Friday, March 19, 2010

5,000 kids go to school over spring break

From March 13-16, I was one of the lucky authors participating in the 42nd annual
Children's Literature Festival at the University of Central Missouri. I knew little about this festival when I agreed to go. I figured anything that's been around 42 years must be doing something right.

And 5,000 kids later, I can now confirm that my hunch was sound. The university was on spring break, freeing up the sidewalks and hallways for busloads of younger students coming in from around the state.

Each author to spoke eight groups
—four hourlong sessions on Monday and four more on Tuesday. Some (including me) were in classrooms and the biggest names got auditoriums. The orchestration of this event was grand-scale and, from where I stood, smooth. No kids got lost, though some authors (including me) did. (Hey, it was an unfamiliar campus.)

I did not take a photo of my little plot on the book tables until the the third and final day:

Any such photo has no frame of reference (unless you know how many books total were there to begin with, which I don't), but we (meaning me and the other authors I talked with) sure felt like a lot of books sold. I think the title I signed the most copies of was Vanished: True Stories of the Missing.

nside a glass cabinet, each author's work was represented by a little shoebox-less diorama:

But even cooler were the clever cubic centerpieces used to indicate where each of the 43-or-so authors in attendance were to sit at the kickoff luncheon.

At the end of the luncheon, where Cheryl Klein of Arthur A. Levine gave a heartfelt keynote (in part about her grandfather, who founded this festival), each cube was raffled off to a person sitting at its table. I did not win my own.

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