Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bookworm Festival

More than 300 children and parents gathered at Pine Shadows Elementary School on a Saturday morning recently to inaugurate the district’s first ever Bookworm Festival for all young readers.

Families from more than 20 prekindergarten and elementary schools in Spring Branch ISD took part in the Feb. 8 Festival, which included speaker panels and question-and-answer sessions with six children’s authors and illustrators.

Through a partnership with Blue Willow Bookstore, which arranged for the well-known authors, young readers and aspiring writers were able to meet, talk with or even have books signed by their favorite writers. Authors who attended included Judith Viorst, Bob Shea, Adam Rubin, Gwyndolyn Zepeda, Harper Paris and Daniel Salmieri.

The first-time literary festival drew visitors from area private schools and neighboring public school districts, including 32 visitors who came from as far as Sheldon ISD.

Melanie Scales, who is a librarian at Spring Shadows Elementary School, chaired the Bookworm Festival committee and many volunteers. The Houston and Harris County public library systems also supported the event.

The festival’s keynote speech was delivered by Judith Viorst, a national children’s and adult author. She is best known in children’s literature for the much praised “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day.” Her current series is “Lulu.”

In her keynote address, Viorst said that writing for adults and children is not really that different. “Many of us struggle with the same feelings. Adults often worry. Children will worry, too. . . .  And all of us, even adults, have wicked, naughty and not good feelings and thoughts.”

Writers for children treat them with utmost respect, she adds. “We don’t condescend (to children),” she said. Viorst noted in a panel later that she sometimes takes up to a week to decide on the correct exact word for a particular children’s book passage.

A few observations from other children’s writers:

Bob Shea, who has written and illustrated more than a dozen picture books including the “Dinosaur vs. Bedtime” series, said this about writing: “If you want to write a book, read a lot of books. If you like to draw, look at a lot of pictures and draw.”

Daniel Solmieri, an illustrator, joked about stress and deadlines in writing: “Take what you are doing incredibly seriously. Focus. Think about what will happen to your family tonight if you don’t write or you don’t draw.”

Women authors said that their favorite books growing up ranged from “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” and “Alice in Wonderland” to the Japanese-style comics known as manga. For male writers, the “Encyclopedia Brown” series and horror and science fiction were the “brain food” they grew up on.

At the end of the Saturday morning program, Blue Willow  Bookstores hosted author book signings with interested families.


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