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“The Exquisite Corpse” Turns 10!

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Ten years ago, the Library of Congress’s website embarked on an adventure in collaboration with the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance.

The project was called “The Exquisite Corpse Adventure,” and over the course of 27 weekly episodes, many of the nation’s top writers and illustrators for young people  contributed words and pictures to this madcap story written and illustrated in sequential format. It was the like the Exquisite Corpse game devised by Surrealist artists, in which one artist would draw of part of person and then another artist would add to it, and then another artist …

More than 400,000 readers around the world eagerly awaited the posting of a new episode. The success of the online version resulted in a print version being published by Candlewick and an audio version from Brilliance Audio. You can also listen to an audio version from the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, a free service provided by the Library of Congress.

To maximize the reading, writing and artistic opportunities of the story, the NCBLA has created an updated comprehensive Education Resource Center, available free to all adults who live and work with young people. These online materials include direct links to the story game on, as well as supplemental articles to inspire progressive storytelling and games, complementary reading lists and classroom activities. The NCBLA is grateful to its colleagues at the Butler Children’s Literature Center at Dominican University for their work in developing many of these education materials. Additional writing exercises are available on the website of our literacy partner Reading Rockets.

The authors and illustrators who contributed to “The Exquisite Corpse Adventure” are M.T. Anderson, Natalie Babbitt, Calef Brown, Susan Cooper, Kate DiCamillo, Timothy Basil Ering, Jack Gantos, Nikki Grimes, Shannon Hale, Steven Kellogg, Gregory Maguire, Megan McDonald, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack, Linda Sue Park, Katherine Paterson, James Ransome, Jon Scieszka, Lemony Snicket, and Chris Van Dusen.

The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization founded by award-winning young people’s authors and illustrators. Acting as an independent creative agent or in partnership with interested parties, the NCBLA develops original projects, programs and educational outreach that advocate for and educate about literacy, literature, libraries, the arts and humanities.

Some of the “Corpse” contributers, pictured here at the 2011 National Book Festival (left to right): Jack Gantos, NCBLA Executive Director Mary Brigid Barrett, Fredrick McKissack, Patricia McKissack, Calef Brown, Katherine Paterson, Gregory Maguire, Susan Cooper and Chris Van Dusen.

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