of the sad, insecure, fearful times we live in. How awful is that? But on the other hand, of course, rather safe than sorry…
      I love how 7-year-olds are still open to being in awe of writing and a good story. Isn’t that miraculous?

  6. What a great story and special memory for you and your grandchildren. They will always talk about the day you read your book to their classes! And congratulations to you too for publishing such a wonderful children’s book! And now you have a mandate – SEQUEL!

  7. Love both stories! I bought 3 books and gave them as gifts, everyone ( young and older) loved the story. I’m ordering more today! It’s the perfect gift! So proud of you Ms Wight!

  8. How marvelous, number one to accomplish writing a children’s book and number two to have the delightful experience of being seen by your grandchildren not only as a well loved Madre but an author! Congratulations.

    • Thank you so much for your words of congrats and love, Bernadette. For when we applaud each other’s accomplishments, small and large, we are showing love. I worry about sounding too ‘proud,’ but I think it’s important to share the importance of grandparent/grandchild relationships. We do make a difference in our own small sweet ways.

  9. Oh Wow.. I can just feel the pride and the nerves of Clark as he introduced you.. And what a joy to read your book to both classes.. And ‘Sequel’.. a Great compliment.. 🙂 Brilliant.. 🙂 Well done.. 🙂

    • I’ve noticed that just about all 7-year-olds are adorable. Their eyes are so wide open – watching and learning about the world all around them. But yes, in about 20 years I could hire the “SEQUEL” kid to be my agent. HA HA. xo

  10. I felt EVERY single emotion along with you, even Clark’s. The photos are adorable and that smart boy’s comment at the end: “It means sequel.” Well, just icing on the cake. Brava, Pam!

    • And if you’re like me, Marian, we like lots of icing on our cake. 😉 Thank you for your enthusiasm. And I think that’s the word right there – it’s so neat to feel the ENTHUSIASM of 7-year-olds! xo

  11. Oh my goodness i have goosebumps reading this. Bravo indeed I say. I love your grandson’s discovery that you are not just Madre. Bless his little heart. I think you have received the highest praise of all and a request for a sequel! I can only imagine how light those feet of yours felt. Congratulations!

    • Love the goosebumps, Sue. Yes, who knew that my biggest accomplishment would be keeping a roomful of 7-year-olds engaged and excited about a couple of birds? The world does work in mysterious ways.

  12. You are a rock star to your grandchildren, Pamela. What a beautiful post. It moved me and I too felt your grandson’s panic when he didn’t know what to call you. Such a beautiful story about your first experiences of sharing your book with children.

    • Thank you so much Patricia! I know that you -who knows so much about children’s books – can understand the joy of reading my first illustrated children’s book to a group of seven-year-olds. The best audience ever! 🤗

  13. Absolutely wonderful and my heartiest “Congratulations” on the publishing of your Bert and Bessie book! Little kids are a great audience as their reactions and comments are still spontaneous. Thank you for your vignette–it made a great start to my day!

    • Many thanks for enjoying my post about my nervous (at first) reading to a group of seven-year-olds. Their spontaneity and acceptance are what made the afternoon so fantastic! 💚

  14. Wow! What a moment of delight, pride and accomplishment! Congratulations Pam, I am sure your grandkids would treasure this memory, which would have got entrenched in their hearts! The way you have related this story brought many smiles to my face. Thanks for making it so special, all your emotions have been penned superbly! Love your style! 🙂

    • Thank YOU for your smiles as you read my post. That just made it all worthwhile. We grandparents need to stick together and relate the stories of how important it is to be part of our grandkids lives. XO

  15. Sometimes they leave us speechless. in kindergarten, when I volunteered to read a story, my grandson wanted “The night before Christmas.” When he announced me he said, “My grandmother has memorized this entire book.” i did have the book in hand, and probably glanced at it as ti turned the pages, pointing the pictures toward them, but fortunately most of the kids recited the story along with me.

    • I laughed out loud when I read your comment here, Paula. Talk about being put on the spot! Thank goodness you knew that book so well. Yikes! I would have been in big trouble if I’d been asked to read my book from memory. 😲

  16. Congratulations on the wonderful (and well-deserved) reception you had from your grandchildren’s classmates. Hopefully the receptionist at the front desk is reading this post as well.

    • I doubt that the receptionist knows about my blog. I kind of felt sorry for her, because she’s only following the school’s policy. Isn’t it sad though that we’ve come to this? But on the wonderful news-I had a ball once I finally got through the school’s doors. 😉

  17. What a great experience! I remember how terrified I used to be when, as a fledgling librarian, I had to stand up in front of classes of children and teach them how to use the library. But after a while it was easy and kids can be such an enjoyable audience! I can imagine how great you must have felt when you walked out.

    • You are so right, Andrea. Huge relief when I walked back out those school doors. But also a great joy, as you expressed here after you learned the ropes as a school librarian. 💕

  18. A story made into a story. I know that your grandson and you were equally proud of each other. This must have been quite a day for you. And yes, that child was right, a sequel is in order.

    • Thank you, Martha!! I’ll be talking more about my ordeal, er, I mean my experience, publishing an illustrated children’s book at the Weston Library on May 24. Would be fun to see you there!

  19. Yeah!! What a wonderful introduction by your grandson…you so proud of him and vice versa. How sweet that he didn’t know your name and I love this about younger children, why complicate the matters when you are ‘madre’! Great they all loved your story and how could they not! And a sequel…how brilliant and of course!

    • You’re making me smile, Annika. Thank you for your enthusiastic applause of my elementary school book reading. I actually wrote this post with your encouragement for me to write about my book signing experience at the bookstore. I guess I’ll get to that one later, but was still reliving the fear and then relief of this book reading experience. 🤓
      By the way, because of you I am reading Britt-Marie. I’m glad you told us to stick through the first quarter of the book. I am more than halfway done now and glad I did.

  20. Such a touching affirmation of your relationships with your grandchildren and your success as an author. The children LOVE your children’s book, how perfect is that! And I love it too! I will have to have at least one copy signed!

    • You are making me blush, Nancy. But of course! I would be happy to sign a copy of my book for you. After the book reading at the elementary school, kids came up and asked me for my “autograph.” I thought that was really adorable. And touching. ❤️

  21. What a beautiful, heartwarming post…so full of love and therefore nervousness because you want the best outcome for your grand kids, never mind yourself! And of course…love like that always wins through. What a precious experience to have had – I can well imagine you felt ready to fly! 🙂 BRAVO indeed! And I have to say, I’m rather in awe of you and the children for getting a taste for that wonderful truth ‘the end is actually just the beginning’. Imagining those kids exploring that the way kids do’ fearlessly, deeply, playfully, wildly…well I tell you – goosebumps!!! Pleasure and philosophy all in one…I’d say not a bad days work! So, that bright idea, you know, of a sequel…. 😉 Love and congratulations, Harula x

    • Thanks for understanding and even feeling the apprehension that I had before I began the book reading to the seven-year-olds, Harula. Pure terror, as a matter of fact! Maybe that’s why I felt so light on my feet afterwards. And yes, as you say here, kids come up with the most touching philosophical thoughts just by being themselves. 🙏💚🙏💚

  22. I loved this post, Pam. You are one happening grandma! I’ll be thinking of this when I do an author reading at a library next Saturday, although my audience probably won’t be as delightful as yours. 🙂

    • Please let me know how your book reading goes, Jennifer! I really like to hear about how other authors deal with the nervousness of sharing the words from their soul that are now imprinted in a book. Plus, I’m doing a library presentation and reading on this book in a couple of weeks. Any suggestions you have are appreciated. 😳 But first, good luck to you. 🤓

  23. Adorable! Clark learned you have a name other than Madre, that must have been eye opening for him 🙂 It’s like when I saw a high school teacher downtown one day and realized she had a life outside of the classroom 😉

    • Yes, Christy, its just like that. We do tend to place people in a little cube when we only see them in one setting, like as a high school teacher, or as a grandmother. It is so cool when that cube opens up. 😉

  24. So glad this went well! I’ll bet Bert and Bessie almost flew right out of their book-home they were so excited. Stories hatch out of you faster than bird eggs. 🙂

  25. Pamela, this was a heartwarming post with happy endings which are truly beginnings.
    Your grandson is very handsome and how cool was this? He wanted you to be a surprise! 🙂
    The fact your granddaughter has the same opportunity the next day really touched me. I like being able to visit on grandparents days at school. I’m not sure if my grandchildren know my last name either! Fun times which will live on forever in their memories, dear. Wonderful week, fantastic launch! xo

    • Thank you for your delightful comments here, Robin! I have heard from several grandparents who now realize that their grandchildren have no idea what their “real” name is. I truly don’t mind being Madre for the rest of their life, but it’s also a good learning experience for our grandkids to realize that we grand mothers have lots going on in our lives and still have lots to offer. 😘

  26. Your grandchildren are so lucky to have a special grandmother who writes books! What a lovely experience, Pam. I’m going to bring my copy when I visit my granddaughter in June. I can’t wait to read it to her, it is such a delightful story. I loved looking for the lady bug on each page. Looking forward to a sequel!

    • I am absolutely thrilled that you are enjoying my book, Barbara. You don’t know how much that means to me. And I’m even more thrilled that you’ll get to share this with your adorable granddaughter. 😍

  27. OK, this one simultaneously elicited a smile-laugh combo with a welling of tears.

    I really felt this. You have an extraordinary way of choosing the right words. I think it must be magic.

    Couldn’t be happier for you (and your grandkids … and everyone else who gets to share these moments with you — including us!).

    • I’m not sure what is the best feeling after publishing a book. I do remember the joy that I experienced when the story flew from my fingers and pen onto paper. And I remember the elation when I found an illustrator who loved the story and wanted to capture the birds’ expressions through her pen and ink. Viewing the combination of our words and drawings in the final hardback copy was an experience of… Completion! But yes, seeing the wondrous expressions on the eyes of the seven-year-olds who listened to my reading of the book – incomparable.
      Many many thanks for your wonderful comments here. So glad we have connected through our blogs. xo

  28. Loved reading about your experience, Pamela. Well done to you. It must have been so rewarding to see that the children really enjoyed your story reading. Your grandchildren must have been bursting with pride. 🙂 xx

  29. I love reading to a group of children and used to do it all the time when I was teaching. You grandson was bursting with pride when he introduced his famous grandmother.

    • Thanks, Gerlinde. Do you still do some volunteering in schools? I can imagine that you’re a terrific out-loud reader and that the kids would love you.
      When my daughter asked Clark how the day went (after I read in his library class) he told her: “Best day of my life.” W O W. At least I was a celebrity for one day in his eyes. 🙂

  30. Congrats on you such a successful author visit! Your grandson is adorable. Your illustrations are gorgeous. 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Kourtney. The illustrations by my friend Shelley are getting all sorts of notice, and now she’s been asked to include them in an art show in her hometown. I’m so happy for her!

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