Children's Literature Festival
With a record number of attendees and world-renowned authors and illustrators in attendance, the 18th annual Charlotte S. Huck Children’s Literature Festival at the University of Redlands was one to remember.
Taking place Jan. 24 and 25, 2014, the festival featured speeches, breakout sessions, and book signings by Lois Lowry, Candace Fleming, Paul Janeczko, Eric Rohmann, David Wiesner, Eugene Yelchin, Kristine O’Connell George, Alexis O’Neill and editor Dinah Stevenson.
The festival is named after the late Charlotte S. Huck, aunt of Char Burgess, vice president and dean of Student Life at the University of Redlands and administration liaison to the festival. Burgess was thrilled by the roster and the number of attendees–the highest in eight years.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “We’re trying to make sure everyone knows about it. I just met an alum who didn’t know about it before, and said that now they won’t miss it.”
Author and illustrator Eugene Yelchin gave the festival’s first keynote speech, sharing with the audience what it was like to grow up in the Soviet Union during his address “In the Forest of Raised Hands.”
“Growing up in a police state that owns and controls everything, private activities are closely monitored,” he said. “What they most aspire to do is control what’s inside of your head. Reading and possessing books places your life in danger–you can get arrested or exiled or worse. Not only are you in danger, but the stakes are high for your family and friends. They have the difficult moral dilemma of distancing themselves from you or sticking by you and facing the consequences.”
Yelchin read books obsessively, as they “meant far more to me than my reality.” After graduating from the Leningrad Institute of Theatre Arts and moving to the United States in the early 1980s, he decided that it was time to embrace what he loved.
“All I can do now is write as though my life depends on it,” he said.
Author Lois Lowry’s visit to the festival coincided with the 20th anniversary of her book, “The Giver.” In celebration, the University’s Theatre Arts department staged a production of the book’s dramatization during festival weekend.
“I’ve seen it probably 50 times in different places, and it will be interesting to see how it is put on here,” she said.
Lowry was also glad to be in a warmer climate.
“It’s wonderful for me to be here in this weather,” she said. “I live in Maine, so it’s a nice change.”
Having high caliber authors like Lowry made the festival a draw for many, including Lori Cornelius and Emily Vallier. English teachers at Florida Gulf Coast University in Ft. Myers, Fla., the pair discovered the festival when they did an Internet search for a “non-traditional children’s literature festival.”
“It looked so different from anything else we had found,” Vallier said. “Having Lois Lowry in attendance was definitely a bonus.”
Cornelius and Vallier registered for the festival and booked their plane tickets three months ago, and attempted to read as many of Lowry’s books as the could before January. Cornelius was able to read about eight, while Vallier hit 30.
“She was so professional and so delightful,” Vallier said of Lowry. “All of the authors and illustrators here have been so approachable.”
Both Cornelius and Vallier appreciated the lessons they were able to learn from the authors and illustrators.
“Each keynote presenter was better than the next,” Vallier said. “I discovered more about poetry from Paul Janeczko and his presentation than in 30 years in academia.”
This year marked author and illustrator David Wiesner’s first time at the Charlotte Huck festival. Writing and illustrating books can be solitary, and he enjoyed spending time with others who shared his interests.
“These events are great, because there are so many people passionate about books–creators, readers, teachers,” he said. “It’s always rejuvenating. I spend most of my time in the studio so it’s a great recharging.”
Posted: Jan. 29, 2013
Written by: Catherine Garcia