The National Book Festival, held on the National Mall and put on by the Library of Congress, is an event I have happily attended for seven consecutive years. With writers discussing their novels, biographies, and cookbooks, there is plenty here for adults.
There is also plenty here for children. This year, during the two-day event held September 22 and 23, kids could hear children’s authors, write a birthday wish to Clifford the Big Red Dog, pose for a picture with costumed book characters, and lounge with a book on comfy, bright colored furniture.
At the Family Storytelling Stage, large monitors showed the images of the book being read aloud on stage. Here I saw Amy Krouse Rosenthal read a few of her picture books, and Librarian of Congress James H. Billington read Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. In addition to readings, this stage was the site of musical performances geared toward children.
Not surprisingly for a book-centered event, the importance of reading was emphasized in the offerings for children. Walter Dean Myers, the national Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, said, “I’ve lived a thousand, thousand lives” from reading books. Avi told his audience he wanted them to read lots of different books, not just his own.
The festival also promoted writing; in one activity, children could create their own books. Jerry Spinelli told the story of how he taught himself to write – all so he could write “Will you marry me?” in a note to a first grade classmate. Author after author answered children’s requests for advice for aspiring authors.
Writers spoke of both the joys and challenges of writing. Rosenthal sang the praises of language, describing how she loves words and reading stories that include homonyms, palindromes, and puns. Laura Amy Schlitz and Avi, on the other hand, discussed the fear that leads to writer’s block. Both expressed a similar idea, that writer’s block comes from the writer’s fear of what the writer is writing.
Children at the National Book Festival also heard authors talk about the topics of their work. Myers and Spinelli both spoke about the power of the written word to imagine another person’s point of view. Natalie Pope Boyce and Mary Pope Osborne gave remarks on their latest books about giant pandas. I heard them talk on Saturday, September 22, and the sisters/author team were overjoyed about the panda cub that had just been born to Mei Xiang at the National Zoo. Sadly, the cub died the next morning.
Who was your favorite author at the National Book Festival this year?
October’s blog theme is Children and Museums.