November 22, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Carla Hayden Headlines the 2016 National Book Festival

Authors gather around Carla Hayden. From left: Gene Luen Yang, Noelle Stevenson, Brendan Wenzel, Andrea Beaty, Kiersten White, Hayden, Shannon Hale, Jo Knowles, Meg Medina

Authors gather around Carla Hayden. From left: Gene Luen Yang, Noelle Stevenson, Brendan Wenzel, Andrea Beaty, Kiersten White, Hayden, Shannon Hale, Jo Knowles, Meg Medina

The megastar of this year’s National Book Festival in Washington, DC, wasn’t Stephen King, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, or Salman Rushdie. It was Carla Hayden, the new Librarian of Congress sworn in on September 14.

At the Friday night gala that kicked off the annual even on September 23t, now in its sixteenth year, Hayden was mobbed by authors, all clamoring for a photo with the new head of “America’s Library.” More than an hour in, an aide had to extricate Hayden from admirers so that she could have an opportunity to eat dinner. One of those fans was Sophie Blackall, 2016 Caldecott Medalist. Though Blackall hesitantly asked for a photo op, Hayden was not camera shy. The Librarian of Congress tweeted many photos of herself with authors, children, and storybook characters throughout the festival.

Melissa Sweet at her book-signing station.

Melissa Sweet at her book-signing station.

The nationally known one-day event on September 24 attracted about 200,000 attendees from around the country. They had the opportunity to meet their favorite authors, poets, and illustrators and snag autographs. Signing lines snaked through the massive Washington Convention Center. Thanks to the Junior League of Washington, which helped organize and facilitate the signings, authors including Raina Telgemeier managed to autograph 1,500 books in an hour and 10 minutes.

School librarian Terri Owens checks out the New York State selection for 2016 Great Reads About Great Places.

School librarian Terri Owens checks out the New York State selection for 2016 Great Reads About Great Places.

Librarians, naturally, were well represented. Terry Orvis, librarian at Virginia’s Fairfax County Dogwood Elementary School, was celebrating her fifth year as a festival volunteer. Rebecca Greene traveled from Port Ewen, NY, where she is a librarian at the Hamilton Bicentennial Elementary School. She enjoys gaining insights from authors about their books that she can then share with her students. The Pavilion of States and Territories, where each state and territory hosts an exhibit, was the highlight for Jennifer Soliday, a school librarian from Punxsutawney, PA.

The American Samoa exhibit in the Pavilion of States and Territories

The American Samoa exhibit in the Pavilion of States and Territories.

Gene Luen Yang, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and a recently named MacArthur Fellow, was spotted at various venues. At the Read and Learn Center, he was seen working with a young attendee on a coding activity using primary source materials. The basis of the activity was Thomas Jefferson’s cipher code, traditionally thought to have been used by Lewis and Clark. 

It was Brendan Wenzel’s first time at the National Book Festival, speaking about his They All Saw a Cat (Chronicle, 2016), a book that he wrote and illustrated. He is also the illustrator of Some Bugs (S.&S., 2014) and Some Pets (S.&S., 2016), written by Angela DiTerlizzi. Wenzel also discussed his experience working as a conservationist with endangered wildlife in Southeast Asia. While he was in Nepal, he had a chance to teach a talented group of young artists, with whom he shared his enthusiasm for the visual arts and the natural world. The kids would catch amphibians and insects, deposit them in tanks, and then spend the rest of the morning huddled around with their sketch pads. His motto for the class was, “There are no bad drawings.” Wenzel was thrilled to see the kids get on board and appreciate each other’s unique takes on frogs, grasshoppers, and the many other small creatures they found around the valley.

Sharon Robinson, left, and Pam Munoz Ryan glam it up at the National Book Festival Gala.

Sharon Robinson, left, and Pam Munoz Ryan glam it up at the National Book Festival Gala.

Wenzel told SLJ that being asked to participate in the National Book Festival was an incredible honor. “Listening to brilliant authors speak about the importance of reading and literacy was a thrill, and an appreciated reminder of how important it is to get books in the hands of all kids.” 

Jo Knowles and Shannon were busted trying to stick a sign to Gene Luen Yang's back.

Jo Knowles (left) and Shannon Hale were busted trying to stick a sign to Gene Luen Yang’s back.

Children took center stage during the presentation of Letters About Literature, a reading promotion program of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Kids in grades 4–12 write to an author (living or deceased) about how his or her book affected their lives. More than 50,000 young readers from across the country participated this year. The national winners read their letters and spoke about them.

One of the young winners of the TK shares her letter with the audience.

One of the young winners of Letters for Literature shares her missive with the audience.

The next National Book Festival will take place on September 2, 2017.

 

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Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.

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