By Brandon HENSLEY
It’s Friday night in Montrose, and where does everyone want to go? To see a children’s author recruit new members as fans of his latest book, of course.
Inside a crowded Once Upon a Time bookstore last Friday, Jon Scieszka spoke before a group of children about his book, “Spaceheadz,” and signed copies afterward.
“Spaceheadz” is about a fifth-grader who meets two classmates who are secretly aliens that must recruit 3.14 million kids to save the planet, because Earth is in danger of being turned off which means other interstellar civilizations won’t be able to take in Earth’s TV and radio waves.
One of the characters in the book is a hamster called Major Fluffy, and sure enough, during the evening Jessica Carp, a third-grader from Mountain Avenue Elementary came out in a hamster costume as part of the raffle event that was held to give away an actual hamster.
Scieszka is the author of “Stinky Cheese Man” and the “Time Warp” series, which has been adapted into a TV series.
“I taught elementary school for 10 years, that’s where I figured my life out,” Scieszka said while taking questions from the audience.
Scieszka was joined by his daughter Casey and Steven Weinberg, an illustrator, and Shane Prigmore, a Glendale native who illustrated “Spaceheadz.”
All four of them performed a “hamster dance” in which the children also took part.
Maureen Palacios was happy to have Scieszka back for a signing, which was part of Read Across America Week.
“Since we had two other successful events with him in the past we know that he as a loyal following in this community and his books are very funny and I love to present them to the kids of the community because they laugh,” Palacios said.
“He’s a nut,” she said of Scieszka. “He’s just an overgrown boy.”
Once Upon a Time has also had award-winning children’s author David Shannon come in for an appearance.
“We’re the oldest children’s bookstore in the country, so we get the best,” Palacios said.
Indeed, her store has been in Montrose – currently located in the Montrose Shopping Park – for 45 years. Palacios has owned it since 2003.
She said her store remains relevant because it stocks “undiscovered gems,” and she personally selects books for kids.
Palacios likes to “find something that is going to be engaging. Parents rely on our selection … as I say, big stores have lots of books, but we only carry the best books.”