Below you will find a quick recap of each author talk I attended at the Decatur Book Festival. I'll include any news about future books or projects the authors might have mentioned either during the talk, the Q&A or in the signing line. By camera is having some issues so the pictures are all somewhat fuzzy. Also a few others didn't work at all. (Some Penderwick's news near the bottom of this post. Don't miss it.)
The first author I head this year was Bob Shea. He was at the Book Festival to promote his new picture book Dinosaur vs. The Potty. Fans of Dinosaur vs. Bedtime can probably guess how this one turns out. Needless to say Shea has written another winner. While he signed my book I asked him when we might see Dinosaur vs. Kindergarten (now that his son/dino-muse is 6 years old). Shea responded with a quick "Be careful what you wish for." He told me that he had only sketched out Dino vs. Kindergarten but before that we should be on the look out for Dinosaur vs. Library. I can't wait! During his talk Bob read Dinosaur vs. Potty (with some audience assistance for the roaring). He also shared his super secret jelly bean style of animal illustration in which he creates any animal imaginable from the same jelly bean shaped starting point. He made it look so easy.
Next up was Michael Buckley. Buckley drew a very large and enthusiastic crowd. The audience was split about 60-40 between fans of the Sisters
Grimm series and fans of Buckley's new N.E.R.D.S. series there was, of course, considerable overlap as well. I haven't read any of the Sisters Grimm books but after hearing Buckley talk about it I'm excited about giving the first one a read. Buckley's talk featured both series spending a lot of time answering fan questions. Sisters Grimm fans should be excited to hear that Buckley will start working on the 8th and final installment of the series at the end of the month. He also informed the audience that there would be a total of five N.E.R.D.S. books with each book focusing on a seperate member of the team. There is also a chance we might see a book focusing on Hyena (the assassin want to be for the first N.E.R.D.S. book) sometime.
Buckely was followed by the local Atlanta author (and potential 2011 Newbery winner) Deborah Wiles whose Countdown received praise by authors all weekend. Wiles shared the stage with fellow N.B.A. runner up and Coretta Scott King Honor recipient Shelia Moses to speak about writing historical fiction. Both authors did a wonderful job. During the Q&A Wiles shared a little about the rest of 'The Sixties Trilogy'. Wiles said there would a different casts of characters in each of the novels. The novels will have some overlapping characters though. Wiles also said that we will see Jo Ellen (Franny's older sister) in 1964 Mississippi (which I'm guessing will be the next book). Wiles seemed delighted to be in Decatur and sat in on many of the author talks on both Saturday and Sunday.
Quick aside: While attempting to escape the heat for a few minutes I browsed through Little Shop of Stories (the independent children's book store who was responsible for bringing all these great children's authors to town) where I ran into Scholastic editor and author David Levinthan. (he was Deborah Wiles editor for Countdown but could not attend Wiles' talk because his YA talk was at the same time) I of course first asked him about Mockingjay. He said he first read it over a year ago and had to keep everything secret for that long. I asked him if Collins is working on anything new and Levinthan said she is really busy promoting Mockingjay right now but has a few different ideas she is considering. Sounds like it will be a while before we get anything new from the Hunger Games scribe. Oh, and while I was in the bookstore, I read Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer's new picture book collaboration The Odious Orge. It is pretty awesome. Hope it's not another 49 years before they do another one together.
The last talk of the day featured Marie Rutkoski author of The Cabinet of Wonders and its sequel The Celestial Globe. Rutoski did a short reading from The Celestial Globe and then spoke about the role her professional background as a researcher plays in her writing. Rutkoski said that Jewel of the Calderosh [no doubt mutilated the spelling] scheduled to be published fall of next year will be the final book in the Kronos Chronicles. She is also working on a YA novel currently titled Me and the Shadow Society. Rutkoski also tangentially mentioned that When You Reach Me is one of her favorite recent reads and is using in the courses she teaches! I looked it up, she teachers children's lit. at Brooklyn College. I bet it's an awesome course!
Sunday I made it back to the festival just in time to hear author Tom Angleberger talk about one of my favorite books of the year, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. Angleberger shared the stage with Star Wars illustrator and toy designer Chris Reiff. Needless to say the tent was packed with kids all eager to hear the authors speak and check out the costumed Star Wars characters who filled the stage (see the picture). After briefly discussing The Strange Case of Origami Yoda's premise Angleberger read from chapter two (the wet pants problem). Then it was time for the main event. Volunteers started passing out small green pieces of paper so that everyone in the audience (all 300+) could make their very own origami Yoda. Angelberger instructed the audience, with the help of one brave volunteer, using a giant piece of paper. The adults and kids in the crowd all had a great time. As I waited in the signing line, I mentioned to a few parents that they should also hunt down Angelberger's first novel The Qwikpick Adventure Society (published in 2007 under the pseudonym Sam Riddleburger). Like Origami Yoda it is a hilarious story (2 words: Poop Fountain) featuring a group of misfits.
Unfortunately I didn't hear any of the presumably hilarious talk by Eric Wright (Frankie Pickle series), DJ Steinberg (Adventures of Daniel Boom AKA Loud Boy series) and Josh Lewis (Super Chicken Nugget Boy). The talk also featured a life size Super Chicken Nugget. It sounded like both the kids in the audience and the authors on stage were having a great time. Laughter and chanting could be heard all the way across the square. I did manage to get a shot of Erick Wright signing some Frankie Pickle books. I'd bet the Frankie Pickle series books are the most circulated items in our school library. Our students just love them, I guess I should give them a try at some point. Both the Loud Boy series and Super Chicken NB also look like a lot of fun so I need to track them down. Can anyone vouch for them?
The next up was Newbery Honor author Ingrid Law. Law got a very warm welcome from the fans in attendance (including author Jeanne Birdsall!). She spoke about writing both Savvy and her newest book Scumble which she called a "companion not sequel" to Savvy. Talked about her writing process and how nervous she was starting Scumble. Law's love for language was easily apparent as one listened to her read from the new book and after hearing her I feel like I need to move Scumble a bit higher on my to read list! Fans will also be happy to know that Savvy film rights have been optioned by Walden Media (Holes, City of Ember, Narnia, etc.) for a major motion picture.
Next up was the event I was most excited about. I knew from watching Jarrett Krososka's hilarious video in which she plays Jarrett's agent that Jeanne Birdsall was a funny lady. The video has once again disappeared from the interwebs but you can see a deleted scene featuring Birdsall about one minute into this video. Once the discuss, which also featured local author Laurel Snyder (Any Which Wall and Up and Down the Scratchy Mountain) Birdsall's humor was impossible to miss. Both authors share an affinity for the novels of Edward Eagers and Enright, Nesbit, C.S. Lewis and Betty MacDonald. Works which take place in a magical or seemingly magical world where characters are safe to explore their own worlds. The two talked eloquently about their works and seem to be kinder spirits. At one point during their discussion about writing fantasy and how characters might deal with magic, Snyder brought up the "Susan problem", which is the idea that Susan Pevensie grew up and forsake magic for lipstick and therefore could not return to Narnia (and beyond) in the final book. Snyder mentioned that this was a problem she considered when assembling her characters for Any Which Wall and a problem she plans to confront in her next novel. I can't wait to read it.
In other news, Birdsall confirmed that there would be five Penderwicks books and gave us some much desired info regarding the third book, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, which Birdsall said would take place in Maine. The author also said that in this story neither Rosalind nor Mr. Penderwick would be around so it's Skye's chance to be in charge. Birdsall did not spend much time talking about her new picture book Flora's Very Windy Day but I'd like to give it a mention again anyway. I have read it a number of times now and as I wrote in my review, I think it is the best picture book of the year.
Birdsall on the left, Laurel Snyder on the right.