Day Three (May 11)
Partners in crime, Frances and Saracen tell the touching story of another goose named Jemima, who shared Saracen’s valiant, violent temperament.
The day began at Ridge Elementary School, with Frances speaking to an astonishingly smart and attentive collection of 150 fifth graders. Michael regaled (horrified?) the students by the not-quite-true admission that he had abandoned a career as a top model in order to follow his true passion: The written word. Frances told of the inspiration for Saracen, a friend’s goose, named Jemima, who belied her sweet, waddling demeanor by breaking someone’s leg in two places. (In Jemima’s defense, this person was climbing over the fence, and Jemima was doing her guard-goose duty.)
Michael tells a wholly disbelieving audience about his all-too-brief career as a high-paid fashion model.
The afternoon found our heroes at Joliet Montessori School, speaking to two groups of startlingly sharp students, including one group of first, second, and third graders. Asked one, “Why did you choose a goose for the main character’s pet?” (Saracen bristled.) Frances explained that “If you have a dog that bites and maims people, that’s not very funny. But even if a goose hurts somebody, geese are funny. They waddle.” In another group, a student quizzed Frances about whether or not she liked the portrayal of Mosca on the jacket of the book. She does, very much so. “I visualized her as being more pale and pointy, but the artist got the black eyes, the black hair, and the white eyebrows.”
Razor-sharp minds throw out question after question. Frances does not flee.
Juliet Montessori students, Frances Hardinge, Saracen (perched on a willing shoulder), and many books.
At day’s end, a planned flight to Minneapolis was scuttled due to high winds, fierce rains, and the threat of a tornado. Taking a hint from the wrathful sky, our heroes stayed another night in Chicago.
Day’s Most Unexpected Questions:
“Are you married?” (put to Frances)
(Answer: No, why do you ask?)
“Can I have the goose?”
(Answer: Unfortunately, no. Saracen is insistent on accompanying us for the rest of the tour.)
“How do you express yourself in your book?”
(Answer: With words. And, after a small pause, Frances explained that she liked to play around with the sound of words, and with humor.)