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The rousing reception children's book author Megan McDonald received this week in Rapid City should ease anyone's fears that youngsters aren't readers.

McDonald has been in the Black Hills for several days, and at 2 p.m. today, she will speak in Deadwood as part of the South Dakota Festival of Books. Her presentation is called "Tea with Julie, Judy Moody and Friends," referring to the names of characters in her books.

She will speak in the 1898 Ballroom of the Martin & Mason Hotel, 33 Deadwood St. Admission is $15.

The crowd at her event today will have a hard time matching the exuberance she heard Thursday from hundreds of local third-graders who packed the Rapid City Central High School Theater for two sessions. Her appearances were part of the Young Readers Festival of Books. 

The pupils were so excited, they were barely able to stay still in their seats, and that was even before McDonald spoke. 

She is a big deal to third-graders in the Black Hills ever since two of her books, "Stink the Incredible Shrinking Kid" and "Stink and the Incredible Super-Galactic Jawbreaker," were given to them last year.

Three thousand copies were were distributed to second-graders in Belle Fourche, Martin, Custer, Ellsworth, Edgemont, Hill City, Hot Springs, Lead-Deadwood, Sturgis, New Underwood, Newell, Rapid City, Pine Ridge, Spearfish, Rosebud and Wall. 

McDonald captivated her bubbling audience of 9-year-olds by telling them about how she jots down on napkins ideas for stories and uses incidents in her own in life as plot elements, including playing pranks on her sisters.

She also described the editing process she goes through, explaining that for her first four "Judy Moody" books, entire sections were cut. 

Gabriel Broghammer, a third-grader at Pinedale Elementary, said his favorite part of the presentation was when McDonald showed funny pictures from her life and from the evolution of the illustrations in her books.

The children, who were familiar with Judy Moody and her brother, Stink, laughed when they saw the first rounds of drawings of the pair before the ones used today were chosen. 

And the pupils weren't the only ones engaged.

Gabriel's teacher, Shelly Carlson, loved seeing the youngsters pay attention and hearing them laughing as they put a face to the books they read last year.

And like the pupils, Carlson was learning. 

She said hearing McDonald explain her creative practices and the editing process should help the pupils understand why she makes them write first drafts of their papers. 

"I was expecting (McDonald's) presentation to mostly be about the characters," Carlson said, "but hearing about turning the different scenarios into fiction and her writing process really gave me some ideas to take back to the classroom." 

McDonald was eager to attend this festival to support the program because she was honored Stink had been chosen for the youngsters to read. She said she loves to spend time with her readers. 

"Talking with third-graders keeps everything fresh," she said. "It's a special event for kids, and it gives them the sense that writing isn't easy, but to keep at it." 

Danita Simons, with the United Way, said it was rewarding to see so many kids inspired to read. 

"You could tell they read the books because they were so ready to ask questions," she said. "They gained the value in reading and learned why it's important and how to express their feelings in the world they see."

McDonald was one of several authors visiting local elementary schools throughout Thursday as part of the Young Readers Festival, a collaborative effort of United Way of the Black Hills, Rapid City Area Schools, the Rapid City Public School Foundation and the South Dakota Humanities Council.

The festival was also part of the campaign for grade-level reading, supported by a $37,500 three-year grant from the Vucurevich Foundation.

The authors' appearances were part of the South Dakota Festival of Books that continues today in Deadwood and Lead. 

The annual festival connects readers and published authors. More than 70 presenters are included in this year’s festival with more than 60 workshops and lectures planned for today.

Headlining this year’s festival is Minnesota author William Kent Krueger, whose novel, “Ordinary Grace,” was selected as the 2015 One Book South Dakota.

In 2003 the South Dakota Humanities Council created the One Book South Dakota program, which encourages everyone across the state to read and discuss the same novel or memoir throughout the year. 

Krueger will be part of a panel discussion at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Hotel Conference Room at the Deadwood Mountain Grand Hotel.

At 7:30 p.m. in the hotel's Event Center, Krueger, in a conversation with Sandra Brannan, will deliver the One Book South Dakota keynote: "Mystery and Spirituality: An Unlikely Pairing."

Almost all of the events today and Sunday are free and open to the public. For a schedule of events, click on this link: sdbookfestival.com/documents/EVENTS-SaturdaySchedule1.pdf

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Contact Emily Niebrugge at 394-8419 or emily.niebrugge@rapidcityjournal.com

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