Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The National Book Festival: Part I

Saturday, I was one of 130,000 people who attended the National Book Festival on the Mall in Washington, DC. The Library of Congress Blog stated that the high attendance was likely because of the prominence and star power of this year’s authors. I am in complete agreement! The star power of the children's and young adult authors alone was magnificent. Overall, the National Book Festival is a day of celebration for all book lovers, but for a reading educator, it's like spending a day in heaven!

I arrived at the children's tent around 9:45 and it was already packed with no available seats. The Library of Congress Blog promised that the"Lollapalooza of the book world" would open with a flourish, and it did indeed! A panel of children's authors/illustrators took the stage to announce the new http://read.gov/ site and the online book The Exquisite Corpse in which each author (plus many more not present) had written a chapter or episode. I have seen panels of children's authors plenty of times at national conferences, but I'm not sure I've ever seen anything like this. Jon Scieszka, Megan McDonald, Steven Kellogg, Nikki Grimes, Kate DiCamillo, and Shannon Hale were all on stage. They seemed very relaxed, happy to be together, and having a great time!

Jon Scieszka read aloud the first episode of the Exquisite Corpse, which is now available online. He is hilarious, so you might expect that the book will be quite funny as well. Each author gave the audience a few clues (which are also in the first episode) as to the crazy adventures that will take place in their respective episode. Shannon Hale, for example, told the crowd that in her episode, one character has a butt in the place where his head should be! The next chapter, written by none other than Katherine Paterson, will be available online October 9th.

After the Exquisite Corpse presentation was over, I saw a former student and fellow National Book Festival fanatic, Amy Stewart. We couldn't stop talking about how excited we were to be there -- we even had our picture made with the book festival backdrop behind us (I'm in the green William & Mary shirt!):

I'll blog about the other amazing presentations I attended as the week goes on. But, you've got to take a look at the video below, taken by the Washington Post. Various authors were asked what book they would have people read if they were suddenly the "Literature Czar." Here are a few responses I loved:

Nicholas Sparks said we should focus on getting kids to enjoy reading. "Reading Shakespeare in the tenth grade is like teaching a foreign language." He said that by learning to enjoy reading first, kids will find Romeo and Juliet and War and Peace on their own.

Jeff Kinney said Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume since it's a funny book and that will get kids hooked.

Julia Alvarez and Holly Black/Tony DiTerlizzi said they wouldn't want to force anyone to read any one particular book because to love reading, everyone must find a book that speaks to them, and that book will be different for each person.

Do take a minute (or two) and watch the video.

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