Children's Literature Festival
19th annual Festival scheduled Feb. 27 & 28, 2015
18th Festival attracts large numbers
Nearly 300 supporters of quality children’s literature gathered Jan 24-25 to hear from award-winning authors and illustrators and to celebrate the delight that reading brings to both children and adults.
The 18th annual Charlotte Huck Children’s Literature Festival at the University of Redlands attracted teachers, parents, grandparents, librarians, budding authors and many simply interested in the genre. Most were from California but there were attendees from as far away as New York and Florida as well.
A unique combination of full conference and small group sessions, the conference began with a welcome from University of Redlands President Dr. Ralph Kuncl who shared a story of his revelation, in the fifth grade, that books were actually authored by real people when a classmate revealed his father was an author.
Eugene Yelchin was the Friday morning keynote speaker, sharing his experience growing up in the Soviet Union where many books were banned, forcing him to literally take his life in his hands to read and then pass on tiny texts of both western and Russian authors.
Breakout sessions, held throughout both Friday and Saturday, featured topics of interest to specific audiences and opportunities for both attendees and school children to interact with the authors and illustrators. Marsha MacLean, Redlands Unified School District’s 2012 Teacher of the Year and a third-grade teacher at Cram Elementary School, brought her entire class to meet author Candace Fleming in a small group session dedicated just to them.
“It is an eye-opening experience for the kids to study a book and then get to meet and ask questions of the author,” MacLean said. The class had studied Fleming’s book "Boxes for Katje" in which two little girls, one in Holland and one in Indiana, begin corresponding during WWII. The story is based on the real-life experience of Candace's mother, who was the girl in Indiana. The students presented letters they had written about the book to Fleming during the session. "Ms. Fleming’s interactions with my students helped them to believe that they are already writers,” said MacLean.“They were very excited when she shared her own fifth-grade journal with them. Opportunities like this are a great way to expand children’s thinking about books,” MacLean continued. “It engages them in a whole new way.”
The importance of introducing children to poetry and making it accessible for them was the subject of poet and poetry anthologist Paul Janeczko, who urged audience members to celebrate poetry in all its forms.
Attendees were treated to another unique perspective when husband and wife Eric Rohmann, an illustrator, and Candace Fleming, an author, discussed the varying creation paths of authors and illustrators.
Following a reception where attendees and the general public were able to have the authors and illustrators sign copies of their books, Charlotte Huck endowed speaker Lois Lowry spoke to a packed house including Town & Gown members about her life experiences and how it has influenced her writing. In her talk, "Wording it Neat," Lowry also discussed her passion for perfection in her word choices, utilizing exactly the right words. Her Newberry Award-winning book for middle-school-age children,"The Giver," was presented in play form over the weekend by the University of Redlands Theatre Department and is currently being filmed as a major motion picture starring Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, and Katie Holmes.
Saturday morning’s keynote speaker, illustrator David Wiesner, spoke about "Writing with Pictures," and all the additional information that can be conveyed beyond, or even without words, in a picture book. On Jan. 27, festival attendees were delighted to hear that Wiesner’s most recent book, Mr. Wuffles, was awarded a Caldecott Medal, the highest prize in American children’s book illustration. It is Wiesner’s third Caldecott and he is only the second illustrator in the history of the award to win that many.
Closing speaker Dinah Stevenson, vice president and editor at children’s book publisher Clarion Books, discussed the process she and other editors go through to identify and publish the best children’s books, acknowledging the many rejections that author’s face before a book is published but encouraging them to persevere. “Getting a book published doesn’t make you a writer,” Stevenson emphasized, “writing makes you a writer.”
Kathy Gill, a first-grade teacher in San Diego, has attended the festival in the past but keeps returning. “This is such a unique conference,” Gill said. “Every year I get new ideas and learn both from the speakers and from fellow attendees, the networking is terrific.” This is like a gift I give myself, to spend a day and a half surrounded by others who really value the place of good books in children’s lives is a great inspiration to me and I carry that inspiration with me back into my classroom. “ Gill has already signed up to attend next year’s conference.
The 2015 Charlotte Huck Children’s Literature Festival will be held Feb. 27 & 28 at the University of Redlands. Featured speakers will include Avi, Lois Ehlert, Peter Brown, Jennifer Holmes, Rebecca Kai Dolitch, and Marc Tyler Nobleman.
For Additional Information
Contact Festival secretary Colleen Quesada at 909-748-8791 or email festival coordinator Marjorie Arnett.
"I believe that if you present the right books to children, they will read and enjoy them. So, bringing children and books together really means getting them excited about reading."
Charlotte S. Huck
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