Tomorrow, January 5th, the new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature will be announced by the Library of Congress. The official National Ambassador site explains: "The position of National Ambassador for Young People's Literature was created to raise national awareness of the importance of young people's literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education, and the development and betterment of the lives of young people... The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the Children's Book Council (CBC), and Every Child a Reader, the CBC foundation, are the administrators of the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature initiative." As you might imagine, I was thrilled when this position was first announced two years ago.
Today, Mary Lee and Franki from A Year of Reading are hosting a virtual celebration of our outgoing (first) National Ambassador Jon Scieszka. They asked for blog posts honoring Scieszka, saying: "The "Thank You Jon Scieszka" post can be a review of one of his books, your reflections on his work as ambassador, a personal story around one of his books or author visits, something connected to Guys Read...anything Jon Scieszka."
I have previously reviewed one of Scieszka's books (Smash! Crash! (Trucktown)) on my blog, and recapped one of his bookstore events during his term as Ambassador (see a photo of me with Jon Scieszka above). I just mentioned one of Scieszka's articles, written as Ambassador, in my most recent Literacy 'Lights from the Kidlitosphere post, among many other mentions over the past two years.
I also loved Scieszka's memoir, Knucklehead (though I didn't review it, because I listened to it on audiobook, but you can read a great review at A Fuse #8 Production). I think that his Trucktown series cries out "make reading FUN" with every new book. All in all, I'm a huge fan not only of Scieszka's books, but of his tireless efforts to promote reading, especially among boys and reluctant readers.
Before he was appointed National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, Scieszka founded Guys Read, a website dedicated to helping boys learn to enjoy reading. Here's his brief statement on boys and reading (much of which he carried over to his work as Ambassador), edited slightly for formatting:
"Boys often have to read books they don't really like. They don't get to choose what they want to read. And what they do like to read, people often tell them is not really reading. We can help boys read by:
Great ideas, all! A big part of what Guys Read provides is lists of boy-friendly books and audiobooks, broken up into entertaining categories like "Outer space, but without aliens" and "At least one explosion". But there are also recommended resources, options for starting a Guys Read field office, downloadable bookmarks and bookplates, and more.
Guys Read is a great resource, and I'm glad that it will be continuing. But I personally think that Jon Scieszka has done even more for kids (especially boys) and reading during his tenure as Ambassador. You can read his platform here. He visited 33 states and 274 schools, libraries, bookstores, conferences, and festivals in the past two years (per the Huffington Post article). He engaged thousands and thousands of children, and their parents, during that time. He spent the past two years encouraging people to let kids choose what they want to read, provide adult reading role models, expand our definition of what constitutes "real" reading, stop vilifying other types of media like television, and take ACTION to prmote literacy. The amount of energy this must have taken is truly breathtaking.
The committee members who chose Jon Scieszka to be our first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature chose well. They picked someone dynamic and talented, with a kid-friendly sense of humor and an unquenchable enthusiasm for connecting kids with books. I can't wait to hear who the 2010-2011 selection committee chooses for our next National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. He or she will have big shoes to fill. Thanks, Mr. Scieszka. You did a great job!
Updated to add: you can find links to many more posts in honor of Mr. Scieszka in this post at A Year of Reading.
1. National Book Festival
I packed my pockets with tissues and cough drops, and went to the National Book Festival on a chillly, rainy day certain to exacerbate my cold. Totally worth it. The fifth grader and I went to the Mo Willems signing, while the teens tried for Rick Riordan's autograph waiting in a line that defied description. After missing out on his signature, the teens went to his author session early to make sure they didn't miss that too. The fifth grader and I went to see Mo Willems' presentation.
My daughter was picked to go up on stage and read/act the book Today I Will Fly, with her as Piggie, Mo's daughter Trixie as the dog, and Mo as Gerald the elephant! My heart was bursting with pride as my daughter turned in a wonderful performance for a packed house, and now we can't wait to see the webcast on the National Book Festival site.
The whole bunch of us also saw Jeff Kinney, who was delightful, funny and truly humble, and Rick Riordan, who shared the news of his upcoming books. Patrick Carmon talked about his new titles along with The 39 Clues Series. Judy Blume held the crowd mesmerized just by being there. My whole story is available in at MotherReader in two parts.
2. Banned Book Week
With everything I've got on my plate this week, I've let others carry the online efforts for Banned Book Week. Fortunately, they've done a wonderful job. While a Wall Street Journal op-ed questioned whether you can even call a book banned in this country, Colleen Mondor wrote a reply at Chasing Ray that amounts to the world's most eloquent Yes. My good friend Lee Wind has a exceptional two-part interview with authors of challenged books. A letter posted last year at MyLiBlog (and tweeted by Neil Gaiman this year) offers an incredible answer to a patron who wanted a picture book removed from a public library. I also can't help returning to the Banned Books Week manifesto, a jarring poem of Ellen Hopkins, "Burn every word to ash. Ideas are incombustible."
3. The Cybils
Nomination season has begun for the 2009 Cybils, also known as the Children's and Young Adult Blogger's Literary Awards. If you have a children's or teen book that you loved that was published in 2009, you can nominate it at the Cybils site. You can submit one book per genre, and nominations are accepted from today through October 15th. At that point, a panel for each genre reads, analyzes and discusses the books to come up with a shortlist of finalists on January 1, 2010. Then a second round of judges take those books and in the course of a month an a half come up with a winner for each category. With all the genres and judges and rounds, the Cybils involves many bloggers in the KidLit and Young Adult online communities making it a festival season for book lovers. This year I'll be the organizer and a panelist for the Fiction Picture Book category, so I'll be bringing you lots of the best picture books over the next few months. Of course, you don't have to look just to me. Check out the Cybils page for reviews of great titles across the genres.
As I mentioned at the end of last month's posting, I traveled to Glasgow, Scotland in September to attend an international symposium on picturebook research. What a thought-provoking meeting it was! I want to share some of what I learned as it relates to the September postings on Booklights.
One very interesting presentation dealt with the end papers of picture books. As you are reading to your children, be sure to talk about the entire book....the cover, the title page, but also notice the end papers. More and more frequently, illustrators are using the inside of the front/back covers to tell part of the story.
For example, in Mircea Catusanu's new picture book The Strange Case of the Missing Sheep, Catusanu includes hands for counting sheep.This serves as a preface to the actual story. A book created for children ages three and up, the humorous text and illustrations will also keep the adult reader entertained
You may remember that Susan T. included in her introduction her latest favorite book, The Chicken - Chasing Queen of Lamar County, by Janice N. Harrington, pictures by Shelley Jackson.The end pages of this book cleverly lead the reader to know that feathers will fly as the chickens are being chased.
Another picture book with fabulous end papers is Peter Sis' Madlenka's Dog. Madlenka's neighborhood is "in the universe, on a planet, on a continent, in a country, in a city, in a house on a block where everyone is walking a dog." The end papers start narrowing the story in by showing the view of the universe, with the planet. Sis then zooms in closer on the page opposite the book's title page. So the end papers actually start to establish the book's setting.
When reading this book with your child, also be sure to remove the cover and look at the front and back illustrations. Sis has even used the covers to help describe the setting for Madlenka's search for a dog.
This month's postings have provided many great suggestions for books to read aloud to older children. A book by Brazilian author Ana Maria Machado that would be an ideal read aloud for sixth/seventh graders is From Another World. The book won the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2000. It reminds us all that the horrors of slavery were not limited to the United States. Brazil shared many of the same brutalities toward African slaves that our own history includes.
Finally, I can't help but add a penguin book from South Africa to Pam's September 3rd Thursday Three. Peter, Pamela and Percy in the Big Spill relates the oil slick off of Cape Town that harmed many sea birds in 2000. I think that reader Terry who posted a comment and must enjoy nonfiction will also like this link that supports the story told in picture book format.
Happy Reading, Ann
P.S. It is not only our nation's capitol with a fabulous fall book festival; Nashville has many of the same authors visiting us the weekend of October 9-11. I hope that all of you in the area will come visit us for the Southern Festival of Books! And like Pam, I'd love to host you.
I've got a sore throat and sniffles, but I refuse to get sick because I am not missing the National Book Festival this year. If I have to wear the swine flu mask - so hip this season - or if my family has to bring me in on a stretcher, I am going this Saturday.
Due to circumstances beyond my scheduling control, I have had to miss the last two years and it was torture each time to know that celebrated authors were hanging out in my backyard while I was not. This time the weekend is clear, the weather looks good, the author list is golden, and I have to be there.
So what's got me so excited, other than the fact that its free, fantastic, and festivalicious?
1. The Children's Tent
During the day I can attend readings of children's authors Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, Kate DiCamillo, Shannon Hale, Craig Hatkoff, Lois Lowry, Megan McDonald, Sharon Robinson and Kadir Nelson, Charles Santore, Jon Scieszka and David Shannon, and Mo Willems. Let me repeat that last one. MO WILLEMS! I'm sure many of these other folks are wonderful speakers, and I am in awe of many of them as writers and/or illustrators. But if you haven't seen Mo Willems speak, then you have missed something pretty special. I'm a huge fan of his books and kinda him personally - though I've been trying to stay on the right side of the stalker line for a few years now. I can't help it if I keep running into him - accidentally, I swear! - at Book Expo America or the previous National Book Festival. (Probably my favorite author story ever.)
2. The Teens and Children's Tent
Here's where I'll find Teens & Children authors Judy Blume, Pat Carman, Paula Deen, Carmen Agra Deedy, Liz Kessler, Jeff Kinney, Rick Riordan, James L. Swanson and Jacqueline Woodson. These readings run at the same time as the ones in the children's tent so I'm going to have to make some tough choices. At this point I'm pretty sure that I'm going right from the Mo Willems' reading (could I ask for a photo op first? Not sure.) and going for the Rick Riordan, Jeff Kinney, and Judy Blume line-up. Yeah, you read it right - JEFF KINNEY! Kidding, all three of them are superstars in children's literature and I'm stunned that I'll be in their presence. I do have a fondness for Jeff because I've actually met him before and have my own Jeff Kinney Story. (Okay, I have two favorite author stories.)
3. The PBS Raising Readers Pavilion
Hello? Cause that's who I'm blogging for! Apparently PBS is featuring Elmo, so it looks like I'll be meeting him before my Booklights colleague Susan. They'll also have celebrity readings all day long, to which I was not invited. Okay, I'm not a celebrity but they should only hear my rendition of How Chipmunk Got His Stripes. They will also feature Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Between the Lions, plus book-based PBS KIDS favorites Clifford the Big Red Dog, WordGirl, Curious George, and Maya & Miguel
Oh, The National Book Festival also has amazing authors of adult books too. You know, ones like John Grisham, Jodi Picoult, Julia Alvarez, John Irving, Nicholas Sparks, Azar Nafisi, Michael Connelly, Gwen Ifill, Sue Monk Kidd, David Baldacci, Mary Jane Clark, and James Patterson. And I mentioned that this was all free, right? If you are in the area - and by that I mean a two hour radius - you should not miss it. Actually, forget that two hour radius guideline. If you live farther, stay with a friend. Bring some homemade chicken noodle soup and you can stay with me.
It has been another fun month of reading the many, many suggestions for great books for kids recommended by the Booklights gang. Jen started us off with several delightful fractured fairy tales. These are great for children who already know the original versions, as they best understand the humor in the new versions. My personal favorite modern fairy tale is Sleeping Ugly, by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Diane Stanley.
And Susan's suggestion of reading a book for a second time that you loved during the first time you read it got tremendous response! The novels/chapter books that were suggested also provided us with a wonderful list of books to read aloud to children. Just because you have a child who is able to read on his or her own, please don't stop that habit of reading aloud. There is little more reassuring to a child than the time spent with a parent over an engrossing story.
Many of the books that were mentioned have also been recorded on tape or digitally. Check them out from your library for the family to listen to as dinner is being prepared or you drive to school.
I love Gina's new Tuesday feature of Show and Tale. I have been traveling in the Pacific Northwest over the past few weeks and have asked folks all along the way about their favorite children's books. Now, you must realize that my southern accent caused a bit of a snigger when I said "Show and Tale!" But I initiated wonderful conversations with the simple question.
One of my favorites was the visit with author Jean Davies Okimoto. She talked about The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, by Dubose Heyward and illustrated by Marjorie Flack (who later won a Caldecott Honor). Although first published in 1939, this is a very progressive book. Jeanie remembers how she knew this was a tale with a truly feminist perspective. She noticed the ranges of bunny colors and the inclusiveness of the story.
And if you check out Jeanie's favorite children's book, also check out the latest book she wrote, Winston of Churchill: One Bear's Battle Against Global Warming, written by Jean Davis Okimoto and illustrated by Jeremiah Trammell. The book brings forward concerns for the environment in an interesting way for children and their parents.
Next week, I head to Glasgow, Scotland to attend the symposium "Beyond Borders: Art, narrative and culture in picturebooks." I hope to return home with lots of new insights into picturebooks and to be able to introduce some international favorites.
Happy Reading, Ann
Sharing a story with a child is a true pleasure. But here's something even better: having a child share a story with you.
Reading Rainbow -- a longtime favorite of bookworms -- announced the winners of its 15th annual Young Writers & Illustrators Contest. Nearly 40,000 kids participated, with first, second, and third place winners being named for each of the participating grades (kindergarten through third).
The stories are just as much fun to read as published books. There's Michaela's tale of a nearsighted caterpillar (I can relate, at least to the bad vision), Rachel's industrious spider, Ethan's brave exploration of his mother's purse, and Abigail's tear-jerker "Finding Grandpa." And that's only a sampling. All the stories are well worth your time, and I bet you'll be as blown away as I was by the creativity and imagination of the kids.
This is also a great excuse to have your own child start writing and drawing their own tales. The Reading Rainbow winners narrated their stories. With a tape-recorder or a computer mic, you can do the same. If you're looking for a good story starter, try Dot's Story Factory on PBS KIDS. This month's theme is Carnivals.
Sit back. I'm going to tell you one of my favorite children's book publishing stories.
Picture Paris, in June of 1940. All around you is complete chaos as millions of people desperately try to leave the city before the Nazis arrive. Let's focus in on one particular couple amidst the sea of refugees.
It's a husband and wife, both Jewish and both born in Germany. Long before the war started they had moved to Brazil and become Brazilian citizens. They fell in love with Paris on their honeymoon and decided to move there. They were both artists and enjoyed living in the heart of Montmartre. As the German army loomed ever closer, they realized they were no longer safe in Paris. But leaving wasn't easy. They waited in endless lines for updated passports, visas and train tickets.
At last they were ready to go, but they had no way to get to the train station in Orleans in the midst of the rising panic. In desperation for any mode of transportation, the husband went to a bicycle shop where he found that there were no bikes left. But they did have spare parts. He bought these and with no training, he built a bicycle for himself and one for his wife. They put a few of their belongings into baskets attached to their bikes, including the manuscripts and illustrations of several children's books they were working on.
And off they went with all the other people fleeing Hitler's army. They biked through small towns and villages and rode overcrowded trains to reach the south of France. They slept wherever they could including on the floor of a public high school, an empty restaurant, and in a barn with cows.
With their money running low, they finally got permission to cross into Spain. On the train journey, an official checking passports and visas became suspicious of the large amount of paper the couple carried. He demanded to see it and then shoved it back when he found it was just drawings for kids.
They went from Spain into Portugal, and in Lisbon they boarded a boat for Brazil. After a two month wait in Rio de Janeiro, they finally got on a boat bound for America and arrived in New York City in October, 1940. About a year later, one of the manuscripts they had trundled through Europe and South America was published.
I want to tell you another children's publishing story. This one happened just a few years ago. An editor flew to London to pick up a manuscript. She was stopped by airport security on her flight home. Just like the train conductor so many years before, the security officer was suspicious of the enormous amount of paper in the editor's carry-on bag. She looked through it and then eventually allowed the editor to continue on her way.
You may have heard of that book too. It was the unpublished manuscript of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and at that moment in 2007, it was the most valuable pile of paper in the world. The editor's name is Cheryl Klein, senior editor at Arthur A. Levine Books (an imprint of Scholastic.) She told me that she was so nervous that at any moment the security officer was going to look down and see the words Harry, Ron and Hermione. Cheryl had a good story ready, though. If that happened, she was going to claim it was her own (rather extensive) fan fiction.
Cheryl wasn't the only one that happened to. In August 2006, J.K. Rowling was flying back from New York after a charity reading with Stephen King and John Irving. She was stopped by security for the large pile of paper she had with her, which turned out to be the handwritten and unfinished manuscript for Harry Potter Book 7. Fortunately, she was allowed to take it with her.
Moral of these stories: don't travel with large piles of paper.
For more about the Rey's incredible adventure, read The Journey That Saved Curious George.
Through exhaustive research, author Louise Borden was able to bring this classic publishing story to life with the help of the extensive archive of the Rey's papers at the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi. The book is fully documented with letters, maps, archival pictures and notes from H.A. Rey's diary.
Sometimes the story behind a book can be as exciting and interesting as the book itself.
The 2009 Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder banquet was fantastic. Wonderful. Sparkling. Funny. Exciting. And it was also something extremely odd (for me, at least): Visible.
Why was this so strange? The vast majority of the tables at the banquet are reserved by publishers for their invited guests. If you buy a ticket through the regular conference registration, the only place to sit is at the unreserved tables near the back and along the sides (and you've got to fight for a decent spot). Here's a picture of David Wiesner's Caldecott speech from the first year I attended. (Keep in mind that I stood up to take this picture).
After doing this for two years, I wanted to find out what was going on in the good seats. Since I knew I'd never be invited by a publisher, I decided to buy a table myself. (Little known fact: any group of 10 attending the banquet can do this, if they purchase the table in advance and by the deadline). I recruited 9 lovely librarians, and this year my table looked like this:
Wondering what is sitting on all the plates? It's the program for the banquet, which always features artwork from the Caldecott medal book plus a CD recording of the acceptance speeches. The first year it struck me as pretty odd to have the speech in my hands even before it had even been presented!
What was more amazing about the table (other than the fact that it had my name on it) was that it was in the center of the ballroom and only two rows from the front. Not only could I finally see the podium, but I was also able to get a good look at all the other people in the good seats.
Jon Sciezcka was sitting directly in front of me. (This picture gives new meaning to the Heavy Medal dinner I mentioned in my last post.)
Okay, I admit it, I used the zoom feature on my camera. (But the David Wiesner picture was zoomed all the way in too.) And, um, the flash didn't work and you'll have to take my word for it that it's a picture of Neil Gaiman during his Newbery speech. But still!
The other neat thing about being so close was that I could see who was sitting in the front row. I was able to talk to Beth Krommes' teenage daughter and ask her the only question I could think of: "Is this the best night of your life?" Her face glowed as she answered yes.
And I also was able to see, that during dinner and for the briefest of moments, Neil Gaiman had stepped off the dais. I grabbed my camera and a very nice friend and managed to get this picture:
But I didn't realize he was famous. I knew his children's books and was excited to meet him because he was this year's Newbery Medal winner, and because I loved The Graveyard Book. I posted the picture above on Facebook, and was shocked at the number of people who recognized him. My friends have since informed me (in a very nice way) how incredibly ignorant I am and that I'm the only person in the entire world who doesn't know that he's a literary rock star. That's what I get for reading far more children's books than adult ones.
Despite his fame, I think I deserve more credit for my outfit than he does. I feel I had a much harder time finding a formal maternity dress than he did finding a black suit. Huge thanks go to my sister-in-law for loaning me her beautiful dress.
If you look closely at his suit, you'll see a dagger in his lapel. A member of the Newbery committee had them made for all the committee members and Neil.
But, I think that it's probably a good thing that I didn't realize there was an aura surrounding him or I probably wouldn't have kept talking to him for so long. And if I hadn't, I wouldn't have gotten these questions answered, which have been nagging me since I finished reading his book.
Question: How do the ghouls in The Graveyard Book get their names?
Answer: There's been a lot of debate about this, and with good reason: it's confusing. According to Neil, only one line was changed between the British and American editions of the book and it was this one:
British edition: "They told Bod how they had got their names and how he, in his turn, once he had become a nameless ghoul, would be named, as they had been, after the main course of his first dinner."
American edition: "They told Bod how they had got their names and how he, in his turn, once he had become a nameless ghoul, would be named as they had been."
Neil said that his American editor thought the reason for the ghouls names was very obvious and that the rest of the sentence was redundant. The full line will most likely be added back into the paperback edition. But the important thing to understand is that the ghouls are not actually Victor Hugo or the Emperor of China... those are just the names of the first people the ghouls ate.
Question: Why is one of the ghouls named after Harry Truman, the 33rd President of the United States?
Answer: Everyone I've asked about this has given me the same answer: It is an allusion to the fact that Truman was the one who made the decision to drop the bombs during World War II.
The only person who refuted this brilliant explanation was Neil himself. Here's the actual reason: he wanted to use a president from that era and FDR was just too cool to turn into a ghoul. He thought about Eisenhower, but in the end, he thought the number 33 sounded better than the number 34. There's nothing more to it than that. Moral: sometimes things are really that simple.
Question: Will there be a sequel to The Graveyard Book?
Answer: Possibly, but it's not an immediate priority since he's working on tons of other projects. If there is one, Neil says it'll be the what the Lord of the Rings is to The Hobbit. The Graveyard Book was the initial look at the world, but he said he'd want to develop it much further and explore Silas' universe more fully.
Question: Was Neil nervous before his Newbery speech?
Answer: He said he was absolutely terrified. By the time I talked to him (about ten minutes before the speeches started) he said he felt as if he had already jumped off the diving board and had begun the long descent down.
Here's a shot of him talking to Caldecott medalist Beth Krommes before the big moment. Beth was also terrified (according to her daughter). Who wouldn't be?
After all that wonderful schmoozing, it was time for the main event: the acceptance speeches. Beth Krommes gave a lovely speech about the importance of books in her own family and talked about her inspiration for the book. One of the most poignant moments was when she told the audience about a nine day period in the winter where her town was without power. When she stepped outside in the dark, she finally saw her House in the Night.
Neil Gaiman's speech was funny. And moving. And powerful. And funny again. He hit all the right notes, told us that the Newbery Medal had actually made him cool to his kids and talked about the incredible power of books. One of my favorite moments was when he asked the crowd what the first sentence of A Wrinkle in Time is, and the whole audience immediately gave the correct answer in unison. He hit it out of the park with his speech and I thought it was the highlight of the evening.
As far as Ashley Bryan's acceptance speech for the Wilder Award, all I can say is this: you had to be there. The speeches are written several months before they're given, in order to be printed in The Horn Book. I got a copy of the July/August issue of The Horn Book the morning after the speech. It's hard to see in this picture, but if you look very, very, very closely at the front cover of this issue (between the bird's wing and the tree, under the letter H), you'll see that Beth Krommes has added a graveyard to her lovely illustration. It's much easier to see on the actual magazine cover.
I immediately turned to see what Ashley Bryan had written in The Horn Book. It was a few short pages, talking about what the award meant to him and how his career developed. He did, in fact, say all those words. But that was only the beginning of his speech.
He also devoured poems and let the juicy words run from his lips. He led several sing alongs. He drew the crowd in as if he was a gospel preacher. It was an incredibly uplifting, emotional experience. Later in the evening I told him I'd never heard anyone read poetry the way he did: lyrically savoring every mouthful. He said that's the way poetry should be read, and I agree completely.
I also got to talk to Beth Krommes after the banquet. I repeated what her daughter had said earlier... that it was the best night of her life. Beth gasped and said "Better than the prom?!" and then told me how much hearing that meant to her.
In the end, the banquet was exactly what I predicted last week. It was just me, Neil, Beth and Ashley. Oh, and a thousand or so other people.
To quote Kevin Henkes, "What a night!"
Tomorrow I'll be on my way to New York City for Book Expo America (BEA). I've never been to this yearly event, but I understand that it's like being a kid in a candy store, except for bibliophiles. At BEA, the publishers reach out to booksellers, librarians, bloggers, and authors hoping to create buzz and collect purchase orders for their newest releases. They give away Advance Reader's Copies (ARC's) and posters and bookmarks in the hopes of launching the next Harry Potter series. Or in this economy, to make a decent profit.
Perhaps the best part of the whole convention is the author signings. Publishers bring in tons of authors to make appearances and sign books. There are thirty special signing tables set up where authors rotate through the schedule in one hour blocks, and there are also times when authors are signing at the publishers booths. The schedule is maddening. Will I be able to fit in both Scott Westerfeld and Katherine Paterson at 3:00 p.m. on Friday? Jon Scieszka at the Simon & Schuster booth and Rosemary Wells in the autograph area at 4:00? I'm already missing my favorite, Mo Willems, because I'll be on the bus ride up to the city. Ah, Mo. I shouldn't be greedy, having been to several of his signings and a few of his presentations, but a Mo opportunity shouldn't be missed if at all avoidable.
Adult books and their authors actually dominate BEA, but focusing on the children and teen books is one way for me to keep this event manageable. A few authors who are normally associated with adult books will be signing their children's titles, and I'm curious about the reception they will receive. For instance, James Patterson is signing at the Little, Brown booth, but for a new teen book Witch & Wizard. Meg Cabot is there, not for her adult books or the Princess Diaries series, but for her newer middle-grade series, Allie Finkle. Personally, I'd like to see both, but am less willing to wait in a long line than perhaps their other fans.
I have a list of authors and illustrators that I'm hoping to see including: Suzanne Collins, David Lubar, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Peter McCarty, Sharon Draper, Linda Park, Maureen Johnson, Jon Agee, Peter Reynolds, Barry Lyga, Bruce Lansky, and Jerry Pinkney. I have many other favorites who are signing books when I am otherwise engaged. How about you? Which authors and illustrators you would want to meet?
This weekend, I attended a book signing by Rick Riordan at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park, CA. The event was in honor of the publication of the fifth and final book in the Percy Jackson series, The Last Olympian. Despite the best efforts of the Kepler's staff, it was a complete madhouse - some 600+ people crammed into a single store, all with books they wanted signed.
But it was amazing, too. Hundreds of kids choosing to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon at a bookstore. Kids waiting more or less patiently in line for hours, that eager to meet an author. Kids treating said author like a rock star (my friend Camille, who blogs at Book Moot, calls him Rockstar Rick Riordan). It was a beautiful thing. (The pictures to the right were taken about 30 minutes before the signing, and give you some idea of how mobbed this event was.)
The event stared with Rick speaking to a packed crowd for just a few minutes, and then answering questions from the kids. He talked about his time working as a teacher in the Bay Area, and how the first seeds for the Percy Jackson series came from experiences that he had in California. It was a nice tie-in for the local crowd.
Here are a few highlights from the Q&A:
Rick's favorite characters from the series: Grover and Tyson. (I agree. I especially love Tyson)
Greek parent that Rick would like to have, if he were a Half-Blood: Poseidon.
Greek parent that Rick thought he would actually have: Dionysus, or someone else like that.
Rick's favorite myth: Orpheus
On whether the movie set for The Lightning Thief accurately represents Camp Half-Blood: The best pictures are always the ones in your head, so it's always hard to see the movie at first (though he was in general wowed by the movie set - see here for details).
And the two pieces of news that elicited screams of excitement from the crowd:
1. Rick is working on a second series about Camp Half-Blood, with the first book due out in late 2010, featuring next generation characters. He promised that some of the characters that we know and love will be there in the background, though not the major focus of the new stories.
2. He is also working on a new book based on Egyptian mythology, and promises that next spring, "the Gods of Egypt will be invading the modern world." Boy, is that series going to be huge.
You could tell during the Q&A that the author was a former teacher. All of his attention was for the kids. The signing portion felt like a parade, with people everywhere, and everyone there had books in hand. They even had a wheel that you could spin, to see which of the "Big 3" gods was your father. (The picture shows my better half, spinning the wheel. He landed on Hades. But we thought that the wheel was rigged - most people seemed to land on Hades.)
We had to wait in line ourselves for about an hour, but it was time well spent. I was impressed by the many parents who took time out on a Saturday afternoon to bring their kids to a celebration of books. Seeing kids, and their parents, treating any author like a rockstar is an inspiration.