Books come to life and children’s authors are treated like celebrities at the annual Hooked on Books…And The Arts, too! celebration in Chanhassen. The free event features activities, art projects and a free book for every child in attendance. “It’s all about literacy and the importance of books and reading,” says Mary Erickson, who has served as co-chair of Hooked on Books since its inception 7 years ago.
Each year, Hooked on Books, which is organized through Community Education of Eastern Carver County Schools in collaboration with the Carver County Library, attracts about 1,500 attendees who enjoy a sort of carnival of books, with costumed characters, free snacks, arts projects and more.
A key component of Hooked on Books is the opportunity to meet a children’s book author or illustrator. This year’s keynote author is Mary Casanova, a Ranier, Minn. native, who has written dozens of books for children of all ages, and Casanova will be joined by Ard Hoyt, an illustrator she often collaborates with. During the week before the event, Casanova and Hoyt will meet with third graders to talk about their work.
The author talk is one of the highlights of the Hooked on Books event, and helps Hooked on Books’ goal of turning authors into celebrities, Erickson says. “The kids are spellbound,” she says. “They want to know everything about the authors.”
Casanova has spoken at many of these types of literacy events and at elementary schools across the country. “When you build up an event like this and celebrate authors and illustrators, bring them into the school, the kids are all of the sudden very excited about seeing who these celebrities are but then realize very quickly that they're real people,” Casanova says. “It demystifies some of the process as well about how books are made.”
Casanova will discuss everything from the creative process to dealing with writer’s block to her revision process. After these presentations, says Casanova, students always have the same reaction: “The teachers go back to the students and say, ‘What should we do now?’ and the kids will say, ‘Let’s write!’ To me that's really exciting.”
Looking for a good read? We asked three children to review books from Mary Casanova:
Utterly Otterly Day, written by Mary Casanova and illustrated by Ard Hoyt
reviewed by Brendan Suhr, age 7, Clover Ridge Elementary in Chaska
The plot: Little Otter loves to play in a carefree way, ignoring the well-meaning advice of his parents, but he learns that it’s always good to have loved ones watching out for him in this charming picture book.
Brendan’s verdict: Utterly Otterly Day is a fun book to read. I liked the end when the little otter snuggles up to his family and dreams about his day. Little Otter is my favorite character because he’s curious about the world. The theme is about a little otter who wanders away and explores the world. I really liked how Ard Hoyt draws the warning pictures before dangerous things happen. I would recommend this book to a friend.
The Klipfish Code, by Mary Casanova
reviewed by Emma Aspelin, age 11, Victoria Elementary School
The plot: This young adult novel follows Marit, a 12-year-old living in Norway in 1942 during Nazi occupation, as she tries to help the resistance effort.
Emma’s verdict: I liked the fact that it was on an island by the ocean because I am very close to nature. My favorite character was Hanna because she always helped Marit. I liked it because the story was told from the perspective of Marit. Most of the time I felt sad, but it helped me understand what it was like during that time. Yes, [I would recommend the book to a friend], especially if they want to know what it was like during the war.
One-Dog Canoe, by Mary Casanova and illustrated by Ard Hoyt
reviewed by Rylie Jorgensen, age 8, Jonathan Elementary School
The plot: When a young girl decides to canoe around the lake with her dog, she has no idea that she’s about to be joined by a variety of woodland creatures.
Rylie’s verdict: I enjoyed all of the different animals in a little canoe, and the colorful pictures. It was very creative. The girl was my favorite character because she was nice to the animals and laughed when they all fell out of the canoe. The book was funny, all the animals wanted to get in this little boat. I still don’t know how that moose got in. And then I laughed when they all tipped over and got wet. Yes, [I would recommend the book to a friend]; it was a really good book.
Hooked on Books...And The Arts, too!
When: 9 a.m.–Noon February 11
Where: Chanhassen High School, 2200 Cty. Rd. 18, Chanhassen