I attended with Susan Taylor Brown (shown to the left), who generously brought her camera and shared photos with me, including all of the photos displayed in this post. I was able to meet Mr. Scieszka, and talk with him briefly, though there was a bit of a line. Here is my picture with the author, taken by a helpful bookstore employee:
Scieszka read aloud to an audience of 40 people or so, including 15+ kids on the floor at his feet. He explained the origins of his newest book, Smash! Crash! (shown in the photo, and reviewed here), and read aloud from that. He also read aloud from the book that he called his favorite, Cowboy and Octopus. Then he took questions at the end.
Here is what I have to say: Jon Scieszka is very comfortable with kids, and very good at getting kids excited about books and participating in read-aloud and discussion. He taught school for 10 years, and it shows. And although he's clearly passionate about getting kids reading, he doesn't take himself too seriously. Commenting on the National Ambassador position, he said that he thinks we're at a "crisis point" with kids not being readers. But he also something to the effect that now he has to read aloud in a deeper voice and wear a sash, and that he's working on getting access to Air Force One.
He showed the kids early sketches for the trucks in Smash! Crash!, and talked about how he "stole" the characters in the book from real kids in a class that he visited. When he read Smash! Crash! aloud, he had the kids yell "Crash!" every time. This was a big hit, needless to say.
When he took questions, most of them were from kids, including things like "where do you get your ideas?" and "when did you start writing?" and "how is a book made?" He told them that he started writing books when he was seven. Can you imagine how much of a difference hearing that could make to a kid, from this successful author? When asked what sorts of books he likes to read, he mentioned Dr. Seuss, Mo Willems, and Cormac McCarthy. He said that he reads "everything", and that people should "let kids read what they enjoy".
It's clear to me that the Library of Congress made an excellent choice in naming Jon Scieszka the first National Ambassador for Children's Literature. I think that he's going to do great things.
My thanks again to Susan for attending with me, and for the pictures. This was a wonderful experience to share, and I'm extra glad to have photos, in addition to my two books, to remember it by.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.