Having known author/illustrator Marla Frazee, of Pasadena, Calif., for a dozen years or so — our paths first crossing at Book Expo in Los Angeles — I knew what to expect of this talented gal, but many in our area didn’t, even though this was Marla’s fifth trip to Washington.
Now they know — the 200-plus attendees at Beaufort Elementary School who waited patiently in line on Friday evening for Marla to sign their books at the school’s first Family Reading Night, and the children and adults she charmed with her presence on Wednesday and Thursday evenings at Neighborhood Reads Bookstore and Washington Public Library.
She Makes an Impression
It’s hard not to love Marla and her work. She’s become a household name after writing and illustrating “Boss Baby,” which was made into a movie.
Marla hit the big time with the film, met Alec Ballwin, the voice of Boss Baby, and other actors. She’s been showcased on the red carpet at a gala held in New York City and hobnobbed with the rich and famous.
Yet Marla remains just Marla, as authentic as she’s always been, a big talent with her heart in the right place, who always make time for the smallest of admirers.
We saw a lot of that heart in the three days she was here; Marla left us with memories and made a lasting impression with youngsters — case in point, Daphne Neier. The 8-year-old girl was smitten with Marla, and told her mom, Shannon, that maybe when she grows up she wants to be an author and illustrator too.
Daphne has been a longtime Marla fan, was exposed to her after reading the “Clementine” chapter books by Sara Pennypacker that Marla illustrated. When Daphne’s little sister was born six months ago, and Clementine was suggested as a possible name, Daphne put her two cents worth in. Now she and Linus, her first-grade brother, have a Clementine in their lives full time, sprung straight from the pages of Marla’s books.
Meeting Marla was a big deal for Daphne, and when they were introduced at Neighborhood Reads on Thursday night, Daphne was excited to have the opportunity to get up close and personal with an author/illustrator who is “extremely famous.” There was another surprise in store for Daphne too — a look-see at Marla’s newest book, “It Takes a Village,” by Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“Daphne loves Hillary Clinton,” her mom said.
In fact, in a mock election held at Beaufort Elementary, Daphne voted for her. She wanted a woman president and couldn’t believe only a couple of other classmates voted for her, Shannon added.
Quite a Connection
When Daphne saw “It Takes a Village,” she was blown away and asked if Marla had met Clinton. “Three times,” Marla quietly replied, getting her phone out to show Daphne the photos she has of the two women together.
“Oh, my gosh, I think I’m going to cry,” Daphne replied.
To say the author/illustrator and bitty book lover made a connection is an understatement. On Sunday evening, when Shannon told Daphne that I was going to call to get information for this column she asked her daughter, “What would you want to tell her about Marla?”
“She was amazing!” and then after a pause, added, “She just had so much passion.”
Daphne is just one child whose life Marla touched —there were many more. At a time when our heroes are few, and disappointing at best, Marla shone, displaying patience and true pleasure in meeting children as she modeled the intrinsic value of books and reading, illustrating the pleasure that literature brings to our lives.
It was quite a wonderful few days — a fitting climax for Book Buzz’s 15th anniversary celebration — a storybook ending for a program that owns my heart, one that hopefully will add many more chapters in the years to come.
Thanks to two special people for making Marla’s visit go smoothly — Tammy Witte of Beaufort Elementary School and my Book Buzz buddy, Dawn Kitchell, whose new bookstore is such an asset to our community.