Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Our Memorable Family Reading Experience at Patricia Polacco's House • Union City, Michigan

My wife and I said, "We gotta go!" when we learned that Patricia Polacco was opening her home for a day to allow her fans to tour the farm and have their books autographed. We weren't the only ones who viewed this as a once in a lifetime opportunity. Last Saturday, people from all over the country came to Union City, Michigan to meet an author and illustrator whose books have touched the lives of countless teachers, librarians, and families just like ours. We didn't know exactly what to expect as we pulled up Calhoun Street but once we turned into the driveway we knew it was going to be a memorable day.
We arrived at Patricia's farm at around 11:30am after a short two and half hour drive from Ohio.  My children were shocked when they saw all the cars and said, "Oh no! Look at all the people." I assured them it was going to be a fun day with so many people who love Patricia's books.
We have been to many book signings over the years and have stood in a few really long lines. Maybe I should have been worried about the length of the line, but I was overcome with excitement for the day. I could only think about everything I wanted to see. My wife was the smart one and jumped in line as I took the kids around the farm. Later, I was thankful that she took a spot in line because this would be the longest line we have ever waited in to meet an author.
The first thing I wanted to do was find Patricia's goats.
I was as excited as my children were to meet the goats since there are often goats featured in the illustrations of Patricia's books. We also got to see her horses and the cats in her cat house.
We returned to the line and all my children ate their lunch under a tree. I was too anxious to eat. While in line my wife noticed people leaving Patricia's house with maps of the neighborhood. I walked around and found someone to share their map with me. I saw that we could see the haunted house featured in The Graves Family, Patricia's art studio, and the meteor from Meteor!. I couldn't wait for my children to finish their lunches so we could go explore Patricia's neighborhood. 
My wife chose to stay in line while I went with my mom and all four of my children for a walk. We walked down Calhoun Street and at the corner of Calhoun and Park we saw The Graves Family house.
In The Graves Family, Doug and Shalleaux Graves and their five children moved in during the night.
"The town clock struck wildly and ran backwards, and the water in the fountain in the village turned crimson as their car drove by. The first thing the family did was to paint the house bloodred!"
Gargoyles met us at the gate!
The door knocker on the front door matched the one in the book. My mom knocked on the door but nobody answered. I was hoping Mr. Graves would answer so I could see his laboratory!
Spiders still live at the house! Mr. Graves was an amateur entomologist and collected spiders from all over the world.
We were so excited to see this house!
Of course, I had to read the book!
I was having a good time! I was reading how Mr. Graves invented a special liquid that was successful growing hair on a peach. 
After we finished the book we walked down Park St. to Barry St. and turned left.
We soon came to Patricia's studio!
What would we see inside?
After walking in we made a quick right and came to the room where Patricia creates the art for her books.
These are Patricia's art supplies and her work area!

Many of Patricia's books were on display. In the box, on the left, is the real Betty Doll and the doll on the right was one that someone made for Patricia. 
This is a replica of The Keeping Quilt. The original Keeping Quilt can be seen at the Mazza Museum in Findlay, Ohio.
I made them pose for another picture.
My boys marveled at the replica of a Thunder Cake. I think they were hungry.
Have you read Babushka's Doll? We meet a family from Oklahoma who expressed to us how much they love this book.
My oldest son suggested that we read another book in the gazebo. We read Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair.
I read, "'Look! It's raining books.' Sure enough as the crowd looked skyward, down came a shower of books. Fairy tales, classics, dictionaries, encyclopedias, fiction, non-fiction...Black books, brown ones, green ones, red ones, leather-bound, canvas-backed, paperback...Books, books, and more books."
My children were so happy their grandma was with them on this adventure.
After our time at Patricia's studio we walked down the street to Broadway and turned left.
Soon we entered Riverside Cemetery, the home of the famous meteor.
We speculated on how big the meteor would be. In the book, it seems larger than life, but we knew it couldn't be that big.
The meteor was pretty big! It now sits above the graves of many of the Gaw family members.
I read Meteor! at the cemetery. As I read, my son climbed onto the meteor without my knowledge.
"As it fell through the night sky, the geese honked their alarm, the chickens cackled, and the goats bleated and jumped wildly about."
In Meteor!, many townspeople claimed the meteor gave them a special energy after they touched it. This photo is of our hands and was taken by another fan of Patricia's visiting the meteor. We felt an abundance of positive energy that day, not just from the meteor.

"As the folks left the Gaw farm that day they all felt something special. They were changed somehow, inspired by the act of touching something that had flown across the galaxy."
After the cemetery we returned to Calhoun St. and walked back to Patricia's farm.
We were so thankful the rain clouds stayed away on this beautiful Saturday afternoon.
When we returned, I was surprised that my wife hadn't moved very far in the book signing line. She suggested that we take the opportunity to sit on the swing on the porch.
Shortly thereafter, around 2pm, many of Patricia's friends brought around popsicles for everyone. The rumor was that they bought every popsicle in three neighboring cities!
With the line not moving, Grandma suggested we take mom around Patricia's neighborhood while she stood in line. So, we took mom to see Patricia's studio.
My boys!
More positive energy! I wonder what good will happen to us since we touched the meteor?
When we returned there were three horse drawn carriages giving rides around the property. My daughter went at least three times!
At this point we felt like we were getting closer to seeing Patricia so we posed for yet another picture.
We reached her front door at 4:35pm after five hours in line. 
Once we got inside we were invited to see the room where Patricia write her books.
Her boxes of story ideas! Can you imagine what is inside?
A view from Patricia's word processor looking out the second story window.
There was plenty to look at on this shelf in her writing room.
I felt very honored to be there.
When we returned downstairs we each selected the books we wanted Patricia to sign. My son chose Casey at the Bat and my daughter chose Thank you, Mr. Falker. My oldest two children found a nice little nook to read their books underneath Patricia's stairs in the foyer.
A short distance away, Patricia was signing books in the dining room.
My daughter and I found a spot to read The Trees of the Dancing Goats.
 By this time it was 5:30pm, six hours in line, and my son fell asleep in Patricia's formal living room while my daughter read The Bee Tree with grandma.
An hour later, after seven hours in line, we waited in the kitchen. We were next to meet Patricia Polacco!
My youngest was up first. Patricia asked her name and autographed Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair for her.
It was funny to me that we continued in order from youngest to oldest.
Patricia signed as many books as you brought. This allowed my son to get a book signed as a gift for someone special.
I started reading Patricia's books to my oldest daughter when she was four or five years old. Now she is twelve and was very excited to meet her.
I was very excited too. I thanked Patricia for providing a memorable day for my family. She chuckled at "memorable" and apologized for the long wait. I reassured her that we had a great time and that the long line was just part of the amazing experience.
My mom got a book signed too! My mom told Patricia that she read twelve of her books during the car ride from Ohio to Michigan.

It was 7pm! How did we feel? We felt great! It was a fun day that we will never forget!

It is my understanding that Patricia expected about 100 people to attend this event. It was advertised only on Facebook. The latest estimate is that over 3,500 people visited her farm on July 22, 2017. We met people from Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas, and Georgia. One described it as a "bucket list" event. 

I was impressed with the hospitality of Patricia's family and friends. We were treated as important guests. I admired Patricia's willingness and determination to sign all of the books from every guest that waited in the line until the end. She reported on her Facebook page that she signed for over 12 hours, only stopping for restroom breaks and to take sips of water. She is an amazing lady!

The event signifies for me the power of children's literature. Everyone was there because Patricia's books touched their lives in some way. As I overheard someone say, "She is only person I would wait in line for over seven hours to meet, well, except maybe George Clooney."

Next year, Patricia's Meteor Festival will return. Follow her Facebook Page for more details.

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