This weekend was the National Book Festival on the National Mall here in D.C. I went down for a few hours to hang out in the Teens & Children tent. The audiences really make the event: it's always fascinating to see who attends, and how they react.
The day started with John Green, about whom we've written here, here and here. And he definitely attracted a crowd: I couldn't even make it into the tent:
|there he is in front of that green screen in the middle|
Green says he writes a book every three or four years -- Fault went through some massive revisions. He so clearly cares about every aspect of his writing. And as you've pointed out so well, imbues it with many layers of meaning.
|Lupica - a little closer|
But Lupica, too, is a man who cares about what he writes. "My books are about friendship, teamwork and loyalty." His first kids' book was based on his own family's experience when his seventh grade son was cut from his basketball team because he was too short. He pulled a group of rejected kids together into an independent team which went on to prove the redemptive power of trying hard and not giving up. "I'm gonna have characters who get knocked down. How they get back up is what my stories are about." His fans weren't the packed-together screaming crowd that Green attracted. But the lines at the microphones for questions were heavily populated with boys grasping their copies of his books and asking about different characters in the stories.
|Walter Dean Myers|
Myers is 75, and had a tough childhood, but spoke fondly of a number of teachers who steered him to classic books, and later to writing. "I loved the Little House books -- I loved them for taking me out of Harlem (which I loved) and putting me in the big woods." One of Myers' predecessors as national children's lit ambassador was Jon Scieszka, a very funny and entertaining writer whose big focus is to get more boys involved in reading. Part of Scieszka's schtick is that adults give boys too many old-fashioned "girl books" that they can't engage with. The Little House books are the ones he tends to cite as not-for-boys. It was a lovely contrast to hear Myers, whose books often focus on the difficult experiences of young men, appreciating how imagination can be fed.
*I think they just haven't found the right books yet -- but that's a discussion for another day.