Sometimes, while looking for ways to bring books to life, we find the nicest people. Last week my twin ten-year olds and I were prepping for Thursday’s workshop on The Trumpeter of Krakow. This book is chock full of explosions, alchemy, fireworks and glowing orbs. There’s a giant crystal on the loose, roving bands of Cossacks and Tartars, burning buildings and, in the tower of an ancient cathedral, breathtaking acts of treachery and heroism. Plenty to ignite interest in the minds of our youngsters. But alas, we had no trumpet, and nothing that would glow or explode, both things that felt essential to us.
So first we took ourselves to the Mad Molecule science store to present our story. After greeting us, the college-age guy with the goatee behind the counter went right back to his computer screen, and I felt doubtful. Nevertheless, we showed him our book, and told him about the quest for the philosopher’s Stone and the wonderful pyrotechnics in Chapter 9. Did he have any ideas? He suggested that what we really needed was a little nuclear fission. I asked if they had that in a boxed kit. Grinning, and now thoroughly on our side, he doggedly searched the shelves to find just the thing to bring a bit of fifteenth century Polish wizardry to life. Fifteen minutes later we left with a carton containing everything we’d need to create a glowing, phosphorous goo that would bounce and flow and feel delightfully like soft, warm snot in the hand of a fourth grader. Success!
Now for the trumpet. We didn’t know how to play one, didn’t want to rent one, and no one we know plays the instrument. We’d already tried emailing the youth symphony and two local music teachers, but to no avail. Trumpets seem to be taking a hiatus from popularity at the moment. We sighed. We were pretty sure there’d be no trumpet. But at the last moment, we turned the car around and parked behind Sylvan Music, the music store that serves the west side of Santa Cruz and its university. “We don’t know until we ask, right?” I said to my girls as we hopped out of the car.
We walked in, and there were strings everywhere. Stringed instruments are, apparently, all the rage. Wall to wall, floor to ceiling, it was guitars, violins, ukuleles . . . and not a single horn in sight. But with the help of (you guessed it) yet another college-age-guy with a goatee, within a few minutes we were taking our pick of wonderfully old, delightfully dusty trumpets (and a coronet), which we could borrow, he said, “because it’s for the kids.”
So I just want to give a shout out to college-age-guys with goatees who care about sharing with the next generation – and to encourage all of us who think that we are all on our own, and that if we don’t have something, we must do without it. We live in communities rich with hearts and minds that really do care about kids, and knowledge, and great books, and creativity. Let’s not assume we are alone. Let’s get bold, ask for help, borrow stuff, and let our kids see us reaching out to our world.