This note from Hilary Emerson Lay, the manager at The Spirit of ’76 bookstore in Marblehead, Mass., greeted me last Monday morning. Yes, I was sitting down (hand wrapped firmly around my second cup of hot coffee), and I was ready to read the rest of her note.
You may recall the awesome Spotlight on Bookstores guest post about The Spirit of ’76 that Brunonia Barry wrote a few weeks ago. Well, that post was read by someone who works at Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet tv show, and the part about Hilary’s pet hedgehog, Stanley, caught his eye. It seems that Animal Planet is filming for a new show about people with exotic and unusual pets.
Hilary had recently thrown a children’s ‘hedgehog party’ at the bookstore, and Animal Planet asked if she’d like to do something similar … with the film crew there! I imagine Hilary hesitated for about negative .3 seconds before saying YES, then started working on the guest list.
I was thrilled to be included on that list, and, since I gave a resounding “Do I ever!” response to her innocent query of “Do you have kids? Would they want to come up, too?”, we drove about an hour north yesterday afternoon to attend our inaugural hedgehog party!
The store fills three rooms; yesterday they were three rooms full of children excited to be at the party, parents trying to keep the excitement in check (or, maybe it was just my child who kept whining for ANOTHER cookie), the Animal Planet crew, Hilary, and staff and friends of The Spirit of ’76. Author Brunonia Barry was there as well; it was an example in pop psychology as I wore Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘connector’ hat and hosted her post that caught the attention of Animal Planet.
Aside from being a bookseller and storyteller extraordinaire, Hilary must harbor a secret life as a caterer. Check out the hedgehog watermelon bowl (before the kids got to it, the toothpicks in the individual watermelon bites made adorable quills). Not to be outdone by healthy fruit, the cookie tray offered frosted hedgies with shaved coconut quills — incredible!
My youngest was filmed choosing a cookie and chomping away on it; he kept taking bite after bite without swallowing! It may end up on the cutting room floor, but it was fun to watch him in the spolight – the kids were told not to look into the camera (about a 6-inch lens a foot from his face), which proved to be quite a challenge.
A special guest in the guise of Jan Brett’s hedgehog came to say hello to all the children. It was in the low 90s yesterday (we’re about a week into a brutal heat wave; hard to imagine after the floods of this spring), so I think Hedgie was pretty warm inside those soft quills! He (or she?) was a very good sport, though, posing for endless photos, hugs, and the occasional tail/nub pulling (yes, that was my youngest again).
The kids assembled in a large circle on the rug, and Hilary brought Stanley out of his crate and introduced him to the group. She explained that hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, and that he might be a little nervous, “it’s like your parents waking you up at 3 in the morning, bringing you into the bright living room and asking you to smile and say ‘hi’ to all these people.” Stanley was the perfect host – he showed his face a bit, squirmed around Hilary’s hands for comfort, and, when all the children had had a chance to see him up close, burrowed back into his ‘hedgehog sleeping bag’ (a pillowcase).
Despite the initial physical similarities, hedgehogs are not related to porcupines. In fact, hedgehogs aren’t found in the wild in North America; native to Europe, Asia, Africa, China, and New Zealand, any that are kept as pets have been bred here. Hilary passed around a bag of Stanley’s bedding (so soft!) and a plastic container of his favorite treat – mealworms (so gross!), and shared more cool facts and interesting hedgehog trivia.
Everyone wanted a chance to ask a question or make a comment, Hilary was adept at turning seeming non sequiturs like “I eat Cheerios for breakfast” into a hedgehog-related statement: “Stanley also likes to eat hard-boiled eggs for a special treat.” After an extended Q&A, she read a hedgehog picture book to the group. If she ever tires of the bookseller-storyteller-caterer routine, I’ve got a nanny position for her!
Of course, the Too Fond of Books family finds it nearly impossible to venture into a bookstore without selecting a few books to bring home. Each of the kids chose a book; we added Looking for Alaska (John Green), My Life As a Book (Janet Tashjian), The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary (Jack Kinney) and Hurry Up, Hedgehog (Deborah Dennard) to our bookshelves. (This pic was the only time I caught LM12 on camera, so I wanted to include it).
When Hilary learns the date the show will air, I’ll be sure to share it with you so you have a chance to meet Hilary and Stanley, too! Thank you to Brunonia for writing the piece that caught the attention of Animal Planet, and to Hilary for being part of a store that is so involved in the community. More than a bookstore, that’s The Spirit of ’76!