Ariel Richardson, editorial assistant in the children's division of Chronicle Books, filed this report of a gathering this past Monday evening.

Every so often the children’s editors at Chronicle Books organize a Bay Area Children’s Literature Drinks Night. Since we are so far from the New York hub of children’s publishing, it is a nice way for us to create a sense of community. This time we coordinated Drinks Night with the release of Mockingjay, and the Mockingjay release party at Mrs. Dalloway’s in Berkeley. We met at The Graduate, a fun, low-key bar in Berkeley. Librarians, booksellers, illustrators, writers, and editors came together over margaritas and popcorn to talk about children’s literature. We debated the similarities and differences between Hunger Games and Twilight, and then got sidetracked on a debate about which is better, Gossip Girl or Twilight. Mary Colgan argued for Gossip Girl over Twilight, while Lisa McGuinness argued the opposite. We also talked about the wonderful wealth of non-series YA.

Attendees included Lisa McGuinness (a former Chronicle editor and an author), Summer Dawn Laurie (freelance editor and children’s bookseller at Books Inc.), Jess Ridout (responsible for school book fairs at Books Inc.), Alan Schroeder (author of Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman, among other titles), Kristen Tracy (author of the recently released A Field Guide for Heartbreakers and Camille McPhee Fell Under the Bus..., among others), Frank Lin (an up-and-coming illustrator), Jessica Lee (teacher librarian at Willard Middle School) and Becca Todd (district library coordinator for Berkeley Unified Schools), Mary Colgan (assistant editor at Chronicle Books), and Julia Patrick (children’s editorial intern at Chronicle Books), among others.

After chatting and drinking we walked over to Mrs. Dalloway’s for their Mockingjay release party. The evening opened with Claire Scott, an Oakland librarian, leading a Hunger Games trivia game. Anyone who answered a question correctly got a nifty Hunger Games key chain! In another contest, people had been asked to imagine how they might survive if the 150th Hunger Games were held in Berkeley, where they would have the advantage

of competing on home turf. The entries were impressive, and included a 20-page short story, a personal essay on heroism, a 15-minute video featuring pet hamsters, and a hand-drawn map of the arena. The judges, authors Mac Barnett, Nina LaCour, and Frank Portman, announced four kid winners and three adult winners at the event. Winners chose from a "cornucopia of prizes" (Barnett gets all the credit for that pun), including a Mrs. Dalloway’s gift certificate, a giant basket of 52 YA advance readers copies (one for every week of the year), signed copies of all the judges’ books, movie theater passes, gift certificates to the local ice cream hot spot, and more. Barnett, the master of ceremonies, dressed in an outrageous outfit, which included a crown of yellow spoons and orange forks meant to imitate flames.

Mrs. Dalloway’s window display featured Katniss on parade in a District 12 chariot, and a giant gold cornucopia filled with all kinds of survival gear (designed and installed by Sophie Worm, an art student at CCA). They gave away gift bags filled with Hunger Games buttons, tattoos, bookmarks, Red Cross wilderness and emergency survival pamphlets, and more. They also served bread baked by Peeta, goat cheese made by Prim’s goats, and water with herbal properties (mint tea and lemonade). Author Dashka Slater attended, and signed stock after the event. In all, nearly a hundred people attended.

The release of Mockingjay was a wonderful excuse to hang out with other like-minded children’s literature and Hunger Games obsessed people. We haven't had a release to rally around like this in a long time -- I don't happen to be a Twilight fan, so the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007 feels like the last time there was this much anticipation and celebration, from children and adults alike, around a book. Events like this demonstrate again the social power of books to generate community and bring people together.

And, of course we all bought copies of Mockingjay and went home immediately after the event to read them.