Penguin Random House Book Fair

Penguin Random House Book Fair starts Friday

by PRISCILLA LOEBENBERG – published in the Carroll County Times

The popular book fair at Carroll Community College might have a new name this year, to reflect the merger between publishing giants Penguin and Random House, but organizers expect the annual event to provide family fun for all ages Friday and Saturday, just as it has for the last 16 years.

Although the 2,300 new book titles donated by Penguin Random House and talks by successful authors headline the two-day event to help fund scholarships for students, according to Carroll Community College Foundation Executive Director Steve Wantz, that is only the tip of the iceberg. The book fair will include a wide variety of children’s crafts, science and technology demonstrations and experiments, fitness activities, multiple seminars, opportunities to win prizes and bid on silent auction items, food, movies, games and more.

Seniors get dibs on books while kids catch a movie

The fair kicks off with Seniors Afternoon at 1 p.m. Friday, Wantz said. Senior citizens get first pick of the brand new books discounted 20 percent off retail. Free health and wellness tips and blood pressure and balance tests will also be provided.

Although the book sale doesn’t open to all ages until Saturday, other activities are open to the public on Friday’s schedule. Daniel Humphries-Russ will present a seminar on strategies for shooting better family photos, successful author Don Riley will present tips for aspiring authors and Syeda Khan will demonstrate and discuss gentle chair yoga.

Unfortunately, tickets for the most anticipated children’s activity on Friday, screenings of the movie “Frozen,” have already sold out.

It takes a village

Droves of volunteers are preparing for more than 4,000 people to come through the doors over the two days, Wantz said. Many of the more than 200 volunteers are college students.

“It’s a nice way for the college’s students to get involved and give back to the community,” he said.

Other volunteers include members of the college and foundation boards and staff from Penguin Random House.

The event is the most attended foundation fundraiser of the year and the second-biggest moneymaker, after the annual Starry Night gala, Wantz said. Over the course of the last 16 years, the book fair has raised more than $450,000, he said.

The foundation will also collect dry and canned food donations during the fair, for students who can’t afford regular meals, Wantz said.

“We have a food locker because we find more and more students can’t afford a good meal,” he said, inviting the community to help support struggling students.

Writing rock stars

“We have three great authors who are going to speak on Saturday,” said Annette Danek-Akey, senior vice president of fulfillment at Penguin Random House. “I’ve read all their books and they are wonderful.”

She described the authors on the agenda as the “rock stars or movie stars” of publishing.

First up is Chris Grabenstein, an author for children and adults. He has written for Jim Henson‘s Muppets and recently co-authored “I Funny: A Middle School Story” with bestselling author James Patterson. He will be signing his new children’s book “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.” Grabenstein will also lead a scavenger hunt for children.

Bestselling author, screenwriter and producer Delia Ephron will be the next to speak. Her movies include “Hanging Up” (based on her novel), “Bewitched” and “Michael.” She and her sister Nora Ephron co-wrote the movies “You’ve Got Mail,” “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and the off-Broadway hit “Love, Loss and What I Wore.” She will be signing her memoir “Sister Mother Husband Dog: Etc.”

Michael Sokolove anchors the book talks. He is a contributing writer for New York Times Magazine and author of the books “The Ticket Out: Darryl Strawberry and the Boys of Crenshaw,” and “Hustle: The Myth, Life, and Lies of Pete Rose.” He will be signing his newest publication “Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater.”

The book fair is Penguin Random House’s largest fundraising event for the community, Danek-Akey said.

“We have had a longstanding partnership with the college,” she said. “We love to continue to support them.”

Sensational Saturday

A tree house theme encompasses activity areas for preschool, early elementary and older children, Wantz said. A variety of crafts, story time, science experiments, fitness activities in the gym, demonstrations and a presentation by “Professor Wizard” are just some of the kids’ activities available at the book fair.

“Every child that comes to the event is given a free book. While this event is a fundraising event for our foundation, it is also one where we are encouraging a passion for and a love of reading,” Wantz said.

Free books will be given while supplies last.

Donated items will be up for bid in a silent auction and, new this year, an edible raffle will be held, he said. Each purchase of a cupcake, courtesy of Starry Night Bakery, also serves as an entry into a raffle. One of the raffle prizes is tuition for Kids@Carroll summer camp.

Wantz said another highlight of the day will be readings by the winners of the annual student writing contest in the theater. He said the winning entries will be published in book form for the students.