Saturday afternoon, I joined a good-sized crowd at Davis Kidd Booksellers in the Green Hills mall here in Nashville to hear Andrew read from his novel, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, book one in the Wingfeather Saga. They had about 30 chairs set up when I arrived, and by the time it started, they had had to pull out more chairs to seat those standing around and still didn’t have enough.
After Andrew was introduced, Randall joined him to sing two songs from Slugs, Bugs, and Lullabies, the children’s album they recorded together last year. They sang “Bears” and “Piggy Little Toes”, and, while they were singing, I looked around and noticed more than one kid in the audience singing along.
Before he started reading from his book, Andrew explained that he was always the kid in high school sitting at the back of the classroom drawing dragons in his notebook and getting beat up by the football players. So he thought it was great that he is now getting paid to do that, while none of the jocks are getting paid to play sports. He also explained where some of the creatures he came up with come from, like the Toothy Cows.
Growing up, the default gift everyone gave his mom was cow-themed stuff, owing to one comment she happened to make at some point about liking cows, and he said he’d walk into the kitchen and find pictures of cows on platters and towels and salt and pepper shakers that were “dead behind the eyes.” He read the intros – A Brief Introduction to the World of Aerwiar, A Slightly Less Brief Introduction to the Land of Skree, and An Introduction to the Igiby Cottage (Very Brief) – inserting comments here and there, explaining the pronunciation of “The plains of Palen Jabh-J,” for instance.
When I read the book, I thought the J at the end of Jabh-J was silent, since I didn’t know how else to pronounce it. But when Andrew read it, he always paused for a second after saying “jabh”, and then pronounced the hard J (followed by another pause to wait for the laughter to die down). He told us later that he is working on a pronunciation guide for the website to help those of us who don’t have a clue how some of his words should be pronounced. After reading Chapter One (“the scary chapter”), he read Chapter Eighteen, the chapter where Tink finds a map that leads the Igiby children on their adventures, and told us that the genesis of the book was him sitting down and drawing a map of the world the story inhabits, the original of which he brought with him to show us.
At the end, after fielding questions from the audience for a little while, Andrew honored a request to sing another song by performing Little Boy Heart Alive, my favorite song of his about imagination and childlike wonder, a call to live instead of simply exist. Hopefully he’ll do a full book tour at some point, so those not lucky enough to live in Nashville can hear more of his stories and the stories behind his stories.
Feel the beat of a distant thunder
It’s the sound of an ancient song
This is the Kingdom calling
Come now and tread the dawn
Come to the father
Come to the deeper well
Drink of the water
And come to live a tale to tell
Pages are turning now
This is abundant life
The joy in the journey
Is enough to make a grown man cry
With a little boy heart alive