Let me be clear, when I say “baby,” I mean “big kid.” We took M to his first author event a couple weeks ago. It was awesome. Adam Gidwitz has a new book out. It’s called Max in the House of Spies. It’s about a German Jewish kid whose parents send him to London in 1939 and he falls in with British spies while he’s there. Also a dybbuk lives on one of his shoulders and a kobold lives on the other.

We first encountered Adam Gidwitz because of his amazing podcast, Grim, Grimmer, Grimmest. (M’s favorite episode is Hans, My Hedgehog.) Gidwitz is a former teacher who now works as a storyteller and author. He’s written the A Tale Dark and Grimm series and the book The Inquisitor’s Tale, and he is the co-author of the Unicorn Rescue Society series. In that series, kids travel around the world saving different cryptids. For each book, Gidwitz teams up with an author who is a member of the culture that the kids are visiting. They’re super fun and a great way to learn about folklore around the world.

Gidwitz talked about a family friend who had been one of the children sent away from Germany ahead of World War II and how the story of that friend inspired him to write this book. He said he felt it was an important book to write now because he thinks it’s an important time to look at Germany before the Nazis came to power and ask, what is it that makes the people of a country vote for leadership they know is wrong? What makes them willing to sacrifice justice for the promise of security? I think he’s absolutely right that these are key questions for our time.

Gidwitz shared the story of how he became a writer: he wanted to teach his students about ancient Egypt and couldn’t find a book to go with the lessons, so he started to write one. He’d write a chapter, share it with his students, and then they’d say, “Then what happened?” He’d tell them, “I don’t know!” and go home to write the next chapter. With a lot of positive reinforcement from his students, Gidwitz decided to quit teaching and write full-time. He didn’t get an agent with the Egyptian book. (He called it a “burner book,” explaining that many authors have at least one book they write and learn a lot from but don’t get to publish.) But he did when he started digging into Grimm’s fairytales.

Gidwitz is super entertaining and a great storyteller and doesn’t look anything like I imagined him. (I imagined him looking like Joshua Malina’s character, Jeremy, from Sports Night. I have no idea why.)

After he talked about his books and answered questions for an hour, there was a signing. When we got up there, he told M., “You’re a lot younger than most of the kids here and I wasn’t sure how you would do while I was talking, but you did great.” (M. is average height but tiny with giant eyes so it’s easy to mistake him for younger than he is.)

The image shows author Adam Gidwitz wearing a checkered shirt, sitting at a table and signing a book. There are multiple copies of the same book stacked neatly on the table, with a bottle of water beside them. In front of the individual, there are several spy pens wrapped in plastic packaging. Bookshelves filled with various books are visible in the background.