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Recap: Anderson’s Children’s Lit Breakfast 2012

Or, Who’s in the Mood for Some Grainy Photographs?

February 18 begins with a 4:00 am wake up and a plan to head to the Chicagoland area. Why would I rise at this god-forsaken hour on a weekend? It’s the Anderson’s Bookshop Annual Children’s Literature Breakfast. A massive gathering of children’s book authors and illustrators, wonderful speakers, and nearly unlimited slices of bacon – I hazard to guess that there isn’t another event like this in the country. I attended last year and had a blast. This time around, 4th grade teacher, Sharpread blogger, Nerdy Book Club co-founder, and fellow Michigander Colby Sharp and I arranged to ride to the event together.

After meeting at the world’s loneliest gas station, Colby and I are off. Good guy, that Mr. Sharp. We had a good time talking about books, authors, and other things (that had a lot to do with books and book-related topics including book covers, book reviews, and the words contained in books). We’re on track to make it right on time.

After some poor navigation work on my part, we arrive at the event. It’s nice to see @MrSchuReads, @mentortexts, @akgal68, and other people who weirdly have @ symbols before their names. Before long we’re taking part in a mad dash to get good seats. Or rather, mad dash poorly disguised as a calm, restrained fast walk toward the good seats. This is the scene:

That, friends, is a room full of children’s lit fans. 100 handfuls of air to the person who can spot Gordon Korman in this picture.

After hitting the breakfast spread (I recommend the home fries and 5 cups of coffee), everyone settled in for the first featured author of the morning.

Augusta Scattergood

First things first – how’s that for an author name? Any time your name sounds like a character’s name from a book, you’ve got my vote. Augusta Scattergood is the author of the buzzed about upcoming historical fiction novel Glory Be. She talks about some of the events from her real life that made it into the book (among other things, a trip to the abandoned childhood home of Elvis Presley). A former librarian with a lovely southern accent, she’s a pleasure to listen to.

Scattergood also covered the event at her blog.

Next up is the best new books presentation. Kathleen March and Jan Dundon provide the worlds most wonderfully rapid-fire booktalk session. They hit some great books I already love and a couple I hadn’t seen yet. Time to rectify that situation with my first go round in the bookstore room.

I am a willing participant in the retailing genius of this event. In the ballroom, you hear about great books, in the next room, you can buy them. When it’s a source you can believe in like Anderson’s (Publishers Weekly Bookstore of the Year), I welcome it with open arms. But my arms can only hold so many books – I set a batch aside to continue shopping later.

I make back to my seat just in time for…

Jane O’Connor

Fancy Nancy. It’s become quite the franchise, has it not? Pretty much household name status at this point. O’Connor is incredibly entertaining in discussing the evolution of Fancy Nancy and the recent foray into the chapter book arena. Plus, she reads funny fan letters. Note to authors – if you have a good letter from a fan, keep that sucker in your back pocket at all times. They always kill. John Schumacher nicely captured one of these on video:

Katherine Applegate

After arriving to the podium, what is the first thing Katherine Applegate does? She gives a big shout-out to John Schumacher and Colby Sharp. How cool is that?

I was aware that Applegate’s new book The One and Only Ivan, about a silverback gorilla in captivity, was inspired by a true story, but I didn’t realize how true. There’s a real Ivan out there and Applegate provides some background how his life inspired her story. She also talks about writing the Animorphs series and her stint writing Babysitter’s Club books. A fine, fine speech. So far, we’re 3 for 3.

After Applegate leaves the stage, I head to the bookstore room for round two. I grab another armful and visit the register. Here’s what I came away with:

The Other Felix by Kier Graff
You might know Kier Graff from his day job of editor at Booklist online. This is his first book for kids and sources say it’s a winner. Looking forward to reading it.

Showoff by Gordon Korman
The first book in this series, Swindle, continued to circulate in my school libraries. It’s also the review I’ve done for this blog that has the most student comments. Keeping the series up to date is a must.

How Not to Run for President by Catherine Clarke
This was a new one to me, but it sounds like a fun election year read.

The Medusa Plot (Cahills vs. Vespers, Book 1) by Gordon Korman
The 39 Clues saga continues. Seeing as how those books were constantly checked out (and, a lot of fun to read), I wanted to pick up the first book in the new series, which we didn’t have yet at one of my libraries.

The Amazing Adventures of John Smith aka Houdini by Peter Johnson
This was featured in the booktalk and caught my attention.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Chances are, you’ve been hearing quite a bit about this book (like from me just a minute ago). I’m planning on reviewing it soon. Had to pick up a couple copies.

Guyku by Peter H. Reynolds
Some books fall through the cracks – and this was one for me. Glad I had a chance to right the situation.

Penny and Her Song by Kevin Henkes
Did you know that the new Kevin Henkes book is an easy reader? I did not. Coming in at a scant two chapters, this book is a nice bridge from picture books to chapter books. Likeable through and through, I’m glad it exists.

Petunia Goes Wild by Paul Schmidt
In the spring last year I reviewed A Pet for Petunia – a book I loved and eventually made it onto the Top 20 Books of 2011 list. This is the sequel.

I Don’t Want to Be a Pea! by Ann Bonwell, illustrated by Simon Rickerty
Some good ol’ silly stuff.

One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by David Small
I plan to review this one soon as well (notice my self-motivating technique there?). This story of a boy bringing home a penguin has some good old miscommunication humor and a nice twist ending that readers will like.

Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word by Chris Raczka
We already have this book in my lower level libraries, but this copy is for my 5th and 6th grade building – teachers expressed interest in basing a poetry lesson around it. A must have, in my opinion.

The Really Awful Musicians by John Manders
There really aren’t a ton of music-based stories out there, so I think this story of a king who outlaws musicians will fill a roll nicely.

George Washington’s Birthday by Barbara McNamara, illustrated by Barry Blitt
Becuase how can you pass up a well done Washington bio picture book?

First Girl Scout by Ginger Wadsworth
This one was on my to-order list, but I saw it here first. A history of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low that kits an older audience than the excellent Here Come the Girl Scouts.

After hauling the books back to my table, I’m just in time for…

Gordon Korman

One thing that has to be mentioned is that Gordon Korman brings the energy and humor. As the last of my breakfast was tucked away and I was ready for a long winter’s nap, his enthusiasm was appreciated. Korman tells the awesome story of his first published book, which he sent in to Scholastic at 14. He also mentions wanting to be the Mick Jagger of children’s book authors in that he wants to be doing this for a long time to come. I’d bet on it.

Only one speaker left. I’ve been looking forward to this.

David Small

I was probably most curious to hear David Small speak. Although he resides in the mitten state, like me, I’ve never been able to see him. He keeps the focus on his new book, One Cool Friend, reading it in it’s entirety. Small talks about how his illustrations evolved, and his thought process behind them. He shows some humility, making fun of himself for thinking the job was impossible to do at first. He even explains a visit to the Galapagos Turtle exhibit at the zoo while on LSD. That’s the kind of story I was hoping he’d bring to the table! Plus he has the suspenders of the morning. Small praises Toni Buzzeo’s text by saying it may be the “first time in a children’s book that crime pays.” Hard not to like that.

After Mr. Small, authors and illustrators headed to tables for book signing. After grabbing a couple for some of the books I purchased for my schools, it’s time to head out.

A wonderful morning. Thanks to Anderson’s Bookshop for another great event.

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. Fantastic! What an incredible event. I’m glad you get the chance to support an indie bookstore, too. The Henkes book sounds like a winner. Applegate’s IVAN knocked my socks off. Hope you have some kid-input on that title when you do review it.

  2. sounds like a great event! i just finished reading “the one and only ivan” recently. it’s basically “charlotte’s web” with a gorilla and an elephant instead of a spider and a pig, but it’s quite excellent. fair warning: the cover claims the book is for “Ages 8-12” but it contains totally heartbreaking depictions of jungle animals being torn from their wild habitats, and watching their families die, to be confined to a second-nay-third-or-fourth rate zoo, that probably would have scarred me for life as an eight year old. just sayin’. wonderful book, but have tissues at the ready if you’re an animal lover!

  3. Looks like a great event, Travis! Thanks for the post. I went to the breakfast one year when I was working in Chicago and it’s great fun!

  4. Wow…thanks for sharing the day with us! Awesome speakers with some book shopping in between? Doesn’t get much better than that.

  5. Great report on an event I wish I had attended. It sounds totally awesome. Maybe next year I can ride along?

    Also I now have a whole new list of books to track down. Thanks for the enticing heads up on these!