Callista Gingrich — with Ellis the Elephant, a character from her children’s book “Hail to the Chief” — reads Saturday at the National Book Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. (Ian Shapira/The Washington Post)

Given all the depressing statistics about children’s reading habits and screen-time addictions, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Saturday served as a loud-and-proud rebuttal. The place was jam-packed with children and teenagers at the annual National Book Festival, sponsored by the Library of Congress.

Sure, plenty of grown-ups showed for heavyweights such as Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Sarah Vowell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

But kids came for the literary stars of their orbit: Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian American novelist, recipient of a National Book Critics Circle Award and author of the new book “Untwine”; Lois Lowry , the Newbery Medal-winning juggernaut and creator of the “The Giver” whose latest work is actually a memoir, “Looking Back”; Gene Luen Yang, the graphic novelist who last week was awarded one of this year’s 23 MacArthur “genius grants”; and Meg Medina, the Cuban American author whose newest novel, “Burn Baby Burn” just made the longlist for this year’s National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

On one of the convention hall’s top floors, Kiersten DeJong, 11, and Naomi Artlip, 11, both from Harpers Ferry, W.Va., lounged on a bench, waiting more than an hour to get good seats for Lowry’s talk. Above them hung a television screen showing Stephen King speaking at the festival’s ticketed event.

Why weren’t they among the hordes seeing King?

“None of my favorite authors are here, but I like Lois. I don’t think I’ve ever read Stephen King,” Naomi said.

“I think I’ve read him,” Kiersten said.

Kiersten’s mother, Jennifer Swart, 28, chimed in. “I hope not.”

“I do like James Patterson,” said Kiersten, who had purchased his book “Treasure Hunters” at the festival.

Had Kiersten heard about the uproar over Patterson’s just-scrapped novel called “The Murder of Stephen King,” in which a stalker-fan of King’s tries to reenact some of the terrifying crimes of his well-known villains?

“No. Are you kidding me?” Kiersten said, after being told. “That’s hilarious. I like it. It’s like, ‘Take out the opponent.’ ”

(Sixth-graders: Shrewd.)

Inside Danticat’s talk, Randle Washington Dickerson and his twin brother, Mercer, both 13, took notes as the novelist described her book about twin girls, “Untwine.”

Afterward, the boys, both eighth-graders at the BASIS charter school in the District, were inspired to write on their own.

“If you just need pen and paper to write, magic happens,” Randle said.

“But what did you think about the twin aspect of her book?” asked their mother, Angela Washington.

“That was ironic!” Mercer said, referring to Danticat’s comment that twins can understand each other’s reactions to events without actually speaking.

“If someone says something that my brother and I disagree with, we kind of look at each other,” he said. “We just know.”

Downstairs, Callista Gingrich, the children’s author, read from her latest book, “Hail to the Chief,” which chronicles Ellis the Elephant as he meets who Gingrich described as “some of our most important and influential presidents.”

(Under Gingrich’s rubric, the most recent president Ellis observes is Ronald Reagan.)

Some parents said they brought their kids so they could see a would-be first lady with her husband, former House Speaker and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, sitting in one of the first rows for her talk.

Others came because they wanted to show their kids at the earliest stage possible that books are important. Plus, there was an elephant. Kyle and Mariel Takamura brought their two young boys, Micah, 3, and Kian, 16 months.

“Micah, did you like the elephant?”

Micah didn’t say much.

“He’s not really into stuffed figures,” Mariel Takamura said. “He likes to keep them at a safe distance.”

On the main floor, adults were pouring out of the Carl Hiaasen talk while another large group waited to get inside to see Joyce Carol Oates. But the real action was upstairs where all the kids hung out, biding their time for Meg Medina in Room 202, then Lois Lowry.

“I’m going to have Lois sign this,” Naomi said to her Harpers Ferry friend Kiersten, showing her an empty notebook with a cover that said “Brain Freeze.” “I was going to write a book with it,” Naomi said. “But then it slowly slipped away from my mind.”

“I’m trying to write a book, too,” Kiersten said.

Soon, it was time to find decent seats. The girls grabbed their bags full of new purchases — “Ghosts” by Raina Telgemeier, “The Call” by Peadar O’Guilin and “Echo” by Pam Muñoz Ryan — and headed straight for the front, in the fourth row.