When I heard that the National Book Festival was scheduled for last weekend and I was going to be in town, I knew I had to find a way to make it down to the National Mall. I woke up Saturday morning excited to soon be in the presence of top-name children's authors and some of the biggest publishers and media companies for kids in the business.
Let me just say that if you live any further away than, say, Silver Spring, don't waste your time. Maybe if you are going to listen to famous adult author's speak, it is different. But as a children's event it is sorely lacking. Your kids will be bored in under 15 minutes; sooner if it is 90 degrees like it was this past weekend.
There were five large tented areas that encompassed the kid zone (what I'm calling it). One was a PBS Kids tent that had a few activities going on, but was like an overcrowded and disorganized sauna. The other four were just ridiculous. First, there was the Children stage with tons of chairs where authors spoke every 45 minutes or so. A second was exactly the same, but was called the Teens and Children stage. Then there were two "Let's Read America" tents. One had a couple of tables for corporate shills like AT&T, a few publisher charitable drives, and one booth for operation Read Aloud that looked really cool but wouldn't let you have anything during intermissions. [I went during an intermission, so no soup for me.] The other tent was 100% Target-branded and allowed you to take pictures against "fun" backgrounds and also let you send postcards. Huh? Weird. Would kids like any of this????!
Needless to say, I hated the National Book Festival. It's in its tenth year, so you'd think it'd be peaking right about now. Instead, it felt like a mish-mash of afterthoughts bookended by a solid corps of literary speakers. There were about a million volunteers in red t-shirts, but I couldn't tell you what any of them were doing. In short, do not make the mistake of bringing your kids out for the festival. It is anything but fun.
I do want to give a brief shout-out to a few worthy causes I learned about while I was there...