By AUDREY FISCHER
Making her fourth appearance at the 10th annual National Book Festival was National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Katherine Paterson.
“I hope they aren’t keeping track,” joked Paterson, who said she hopes to be invited back to the book festival in the future.
Appointed in January 2010, Paterson is the second person to hold the National Ambassador position. (See Information Bulletin, January/February 2010.)
During the week leading up to the book festival, Paterson made a special public appearance at the Library of Congress. Youngsters and adults packed the Coolidge Auditorium on Sept. 23 to hear the two-time Newbery Medal winner (“Bridge to Terabithia” and “Jacob Have I Loved”). Supported by the Jonah S. Eskin Memorial Fund, the event was one of the many special activities in conjunction with the book festival’s 10th anniversary.
Paterson, who wrote the final chapter of “The Exquisite Corpse Adventure”, was on hand in the Children’s Pavilion to conclude the year-long initiative aimed at encouraging youngsters to read. At noon, she signed her books for a long line of avid fans. Later in the day, she spoke to crowds in the Teens & Children’s Pavilion.
One of Paterson’s biggest fans had the rare opportunity to read directly to the author her award-winning letter about how “Bridge to Terabithia” affected her life. Like the book’s main character, Jess, Claire Wang—one of three state winners from Maryland in the Library’s Letters About Literature contest—had experienced the death of a friend.
“As books are one of my escapes from the real world,” Wang wrote, “I picked up the book, “Bridge to Terabithia” from my dusty bookshelf. … “I was shocked when Brenda told Jess that Leslie is dead. That part was like a clear reflection of my present situation.”
Wang read on to learn how Jess dealt with the tragedy. She concluded, “I used to think that death marks an ending. However, now I know that it also marks a new beginning, for a new friendship. Thank you so much for teaching me this valuable lesson through your book.”
The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature
The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the Children’s Book Council (CBC) and Every Child a Reader, (the CBC foundation), are the sponsors of the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature initiative. The Librarian of Congress names the National Ambassador for a two-year term, based on recommendations from a selection committee representing many segments of the book community. The selection criteria include the candidate’s contribution to young people’s literature and ability to relate to children. The position was created to raise national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education and the development and betterment of their lives.