The National Book Festival was a bit different this year since it moved from the Mall to a nearby convention center. Some liked it because it took weather out of the equation but, for me, the Book Festival was meant to be on the Mall. Sitting in the tents listening to fabulous authors and seeing the monuments around us made it magical. It also sent a clear message that this nation believes in books and reading. In the convention center, not so much! :-)
As always, there was a smorgasbord of authors to choose from on the program. I started out with Kate DiCamillo, the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and she was terrific. Because of Winn-Dixie will always be a favorite of mine. Rather than doing a canned speech she interacted with the audience – especially children – and the audience ate it up. She is a hoot in person and she calls it as she sees it. I thought she was terrific.
Next was one of my favorite picture book author/illustrators, Peter Brown. He won a Caldecott Honor for Creepy Carrots, if you recall. I love his The Curious Garden and Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. He has a new book out called My Teacher is a Monster which focuses on one boy’s perception of his teacher. But he does fly paper airplanes in class so maybe his perception is a bit off? :-) Peter did a great presentation and he had the full attention of the children there.
A treat was to follow with the always inspiring Bryan Collier. If you haven’t read his first book, Uptown, in a while you need to go back and revisit it. It really is a masterful picture book. I love hearing him read it aloud. He also read aloud Knock Knock, his book with Daniel Beaty which deals with the loss a son feels when his father exits his life. It’s incredible and Bryan’s art brings it to a whole other level.
Jack Gantos was back again and again he had everyone laughing in the aisles. Jack won the Newbery for Dead End in Norvelt and, if you’ve read that, you’ll know that he knows humor. He has just published the final Joey Pigza book called The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza. I love the Joey Pigza books (“Can I get back to you on that?” is one of the great quotes from book #1) and am really looking forward to reading this last installment. He also has done the audio versions of his books and they are fantastic. Treat yourself!
One of our best writers for children, middle grades, and young adults is Jacqueline Woodson. She has won the Coretta Scott King, the Newbery, and just about every other award she has been eligible for. She is a treasure in the world of children’s books. I absolutely love her work. This year she has published a memoir, written in verse, that is outstanding. It follows her life from Ohio to North Caroline, and finally Brooklyn, New York and all the nuances of the times she grew up in. It’s wonderful. She read aloud some of the poems and it was such a treat to hear the poems in her own voice.
Lastly I went to see Susan Stockdale whose latest book, Stripes of All Types, captivates young children. I love her books. Her illustrations are so bold and the language describing these stripes in nature is lyrical. I was so captivated by her talk (author visit anyone?) that I forgot to take a photo. I emailed Susan and got this one that a friend of hers took. Take a look at her books – they will be ideal for classrooms Pre-K to 2nd (at least).
All in all a great day. Be looking for an announcement here when the Book Festival rolls around again. It is free and it is fantastic. Oh, and I should mention that books are sold and the authors are available for signing. What a great day out for families and what a great souvenir to remember the day – a signed book!