Well, “suddenly” is perhaps incorrect, since parents had already been sending me pictures of their kids reading my children’s book. That’s pretty fulfilling. But here, now, in this moment, as I looked into those attentive little faces, I knew they needed a story worth telling. And so I told one.
As a writer, it is very easy to feel isolated by your craft.
Writing takes time and solitude, and often requires saying no to social engagements or keeping late hours in order to seize the evasive Muse. I felt this in spades when writing my historical fiction novel, The Exile, and my period drama stageplay, Between the Lines. Even though seeing my play performed was, to-date, one of the most terrifying and rewarding experiences of my life, I still felt somewhat disconnected with the audience. Yes, they were hearing and watching the actors speak the words I wrote. But I was sitting buried in a corner of the audience where I couldn’t see their faces. I couldn’t witness their responses in real time. And aside from that, these were adults.
A year or even six months ago, I wouldn’t have had a great answer to that. But after sharing The Misadventures of Melvin the Missing Sock with several classrooms of young listeners, I can tell you there is nothing like it in all the world.
Stories are one of the primary mediums through which children bond with their parents, grandparents, and teachers. There’s a reason for that. Not only is storytelling an inherently human activity, but reading aloud to someone is an inherently bridge-building activity. It connects the reader and the listener through the moments of laughter, suspense, and satisfaction that the story provides.
The little titters of laughter and gasps of surprise as I turned each page told me they were not only paying attention—they were enjoying themselves! As someone who is not overconfident in her child skills, I almost couldn’t believe it. With no nieces, nephews, or kids of my own, I’m not used to making kids laugh. I’m really not that used to kids at all. So when I realized that this book had brought joy to even just a dozen little people, I couldn’t have been more thrilled.
Kids are like sponges. The book’s morals, values, themes, and messages— the kids soak it up. Of course, there has to be reinforcement in order for these ideas to take root, but every story has the chance to expose a child to an important aspect of life for the first time. Or to reinforce something important they’ve already learned another way. Stories are incredibly dynamic forces: they have the power to introduce, cultivate, cement, challenge, or discredit entire worldviews.
My favorite moment during the reading was when we reached the part in the story where Melvin the missing sock ends up alone in the laundry pile because his match has been turned into a dusting rag. Here I paused:
“Do you think Melvin can be folded up again without his match?”
The forlorn faces and soft whimpers said it all.
“No,” said a little blond boy. “He looks lonely.”
And he was right—Melvin was indeed lonely.
Fortunately for Melvin (and his fans!), his master finds him again and restores him to the drawer with his match—ending the story on a note of redemption. Will second-graders catch the allegorical value of the book? Probably not—unless their parents explain it to them. But if the story becomes a staple in their childhood reading, as some parents have said it has, these kids will come to appreciate and engage with the themes on a deeper level as they grow up.
A good children’s book gives its young readers something to digest at their current age… and something to chew on for years to come.
And that is what I hope The Misadventures of Melvin the Missing Sock does for many, many little ones.
What is one of your favorite ways to bond with kids?
Do you have fond memories of someone reading aloud to you as a child?
Got kids? Grandkids? Nieces and nephews?
Or are you just plain curious to find out where all the missing socks go? Find out one ambitious sock’s journey by ordering your copy of The Misadventures of Melvin the Missing Sock!