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Monday, November 24, 2008

The 2008 National Book Awards Teen Press Conference

I am fortunate enough to live in a city with many universities and great libraries. Because of this, I have had the opportunity to meet many great writers like Wole Soyinka, Adrienne Rich, Rita Dove and Sonia Sanchez to name a few. But, to be honest, I hadn’t read their works before I met them. I mainly went to see these writers because my mom adores them.

But last week, I had an amazing experience; my own literary experience that didn’t involve me following someone else’s literary interests. I participated in the annual National Book Awards Teen Press Conference in New York City. Since 1998, this organization has given students like me the opportunity to read one of the books of the finalists in the Young People’s Literature category . The National Book Foundation sent teen reporters, like me ,one of the finalists books to read before the press conference. Then on November 18, 2008, upon arriving at The New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, we received professional press kits, we got to meet the finalists and hear these writers read from their books. We also had the empowering honor to ask questions of these writers.

One of the National Book Awards finalists in the Young People’s Literature category was Laurie Halse Anderson. Last year, the sixth grade class at my school read Anderson’s book entitled Fever, 1793. What an incredible book. I am from Philadelphia and this particular book deals with the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 that killed a third of Philadelphia’s population. It’s kind of an out-of-body experience to read about a city you know and its popular heroes from another era. Fever,1793 like most of Anderson’s books, is a piece of historical fiction. Anderson makes history wonderful and inviting for teens.

This year Laurie Halse Anderson was nominated for her book Chains. Chains takes place during the American Revolutionary War and revolves around the character Isabel and her journey to Freedom. I will review this book next week and I’ll have photos from the press conference as well. But, again, this is another great read by Anderson. I was thrilled to meet her. She is so friendly and open. I even turned my mom on to her books.

The other finalists for the National Book Award in the Young People’s Literature category were Kathi Appelt for The Underneath( Atheneum),Judy Blundell for What I Saw and How I Lied(Scholastic), E. Lockhart for The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion) and Tim Tharp for The Spectacular Now(Alfred A. Knopf). Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson is published by Simon and Schuster.

The winner in the Young People’s Literature genre was Judy Blundell. Congratulations!!

I want to especially thank Rebecca Keith, of the National Book Foundation, for allowing me to participate in the National Book Awards Teen Press Conference. I also want to thank my Tante Marva for accompanying me to New York for this great experience.

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