Watching from the stairs, I got a bird's eye view of the entire event, jam-packed with entertainment, activities, and STUFF for kids and parents. Below is a photo that explains the anatomy of a great children's book event.
1Have a Big Picture!
AJ had a laptop and big screen so kids could watch/follow as AJ read the electronic version of his book.
He used the screen later to show drawing activities on his website.
2Use Real Monsters!
AJ had older kids from a local theater group in Newburyport wearing painted cardboard cutouts of his book characters. In exchange for promoting their summer theater program for kids, they assisted AJ by personifying monsters from his book and handing out fun book-related Stuff to kids.
3Pretend to Have Cooties!
Hard to see in the photo, but AJ had some orange fuzzy pom-poms that looked like the little cootie creatures from his book. While reading, AJ would periodically adhere a pom pom to himself, kids would yell, "COOTIES!" and one of his monster helpers would spray AJ with a squirt gun 'till the cootie fell off. Uproar and laughter ensued. Genius! One little boy in the audience yelled out, "My sister says I have cooties!" A monster helper came over to give him a bottle of cootie-be-gone fluid.
4Let 'Em Draw!
After the reading, AJ had the kids volunteer to come up and draw one of the monsters from his book, which he had broken down into simple shapes and made into an activity sheet on his website. The kids were CRAZY EXCITED to come up and draw a piece of the monster -- the body! the head! the squiggly ears! -- and AJ got to promote his site and challenge kids to post their own drawings to his website. He's going to make a music video with the top 20 monster drawings at the end of the summer. Keep them engaged!!
5Ask Tons of People!
Lots of promotion, newspaper, radio, internet coverage seemed to me to be the key to the amazing turnout at the event. AJ/Jabberwocky also cross-promoted the event with Chococoa, the bakery next door; anyone who bought a book could go there for a free whoopie pie and trading card. Everybody winning here??
After the reading: Book signing. Line of happy people and kids. Monster cutout photo booth.
Total time elapsed: 30 super-fun saturated minutes.
I left the event pretty exhilarated/exhausted. Got my free whoopie pie next door and spiked my blood sugar for a bit. Oh, and looked at AJ's framed art on display on the bakery walls. This guy did it right!!!
See more of AJ's work here: http://www.AJSmith.net
Collect some trading cards here!: http://www.evenmonsters.com/cards.html