'Exquisite Corpse' An Online Adventure For Kids Host Guy Raz strolls down to the National Mall, where kid-book authors Jon Scieszka and Kate DiCamillo are introducing The Exquisite Corpse Adventure, an online serial story written by a posse of children's authors. It premiered Saturday at the National Book Festival.
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'Exquisite Corpse' An Online Adventure For Kids

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'Exquisite Corpse' An Online Adventure For Kids

'Exquisite Corpse' An Online Adventure For Kids

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GUY RAZ, host:

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

Today, on the National Mall here in Washington, D.C., thousands of readers turned out at the National Book Festival, where they met some of their favorite authors.

Ms. ELLEN HAYFOR(ph): I actually came out here to see James Patterson, but I saw Holly Black on (unintelligible) so excited to meet her.

Ms. MARY BROOKS(ph): I was trying to get to (unintelligible) but the line was very long. So…

Ms. SARAH MAZLOCK(ph): I'm just kind of going around. I want to see Kate DiCamillo and I'm interested in hearing Janet Wald(ph), as well.

RAZ: That was Sarah Mazlock. And before her, fellow readers Ellen Hayfor and Mary Brooks.

I went down to check out the festival a few hours ago and I met with a couple of children's book authors. Kate DiCamillo, who wrote the "The Tale of Despereaux," and Jon Scieszka, creator of "The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales." Jon also holds the lofty title: National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.

Kate DiCamillo, Jon Scieszka, welcome to the show.

Ms. KATE DiCAMILLO (Author, "The Tale of Despereaux"): Thank you.

Mr. JON SCIESZKA (Author, "The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales"): Thank you.

RAZ: We're recording this in the middle of the afternoon. Are your wrists tired from signing so many books already?

Ms. DiCAMILLO: I feel pretty happy. I was thrilled for everybody that came through the line. I don't think anybody through Jon's line. So…

(Soundbite of laughter)

…his wrists are fine.

Mr. SCIESZKA: I was still happy, too.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DICAMILLO: He's happy no matter what happens, you know?

RAZ: But it must be pretty cool to meet all the kids who read your stuff.

Ms. DICAMILLO: It's fabulous.

Mr. SCIESZKA: Yeah.

Ms. DICAMILLO: It's unbelievable. And really truly, I don't know if you feel it - you've been doing this a lot longer than I have - but the thrill of it never wears off.

Mr. SCIESZKA: No, it is true. It's always the same. Phenomenal. You walk out there and see hundreds, thousands of people standing in line.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Well, one of the reasons why we're talking to the both of you here today is because the Library of Congress has launched a new project that both of you are involved with it. It's called "The Exquisite Corpse Adventure," which is actually…

Mr. SCIESZKA: Wow, that sounds creepy.

RAZ: …which is actually…

(Soundbite of laughter)

It is a children's book. Jon Scieszka, could you explain what this project is?

Mr. SCIESZKA: Yeah, yeah. The Exquisite Corpse forum is actually like a story that's pieced together out of many parts. And we wanted to do something with the Library of Congress to promote the new Web site, read.gov.

RAZ: Mm-hmm.

Mr. SCIESZKA: So we thought, what if we got together a mess of authors and illustrators, had them each write a piece of a story, and put it all together?

RAZ: Earlier today, you read from the first installment of the story, and I was wondering if you could read a portion of that story for us?

Mr. SCIESZKA: Oh, I would love to.

RAZ: We have it for you.

Mr. SCIESZKA: Starting with:

(Reading) If the train makes it over the treacherous gorge, there's a good chance that you and Nancy and Joe will have to deal with: werewolves, mad scientists, real ninjas and fake vampires, one roller-skating baby, a talking pig, creatures from another planet - possibly another dimension - killer poetry, clues from classic children's book, two easy riddles, several bad knock-knock jokes, plenty of explosions, a monkey disguised as a pirate, two meatballs, a blue plastic Star Wars lunch box - missing it's matching thermos -a ticking clock, and not just one bad guy, but a whole army of villains, cads, scallywags, sneaks, rats, varmints and swindlers.

RAZ: Kate DiCamillo, how are you going to continue that story?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCIESZKA: Best of luck.

Ms. DICAMILLO: Well, the way I've survived thus far in life is just like taking one detail and fixating on it. And I think you know what that detail is. Did you hear the…

Mr. SCIESZKA: Just say it again.

Ms. DICAMILLO: …meatball mentioned in there?

Mr. SCIESZKA: Yeah. I love the way you say that.

Ms. DICAMILLO: I chose the meatball and I ran with it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: So you guys seem to know each other pretty well. And I'm wondering if there's sort of a children's book author sort of cabal, who sort of secretly run the world?

(Soundbite of laughter)

But in all seriousness, I mean, you know each other and you know other children's book authors.

Ms. DICAMILLO: We do. It's actually a really wonderful community of people. Everybody just celebrates everybody else's success. Don't you think that's true?

Mr. SCIESZKA: Yeah, I do. I don't think it is like a competition.

Ms. DICAMILLO: Yeah.

Mr. SCIESZKA: And it's, like, people we like to hang out with. I mean, we meet each other at these events and we end up - we have the same experiences that we share. And can nobody quite understands what that is to be in a room with, you know, 500 little guys screaming and chanting.

(Soundbite of laughter)

You have to talk to someone about that to make it go away.

Ms. DICAMILLO: I don't know anybody mean in this community.

Mr. SCIESZKA: I do. Should I say their names, though?

Ms. DICAMILLO: Oh, I know a couple. Yeah, go ahead and say them.

Mr. SCIESZKA: Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCIESZKA: I don't think we should.

Ms. DICAMILLO: No, you're the ambassador.

Mr. SCIESZKA: Yeah, I love everyone.

RAZ: That's Jon Scieszka and Kate DiCamillo, each has a book out this month. Jon's is called "Robot Zot." And Kate's new one is "The Magician's Elephant."

You can read an excerpt from the first chapter of that "Exquisite Corpse" project at npr.org.

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