Today Dav Pilkey arrives in Boise.
The kids have been starting and ending each day telling me how many days until Pilkey. They went to sleep last night reminding me (as if i could forget): "Tomorrow is Pilkey!" It's not even Pilkey Day. It's just Pilkey. Last night? Pilkey Eve.
They don't have any pre-Pilkey memories. All of them started laughing at the Big Dog and Little Dog board books before they could speak. (Going for a Walk was our favorite.) My oldest was reading the Silly Gooses books at the same time she was reading Cynthia Rylant's High Rise Private Eyes. She'd start giggling and try to explain and then giggle even more. Dumb Bunnies? More of the same.
Youngest's favorite Pilkey books are from the Dragon series.
But the boy? Yeah, he started on Big Dog and Little Dog. He went from there To Ricky Ricotta and he didn't just read those books, he destroyed them. He read them front to back, back to front, middle to front, middle to back and back to the middle---until those books were in shreds. I started buying good thrift store copies just to have spares when he destroyed another set.
Ricky will always be his favorite, but he jumped to the Captain Underpants books when his need for Pilkey could no longer be met by Ricky Ricotta. Meanwhile, youngest moved from Dragon to Dog Breath (The Horrible Trouble with Hally Tosis) and Dogzilla.
And then, a few years ago, the long silence arrived. No new Pilkey. Where was he? Had he forgotten about us? We drifted. The kids became addicted to Jeff Smith's Bone series. I read Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett aloud and that helped, but still they watched for Pilkey---especially my sweet boy. He created his own Agent Frog series of books and I'd hear him sighing as he flipped more slowly through his favorite Ricky Ricottas.
Years passed before we caught sight of Pilkey again and by then my mom had been diagnosed with cancer. Our priorities shifted as we cared for her. My writing slowed to something just above non-productive. The kids' activities slipped into place around chemotherapy visits and they grew accustomed to short-term planning (it depends on how Grandma is doing).
Soon after Grandma's doctor told us the cancer had spread, that it was no longer responding to chemo, I read in an interview that Dav Pilkey took several years away from his writing to care for his terminally-ill dad.
Maybe that's when I first truly appreciated the magic that is Dav Pilkey.
He's been writing these amazing kids' books, telling them that they don't have to conform to expectations to be great kids. He's modeled creativity and humor as a means for not just coping, but enjoying life. He's one of the most successful authors I can imagine and he took time to be with his father.
Just like all those scribbling kids who feel a little more okay with themselves because of Pilkey, I felt a little more okay too. Maybe I wasn't failing as a parent because I couldn't get the kids to every activity. Maybe I wasn't failing as a writer because I couldn't get my agent the revision she needed.
Today is Pilkey.
The kids will wake up screaming his name and they'll be jumping up and down when they wait to meet him. For my part? I just want to say thank you.