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From My Window

Issue Date: September 9, 2020

Half-Pint Entrepreneur

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

I love the peace and quiet of our "out in the boondocks" home. In the evening, I can sometimes hear the children of our neighbor to the south playing outdoors, but we don't encounter neighborhood kids often. So when I recently pet sat for my canine and feline nieces in Madison, I enjoyed their neighborhood full of friendly children. The kids approach me without fear, since they see me a few times a year and I am "vouched for" by Brandi the dog, who they all know and love. She's my character reference.

While there, I watched out the window as two children across the street began setting up a commercial enterprise on Saturday morning, I was both bemused and looking forward to patronizing what I assumed would be a lemonade stand. The boy, about five or six, struggled out of the house with two chairs, while his slightly older sister, a wisp of a girl, wrestled with a card table. Signs were made and hung, and they sat down, ready for business to roll in. I grabbed a few dollars and headed over.

As I approached I was surprised there were no pitchers, donation jars or glasses. Instead, there was a tracking sheet and pencils. I was greeted warmly and directed to the largest, charmingly printed sign.

"New book! Just published August 28! It's an excellent read! $1 to read the book, 50 cents to read half!"

I was still puzzled. There were no books in sight " perhaps they were taking orders for a book? It seemed a strange business model, but I paid my $1 to read the whole book, plus a $1 tip which was very warmly received. I can't imagine wanting to read half of any book, but you have to admire their creative accommodation of any customer who did.

I was then given another sign to read. "The name of the book is "The Adventures of Boo Boo (yah yah) and Toddler! It is awesome! Very highly rated and written by (these two kid's names.)"

This well-designed marketing got me pretty excited. I waited expectantly to be handed the book, but then the business model became clear.

"We have your name on the list and as soon as the last customer finishes reading the book, we will deliver it!" I had a very hard time not laughing. So they have a single copy book, and are running a "rental" business with their single copy. They assured me they'd soon have the book delivered to my brother's doorstep. In about ten minutes, a knock on the door announced the arrival of my highly-anticipated read.

The book was written in ink, in a purchased blank bound hardback, of 27 pages. Each page was densely covered with small kid's printing, except the first page, which was labeled "Nothing to read here".or here" on the facing leaf. The table of contents was helpfully labeled with a half-way point in case you had gone with the half-book pricing. Chapters were:

1) Meet B and T

2) In Trouble

3) A New Freind (as spelled)

4) Runaway Toddler

5) The Water Slide

6) The Grand Finale

7) In the Middle (this with an arrow up, to indicate the half-point of the chapters for the fifty centers.



It was pretty clear the older child had done the task of scribing, and it was an impressive body of work that must have taken many hours. But the content of the book sounded much more like the younger child's words. I know from my encounters with him that he is wildly creative, bold and bright.

A sample from chapter two: "We walked all the way to the lake (editor " this is one block,) then we went in the water wearing only our (sorry) underwear. Then we ate a picnic of water in our underwear, then we put our clothes back on and started walking again." Underwear mentions are prominent in the book, especially when discussing the parents of this "fictional" character. I am hoping the parents have read this book, if not""I am thinking they will be "surprised" when they do AND realize it has been widely circulated among the neighbors.

As part of the "Grand Finale" the author reveals the actual people represented in the book by listing their "fictional" names along with their real names. This is very clever, and he titles this section "People who you didn't know their real names."

I got a good laugh out of this charming book. I took pictures of several pages and sent them to my kids who loved it as well. My son accused me of violating copyrights by circulating my page photos, but since the kids run a "pay to page" operation, I figured my $1 tip covered the cost. As a fellow writer, I felt that was fair.

Next the little girl who lives next door, seeing the fun and profitable business operation going on across the street, decided to get in on the action. She rang the doorbell, with her little brother toting her flyers, and announced she was going to set up her swimming pool in her front yard and that for $1 in advance, I could come and swim in it.

I pictured myself, 64 years old frolicking in a kiddie pool on a Madison street in front of my brother's neighbors in a swim suit, and decided to take a hard pass on that one. I did pay the $1 advance fee though. (Part of my fear of going to swim was appearing under a fictional name in the next book written by the half-pint entrepreneur, with descriptions of an old woman's ridiculous appearance in her "underwear" in a kiddie pool.)

As a child, I hated selling things. I occasionally had to fundraise for 4-H, class trips or choir, and detested every minute of it. But it is good life lesson to do it, helping us understand what our skill strengths are (and in my case, are NOT,) and learning to talk with people we don't know. I always try and support any child who is fundraising because of this belief. But there is no doubt in my mind that the boy with the book will someday be famous in whatever endeavor he chooses to undertake. He's a genius, and he brought some fun to my family and me. But I'll admit, if my kids were circulating a book in the neighborhood about how often I sprint around performing household chores in my underwear, I'd probably be rather unenthused about their creativity, even under a "fictional" name.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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