Three children’s authors and one author/illustrator will be discussing writing for a young audience at the eighth annual Elizabeth York Children’s Literature Festival hosted by the Nicholson Library on Sept. 23.
Authors in attendance include Loren Long, illustrator of former President Barack Obama’s children’s book “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters” and author of the popular “Otis” series; Louise Borden, author of children’s fiction and non-fiction titles such as “The Journey that Saved Curious George” and “A. Lincoln and Me”; John David Anderson, author of children’s novels including “Ms. Bixby’s Last Day” and “Insert Coin to Continue”; and Jeff Stone, author of “The Five Ancestors” series.
John David Anderson, who was invited to speak at the Festival by Nicholson Library Director Dr. Janet Brewer, said that he is enthusiastic to share the importance of children’s literature with AU.
“I think it’s admirable that the library is focusing this much attention on children’s literature and giving us all a chance to talk about how much it means to us,” said Anderson. “As an author, I know I appreciate any effort to increase awareness of the impact children’s books can have.”
Although the event is focused on appreciation of literature written for youth, Anderson believes that the event will be of interest to adults and AU students as well.
“I hope people who attend will learn more about the ongoing role children’s lit serves in fostering creativity, critical thinking and an increased awareness of the diverse world around us,” said Anderson. “I think it’s important to highlight all of the positives that come with getting kids to read for pleasure and to see the value in fostering that love of reading on into adulthood.”
One of the major appeals of the annual Festival is the collection of 10,000 children’s books donated by AU alum Elizabeth York. Included in the collection are rare first editions of books by well-known children’s authors such as Beatrix Potter, author of “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” and other classics, and A.A. Milne, creator of the “Winnie-the-Pooh” series.
“Festivals are fun. Children’s literature is fun,” Anderson said. “This is my first time, but I’m excited to take part in the festivities and to see the collection as well.”
Author Louise Borden stated that much can be learned from reading and exploring children’s literature and comparing classic stories to those emerging today.
“[AU students] are the ‘Harry Potter’ generation—but there are constantly new books and ideas,” said Borden. “I think the technology of book publishing will be discussed. Where are we going with the book? Is reading going to be all electronic?”
Borden said that even book jacket designs have shifted since the time of A.A. Milne and Beatrix Potter, and that presentations at the Festival will likely cover the changing book market as well.
“People will learn about marketing, creativity—they’ll learn about curiosity and imagination,” said Borden.
Borden, who majored in history before becoming a children’s author, also plans to discuss her travels to places such as the Netherlands and Belgium. Borden travels to conduct research for her non-fiction children’s books such as “The Little Ships,” which details events that occurred in Dunkirk, France during World War II.
“I think [AU students] will learn a lot in terms of travel, history, adventure from my talk,” Borden said. “I want [readers] to love history as I do—I try to make it accessible to kids in a new way and hopefully draw them in to my heroes, because I write about people who are my heroes, even if they lived a hundred years ago.”
Anderson stated that everyone can gain from studying children’s literature, regardless of age.
“As for what adults can gain through their exposure to children’s literature? All of the same gooey literary goodness they can get from adult books, but with a PG vocabulary,” said Anderson. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with reading kid’s lit as an adult. We were all kids once, and that version of us is still in there somewhere. They deserve a good book every now and then.”
The festival is open to the public free of charge and will take place at the Nicholson Library on Sept. 23. Events begin at 8:30 a.m. and last until 4 p.m. Attendees can enjoy a lunch for a fee of $10 if they RSVP online by Sept. 20.