CC and I are big fans of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, an annual two-day event that showcases authors, performers and, of course, the written word.
This year, we had the opportunity to peruse the fest at its new USC location, which also happens to be my old grad-school stomping grounds. It was fun to be back on campus and to see various quads transformed into welcoming, white-tented havens for readers young and old.
While we explored the various booths, we spent most of our time near the Target Children's Stage, which hosted writers and performers such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Mallory Lewis and Lamb Chop, and local author Dallas Clayton, who took children's entertainment to a whole new level, literally.
Clayton -- and his almost 8-year-old son, Audio -- took the stage to read from his first children's work, "An Awesome Book!," about the importance of dreams.
Out of all the child-friendly topics, Clayton chose dreams because, as he told me backstage, "Everybody in the world has a relationship with dreams regardless of age or race or color or size or whatever your social dynamic."
He was also inspired by his son, who serves as a "test audience" for his work. "When I was writing for him," Clayton said, "I was just fascinated by the fact that he dreamed at all at such a young age. When he was asleep, I was like, what a crazy concept that is and that all of these things are going on in his brain when he's not even aware of it."
After the success of his first book, Clayton decided to not only write more but also to reach out to children by giving away one book for every book that's purchased. Which also inspired his second book, "An Awesome Book of Thanks!"
"Though it's important to have these big, fantastic dreams," Clayton said, "it's also important to be thankful for all the small things that happen along the way."
But it was the festival audience who was thankful on Saturday, when he and Audio passed out books and shot confetti canons into the air.
"I didn't get into this to be an author," Clayton mused. "I got into it to share with people. That's what inspires me."
"It doesn't end with a book, it's not just the written word on a page," he added. "It's the idea of moving among people, communicating, and sharing."
We also had the chance to chat up young actors Jordana Beatty and Parris Mosteller from the upcoming movie "Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer," about a third-grade girl who sets out to have an amazing summer despite being stuck at home with her little brother, Stink, and her visiting Aunt Opal (played by Heather Graham). The movie hits theaters June 10 and is based on the books by Megan McDonald.
And when I say "we," I really mean "we." CC wanted to do some interviewing herself -- which you can see on the above video. Frustrating but also adorable. She must have asked poor Parris at least 15 times what his name was. It kinda became a running joke.
It was a fun afternoon talking books and movies with kids and kid-friendly adults. As Jenna Reck, a spokesperson for the festival's presenting sponsor Target, told me backstage, it was all about putting kids and reading first.
In fact, the company will be donating a staggering $1 billion to education by the end of 2015. "Target's presence as the presenting sponsor at today's festival is just one of the examples of how we're giving back to education," she said, "and bringing children and bringing parents together to celebrate the love of reading."