Out of the Wild Night by Blue Balliett Blue Balliett Pieces & Players Hold Fast by Blue Balliett The Danger Box by Blue Balliett The Calder Game by Blue Balliett The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
Nantucket Ghosts by Blue Balliett Blue Balliett Contact Blue Balliett Bio Blue Balliett Events Blue Balliett Awards & Reviews Blue Balliett Foreign Editions Blue Balliett Teacher Info Blue Balliett News


Thursday, September 30, 2010

The 10:60 Sign

Since I left Three Oaks 21 days ago, I’ve talked with thousands of kids in a wonderful array of schools.  It’s always intriguing to be a visitor in a school you don’t know, and I look forward to seeing what’s up on the walls and what the kids’ expressions are while they travel through the hallways.  Also, I love going into the school library and soaking up the atmosphere.  Libraries have gotten so exciting since I was a kid – at that time, you had to be quiet every second once you stepped in the door, there weren’t many comfortable places to sit, there was nothing on the walls and librarians did NOT chat with you.  Now school librarians do all kinds of cool and imaginative projects, and kids seem so relaxed with them – the librarian is almost like an extra friend, one who’s always good for encouragement and ideas.

Here I am in a sea of kids, about 550, in a gymnasium in a wonderful Illinois school.  The librarian reminded me of Ms. Hussey, and even though it was super hot in there, the kids were fabulous and filled with terrific questions. 

I did see an amazing danger box last week, in the form of an online ‘museum box’ that kids in another school were using to do projects that grew from my books.  It was incredible -- when you clicked on a section of the box, a cube spun around and showed you all the entries.  I remember a cube with many kinds of chocolate and a history of the Cadbury chocolate company (this coming from The Calder Game), and another with pictures and a history of Johannes Vermeer, Frank Lloyd Wright, Alexander Calder, Charles Darwin… you could spend ages unpacking and spinning all of the cubes in that box, and it was both magical and inviting.

Here I am standing in front of a mysterious bulletin board inside a school.

Last week I was thrilled to meet the Sign Maker for an unusual sign I photographed in Three Oaks almost two years ago, while doing research for the book. We were both so excited.  Although living elsewhere, this kid has lots of family in the town.  The sign has been traveling with me in my power point presentation -- through schools, national conferences and conventions -- and by now lots of people of all ages from many parts of the U.S. have seen it.  I’ve also posted it on my website (blueballiettbooks.com), which means it will be traveling to other countries.  I think of it as the 10:60 Sign.

I loved meeting the Sign Maker.  We agreed that when the sign was written and stapled to a telephone pole in town, it seemed unlikely that it would appear anyplace else.  You never know where an original piece of thinking may go, once out in the world.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

An old danger box and an odd idea

Three Oaks is a hard act to follow, but I then flew to New York City, signed some books and of course managed to find myself at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Wandering around all those delicious rooms filled with shape and color and so many dreams, I had a thought:  I'll keep my eye out for all danger boxes.

Here's one I spotted, hundreds of years old and made from worn leather.  It's Spanish, and is living on a balcony inside the Met, on the second floor.  I won't tell you exactly where, in case you want to go hunting.  I'll try to add a variety of boxes to this travel collection by taking a photo whenever I see one.  My husband Bill was with me here, and snapped this mysterious picture -- I would never have asked a stranger to do it.  I look very peculiar and possibly dangerous...

Bill and I play a game in museums, and if I'm with one of our kids they join in, too. We'll look around at whatever is there, and imagine, in our minds, that we can each take home one treasure.  At the end of our visit, we compare notes on which treasure each of us picked.

My treasure for this last visit, aside from the slightly scary Spanish danger box, was a very tiny painting by Edouard Vuillard of a woman sitting at a table covered with food. She looks completely happy to be where she is, and the colors and patterns that surround her are subtle and somehow private.  It's art that invites me in, and the image also feels like an ingredient in my own danger box, that is, my imagination.

Here are a few questions that just occurred to me:  Is your imagination an endlessly deep danger box?  And can you decide what to put in it, or do things simply fall in?  And if you take a treasure away in your memory and keep it, doesn't that make owning it seem unnecessary?

Here's a wild thought -- maybe more art thieves could be persuaded to forget about actually taking things, and start making their own danger boxes.  I'll have to ask the kids in Three Oaks what they think about that one.

Meanwhile, who knows what dangerous box or idea I'll run into next...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I begin in Three Oaks

September 9, 2010.

This is an amazing and touching start to a book tour -- I'm spoiled forever.  While I was researching The Danger Box, I had some wonderful visits with the Three Oaks kids.  I promised I'd be back to launch the book with them.  Here I am.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when they pulled out this banner, the coded message, and... my very own Danger Box!  Painted and labeled by the kids, it was packed with everything I could possibly need -- notebook, purple pens (essential, how did they know I hadn't found any yet?), a plaque from the kids that I'll keep forever, a gift certificate from Drier's Meat Market, a lovely painted sign from one of the art teachers, some purple post-its, a small traffic cone that says, 'You're Terrific' in case I have a wobbly day, and lots of yellow CAUTION tape.  What more could a writer want?

After meeting with kids at the Middle and Elementary Schools, having an open meeting at the library and then a delicious lunch in town, off I went, arms filled with treasure, bringing Three Oaks with me.  I'll be back to tell the kids how it all went later this fall, after visiting many schools, libraries and bookstores.  Meanwhile, Carolyn Drier, third-generation owner of the meat market, will be selling copies of The Danger Box for those who want to buy one in town.  I suggested she send me some meat-packing labels to sign, whatever she has on hand.  I love that thought:  whoever buys a copy with their ham, bratwurst or hot dogs will know just where that book has been.  And I love the thought of my books in that cozy store, near the jams and pickles and mustard.  

Garry Lange, newly retired principal of the Elementary School, gave me a beautiful old paving brick from Elm Street, which was covered over a number of years ago.  I'm honored.  Much of me is still in Three Oaks, and I can't wait to get back for another visit.  By then the pumpkins will be out.