The kid was clutching two books against his chest as if they contained the key to all closed doors and the answers to all of life's questions.
He entered the inner double doors of the library, the sound of the cool climate controlled air rushing outward as he shuffled around the sensor towers and made his way to the back of the line at the check-out counter.
He was clean cut and appropriately dressed for a 13-year old boy in the midst of a hot summer in prairie land Oklahoma. His eyes reflected both the twinkle of excitement and fatigue of use as he placed both books on the counter in front of the teen-aged library page at the counter.
Unfortunately, the female page with emo-influenced fashion tendencies seemed more interested in moving the line along than sharing in the excited boys enthusiastic attempts at engaging her in a discussion on the books he was turning in.
When he queried the page on whether or not she knew if there were anymore books in the series he just read, she promptly pointed to the terminal nearest him and told him to look it up himself.
I was saddened.
Not by the page and her lack of literary compassion for the young reader. She had a job to do, a line of people to attend to, and probably received dozens of requests a day to engage in conversations on one book or another.
No, what saddened me was that I knew that the boy, who had obviously been enthralled with the series of books he was reading, would find no further books in the series.
The story in the books he returned and was now actively seeking to continue on his literary adventure was about a group of human-avian hybrid kids (known as the flock). That's right, flying kids. The series was James Patterson's award-winning and best selling Maximum Ride series.
Our library has all 4 books in the collection. The boy was returning the last two in the series, meaning his time flying with the flock had come to an end.
He had nowhere to turn for more adventures with the Flock. Nowhere to look for more danger and intrigue. Nowhere to go to continue his literary flight of fancy with Max, Fang, Nudge and the rest of the group.
I watched him walk over to the young adult section and zero in on the shelf location where the first and second Maximum Ride books were located. He picked the first one up and paged through it, hopeful to find some tidbit of text he had missed on his initial read, or perhaps the motivation to read again what he may have read several times over again.
He was floundering and I had to do something.
Recall that I was familiar with the Maximum Ride series and once I finished them way-back-when, I too sought out writings by the author who had created such a fun series. Turns out James Patterson actually created the flying kid characters in two earlier novels that were mega hits with his target reader audience - adults. It was the success of these two novels that inspired Patterson to recreate Max and her flock in a series of novels for young adult.
I went and plucked the two earlier novels off the shelf, recalling the moment I had discovered them some years ago, and the excitement I was feeling at that time.
Now, the weirdness of approaching strangers in my small town has worn off some, but all those years with my stranger radar up and humming hasn't quite shut down. However I had a bigger picture to think of, so I found myself walking over to the new fiction collection where I approached the woman whom I assumed was the kids Mom. I didn't know her, but after a few pleasantries she must have recognized me because she said, "Oh, you're PK's dad, aren't you?"
Children are our common bond between all men...and Soccer Mom's.
The ice broken, I proceeded to tell her about the first two books that Patterson had written (not for young adults) that involved a similar group of flying kids that her son may enjoy reading, now that he's finished the first four books.
She seemed thankful, although somewhat confused since I neglected to mention that I had been watching her son meander around the library since I spotted him in line with the Maximum Ride books -- seemed a little creepy and stalker-ratzi to me. I handed her the books and reminded her that unlike the young adult series, these two were written for adults, but that there was nothing in there worse than Harry Potter, only these kids swear in English, as opposed to Harry and Ron who swear...in English. The Queen's English that is.
Oh, shut it ya wanker.
Anyhow, I suggested she give them a quick glance over herself, or at least keep a close eye on the kid as he read them, in case something should come up he doesn't understand. To which she reassured me that her son understands more than she ever did at his age thanks to Wii and XBox 360.
Later on, the kid sought me out and with a big sh*t-eatin' grin on his face and thanked me for telling him about these two books. As much as I was dying to have a sit-down gab-fest about the Max books with him, I could see he was anxious to get in the car and dive right in.
My parting words to him were that the young adult Max would return in about less than a year in a new novel, and there is a pretty good web presence for the novels if he had internet at home.
Should have mentioned the growing online fan fiction movement for the Max series. Could be I was looking at the next Hemingway?