Sunday, October 30, 2011

2011 R.I. Festival of Children’s Books and Authors Recap

What a great day. I spent a ludicrous amount of money on books … but I got them all signed! Highlights of the talks I attended:

Michael Emberly: What does he do all day? Make mistakes! He told a hilarious story of an elementary school art class when the teacher (complete with flowing hair and scarves) declared that there were no mistakes in art … he had to sneak in a contraband eraser. With which he proceeded to make a giant hole in his paper. Oops.

Purchase: An Annoying ABC. Planning to do some kind of cheeky class alphabet project based on this, Edward Gorey offerings, and The Z Was Zapped.

Steve Jenkins/Robin Page: I cannot wait to tell my kids about the disgusting crucifix frog. Learned that the couple does a ton of research before each project so that they can try and present concepts differently than what’s already out there. Also got to see some of the pencil sketches for finished illustrations; the sketches define the edges of each piece of paper that will be used in the final artwork.

Purchases: So many. Looking forward to reading Just a Second aloud. Kids love measurement.

Linda Sue Park: Learned about the Korean tradition of placing objects in front of baby at his or her one-year birthday party. The one they pick tells their fortune. Linda’s mom claims that she picked a pen, which meant she would become a writer. However, there is no photographic evidence, so she’s not entirely sure if this really happened or if it just makes a good story.

One story that she does know is true is that of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, Salva Dut, and the work he is doing to bring drinking water to villages in his home country. You need to know it too.

Purchase: A Long Walk to Water. 97% of Sudanese girls and women are illiterate, in part because they are often assigned the job to walk miles and miles and miles to fetch water for their family; there is no time for school.

Gail Carson Levine: The auditorium was full of young girls clutching their copies of Ella Enchanted. She showed photos from the movie shoot, on which she was given “consulting rights” … and a hug from Anne Hathaway. If you hug her, you’re one hug removed from Anne!

Purchase: It’s not out yet, but I will be buying several copies of Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It in March. Check out a sample false apology poem.

Norman Juster: Influences include the Marx Brothers. He didn’t write for anyone but himself, even when told by publishers that fantasy would be confusing to children. He did put some details in The Phantom Tollbooth, however, just to annoy Jules Pfeffer, his friend and illustrator. Evidently, Pfeffer hates drawing horses.

Purchase: The Phantom Tollbooth for my brother, who recently revealed that it’s his favorite book ever. Can you believe that I’ve never read it???? It’s on my list to get to after RICBA and Mock Newbery.

Deborah Wiles:
My eyes leaked during most of her presentation. She encouraged us all to know, feel, and imagine; to pay attention and ask questions; to know that “every moment we live is our story.” She related her story that inspired Freedom Summer, when her town’s roller rink/pool closed rather desegregate. When she and her husband explored the ruins of the place recently, “I felt ghosts and I was one of them.” Everyone should have a life notice.

Purchases: Countdown for my mom and Each Little Bird That Sings for me. “I’m coming to SEE you!!!”

Chris Van Allsburg: When he wrote his first book, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, most kids’ books “looked like kids did the illustrations.” There were messages, morals, and lessons, but no subtext. He went in the way opposite direction. He claimed that the style of illustration Abdul Gasazi was not a choice, but a reflection of his “limited” abilities.

Purchases: The Chronicles of Harris Burdick. The new one with stories written by a variety of authors. I have to go back and pick it up, because I bought my copy before the official publication date and wasn’t allowed to bring it home!

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