Every book festival I've attended is a learning experience. This year, with a trilogy of "Alexander" books in the offing, I've made a point of attending as many public events as I can. With the exception of a few very local events, it's not something I've done before, so I'm still learning the ropes: I'm looking for the right physical and verbal presentation.
Last weekend, at the Palmdale Book Festival, I tried a new pitch: I asked visitors to recall their anxiety at starting a new school, joining a new group or, really stepping into unknown territory for the very first time. Usually, that initial anxiety disappears as the unknown becomes the familiar.
In My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain Alexander holds on to that initial fear. Even though he has friends, and his world around him seems generally non-threatening, he still believes that the Unknown is still out there, right around the next corner, and he'd better live his life accordingly.
Whether I was describing the story to a teenager or adult, the idea of Alexander's unfounded fears produced the same reaction: a broad smile of recognition.
We've all been there. At one time or another, we've all spent precious energy dreading and fearing what lies just ahead, only to discover that it wasn't so bad after all.
I think that's part of the reason Alexander's fun to root for - the reader can see what Alexander can't: everything's going to be okay.