Several months ago, I came across a video of author Jerry Craft being interviewed by one of his fans for a YouTube series titled “Author Fan Face-Off.” I was instantly hooked and watched 5 more episodes before I knew what was happening. In each episode, one famous author and one student fan go head to head to answer 10 trivia questions about one of the author’s books. The series is hosted by Steven Sheinken and Stacey Rattner, and premiered on August 31, 2020, with author Chris Grabenstein. The series focuses on middle-grade authors and has more than 40,000 views, and season 1 included 57 episodes.
Steven and Stacey not only host the series, they also are the creators! New York Times bestselling author Steve Sheinken is a former textbook writer and author of many award-winning nonfiction books including Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, which was named a Newbery Honor Book. His latest book, Fallout: Spies, Superbombs, and the Ultimate Cold War Showdown, was released on September 7, 2021. Stacey Rattner, also known as the Leaping Librarian, is an elementary school librarian in upstate New York. Together, they teamed up to create this fun series for teachers and students when in-person author visits were cancelled due to the pandemic.
Amy Hermon, host of the “School Librarians United” podcast, has referred to the series as “Netflix for Librarians,” and interviewed Steve and Stacey in episode 147 of her podcast. This is a wonderful episode to hear the backstory of how the series came to be and ways school librarians can use the episodes in their spaces. There are four people on the screen–Stacey, Steve, an author, and a fan. Books were originally selected by authors they knew and then expanded as people recommended other authors. Steven and Stacey both read the books and create the questions in a true collaboration. Graphics and sound effects are added to enhance the experience post production.
This series has a run time of approximately 9-12 minutes per episode and is the perfect motivator for reluctant readers. I have shown the videos to students after checkouts and for early finishers in the library, especially the episodes that feature authors from our state award nominees and Battle of the Books titles. The game-show format draws the students in as they try and answer the trivia questions along with the fan and author. Several of the authors and books featured are taught in our fifth- and sixth-grade classes and are a great way to review the book when they finish reading it as a class.
Something I have started in my own school library is printing QR codes connected to each episode of the authors’ books. I have placed the QR codes in the lower right corner of each book and set up a display of all the books. I demonstrate the different ways to scan the QR codes, whether on phones or laptops, and show students how the QR code connects to that particular episode of “Author Fan Face-Off.” The display has been a huge success and almost all the books were checked out on the first day. Since then, I have started adding the QR codes to all of those authors’ books, regardless of whether or not that particular book was featured on that author’s episode, and the kids love it. It has become a way to introduce students to new authors and new books.
Season 2 (Episode 58) premiered on September 20, 2021, with author Shannon Hale and superfan Kiki. I was able to get a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the series because this particular episode was filmed in our school library with one of my students! This was a dream come true for Kiki. She was super nervous about meeting her favorite author Shannon Hale, but did a fabulous job. Since the video has been posted, she is now considered a school celebrity. Not only does “Author Fan Face-Off” provide students, teachers, and school librarians with an innovative game-show style show with some amazing authors, but it makes dreams come true when these student super-fans get to meet their favorite authors. I hope this series continues for years. Thank you, Steve and Stacey!
Author: Amanda Jones
Amanda is the 2021 School Library Journal Co-Librarian of the Year, a 2021 Library Journal Mover and Shaker, the 2020 Louisiana School Librarian of the Year, and a 21 year educator from Watson, LA. She’s a teacher-librarian and certified reading specialist at a 5-6 grade middle school. She is Vice President of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians and is the 2019 AASL Social Media Superstar Program Pioneer. Amanda is an active member of several committees for AASL and is on the Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice Awards Committee. Visit her library website at lomlibrary.org and/or find out more about her at http://librarianjones.com/.