The crowd was definitely girl-heavy, with just a smattering of boys (who looked like they were just tagging along with their sisters). Yet, here's the interesting thing: it was a wonderfully diverse crowd in terms of race. I mention this because Rachel Russell has been criticized for making her main character, Nikki, white. With the whole "We Need Diverse Books" push these days, lots of people are looking for main characters of color, and here is Rachel Russell -- herself an African-American -- choosing to make her main character white. In an interview with The New York Times last year, Russell defended her decision, saying that she saw Nikki as an “Everygirl, all hues mixed together,” and noted that Nikki's best friends are African-American and Latino, although it's hard to tell because of the stylized, anime-type, black-and-white illustrations. In response to a question from the audience at our event, Rachel Russell reiterated that "I am committed to diversity."
|Nikki, Erin & Rachel Russell wearing tiaras for their latest book.|
Meanwhile, at our event, the Russell family (Rachel's sister Kim and brother Don were part of the entourage) pulled out all the stops to please their fans. For example, during the Q & A section, Nikki Russell spent most of her time behind an easel doing "dorkifications" -- i.e. portraits in the Dork Diaries style -- of a few lucky questioners. The girls were thrilled when they received their large-scale portraits.
Rachel, Erin and Nikki Russel were gracious with each fan, really taking time to talk with them and personalize each book. Of particular note was their willingness to stop and pose for photographs with a fan; each time they did this, the Russells would say in unison: "On the count of three, say "dork:" 1, 2, 3 -- DORK!"
Fans also were delighted by two pieces of news. The first item is that Rachel and Erin Russell are working on a spin-off series, titled Locker Boy. The main character is, of course, a boy, although Rachel Russell said there's also a strong girl character. The second piece of news is that Lionsgate Summit Entertainment will be making a Dork Diaries movie, set to be released in 2016.
One mother of a young fan provided a nice wrap on the night, saying "Thank you for writing these books!" and telling the Russells that the Dork Diaries had renewed her daughter's interest in reading. There's no higher compliment for an author than that.