Saturday, October 19, 2013


I didn't catch how many years Bookfest, in its many incarnations has been going on, but it has been a long time and it has been back at Bankstreet for the past four years. I have attended three of them. I had to skip last year's due to a conflict. I went to many when it was down at the main branch of NYPL. It is an event that never fails to recharge me. Here's a short recap of today's.

After a short welcome by Jenny Brown, Director of the Center for Children's Literature, Lindsey Wyckoff, Archivist and Special Collections Librarian at the Bankstreet College Library interviewed Philip Nel, scholar and author of the blog Nine Kinds of Pie as well as a biography of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss.

Harold and the Purple Crayon occupies a special place in my heart ever since I had to read it nightly to #4 son, along with The Grouchy Lady Bug and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. In fact, I could probably recite the entire text of Harold. I have a video of #4 son at 20 months or so reciting it. Only, I learned later that the sound was shot on the camera.

So, I was very interested to learn all the tidbits Phil shared and really must read the biography.

Notable quote: "Purple is the color of adventure." Crockett Johnson upon being asked why the color purple.

Next up was a panel entitled, Visual Storytelling for Middle Grades, moderated by Betsy Bird. The panelists were Grace Lin, author of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon; Nathan Hale, author of the hysterical and informative Hazardous Tales series; Jeff Mack, a new author to me of playful picture books and another new author to me, Henry Neff, author of the Tapestry series.

Most of the discussion centered around what to call their books - illustrated novel? What? Nathan Hale cracked everyone up by saying, "funny books." Jeff Mack likes graphic novel.

Notable quote: "It's all Babymouse's Fault." Nathan Hale on three color graphic novels.

Bookfest wouldn't be Bookfest without the breakout sessions. This year, there were so many interesting sessions to choose from, but I settled on Why I Love YA, moderated by Luann Toth. She chose: The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr; Living with Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles; Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell; All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry and A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty. I must confess that I did not get to A Corner of White, but it's next up on the pile to be read with my ears. I think I'm going to like it because my librarian sister loved it and I've enjoyed Moriarty's books in the past. The discussion was frank and funny and the hour passed very quickly.

Lunch was a delicious sandwich on fresh focaccia along with a tasty salad and lemon bars for dessert. I sat with two middle school librarians, one of whom was in my discussion group and one of whom needed a place to sit. Another perk to attending the event solo - meeting new folks.

We received little fans with a picture of toast upon entering the auditorium for the afternoon sessions. These were used to toast Amelia Bedelia on her 50th birthday and Happy Birthday was sung. The panelists included Herman Parish, nephew of the late Peggy Parish and author of subsequent Amelia Bedelia books, Gretchen Seibel, wife of the late artist, Fritz Seibel, Sylvie le Floch, art director, Virginia Duncan, editor at Greenwillow Books.

The final panel was entitled, The Value of Words & Pictures in Information Books. Jenny Brown moderated a panel that included Jen Bryant, author; Melissa Sweet, author & illustrator; Brian Floca, author & illustrator and Christopher Myers, author & illustrator. Each spoke about their research process, facts as constraint or liberation. Christopher Myers was hysterically funny but also profoundly deep. He insisted that facts are a kind of story.

Finally, the keynote speech by Kate DiCamillo moved me to swallow back tears more than once as she reflected on vacuums, squirrels and dying mothers.

Sorry, no pictures. I forgot my camera. The goody bag included some great books and arcs. All in all, a most satisfactory day for this lover of literature for young people.

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