Since 2003, Washington state has sent a representative to the National Book Festival in Washington D.C. annually. The festival was the brainchild of librarian and First Lady Laura Bush and then-Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. In its early years, the festival was held on the National Mall, but as it grew in size and popularity it was moved to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
Each year all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories are asked to choose a children’s book to represent their state. The selection guidelines are loose, but in Washington we try to find a recently-published book that will help others learn about our state. We have had some really great books chosen over the years.
This year, our chosen book was “A Ticket to the Pennant: A Tale of Baseball in Seattle” by Mark Holtzen, a finalist for the 2017 Washington State Book Awards. It’s a charming story about a boy, baseball history, and mid-20th Century Seattle. The book is published by Little Bigfoot, an imprint of Sasquatch Books, so the book had the extra bonus of having a Washington publisher. With our chosen book and some Washington-themed swag we, along with other state representatives, set up in the area called the Parade of States.
Thousands of people attend the festival every year, filling the huge convention hall with exhibits and with people. For the Parade of States, the Library of Congress creates a folder every year “Discover Great Places Through Reading.” This includes a list of the books each state has chosen that year and a map of the United States. Kids and families race around collecting stamps or stickers from each state.
Along the way, we talk with people who have lived in Washington, visited Washington, have family in Washington, or simply want to know one fun fact about Washington. “There are live volcanoes in Washington state” usually got the expected reaction!
We madly stickered maps, handed out maps of Washington state and talked to people about our book and about the programs we were running through the Washington Center for the Book. By the end of the day we’d affixed stickers to 2553 maps. Whew!
We had an extra special treat this year: Mark, our book’s author, decided to not only attend the festival himself but to bring his family. Mark stopped by our booth several times during the day to sign “A Ticket to the Pennant” bookmarks for the kids and even jumped in to help put stickers on the maps when things backed up.
By the end of the day we were tired but very satisfied. The festival was a success. We can’t wait to return in 2019!