A children’s book author walks into a bar.... Make that, three children’s book authors walked into an Irish bar on Valentine’s Day. In celebration of the second annual International Book Giving Day on February 14, Margi Preus (Shadow on the Mountain), Chris Monroe (Monkey with a Tool Belt series), and Lise Lunge-Larsen (The Troll With No Heart in His Body and Other Tales of Trolls from Norway) raised awareness for children’s literacy while hoisting pints with about 30 patrons at Carmody Irish Pub & Brewery in Duluth, Minn. It was also a Beers for Books event, a fundraising concept in which each participating venue commits to donating $1 from the sale of each pint of beer to Room to Read, a nonprofit headquartered in San Francisco that spearheads global literacy initiatives.
Despite the best efforts of PW and other friends of the three authors, the Carmody event raised only $35 for Room to Read through beer sales. The three readings, however, which took place after the authors had fortified themselves with adult beverages, were priceless. Lunge-Larsen didn’t actually read from her 2007 book, The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God (Houghton Mifflin): she performed it. As the Norwegian expatriate, a professional storyteller, whirled, twirled, waved her arms, stomped her feet, and made fierce faces at the crowd, the raucous audience responded with applause, hoots, and laughter.
Preus and Monroe, who are both Minnesota natives, were more sedate, as Midwesterners usually are, reading in turn stories featuring canine characters. Preus, who won a 2011 Newbery Honor for her middle-grade novel, Heart of a Samurai, read an unpublished short story, “Eat. Pray. Sleep. Memoir of a Dog,” followed by Monroe, who read for the first time in public from her latest picture book, Cookie: The Walker (Lerner/Carolrhoda, March), about a dog that walks on its back legs.
“I was going to wait for my official book launch on March 2nd to read Cookie for the first time publicly,” Monroe told PW after the reading, “But I thought, ‘These people are here to drink beer and listen to stories. They might enjoy the whole fanny-pack storyline.’ I couldn’t resist. They liked it very much. Of course, afterwards, I was concerned that I had written a book for adults.”
While International Book Giving Day was celebrated last year in a dozen countries and this year in about a dozen more, it should come as no surprise that the emerging unofficial holiday – which can be described as sort of a World Book Night, only focused on readers sharing children’s books – was celebrated most heartily in a Duluth bar. After all, not only do Duluthians enjoy their adult beverages, but International Book Giving Day originated in that northern Minnesota city on July 14, 2011. Jack Broadmoore, who is now eight years old, wanted to share his love of books with other children by founding a book-centric holiday that would piggyback on Valentine’s Day.
“He gave books to his friends, and his grandparents gave away books, and then it went viral last year,” explained Amy Broadmoore, Jack’s mother, who first blogged about the new holiday last year and has been coordinating promotional efforts and logistics since then with a 12-member international planning team and approximately 30 literacy organizations around the world. Broadmoore also maintains www.bookgivingday.com, as well as a presence on various social media Web sites. To date, about a dozen bookstores and other retailers have participated in International Book Giving Day, including the Bookstore at Fitgers in Duluth, which collected books throughout the month of February for distribution to a local school, and the Pioneer Bookshop at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, which gave customers who donate a book to the organization a 25% discount on their purchase.
Broadmoore suggests that people give books directly to children on February 14, leave a book in a waiting room for children to read, donate a book to a library, hospital, shelter, or donate to any organization that distributes books to children in need. To her knowledge, Duluth was the only city where International Book Giving Day was celebrated in a venue that children can enter only if accompanied by a parent or guardian.
“Most of the events celebrating International Book Giving Day elsewhere were held in schools and hospitals,” Amy Broadmoore noted. “Different authors are doing different things.” But all of them are sharing their love of books.