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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Decatur Book Festival '07 - Saturday


     It's the second annual AJC Decatur Book Festival this weekend, and in its second year it's already one of the top five largest book festivals in the country! In no small part due to the efforts of Diane Capriola, owner of Little Shop of Stories and cheif organizer of the Target children's stage - gotta love on our generous sponsors!
     Festivities actually started Thursday night when Diane invited me to join her, Chris Morris (Penguin Rep) and Judy Schachner for dinner. As I expected, Judy is a warm, intelligent and quirky lady - lots of fun!
     Friday, Judy and Chris Raschka did special performances for the local school children who walked to the square to enjoy a great time.
     Saturday started early with a parade and reading of Where the Wild Things Are, so the children's tent was already overflowing capacity (250 seats!) when Judy Schachner took the stage with Skippyjon Jones' latest title, Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble! All the kids joined in to say, "Holy Guacamole!" and went bezerk over the fun spanish. If you're not familiar with Skippyjon Jones, rush out and buy a book right now. And then keep some kleenex handy, because you will laugh until you cry! (I didn't get a great picture, but I'll see Judy today so I'll try again.)
     Chris Raschka took the stage next, and I have to say, he took his presentation to a whole new level. He presented his book, Mysterious Thelonious, as music. With a jazz singer, bassist and guitarist onstage with him. Chris switched between drawing on the easel, teaching kids about the twelve basic colors on a color wheel and how they correspond to the twelve notes in an octave (chromatic) - hope I'm getting that right. Anyhow, the musicians played a piece by Thelonius while Chris played along on a small accordion and read the story with the beats of the music. It was genius. Pure, absolute genius. And Chris is just SO cool.

     Hubbie and I caught up with fellow illustrator buddy, Liz Conrad and her husband, so we had sushi for lunch - yum! Liz will be on the illustrator panel I moderate later today (it's Sunday morning). I also saw memoirist (and good friend) Jessica Handler walking by, so she popped in to join us for a bit.
     Next came the amazing Rick Riordan with his Percy Jackson and the Olympians books. If you ever doubt the impact one person can have on society, this was the author to see. He asked questions about mythology (had the kids in the palm of his hand, let me tell you!) and every hand in the place went up. Not one child gave a wrong answer, from "who is the goddess of war" to "what is the name of the creature who is half bull, half man"? I wish these books had been around when I was a kid as I have always been fascinated by Greek mythology and never had the chance to really explore it. And here, Rick has an entire generation comletely educated on the subject under the guise of having fun. Brilliant!
     After Rick, we quickly ran over to catch Frank Turner Hollon and Joshilyn Jackson. Frank is a highly successful adult author (look for the movie "Life is a Strange Place" based on his best-seller), he also happens to be the author of Glitter Girl and the Crazy Cheese illustrated by yours truly.

     Back to the children's stage, I got to hang with my buds before they went onstage for the "Historical Fiction Authors Panel." One thing I love about the children's book business is how truly supportive everybody is and how you end up being friends with so many great talents. Here's Susan Ross Spain (author of The Deep Cut), Vicky Alvear Schecter (author of Alexander the Great Rocks the World, moderator and writing buddy), Me, Lynn Cullen (author of I am Rembrandt's Daughter) and Alan Gratz (author of Something Rotten) in the back, before they went onstage.
     And here they are doing their thing:

     Saturday was a great day of play. Today (Sunday) I go back to work as MC at the children's stage all day and moderate the illustrator panel. So, more fun adventures to follow!!

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