I took my 13-year-old son to see Sherman Alexie talk about his new book for young readers, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, at All for Kids last Saturday. The room was packed all the way to the back, and I was glad to see lots of tweens and teens paying close attention to Alexie as he told engaging (and sometimes PG-13) stories about the weirdnesses of being a guy from the Reservation who also happens to have this rather glamorous life as a National Book Award-winning author.
I had an ulterior motive in bringing my son, of course. He asked a question during the Q&A, and 100 people listened to him respectfully (good stuff for a kid who likes to hide behind his long hair). (Mama was so proud!) We bought the book, which my kid inhaled that very afternoon. Best of all, he chatted briefly with Alexie while getting his copy signed. I could see the light go on in his head: Some people do this for a living! Write books! And talk about it! And lots and lots of people are interested in it!
I'm telling you -- if you have a reluctant reader, take 'em to an author reading. There's a face behind that name on the book jacket, and listening to that person's stories, why he writes, how she writes, is a fascinating thing for kids. Books don't just appear out of nowhere. A person sits down with nothing but imagination and skills and makes them happen. Compelling stuff.
You have a couple of chances this week to hear another National Book Award winner talk about her work. Jeanne Birdsall, author of the charmingly retro The Penderwicks, reads from her just-released sequel at All for Kids tonight and at Borders Redmond tomorrow night.