Newbery-winning author Avi greets a fan,
"Cher? Cher who?" But Avi—that’s a one-word name my 12-year-old daughter knows. She got to speak with the Newbery winner last Sunday, at Scholastic’s author brunch during ALA. "I’d never seen a picture of him, so he seemed kind of mysterious," Jazzy said. Instead, she noted approvingly, he was a "regular guy."
But before Jazzy met Avi, she and more than 300 librarians waited and talked outside Ballroom E at the Marriott in downtown Chicago. "Those librarians are just as loud as the people they tell to be quiet," Jazzy noted.
But once the authors started talking from the podium, the librarians were silent (except for a few clinking forks). So were their electronic devices, especially after emcee John Mason, director of educational marketing for Scholastic’s trade division, reminded guests: "Please set your cell phone to story-hour mode."
The morning’s line-up, followed by the names of the new books they read from: Patrick Carman (Skeleton Creek), Sharon Robinson and Kadir Nelson (Testing the Ice), Avi (Murder at Midnight), Mark Teague (The Doom Machine), Karlijn Stoffels (Heartsinger), Patricia Wrede (Thirteenth Child) and Maggie Stiefvater (Shiver). Suzanne Collins (Catching Fire) was the surprise grand-finale guest, via video.
Carman talked about how, with Skeleton Creek, he combined text with computer videos to attract technology-loving young readers. Readers reach a certain page and get a web address and password so they can go back and forth between the book and the computer. "When they get done, they’re read about 200 pages," he said.
Sharon Robinson and Kadir Nelson, at the Scholastic brunch.
After Carman spoke, Mason introduced a bonus guest, 2007 and 2008 Caldecott Honor-winning artist Kadir Nelson. ("Are you getting your money’s worth or not?!" Mason asked rhetorically.) Nelson, who received a 2007 Caldecott Honor for Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom and a 2008 Caldecott Honor for Henry’s Freedom Box, introduced Sharon Robinson, daughter of baseball player Jackie Robinson. Robinson explained how she had cornered Nelson about illustrating Testing the Ice at a National Book Festival dinner—and that they approached Scholastic as a team.
Avi approached the podium and announced, "Don’t need a computer," and then added, "I just deal with words." (A librarian at our table said, "The curmudgeon comes out.") As he read from his new Murder at Midnight, set in 1490, he wowed the crowd with his books-on-tape-quality voice. His final line: "Behind him, the door opened [pause] slowly."
Wrede read from the middle of Thirteenth Child—a section about townspeople moving a dragon to a collegiate wildlife experiments building. Stoffels, a Dutch author, let her translator, Laura Watkinson, do most of the reading from Heartsinger. And Mark Teague read from his first novel, The Doom Machine, a funny alien tale due out in October. (How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You by Jane Yolen, with his illustrations, comes out a month earlier.)
The Scholastic authors who participated in the brunch.
The last in-person author, Stiefvater, the young author of Shiver, got a laugh when she said her sister had looked at the roster of Scholastic speakers and said, "You’re terribly outclassed."
Finally, Mason introduced video guest Collins—and told the happy librarians that they would receive advance readers’ copies of Catching Fire in their 39 Clues goodie-bags/backpacks. Collins, who read with her glasses perched on the end of her nose, parted with the words: "Until we meet again, may the odds be ever in your favor."
Librarians gave the brunch event two-thumbs up. Mary Wilson, manager of youth services for the Rochester Hills Public Library in Rochester, Mich., said she planned to add the new books by all the authors to the 130,000 or so check-out items in her collection. And a table of junior high students who accompanied their librarian, Shari Condradson of Sebastopol, Calif., certainly looked like prospective buyers. Meanwhile, my daughter hoped to be invited next year, too. (Note to Scholastic: if possible, she’d like J.K. Rowling to apparate into Ballroom E. Could the odds be in her favor?)