Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Notes from the Children’s Literature Festival, a Poetry Kit, & Project OpenBook

I got to take my son to the Children’s Literature Festival at Truman State University recently. I’ll admit—I had been looking forward to the day for an entire year, as soon as the festival ended last year. Twelve authors and illustrators visited the campus and gave talks to local 4th-6th graders, followed by a book-signing and a dinner. It was a fantastic experience. Hearing people share their stories, their work and their passion was exhilarating.

We went to three author sessions. Jane Kurtz talked about growing up in Ethiopia, the list of 100 greatest children’s books her mother used to supply reading material for her children, and how her family helped her become the author and person she is today. Ben Mikaelsen spoke about the merciless bullying he endured growing up, how he realized he might as well do what he loved instead of try to fit in since he was going to be harassed by peers either way, and how his first English professor recognized that he was a born storyteller even though he could barely write when he started college. Oh—and my son’s favorite thing about him is that he lives with a 750-pound bear! Brad Sneed spoke about the process of illustration, from manuscript to sketches to the final product, and gave some insight into what it’s like to collaborate on a picture book.

We met several authors during the book signing. What a friendly bunch of people! Jill Esbaum, author of Stanza, which I wrote about in this post, was lovely. She passed along a link to this poetry kit, which has activities and downloads for Stanza as well as other Houghton Mifflin Harcourt books. The writing tips for how to make a jingle look really fun!

This is very cool, too: Brad Sneed is co-founder of Project OpenBook, a community-built book of poetry for children. Visit the blog at Marblespark to read and vote on submitted poems, or submit your own poetry or artwork. The readers choose what ultimately goes into the book, and the proceeds will go to Room to Read to free a young girl in Nepal from indentured service. Fantastic idea!

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