What could be better than a weekend at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC? Huge tents covered the National Mall in front of the Smithsonian Castle and thousands of bibliophiles (including my grandsons!) gathered to listen to their favorite authors. The Library of Congress sponsors this wonderful event. I parked myself in the front row in the children’s tent and enjoyed inspiring words from award-winning authors about where they get their ideas for their stories. Katherine Applegate wrote The One and Only Ivan in 1st person gorilla! She read an article in the NY Times over 20 years ago about a gorilla in a Tacoma, WA shopping mall. That story is the basis for this Newbery Award winning book. And Katherine recently paired with illustrator G. Brian Karas so watch for the picture book, Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla in October 2014. In the Caldecott winning book Locomotive, author/illustrator Brian Floca tells the story of a steam locomotive similar to the one in a park in his hometown. Lesa Cline-Ransome and her husband, James, write picture book biographies giving them the opportunity to eavesdrop on conversations of famous people. They gave the advice to write about what you know and love and that’s evident in their book Light in the Darkness. Where do they look for ideas? the obituary pages! Richard Peck’s The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail grew out of a trip to London. He saw a mouse darting around an old castle. Why not tell a story from the point of view of the mouse? And so he did. Even Queen Victoria is in the book.
Christopher Myers, the son of award-winning author Walter Dean Myers, speaks at youth prisons. Questions from prisoners about “power” led him to the idea of the power of the pen, a new release coming from Hyperion books. Growing up with five brothers and being a really funny guy has benefitted Jon Scieszka (his name rhymes with fresca) with ideas for books like Smash! Crash! and Battle Bunny. How about a book with a chapter written in “hamster?” Just download the free hamster language app and you’re all set to enjoy Spaceheadz. Creative people like Suzy Lee can turn a day chasing waves at Galveston Beach into a book called Wave. Her design was used on the Festival posters and promotions. Katherine Paterson was at a women’s conference when she heard about letters written by Vermont farm girls. Anyone know which book that became? “It seems like I always have a pencil in my hand, ” remarked illustrator Mark Teague. His pencil is not for writing words but for sketching illustrations. Teaming up with award-winning author Jane Yolen, How do Dinosaurs Say I’m Mad? is just the latest book in that series for preschoolers. Did you know that each book features different dinosaurs?
In addition to the author and illustrator presentations and panel discussions, there are huge tents filled with books and book sellers. In the Let’s Read America tent, each state is represented by “their books” and kids travel from table to table getting their reading passport stamped. And of course, there are free books, posters and more plus fun photo opportunities with our favorite storybook characters.
You don’t have to travel to our Nation’s Capital to enjoy a book festival. The Tucson Festival of Books on the University of Arizona campus is a great event. Spend the weekend soaking up all the wit and wisdom from your favorite authors. Mark your calendar for the 7th annual TFOB March 14 and 15, 2015.