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Recap: Anderson’s Children’s Lit Breakfast 2013

*Beep* *Beep* *Beep*¹

It’s 4:30 am in the middle February – you know what that means: time to make the early morning trek to the annual Anderson’s Bookshops Children’s Literature Breakfast!

¹I became aware, soon after writing this, that starting a blog post with an alarm clock going off might be the most depressing intro over. My apologies – this day was the exact opposite of that.

One of the benefits of attending the breakfast (this is my third year) is that I get to eat two breakfasts (pronounced, if you’re a kid, “breakfast-iz”). One at home, and one at the event. Here’s my Breakfast #1 choice – Banana Nut Cheerios. Did you know these existed? My review: solid. I love cereal. If this blog one day suddenly changes to Breakfast Cereal News and Reviews, sorry in advance SLJ, but I gotta follow my heart.

The first, of many, coffees. This is the French Roast blend from the coffee experts at Folgers.

A first on this blog – weather screenshot! The forecast didn’t look too bad, so away I went. I attended the event with my teacher co-worker and Twitter champion @nikiohsbarnes.

Don’t worry, I didn’t drive at this speed the whole way. I also didn’t take (too many) photos while driving.

In its 11th year, the breakfast is held in a banquet hall, and draws a good crowd.

If is has to do with children’s literature and it’s in the Chicagoland area America, you know the Bill Clinton of Children’s Literature, John Schumacher, will be there. Here the moment I greeted John is captured as a presidential handshake.

Here’s part of the crowd. They look ready. Can you spot Twitter’s own @akgal68?

Amelia Bedelia is in chapter book form now, and this younger version of The Woman Who Thought Literally greeted attendees at every table. I fought off (librarian for “asked politely”) the other fine folks at my table to take it back to my library.

Breakfast #2 was decidedly better than #1. Do most people butter croissants? Or is that overdoing it?

Coffee #2. This was a given. It was closely followed by Coffees #3 and #4.

Can you name the Chicago-based illustrator who drew the program cover? If you guessed Dr. Seuss, you’d be wrong (sorry, but that was not a good guess by you. Seriously, he’s no longer with us for crying out loud). The correct answer is Matthew Cordell. Looking good.

They were raffling off a chair illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, but, security levels being what they are for painted directors chairs, it was hard to get a picture before they whisked it off the stage and put it back where it belongs – in its own room, on a tall pedestal, behind a web of lasers, where the only humans who could ever hope to steal it are professional break dancers.

Here’s how the breakfast goes: everyone eats, then some fine folks from Anderson’s give a fast and furious “here’s some great new books” presentation, then the keynote speakers begin. There are also authors and illustrators seated at every table, who rotate around. First up with the keynoting was the tag team behind the upcoming Scholastic picture book Exclamation Mark, Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld.

Theirs is a unique collaboration – while authors and illustrators often work on the same book without so much as a phone call, Amy and Tom bounce ideas and sketches off each other all the time. You can tell that the mutual respect is high.

Also, Best Dressed of the Day Award goes to Mr. Lichtenheld. I’ve seen a few authors in my day and I can’t recall one that showed up in a suit. Here’s to Tom Lichtenheld – classing up the joint.

Amelia Bedelia turns 50 years old this year. That’s cause for celebration. And the folks at HarperCollins are doing just that. In addition to reissuing the original Amelia Bedelia, they’re releasing some easy readers and chapter books based on a younger version of the character. Herman Parish is the nephew of original creator Peggy Parish and has taken over writing duties. His talk about the history of the character was fun to hear. And he probably received the biggest crowd reaction of the day when he played an audio clip of R&B singer Usher’s Bedelia endorsement – on NPR no less. Totally out of left field, and awesome. Click here to listen.

As if the crowd wasn’t won over, mini cupcakes arrived to seal the deal. Sing it with me! Haaapppyyy biiiirthday…

Very wise, Anderson’s, very wise. Every year they go and set up what amounts to an entire bookstore in the adjacent room. So it works like this:

  1. Get excited about a book
  2. Walk 12 paces and buy it. It’s a beautiful thing.

I was excited to see Marilyn Singer speak about her poetry writing process. The woman who brought the reverso into the world (with her book Mirror Mirror (a.k.a. my most difficult review ever) and the new Follow Follow) didn’t disappoint, talking about how poems are puzzles to solve.

Have you heard of The Class Acts? I had not. It’s a group of HarperCollins authors who travel around the country doing school visits with a competitive twist. As a school librarian, this seems like a good idea – I can only imagine the fun increases with a trio of authors playing off each other. Here Gravediggers series author/M.C. Chris Krovatin sets the stage for…

Otherworld Chronicles author Nils Johnson-Shelton and…

Stick Dog author Tom Watson. He let the crowd know there will be five Stick Dog installments – I think kids are going to pleased with that news.

The closer was a hometown hero. Blue Balliett lives and has incorporated Chicago into a number of her books. On this day she was talking about her latest novel Hold Fast.

Thanks to Katherine Sokolowski, we have a record of the fine folks at my table. Twitter roll call time. From left to right they are: me, @nikiohsbarnes, @akgal68, @katsok, @MrSchuReads, @pageintraining.

Raffle time. Which means, the return of the chair. It held still long enough for this shot.

They had Mr. Lichtenheld pull out the winner. Alas, not me. I think he noticed my camera here – always a slightly embarrasing moment.

Afterward, the book signing commenced.

The only thing left to do was head home. The drive was interesting. It was 80% what you see above…

And then all of a sudden, 20% of this.

Many thanks to Anderson’s Book Shop for a great day.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Always wanted to attend this breakfast, thanks for the vicarious opportunity. :)

  2. Sarah Lamstein says:

    Terrific post!

  3. So sad to miss the Anderson’s Breakfast this year. It is such a fantsatic event. Ah well. Here’s to next year!

  4. Had not heard of this, so it was great to stumble in without having to get up a 4:30 a.m.! thanks for he armchair breakfast.

  5. Maybe next year I can sit at your table? Great breakfast!

    • Travis Jonker says:

      Where’d you run off to when this was being taken? You needed to be in this picture, Ed!

  6. Patty Mardula says:

    Great recap of the day. It was my first time in attendance at the Children’s Literature Breakfast and I was so excited to be the lucky recipient of the Lichtenheld chair! It is now in a place of honor in my home :)

  7. Travis,

    I missed the picture because I was setting up to interview Marilyn Singer, which is available now at: http://youtu.be/iDbWdTuFizg


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  8. Loved this post. Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience!