On Saturday, we went to the National Book Festival, and it was fantastic. Fall on the mall is great in and of itself - and was even more fun this time because it was filled with people, tents, books and authors. There is something wonderful about a festival dedicated entirely to books. Here are some of the highlights:
My 6-year-old daughter and I listened to Tomie DePaula. We found one open seat on the back row with people crowded around us standing. My daughter had to stand on the chair to see but she was thrilled. Tomie's presentation summed up was fun and familiar. He has a great sense of humor, and it felt like we were listening to a long lost friend. He spent a good amount of time teaching the audience how to blow three kisses (like Strega Nona did to her pasta pot) like a real italian: hold your first three fingers together, press them up to your heavily puckered lips, say mmmmmm really loud and long - then blow. At the end he took questions, and my daughter bee-lined to the microphone and asked him the following question: "I want to be an artist when I grow up - how did you learn to make good art?" His answer was great. Kind of. He said that he went to art school and drew a lot. He got paper and crayons for Christmas and he drew everywhere - on his sheets, on the walls, under the wallpaper. Practice, practice, practice, he said. And never copy anyone. Great advice - let's just hope I am not bleaching sheets and scrubbing walls . . .
Brian Selznick was engaging and fascinating. I can not wait to read his new book Wonderstruck. The amount of research he put into it is simply amazing. He explained the process of creating two completely separate stories - one with words only, the other with pictures only, and then making the two intersect at the end. He said that Wonderstruck begins with illustrations, which tell the story of a character named Rose. Then there is text, which tells the story of a second character named Ben. And at some point the two stories come together. As he spoke about the process, I could not help but be completely taken in. I also found particularly impressive his acknowledgment of the sign language interpreters. At the start of his presentation he took the time to thank her and introduce her by name. If you have the chance to listen to Brian Selznick, I highly recommend it.
Our final author was Jane O'Connor. She was at the family story telling stage so she did not have a presentation about her work but rather read her latest story to the crowd. She did tell about her inspiration for her books - herself as a child. And she was fancy. She came adorned with lots of bracelets, a pink boa and a tiara. She was very fun and my son and daughter both enjoyed listening to her read - although my daughter may have appreciated her "fanciness" a little more . . .
All in all it was a huge success, and my kids and I are already looking forward to next year.