- Associated Press - Monday, May 2, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - It was a learning experience, but a nice one, for “Goosebumps” author R.L. Stine.

“I had no idea what K-2 was until today,” Stine, whose books have thrilled and chilled millions of readers, said Monday night as he announced the winner at the Children’s Book Choice awards for the best book for kindergarten-second grade.

With children serving as voters and stagehands, and no cash prizes, the children’s book awards were as much excuse to have a good time as a chance for a given author to win another prize. Stine, Rick Riordan, Jeff Kinney, Suzanne Collins and Walter Dean Myers were among the favorites who mingled happily with young fans at the Lighthouse event space on Chelsea Piers, overlooking the Hudson River.

“It’s relaxing. There’s not any pressure,” said Kinney, author of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, which sold millions of copies. “It’s just a lot of fun,” he added as he cheerfully signed the pocket-sized autograph books handed out to attendees.

The stage was a childlike arrangement, with a castle cutout as a backdrop, and a reading chair on the side. The winners, by the way, included Johanna Kerby’s “Little Pink Pup” for kindergarten to second grade, Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s “Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown” for third- to fourth-grade level, John Green’s and David Levithan’s “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” for favorite teen book and David Wiesner as best illustrator for “Art & Max.”

Riordan won twice: “The Red Pyramid” was voted best fifth- to sixth-grade book and “The Lost Hero” brought Riordan honors for author of the year.

More than 500,000 kids nationwide, a record, voted for the prize, founded in 2008 by the nonprofit Children’s Book Council.

One planned winner was uninvited. “Three Cups of Tea” co-author Greg Mortenson was supposed to receive an Impact prize for his work in getting schools built in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But after a “60 Minutes” investigation and a book by Jon Krakauer challenged the facts of “Three Cups of Tea” and the effectiveness of his school program, the council decided not to present the award “in the face of so many unanswered questions.”