Forced to cancel his regular schedule of 20 to 25 annual school visits, the Newbery Honor winning author of Bomb missed seeing students and teachers.
“I didn’t think answering questions online was very creative,” said Sheinkin who longed to create a virtual community.
He reached out to Stacey Rattner, a librarian at Castleton Elementary School, whom he’d met eight years ago during an author visit. “I consider Stacey a super librarian,” said Sheinkin.
Rattner, a Schodack Faculty Association member, suggested going bigger. “Steve originally just wanted to ask authors questions about their book, but I said, ‘we need a kid in there,’” she said, explaining how the pair brainstormed “Author Fan Face-off,” a game-show-themed book trivia program airing Monday mornings on YouTube. It pits a tweenage superfan against a book author in a Jeopardy!-like showdown.
Since August, nearly 25 different authors have competed against pint-sized opponents from schools as far flung as Missouri, Toronto and California to determine who knows more about their book — the author or the superfan.
“Katherine Applegate, author of The One and Only Ivan, got crushed in her episode,” said Sheinkin, noting that most authors don’t mind being outplayed by a pre-teen. “I think it’s beautiful when the fan becomes the greater expert than the author.”
Since both Sheinkin and Rattner have strong connections in the student book world, they recruit authors through tweets, notes and personal connections.
Authors scheduled for 2021 include Kwame Alexander, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Pam Muñoz Ryan and Trenton Lee Stewart.
Rattner suggests incorporating the program into lessons by having students read a featured book and then watch the “Author Fan Face-off” episode.
“The program helps me stay connected with my middle-grade readers since I don’t get to meet with them due to COVID-19,” she said noting that at roughly 10 minutes long, the programs work well at the beginning or end of a class session.
Sheinkin suggests having students read the book and then play along with the episode to see how they fare against the author. “It’s about making reading fun — educators and authors are allies,” he said.
To nominate a student competitor or share a suggestion, contact Rattner (@staceybethr) and Sheinkin (@SteveSheinkin) on Twitter.