Keeping Books In The Air in Gaithersburg

Gaithersburg Juggler

Gaithersburg Juggler

May 18 was the Gaithersburg Book Festival–a great affair with thousands of books, authors of every genre speaking and signing , hungry readers roaming booths and pavilions, and amateur jugglers! My high points were talking to people interested in Cologne No. 10 For Men and Well Considered, watching weightless balls stop at the tops of their arcs, and listening to Walter Dean Myers warn of the endangered book–the death of libraries and bookstores killed by online booksellers, electronic books, and the explosion of the Internet. He sees a national decline in literacy and begs everyone to become an advocate for literacy, books and libraries, and pleads for parents to read to young people at least half an hour every day.

Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers

Myers sees all this from atop a life of writing eighty young adult novels and from his post as “the national ambassador for young people’s literature, a sort of poet laureate of the children’s book world who tours the country for two years, speaking at schools and libraries about reading and literacy.”  The post “was created in 2008 and is chosen by a committee formed by two groups: the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and Every Child a Reader, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Children’s Book Council, a trade association for children’s book publishers….  His books chronicle the lives of many urban teenagers, especially young, poor African-Americans… Its standout books offer themes aimed at young-adult readers: stories of teenagers in violent gangs, soldiers headed to Iraq and juvenile offenders imprisoned for their crimes,” drugs, drive-by shootings, and gang-warfare. [New York Times, January 3, 2012, from  Mr. Myers’ themes reflect his environment growing up in Harlem. His advice to writers is to write about topics that actually concern young adults. Myers has won the 2000 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Literature for Young Adults, Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, Newbery Honor recipient (twice),  and National Book Award Finalist (twice).

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