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Literary Events Abound Sept. 28-30

September is a good month to watch the leaves change, experience the cool down in temperatures, and enjoy the local and not-so-local authors attending the book festivals in the Washington, D.C., area. While most know about The National Book Festival, Virginia’s Fall for the Book Festival at George Mason University started this week on Sept. 26 and continues through this weekend. Among the authors expected are Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon, Rita Dove, Alice Walker, Katherine Boo, Karen Russell, and Amy Waldman. Over six days, readers and writers have the chance to meet 150 authors.

Alma Katsu, whose books (The Taker series) have been reviewed here, will be participating on a literary and genre fiction panel hosted by the National Book Festival that also features novelists Julianna Baggott and Louis Bayard as well as Salon.com founder and critic Laura Miller on Sunday, Sept. 30 at 1:30 p.m. in the Johnson Center on Mason’s Fairfax Campus. In addition to literature, Fall for the Book Festival also offers panels on the election and how to tap political independents and navigate the political landscape as well as a higher education panel to look at the challenges ahead for universities.

Today’s events will be headlined by Neil Gaiman, author of Coraline and The Graveyard Book, and at 7:30 p.m. he will receive the 2012 Mason Award for “extraordinary contributions in bringing literature to a wide reading public.” From memoirists to novelists and short story writers, today’s events offer a great deal for readers to check out, including a screening of The Color Purple at the Johnson Center Cinema and poet Cathy Park Hong.

On Saturday, Sept. 29, readers and families can attend the regional library book sale, a children’s book panel, a superheroes panel, a poetry reading, as well as the opportunity to visit with Laura Lippman, learn about political thrillers, and much more. On the final day of the festival, attendees can hear from Congressman Tim Ryan, check out the George Mason Alumni Reading, and check out writing from student writers at the Falling for the Story event. Check out the full schedule.

In addition to the Fall for the Book festival in Virginia, the D.C. area also can enjoy the Baltimore Book Festival, typically held during the same weekend as last weekend’s National Book Festival, starting today. This weekend, the Baltimore festival brings back Free Friday Feedback at 12 p.m., in which unpublished writers can bring three poems or up to five pages of double-spaced prose for some on-the-spot commentary from published writers. From book sales to performances by the Baltimore Public Schools, the festival offers entertainment focused on books, music, and more.

On Saturday, Sept. 29, during the My America Playwrights panel, Neil LaBute, Christopher Durang, and Lydia Diamond will talk about their roles as writers in theater and what it means to be a playwright. At 12 p.m. a tribute to activist poet Lucille Clifton, sponsored by Little Patuxent Review, will likely draw a big crowd, though it will have to compete for audience with Emily Giffin, whose books have become popular, including her latest book, Where We Belong. And as always, there will be a literary walking tour, local businesses displaying their products and services, and panels on women’s fiction, young adult romance, steampunk, and how to cross genres.

On Sunday, Sept. 30, the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) will showcase the winners of the annual Individual Artist Awards for playwrights, and the Hope Family Choir will offer the soothing sounds of contemporary gospel music. At 2 p.m. there will be a musical library tour, and Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall, the creators of Ivy and Bean, will unveil the latest book in the series, Ivy and Bean Make the Rules. Maryland native Michael Tucker, former L.A. Law attorney Stuart Markowitz, returns to talk about his debut novel, After Annie. And if you miss Laura Lippman at the Virginia Fall for the Book Festival, you can catch her in Baltimore. Check out the full schedule.

This weekend is shaping up to be the best in books and reading all year.

Ivy + Bean: Doomed to Dance by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall (Illus.)

Normally, I don’t review children’s books here on the blog, but I’ve made an exception (yes, they do happen).  I remember buying a set of Ivy + Bean books for The Girl from Diary of an Eccentric because one of the books had to do with dinosaur fossils and I had read on someone’s blog (not sure who) that these books were fantastic.  The Girl, suffice to say, loved them and told me all about the straws up the nose (actually it’s the mouth) and other little tidbits from her books.  Before I dazzle you with my review, interview with The Girl, and the giveaway, let me show you a little video:

Ivy and Bean are typical second-grade girls who are willing to try just about anything, and they sometimes find themselves getting into trouble or at least over their heads.  In Doomed to Dance, the girls read a book about ballet and decide that they should take ballet, so they can become ballerinas in Giselle.  The only problem is that ballet is not as fun or easy as it seems.

“‘She doesn’t leap like a kitty.  She leaps like a frog,’ Bean whispered to Ivy.”  (Page 24)
 
“‘We can’t be squids if we break our arms,’ said Ivy.  ‘Remember what Madame Joy said? We’re supposed to wave our tentacles gently to the passing tide.  No way can we do that if we’ve got broken arms, Right?'”  (Page 40)

While Ivy and Bean get into trouble — and what kid doesn’t? — they always manage to find the positive in their situation or make amends.  Some of the funniest scenes in this book are when Ivy and Bean try to get sick on purpose, having other kids cough and sneeze all over them.  Young readers will laugh out loud at the antics of these young girls, and parents will enjoy these books because of the lessons they teach about responsibility and imagination.  Ivy + Bean:  Doomed to Dance is a fun read at nearly 130 pages, and these characters will worm their way into kids hearts easily.

Onto my interview with The Girl:

Which girl would you rather be, Ivy or Bean?  And why?

I would you like to be Bean because she is funniest.

Why do you think Bean packed salt in her backpack before they went to the aquarium?

Because you need salt to stay alive and helps the blood flow.

What would you have packed in your backpack for the aquarium trip?

I would pack clothes, food like sandwiches, water, juice, and ice pack.   If there is still room, I would take some small books.

Would you ever take ballet? Why or why not? What type of dancing would you take?

No, because I’m not into ballet.  I would take tap dancing because the noise from the shoes is cool, and it looks like fun.  You have to have skills for it, and I have skills.

Which of the Ivy + Bean books have you enjoyed most?

The book with the ghosts — The Ghost that Had to Go, Book 2.  Break the Fossil Record, Book 3.

To learn more about the series, check out the Website.  If you’re looking for crafts and fun activities, go here.

To enter the giveaway for 1 copy of Ivy + Bean:  Doomed to Dance (US/Canada):

1.  Leave a comment here about why you want to win the book.
2.  Become a follower and leave a comment here for another entry.
3.  Tweet, blog, spread the word and leave a comment here with a link.

Deadline Dec. 28, 2009, 11:59 PM EST.

FTC Disclosure:  I want to thank Chronicle Books for sending me a free copy of Doomed to Dance for review.  Clicking on title and image links will go to my Amazon.com Affiliate page; No purchase necessary.