Plans are ramping up for the ninth annual National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., which will take place on September 26. As in previous years, numerous children’s authors will be in attendance, but for 2009, the Library of Congress and the National Children’s Book and Literary Alliance have teamed up with 18 children’s book authors and illustrators for a special presentation entitled The Exquisite Corpse Adventure, an ongoing story that will be unveiled over the course of a year, concluding before the 2010 National Book Festival.

Jon Scieszka, the first and current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, has written the first part of the story, which he will read at a special Exquisite Corpse presentation during the festival. The presentation will feature several of the contributors to the project and will be moderated by John Y. Cole, director of the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book, and Mary Brigid Barrett, president and executive director of the NCBLA.

“It’s not like an episodic sequel story. It is a game and it will have the spontaneity of a game,” Barrett says. “We hope that with Jon Scieszka starting it off it’ll be wacky, wonderful entertainment.” After the festival, subsequent “episodes” will be revealed at the Library of Congress’s new Web site. In addition to Scieszka, the authors/artists involved with the project are: M.T. Anderson, Natalie Babbitt, Calef Brown, Susan Cooper, Kate DiCamillo, Timothy Basil Ering, Nikki Grimes, Shannon Hale, Daniel Handler, Steven Kellogg, Gregory Maguire, Megan McDonald, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack, Linda Sue Park, Katherine Paterson, James Ransome and Chris Van Dusen.

Barrett says the project’s twin goals are to encourage and engage kids in reading, and to draw attention to the Library of Congress’s Web pages, which will both host the story as well as educational support materials developed in conjunction with the Butler Children’s Literature Center at Dominican University. More information about the events and authors for this year’s festival is available at the National Book Festival Web site.

And for those who would like a preview of the serialized story, Scieszka’s entry begins: “This story starts with a train rushing through the night. The full moon lights the silver rails winding around dark mountains, through deep woods, and over steep gorges of jagged rock and one freezing cold rushing black mountain river. I wish there was enough time to describe all of the funny (and touching) twists and turns—especially the Elephant Clown Party—that led up to now. But there isn’t. Enough time. Because there is a ticking clock. And the two passengers we care most about don’t know anything about it.”