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Tweens Read: That time I took The Tween and a friend to a book festival to meet Natalie Lloyd and Jennifer Ziegler

It is only incredible motherly love that could make me wake up at 4:30 A.M. on a Saturday and drive almost 5 hours. I mean, do you know how early 4:30 A.M. is? And on a Saturday. A SATURDAY!

The Tween, Natalie Lloyd and Tween 2

As you may know, earlier this year The Tween, who is now 12, had some amazing life moments in part thanks to the authors Natalie Lloyd (A Snicker of Magic) and Jennifer Ziegler (Revenge of the Flower Girls). So when I learned that both authors would be at this year’s Tweens Read book festival, I really wanted to try and take her so she could meet them if at all possible. And meet them she did. This is an account of our day, the day in which I woke up at 4:30 A.M. and drove two pre-teen girls almost 5 hours on a Saturday. And yes, I really do want a cookie.

Jacqueline Woodson was the keynote speaker. I didn’t hear a lot of what she said because the event far surpassed capacity and was standing room only, but you can find awesome quotes as people tweeted the day at #TweensRead14. There are also lots of great pics there. It is my understanding that there were over 1,600 people pre-registered, most of them kids ages 10 to 14. The halls were flooded with young, enthusiastic readers – at times almost impassable. It was a glorious sight to behold.

For our first panel we of course headed over to hear what Natalie Lloyd and Jennifer Ziegler had to say. Also on this panel were Varian Johnson (The Great Greene Heist), Jennifer Holm (The Fourteenth Goldfish), Varsha Bajaj (Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood) and Karen Harrington (Courage for Beginners).  This was their first book conference and the girls didn’t know what to expect, but they really enjoyed hearing the authors talk about their books, their inspiration, and some of their stories about being a kid. If you have read The Great Greene Heist (and you really should), you know that Johnson is a HUGE Stark Trek fan (more specifically Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn) and he did not disappoint with the Star Trek references. Jennifer Holm was voted the funniest panel member. And I thought it was really telling how Bajaj discussed being a kid growing up in India and how she always read books about kids in the US and England and how she wanted to write a book that would allow those kids to read about life in India. #WeNeedDiverseBooks indeed.

The Tween and Jennifer Ziegler

After lunch, we went to the Flashbacks panel on historical fiction which featured Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming), Megan Frazer Blakemore (The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill), Margaret Peterson Haddix (The Missing series), Kirby Larson (Dash) and Jimmie Gownley (The Dumbest Idea Ever). It’s interesting to note that on the drive down Tween 2 had asked me if The Hunger Games was historical fiction (it is not in case you weren’t sure) and we had a discussion about the difference between historical fiction and science fiction. And so here we were at a historical fiction panel discussing some great historical titles. The girls were mostly interested in hearing from Margaret Peterson Haddix, who they were both familiar with. I was super excited to just be in the same room as Jacqueline Woodson, who is the author of one of the most beautiful books ever written – If You Come Softly. And at the end of this panel, both girls walked away dying to read The Dumbest Idea Ever by Jimmie Gownley, which is an autobiographical graphic novel about his early teenage life and his attempt to make his first comic book.

While in the audience waiting for the Flasbacks panel to begin, I talked to a group of teens in the row behind me. One of them was a 14-year-old boy who had come with the sole purpose of meeting author Obert Skye, author of the Leven Thumps series. He explained the series at great length to me and was a very enthusiastic fan. He was also a HUGE fan of the book Katfish, which is a cross between The Hunger Games and The Little Mermaid. He wants you to know that you should read these.

This is not actually Natalie Lloyd, but a very enthusiastic fan that calls me mom

For the last and final panel I let the girls choose where they wanted to go, and they chose to go back and see Natalie Lloyd and Jennifer Ziegler. They said they really enjoyed that panel and they were now huge fans of all those authors and so we went again. This time Lloyd talked about how one of her characters, Jonah, is in a wheelchair and how important it is that he is in a wheelchair but that it isn’t a big deal and doesn’t define him or his story. That’s an important thing for kids to hear and be reading.

They each got to choose two books to buy and get signed. The Tween, having already read and loved A Snicker of Magic and Revenge of the Flower Girls, bought How Not to Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler and The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm. Tween 2 bought A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd and Revenge of the Flower Girls by Jennifer Ziegler.  By the time we got home on Saturday evening The Tween had already finished The Fourteenth Goldfish. She closed the book and declared, “That book made me cry. It was kind of sad in some parts. And it was reeaalllyyy good.”

We ended our bookday adventure by stopping to have dinner and make your own ice cream sundaes on the way home. Ice cream is a recurring theme in A Snicker of Magic so it seemed like the perfect end to the day. Plus, ice cream. Yum.

The Tween and Natalie Lloyd

I have to give special thanks to Natalie Lloyd and Jennifer Ziegler because they were incredibly kind to both of these girls and they had an awesome experience. It was exciting for them. And as we ate lunch after that first panel and they both talked about meeting Lloyd and Ziegler, I teared up a little bit to hear how much it meant to them. And it was amazing to see the large number of Tweens and Teens walking around and enthusiastically talking about books and authors. The mantra of the day was simple: People keep saying that kids don’t read, but these hallways prove otherwise.

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