The Road to Lit Fest
April 11, 2011
All through the fall and winter, mid-grade students across Missouri were burrowed in with their favorite books in the hopes of attending the Children's Literature Festival in Warrensburg in March. My fourth grade son was among those busy readers. He started reading with the old Mark Twain winner, Thunder from the Sea (yes, it's about a dog with the same name as his dog) and didn't stop reading until the charter bus left the elementary school parking lot headed for the University of Central Missouri campus where the Lit Fest is held each year. And this year, for the first time, I was on the bus too.
The requirements for the opportunity to attend the Lit Fest were no small thing. Each student had to earn 80 reading counts points by February 1, read four Mark Twain nominated books (two from the current list), and complete an author study--reading at least two books by the same author. Many kids hope to meet that author at the Lit Fest, get his or her autograph (which I now know is a BIG thing), and pick the author's brain about the writing process. My son's "author" was Will Hobbs. He is the author of this year's Twain nominated Go Big or Go Home. He wasn't at the festival, but Roland Smith, my other son's "author" from a previous year was, and we saw him speak in a filled auditorium. He was a BIG deal--a very funny fast talker that some kids trek to the Lit Fest to see year after year. We had just read his latest novel, Storm Runners, but since we had not purchased the book at the Fest, we didn't get his signature because he's such a BIG deal and had to catch a plane to his next gig.
As it turns out, my son loves reading now. He is really coming into his own as a reader, and probably would have read many of these books (with a little spurring from mom) without the incentive of the Lit Fest. But, we will always remember the year of the dog (loved The Leanin Dog, another Twain nominee) capped off by the first author we visited at Lit Fest, Stephanie Tolan. We were a few minutes late, and there she was talking about the wild dog, Coyote she had coaxed into her life and written a book about called Listen! We were hooked. We bought the book over break and went back to get it signed by her. She included a stamped paw from Coyote, and it really was a BIG deal. And by the way, I had fun, too!