Booklist Forum

Posted by Beth Gallaway

I make it a point to get into twon in time to see the Booklist Forum at each ALA. Traditionally 8-10PM on Friday night, it is always a delight.

Mo Willems, former stand-up comic, opened with how to draw his famed pigeon: An “O” within an “O” for a head, a strategical placed pupil to indicate emotion), a sideways letter M for a beak, two lines for the neck and to deliniate a throat (sound effects optional), a “cirdrangal” (starts out as a circle with a triangular end) with a wing, stick legs and letter V’s for legs. “The faster you draw the more life it has,” said Willems, before congratulating us on our differently-styled brids and imploring us to “make people draw pigeons!”

Author Lisa Yee spoke about humiliation, headache and heartbreak in humor (Willems helpfully drew a large letter “H” to illustrate her alliteration) and talked about her everyday life that includes researching her books through spying, mostly on her children, blowing up peeps in the microwave (hint – put 2 in, stick a toothpick in each, and let the jousting begin!) and “dropping Mentos… into diet Coke to watch the explosions.” In her research to prove that guys can be sensitive (“Right? Right? Back me up, guys,” she asked of her fellow panelists – Lubar made a great show of laughing at this assertion) she gave us great and funny quotes from young readers. “Girls travel in wolf packs and just talk and talk and talk… about why unicorns have horns” Lisa’s son informed has informed her.

David Lubar was uproarious per usual, noting that now we’d all learned two lessons – don’t go on car rides with Mo and make sure Lisa doesn’t have Mentos when she’s drinking a Pepsi. He gave us some great reasons for writing humor:

  • Mark Twain lived til he was 75 – Kafta, 42
  • Angst is for whiners
  • High school would have been bearable if the Pearl had been funny

Punctuated by two signature Lubar booklists (“Great Books Set in New Orleans” and “Edgiest Books”), David (who is not bitter at all about his books being virtually ignored by bestowers of YA lit awards, really) touched on the need for more humor in fiction for teens. He doesn’t need to write books about kids with alcoholic parents and in other terrible situations: “I don’t write books about those kids… I write FOR those kids.”

Jack Gantos delivered a more sober speech about the background of comedy in the history of literature – the Homeric tradition of engaging the reader by making him/her her smarter than the protagonist. This is Gantos’s way of thinking about the reader when he was writing. Comedy is based on a foundation of truth, and is doubly successful when the character reinforces the reader’s view of the character’s stupidity. He also discussed his theory of dramatic comedy.

The evening ended a little early, but it was a great program – so full they had to bring in more chairs.