peter reynolds and the power of a dot

peter

{image is a drawing by Peter Reynolds depicting a pencil with wings surrounded by text reading, “Make your mark … And see where it takes you.” Click on the image to view Peter’s website.}

Last week, Luau and I snuck out to see the Stephen Hawking biopic, The Theory of Everything, at an art house theater in Dedham, MA, a town not far from Boston. While we were there, we managed the rare treat of a grown-up only bite to eat at a little bistro down the street before the movie.

As we were walking from the restaurant to the theater, a shop window caught my eye. The window and walls were decorated with artwork by an illustrator I immediately recognized from our girls’ bookshelves. His beautiful drawings were even hanging in mobile form from the ceiling.

I stopped and stared at the shop, taking it all in. “Oh my God,” I said, “Katie would LOVE this.”

I couldn’t get over it. The whimsy, the creativity, the fact that it was an entire store of Peter Reynold’s work.

“I think that’s the author,” Luau said, motioning toward the man puttering around the shop.

“Hmm?” I said, registering his voice but not the words.

“Look.”

I looked at the photo of Peter Reynolds in the window and then at the shopkeeper.

They were indeed one in the same. I marched in.

“I’m so excited to bring our daughter here,” I told him after we’d talked for a moment. “Both of our girls love The Dot and Ish,” but The Dot has really special meaning for my older one.”

He smiled and said that he’d look forward to meeting her. Before we left, he gave me a dot to give to her – a round wooden token that declared its owner a member of the Dot Club. It wouldn’t be official though, he explained, until she’d drawn her own dot on it. Until she’d made her mark.

Last Friday, we made a plan to drive back out to Dedham after dinner. Luau and Brooke would visit The Blue Bunny, the children’s bookstore in town (which we learned that night is owned by Peter’s family and features his work), and Katie and I would go see Peter in his shop.

I was looking forward to it as I thought that it would be a neat thing for Katie to meet the author of a beloved book. I had no idea.

As soon as we drove up to the town square, we could see that something was up. Police cars blocked the entrance to the lot where we’d parked our car the week before and Dedham’s main drag was closed to cars. It turned out that we’d driven right into the heart of their annual Christmas Stroll –  a newly lit tree, Santa, walking Grinch and all.

IMG_2986

{image is a photo of Katie walking to the shop. Brooke is ahead of her. As I wrote when I posted this photo yesterday, ” I don’t really know how to explain why I was moved to take the picture or why I love it so much, but there was something about the way that she carried herself, in the way that she so unapologetically claimed her space in the world, that I wanted to capture.” That.}

As we made our way through the crowds, Katie said, “Mama, I don’t think you understand how much these books mean to me.”

She was right.

When we arrived, I introduced Peter to Katie. Somehow, as if by magic, the shop all but emptied as they shook hands and it was just us. Or perhaps it just felt that way.

“I need to tell you how much I loved The Dot,” Katie said.

“Oh, I’m so glad!” said Peter.

“No,” she said, her voice catching in her throat, “I mean .. it’s .. it changed everything for me. I do what I love because of that book. I needed to tell you.”

I had planned to take photos of the two of them talking, but I let my phone fall to my side. This wasn’t a moment that would need to be recorded to be remembered. And my girl had begun to cry. Peter stood stock still and held her arm as she spoke.

“When I was little, I auditioned for my first play,” she said, “I got a part in the ensemble. And I wanted to quit because I was upset and it wasn’t what I wanted at all. I wanted to be one of the leads and I didn’t think there was any point in being in the chorus. But then I read The Dot. And it told me that even my own tiny dot was enough – that I could make my mark if I was brave enough to be me and to do what I loved no matter what. And it’s why I stuck with theater. And I love it more than anything in the world. And I might not have that if it weren’t for you.”

Tears streamed down her face as she spoke.

Peter pulled her into a hug. The world was perfectly still.

Eventually, the moment was right, the tears were dried, and I lifted the phone from my side for a photo.

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{image is a photo of Katie and Peter. His arm is around her shoulder. They are smiling.}

After the picture, they  continued to talk. Katie told Peter that she dreams of being on Broadway and he told her that he dreams of bringing The Dot to the stage. “Maybe you could be in it!” he said gleefully. “I could be Vashti!” she said. They laughed. They talked some more. And then he asked if she would be willing to do him a favor.

“Of course,” she said, nodding. “Anything.”

“Would you give me your autograph?” he asked. “I’d be so grateful if you would. I want to sit with it in my hand when I watch the Tony Awards someday and say, “I knew her! I knew THE Katie Wilson! She wrote this for me! She was in MY shop and I met THE Katie Wilson. Would you do that?”

She smiled and took the paper that he offered. She crouched down and signed her name.

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{image is a photo of Katie signing her autograph for Peter. She is leaning on a table displaying copies of his book, The Dot as well as a globe decorated with his drawings.}

And then she added ..

A dot.

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{image is essentially the same as above, though she is now adding the dot to her autograph.}

He clutched her autograph to his chest and told her that he was going to frame it and put it in his studio. “I’m going to look at this while I work and remember my friend, Katie,” he said. Without a shadow of doubt, I believed him.

“You keep at it, Katie,” he said. “Keep being brave and keep creating and keep doing what you love, whatever it is.” With tears filling her eyes again, she promised that she would, that she always would.

Brooke and Luau came back from the bookstore just in time for a visit from another celebrity – Santa had made his way from the North Pole.

We took some pictures and they were fabulous indeed. But none, not even the ones filled with Christmas magic, held a candle to this.

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{image is a slightly different photo of Katie and Peter. His arm is still around her shoulder. They are still  smiling.}

Thank you, Peter.

For so much more than I knew.

25 thoughts on “peter reynolds and the power of a dot

  1. i have never read the dot or the other books, but i am going to check the library for them right now. thank you, thank katie, and thank peter ❤

    • They are beautiful and motivational. There is also another one called Shy Color (Colour in NZ) You can buy them in a set of three. Such a boost to creativity all over the world.

  2. This brought tears to my eyes too. I have always been a book lover and still have my favorites from childhood days. Thank you for sharing Katie with us. I continue to be amazed and impressed by her talent, intelligence and compassion.

  3. I’ve been reading and absolutely loving your posts for months, but this is the first time my eyes teared up. Passion is a beautiful thing…Katie is lucky to have found hers at such a young age. And to be able to identify it and thank the person who helped inspire it is very special. I will be getting that book. Thank you Jess for always inspiring me.

  4. Amazing, beautiful, wonderful, awesome, inspiring, LOVE!!!! What a special special special moment in time to capture!!!! I must find his books and work. I, nor my children, have not had the pleasure. How is that? I must rectify this immediately!

  5. Sitting here weeping reading this. I LOVED reading this book with my kids (and used to tear up reading it because it was so poignant to me). LOVE the story of the meeting, LOVE Peter’s reaction, and most of all, I LOVE Katie’s ability to have found her dot and joy in her life! I’ll look for her on Broadway some day.

  6. What a special meeting. Has Katie read The Magicians, by Lev Grossman? Based on the other books you’ve mentioned she enjoys, this series might be right up her alley.

      • They are somewhere between Divergent and Harry Potter — a community loosely centered around students (and later alumni) of a college of magic, but darker and more dystopian than Hogwarts. The characters are older teens and young adults and the themes accordingly more mature. There is one scene in the second book that could be disturbing, and I can describe it if you’d like a preview before recommending the series to your daughter. I would have loved the books at age 13 or 14, though I read a lot of things that weren’t written with children or teens in mind 🙂

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