By AUDREY FISCHER
All the world was a stage for the children who attended the 2011 National Book Festival as the “Family Storytelling Stage” made its debut, courtesy of Target.
Representing this year’s National Book Festival theme, “Celebrate the Joys of Reading Aloud,” the stage featured more than 20 children’s authors and performers who engaged young minds through music and the spoken word.
The Okee Dokee Brothers, Hip Hop Harry, Choo Choo Soul, the Not Ready for Naptime Players and Moona Luna entertained and educated children with music that ranged from rap to rock and lutes to Latin rhythms. Wally (Famous) Amos, whose chocolate-chip cookie fortune launched a Read It Loud! literacy campaign, also made an appearance and encouraged parents to read to children daily.
Even the Librarian of Congress got into the act by reading aloud Edward Lear’s classic “The Owl and the Pussycat.” Published in 1871, the illustrated “nonsense poem” has remained a favorite of children for more than a century. The Librarian hooted and purred his way through the verse, which tells of the unlikely marriage of the title characters.
Favorite characters were not confined to the stage. The Cat in the Hat, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Curious George and other mascots strolled the festival grounds and posed for pictures.
Youngsters were also invited to “hop on the bus”—The Magic School Bus—and meet Ms. Frizzle of the Scholastic classic that celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
Other traveling exhibits parked on the National Mall were the Digital Bookmobile powered by OverDrive, which allowed visitors to explore the world of electronic library services, and the Library’s Gateway to Knowledge, a truck-size display of Library of Congress treasures (in facsimile) that toured the country during the past year.
The Let’s Read America and PBS Kids pavilions offered a host of hands-on activities courtesy of the festival’s corporate sponsors. Children created bookmarks, colored in a book about “Jack,” the Wells Fargo dog, and used simple craft materials to “build a book.” And they had the opportunity to “give back” on Scholastic’s “We Give Books” reading site that donates books to children.
This year’s festival offered two scavenger hunts. The Pavilion of the States reprised its annual “Discover Great Places Through Reading,” a free map on which children can place state stickers and stamps obtained at each state-sponsored table. For the first time, the Washington Post’s “Kids Post” column sponsored a scavenger hunt, based on the collection of three book-festival-themed stickers.
It took two pavilions—Children’s and Teens—to present a record 28 authors and illustrators to their young audiences.
The Children’s pavilion opened on Saturday with a celebration of the recent publication of “The Exquisite Corpse Adventure.” Launched at the National Book Festival in 2009 and completed at the 2010 festival, the progressive story-game was written and illustrated collaboratively by many of the country’s top children’s writers and illustrators.
From a relative newcomer to children’s literature, the actress Julianne Moore, to the veteran Tomie dePaola, who boasts 250 tomes to his name, festival participants spoke to their fans, answered their questions and signed their books.
And some, like Katherine Paterson, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, thanked their readers for their vivid imaginations. “They make my books better than I could ever have imagined.”