National Book Festival – 2018! (+winners announced)

A week ago I attended an outstanding event for book lovers — the National Book Festival in Washington DC. For those of you who’ve never attended this colossal event, here’s a brief fly-on-the-wall summary.

But first, let’s start with the Author Gala on the Friday night before the festival. The gala was held in the Library of Congress, which was lit up with soft, colorful lights and a glowing balloon (note soaring books/balloon theme above.) Attendees included 100+ authors who would be presenting the next day and special invited guests. The magical evening began with a casual cocktail reception. Our wonderful Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, hosted the evening and I was thrilled to meet her.


Then we enjoyed an author program in the auditorium where five literary icons — Jacqueline Woodson, Brian Selznick, Jon Meacham, Annie Proulx, and Amy Tan — shared their insights, personal experiences, and challenged us to action. I love how Jacqueline Woodson began her talk. “The first thing I want to say,” she exclaimed, “is give literacy all your money!”


The evening ended with a moving feast where guests mingled as they gathered around tables filled with treats such as dumplings, seafood salad boats, mango-coconut puffs, and balloon shaped cookies.

Saturday morning the Book Festival began at 9:30 am in the huge Washington Convention Center. When I arrived at noon, it was buzzing with activity. And I have to admit, the Children’s Purple Stage where I was to present that afternoon looked a little overwhelming. The stage/seating area was much larger than I’d anticipated (and I was already nervous about presenting among such an incredible line-up of esteemed authors and illustrators.)

The 2018 Caldecott winner, Matthew Cordell, got the day off to a great start as the first presenter on the purple stage.  Then the smart, adorable Danica McKellar (remember Winnie Cooper on the Wonder Years show?) was up next. She discussed her math books, and how she hopes to encourage readers to embrace and enjoy her favorite subject, math. (A woman after my own geeky heart!)

Next, David Shannon shared his endearing new book, GROW UP, DAVID! This recent release commemorates the 20th anniversary on his Caldecott Honor title, NO, DAVID!

And the big names just kept coming: Chris Grabenstein, Matt de la Pena, Jacqueline Woodson, Jennifer A. Nielsen, and more. 

Finally, my appointed time arrived and when I stepped on stage there was a packed audience waiting. The adults in the crowd seemed to enjoy testing their space knowledge with the “Apollo Quiz” I shared, while the children seated on bean bag chairs in the front row eagerly called out answers. They also asked great questions.

After my presentation, the incomparable Jason Reynolds ran on stage. Jason described how Go-go music had been a big part of his childhood, and how it is a metaphor for the importance of children seeing themselves represented. He captivated the entire audience, and before we knew it, Jason closed out the purple stage with cheers and thunderous applause.

The event also featured panel discussions, family activities, games, character meet and greets, and a poetry slam. Throughout the day authors and illustrators were presenting on various stages in the convention center . . .

Minh Le and Dan Santat wowed their audience on the Children’s Green Stage

Carla Hayden interviewed Sonia Sotomayor and discussed her new picture book biography, TURNING PAGES: MY LIFE STORY

Brian Selznick shared the new Harry Potter covers he’d created for the 20th anniversary of the series.

And eager attendees waited to get books signed by their favorite authors. (The on-site store sold 17,000+ books!)


Perhaps best of all, student authors were recognized with awards for their outstanding writing.

Then the incredible day was over! 200,000 attendees headed for home. (It was the largest National Book Festival ever!)

If you want to check out the National Book Festival for yourself, circle August 31, 2019 on your calendar so you can be part of the excitement next year. It’s free and open to the public! 


*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   * WINNERS from Suzanne’s August 31 COUNTDOWN post! *   *   *   *   *  *   *   *   *   *

Congratulations to the winners below! Please email me from my website and send your address so I can mail out your prize!

Autographed COUNTDOWN book – Carey Fox

Autographed COUNTDOWN posters (2) – Danielle Hammelef and Linda Mitchell

COUNTDOWN bookmark with real moon rock! (3) – Debra Shumaker, Kathy Wiechman, and Vijaya

And that’s not all …

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   * WINNER from the Sept. 4 We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga post! *   *   *   *   *  *   *   *   *   *

Congratulations Lisette! Please contact Traci Sorell from her website (/ and provide your address so she can mail your autographed book!

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *  *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Suzanne Slade

Suzanne Slade is the author of more than 100 books. A mechanical engineer by degree, she enjoys writing about science topics and fascinating historical figures. Recent books include: SWISH! The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters, A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, The Daring Dozen, Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, Astronaut Annie, Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story, Dangerous Jane, The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, The Inventor’s Secret, and Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Coming soon -- MARS IS, JUNE ALMEIDA VIRUS DETECTIVE! THE WOMAN WHO DISCOVERED THE FIRST HUMAN CORONAVIRUS, THE UNIVERSE AND YOU, and TBA titles from Calkins Creek, Peachtree, and Random House. Learn more about Suzanne and her books at:


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures and letting all of us live vicariously through you! The National Book Festival has long been on my bucket list.

  2. WOW! I loved getting this behind-the-scenes look at an author’s day at the National Book Festival. What fun you had! So proud of all you’ve accomplished and that you got to enjoy a wonderful day with so many others. I’m thrilled to hear they award student authors at NBF! I didn’t know that.

  3. Awesome event! Thank you for sharing your adventures. I am in awe of all the talent present. And thank you for my poster–I contacted you through your website. I’m excited about winning a bookish prize!

  4. Wow, that sounds exciting and over the top! Thanks so much for letting us visit through your eyes!

    • You know what, that’s a bit how the weekend felt — over the top. An author friend who went to NBF another year, Sherri Duskey Rinker, described the Author Gala as a “Cinderella at the Ball” feeling. I agree.

  5. My head’s spinning just reading about it, Suzanne! Awesome.

  6. Thanks for sharing this great news!

  7. Thank you for sharing your experience. So much fun!!

  8. Wow! What a wonderful experience. Thank you for sharing it and inspiring others.

    • It’s one of those memories that I’m tucking away in the “I can’t believe I had such a wonderful experience” category. Fortunately, my husband was able to go with me and enjoy the weekend too.

  9. Wow! Inspiring! Thank you for sharing and inspiring us.

  10. Oh yay! The bookmark and moonrock will go perfectly with the book I bought that day that is now graced with your autograph! I didn’t do so hot on your Apollo quiz but enjoyed your presentation, and of course, meeting you! Thanks again!

  11. Thanks for sharing! What an amazing festival!

  12. Wow! What an amazing experience! Thank you for sharing!

  13. Looks like a wonderful event. I’ll have to include in on my future wish list.

  14. What an amazing post and I’m so delighted to win the bookmark and moonrock!!!! Thank you!!!

  15. I attended this event for the first time this year with my three tweens in tow (well, two tweens and an almost-tween). We all had a blast. It will definitely be an annual getaway for us, and I am busy encouraging other book lovers to attend in 2019 as well!

  16. What a great outing for you and your three tweens! There’s something for everyone at this huge event. I hope to make it back again too! I’m surprised I didn’t know about it before.

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