Uninterrupted reading time is one (perhaps the only) advantage of a commute to work on public transportation. Once in a great while, if it's a particularly good book, it can even cause you to miss your stop. We asked a variety of people in children's publishing what children's book had ever made them overshoot their destination.
Lisa Holton, senior v-p, publisher, Disney Global Children's Books
Many years ago, when I was just getting into children's books, I was reading I Am the Cheese on the way to work. I was at the very end of the book, so of course I missed my stop, and actually ended up at 50th Street instead of 23rd Street. I got off in a daze, found an empty seat on the platform, and sat there, thinking about what I'd just read. When I finally composed myself enough to head downtown, I couldn't believe that everyone else was going about their business, as if their world hadn't just been turned upside down, like Cormier had done to mine.
Tracy van Straaten, associate director of publicity, S&S Children's Publishing
Only occasionally am I so engrossed in a book that I miss my subway stop. The first time it happened was about three years ago. I was reading Leonard Marcus's Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom. I was on my way to work from Brooklyn and ended up in Queens! While inconvenient, it did give me the excuse to continue reading as I made my way back to my office. Each of Ursula Nordstrom's letters is like a window into the history of children's book publishing--and a reminder of life before computers or e-mail.
Josette Kurey, publicist, HarperCollins Children's Books
I haven't actually missed my stop, but I was reading Mad About Plaid on the N train one day, and I kind of giggled at one of the pictures, and a man leaned over and asked me how long I had been trying to learn how to read, and offered the name of a literacy tutor, before I had a chance to tell him what I did for a living.
Paula Wiseman, editorial director, Silver Whistle Books
I was going back to work after my son Luke was born, worrying about having two lives at once, and wondering how I could ever even attempt it. I had Budge Wilson's Mothers and Other Strangers manuscript with me, and I started reading it when the train left the station and only realized that the train had arrived when it stopped. That was my first step in balancing two lives, and that manuscript made me realize that I, too, like others, could do it. And it also made me remember why. (Corny but true.)
Michelle Poploff, v-p and editorial director, children's paperbacks, Random House
In the past I'd find it hard to believe when people said they missed their stop. That is, until it happened to me, several years ago, when I was on the train reading Letters from the Inside by John Marsden. This book was so intense and powerful that I simply couldn't put it down until I finished it... two stops after I should have gotten off. I walked into the office that morning saying, 'I was so engrossed in this book that I didn't notice I missed my stop.' We acquired it for our paperback list.
Jason Wells, senior publicist, S&S Children's Publishing
It was a typical day on the Long Island Rail Road. The rushed drive to catch the 7:34 a.m. express train left me out of breath and glad to have a seat and a cold bottle of water. Since I was later than usual arriving, only middle seats were available. I was situated between two men: a distinguished-looking middle-aged gentleman in an expensive-looking suit on my left by the window, and a rumpled-looking older man on my right. As I became more and more engrossed in reading the first volume of Brian Jacques's Redwall series, I didn't realize that the uncapped bottle of water I had tucked under my arm had tipped over and spilled on the man by the window, drenching his right leg from mid-thigh down.
Nearly to Penn Station at this point, I finally remembered the water and went to grab it, only to find the 20-ounce bottle completely emptied. Luckily, the man was fast asleep against the window. I quietly, though reluctantly, put my bookmark into Redwall and slipped around the older man to the safety of the doors to secure a quick exit. As the conductor announced the final stop was approaching, I saw the distinguished-looking man rouse. In dismay at his wet pants, he looked around, motioned wildly to the man next to him, who shrugged, and then he angrily rose to exit. I sprang from the car and up the stairs, reminding myself to cover my beverage the next time I decided to read on the train. I was just glad I wasn't drinking grape juice!
Molly Templeton, marketing associate, FSG Books for Young Readers
I've never missed a bus or subway stop, but I did once get so engrossed in Sabriel by Garth Nix on a flight that when the plane landed and I had to put the book down, I realized my hands were cramped from holding onto it so tightly! I'm sure that if it were possible to miss a plane stop, I would have.
Andrea Pinkney, executive editor, Hyperion/Jump at the Sun
I missed my subway stop on several occasions when I was reading The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. The book is so funny and poignant, and there were many times when I was riding the D train crying my mascara off because I was laughing so hard. Folks who saw me reading and cracking up kept asking me what the name of the book was. The book went on to win a Newbery Honor, so I guess others felt as strongly about it as I did.
Lori Benton, director of marketing, Harcourt Children's Books
This isn't really a subway story, but one afternoon while I was still working at The Book Shop [in Boise, Idaho], I was reading the galley for Gary Soto's Baseball in April. The phone was ringing, and when it was clear no one was going to answer, I made my way over to the phone, still reading as I was walking. Instead of answering "Good afternoon, The Book Shop," I answered, "Good afternoon, the baseball." Needless to say, there was dead silence on the other end. When the caller finally spoke, I was mortified to discover it was the Governor of Idaho.
Jon Scieszka, author
Whenever I see someone on the subway laughing aloud as they read, I do my best to discreetly read the title. But if subtle spying fails (and the person doesn't look like too much of a serial killer/lunatic), I just walk up and ask what they're reading. So when I was riding a crowded D train, laughing out loud as I read Lemony Snicket's The Bad Beginning, I wasn't too surprised when a woman asked me what I was reading. She told me about her 11-year-old son who didn't like to read much. I showed her Mr. Snicket's woefully hilarious beginning, dire warnings and mysterious author bio. We got off the train at West 4th St. as I told her some more of my favorite Roald Dahl, Chris Lynch and Louis Sachar titles. She wrote down the names, thanked me, and it wasn't until she turned to go that she stopped, looked around, and said, "Oh my. This isn't 34th Street!" I didn't miss my stop. But I'm proud to report that Mr. Snicket and I helped someone else miss her stop... and maybe find a book for an 11-year-old guy who doesn't like to read much.