Have you ever heard of a vampirate?

When my daughter, Mack, was three years old she believed in vampirates.  When I would take her out of the bathtub to dry her off after her evening bath she would point to the darkened bathroom window and say, “Ooooh, vampirates are out there!”

I have no idea where she came up with the name vampirate.  I had never heard it nor spoken it.  I did, however, tuck it away in the back of my mind as a possible idea for a children’s book.  Someday, maybe, I would write a picture book about vampirates.  I envisioned colorful illustrations of friendly vampirates who had bats on their shoulders instead of parrots, sailed in a ship shaped like a coffin, and were hungry for papayas and mangoes instead of blood.  I thought for sure it was an original idea.  I had never heard anyone say the word vampirate except for my daughter.

Imagine my surprise when I was browsing Barnes and Noble one day and happened upon a title called Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean.  “No way,” I said aloud as I grabbed the book from the shelf.  The lady next to me peaked at the book to see why I was acting so surprised.  I held in my hand a 330 page book with a picture on the cover of a young man being rescued from a shipwreck and a phantom ship in the background that had sails shaped like bat wings.  “No way,” I repeated. 

My idea for a picture book about vampirates suddenly sprouted bat wings and flew out the window.  Some dude named Justin Somper had stolen my idea!  How dare he tap into my positive brain waves about a cute picture book and steal my word.  No one had ever spoken the word outside our house.  No one.  How did he do it?  How dare he do it?  Hmpfh.  I bought the book.

I showed the book to Mack who now has no memory of ever believing in vampirates.  “Really?  I used to think there were vampirates outside our bathroom window?  That is so funny!”

Mack decided to read the book.  She loved it.  And when we went to the library she was excited to discover that there are other books in the series.  She devoured the second book and is currently reading the third.  Which brings me to the real reason for this post.  I am currently reading Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean because my daughter wanted me to see what she enjoys about the books.  Over and over she has told me that I will like the books.  Now that I am reading the first one we are having conversations about the plot and some of the characters.

“Do you know how I picture Captain Molucco Wrathe, Mom?  I picture him sort of looking like Captain Barbosa from Pirates of the Caribbean, except a little younger.”

“What part are you on now?”

“What do you think of Sidorio?”

My daughter is delighted that I am reading a book that she has enjoyed.  We are connecting in a new way.  I have found books to be a great way to connect with my kids.  In the first few months after getting married for the second time I was looking for a way to connect with my step kids.  I discovered that my step sons were reading the Eragon books.  I decided to read them as well.  And, like it is with Mack now, we were able to have conversations about the books.  Squid and Shroom especially liked it when I kept trying to guess who Eragon’s father was before it was revealed in the books.  When the movie came out we made sure to see it and then talked about how disappointing it was.

Last summer my step daughter, Juju, plopped the first book of the Twilight series in my hands and said, “You should read this, it’s really good.”  Thus began our summer of reading the entire series about a family of vampires and the girl who falls in love with one of them.  I have read the Leaven Thumps books with Hoob and the Spiderwick Chronicles with Yawlin.  Huh tends to choose single titles rather than series to read, but she still likes me to read what she is reading.  We recently finished reading three different titles that she checked out of the library because they seemed like they were adventurous.

Some of the books the kids have chosen have been tedious for me to read, though I never let on that that is the case.  I always look for something about the book to discuss whether I like the story or not.  The goal is to connect with the kids and to understand why they like the books they choose.  I don’t have to like the book in order to connect with them.  They just like that I am taking the time to experience the books with them.

So, if I have to swallow my pride and read a book by an author who stole my idea, so be it.  It is worth it.  A connection has been formed.

Justin Somper I am coming for you.

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