On Wednesday's Think Out Loud, Wordstock Executive Director Greg Netzer commented on just how many writers targeted toward the young reader would be at the annual festival of books this Saturday and Sunday: not only will there be a stage dedicated to children's writers, as well as a children's activity area sponsored by Knowledge Universe, but also some middle reader and young adult authors will present on other stages as well -- so that, at some points in the festival, you might have two or three different simultaneous kid-focused authors speaking at once. Oh, the bedevilment!
The thing is: Wordstock, for writers and book lovers and pretty much any parent who likes to adventure with the kids on a weekend, is one of the best deals anywhere. The ticket prices are super cheap ($10 for an adult for both days, or $7 for one), and kids under 13 are free. There are giveaways galore; Kindercare is giving away 1,000 free books at Wordstock. Last year we came home with a stack of great titles. And I get all shivery with the chance to rub elbows with authors I love; hopefully, some of that can rub off on the kids.
After two hours with the Wordstock guide and lots more time delving into new favorite books, I've come up with some recommendations for book-loving kids and parents -- and see the end of the post for a grid describing the kids' stage authors.
Saturday, 5 p.m., McMeniman's Stage. Colin Meloy & Carson Ellis. Wildwood. If I had to give one recommendation for kids this year, it would be this amazing, artful, magical book. Colin Meloy is famous as the Decemberists' lead singer and songwriter, but here he becomes famous for something entirely other. Follow 12-year-old Prue through an alternate reality Portland through the Industrial Wastes into the Impassable Wilderness -- Forest Park re-imagined. It's magical and practical and funny and filled with the kind of prose lyricism and nods to the cerebral you'd expect from Meloy. And best of all, even my nine-year-old loves it.
Sunday, 2 p.m., Knowledge Universe Stage. Doreen Cronin, Mom Operating Manual. Also: Marla Frazee and Kathryn Thurman. Remember Click, Clack, Moo, Cows that Type? Just about every mom who's read aloud to her kids has fallen in love with this ridiculous and hilarious barnyard tale. Cronin has a knack for the sort of books that entertain children and keep adults from eye-rolling with a nod toward more mature humor. I'm looking forward to seeing her new title, a "troubleshooting guide [which] provides step-by-step instructions for addressing moms who don't get enough of the daily basics, 'Sleep, Nutrition, Exercise, and Water, or SNEW for short.'"
Saturday, 2 p.m., Knowledge Universe Stage. Maile Meloy, The Apothecary. Also, Adam Jay Epstein, The Familiars, and Andrew Jacobson. Maile Meloy led just about every best-book list in 2009 with Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, an adult collection of short stories that's probably not at all appropriate for young kids. But her new book is getting all kinds of attention, and is on my to-read list. "It's 1952 and the Scott family has just moved from Los Angeles to London. Here, fourteen-year-old Janie meets a mysterious apothecary and his son, Benjamin Burrows - a fascinating boy who's not afraid to stand up to authority and dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin's father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the apothecary's sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia, in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies - Russian spies in possession of nuclear weapons."