Authors mingle with customers for Kids Heart Authors Day at Eight Cousins in Falmouth, Mass.

This past February 14, 172 children’s book authors and illustrators drove as much as two hours each way to read and sign books as part of Kids Heart Authors Day, a literary Valentine to 43 independents booksellers in New England.

Thanks to Mitali Perkins, author of Secret Keeper (Delacorte), who first suggested the idea on Twitter in early December, and publicity guru Deborah Sloan of Deborah Sloan and Company, the day was a big success. One bookseller, Ellen Richmond of Children’s Book Cellar in Waterville, Me., was so eager to participate that despite being forced by illness to close her store for most of the week leading up to it, she persuaded family and friends to re-open the store for Kids Heart Authors Day.

Dog Eat Doug creator Brian Anderson demonstrated how to draw
cartoons at Titcomb's Bookshop
in East Sandwich, Mass.

Richmond was not alone in her enthusiasm, and the feedback on the Web site has been extremely positive. “I’m still aglow,” says Elizabeth Bluemle, co-owner of Flying Pig Bookstore, in Shelburne, Vt. “So many customers voiced their appreciation for the bookstore and what it adds to the community. They definitely felt the magic of the event, and one little girl decided on the spot that she wants to be a writer when she grows up.”

Bookseller Susan Savory at Andover Bookstore in Andover, Mass., describes their two-hour event as “smashingly successful. This was a particularly satisfying and energizing way to kick off our 200th year.” And The Trouble with Rules (Peachtree) author Leslie Bulion offers these kudos: “I was a lucky ducky to be one of seven authors who chatted with and signed books for a steady stream of readers and book lovers at The Alphabet Garden in Cheshire, Conn.”

Even four-legged kids heart authors; Titcomb's had a miniature goat
for kids to visit.

While it’s too soon for Perkins or Sloan to say whether they will mount a second Kids Heart Authors Day in 2010, both were pleased by the thousands of parents and children who turned out to celebrate a holiday better known for chocolate and roses by buying books at their local independent. “We had Newbery and Printz Award winners who took the time to say we want to show these independents how much we appreciate them. We need you, we love you, we support you,” says Perkins. One of the unexpected bonuses, she adds, were all the connections rippling out, writers meeting writer, writers meeting booksellers. It’s an event that will reverberate throughout the New England literary community for a long time to come.