The last day of the Fay B. Kaigler Book Festival of 2014 brought feelings of fatigue and regret. The fatigue came from three days of twelve or so hours packed with adoration of books for children and young adults, their writers and illustrators, and their pushers (AKA librarians). The book festival staff, aided and abetted by the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection and the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, put on a party! The regret came from having to wait a whole year for the next one, with the Medallion recipient for the this year already named. (Paul Zelinsky.)
Like a kid with a birthday, I tried to relish all the memories and not start counting time at least until the new year rolled around. In January, after all, I was down to a three month wait, and the new brochure had turned up in my mailbox with the first listing of special guest authors and illustrators. For the next few months, additions appeared on the email list, Facebook, and other publications. They included a few personal friends, a number of authors and illustrators whose work I’ve taught or admired, and some new ones I’ve been anxious to read. Toward the end of the wait, the winners of the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer and New Illustrator Awards that will be presented at the festival were named. By now I began counting weeks and days!
As I am writing this blog, I’m ready. The festival begins at 9 AM on April 8. My list of books to buy for autographing is complete, at least until I hear the speakers which always entices me to add some more. My car is filled with gas to transport festival guests from their hotels to the Thad Cochran Center. I’ve moved up in this bookish world. For five years, I was an “attendee” before I graduated to “volunteer.” My new title, recently assigned by the Assistant Curator of the de Grummond Collection just before my fourteen festival, is “Unofficial Official de Grummond Ambassador.” I’ll take it.
By now, it’s too late to register on line but you can register on site. If you love children’s literature old and new, I’ll borrow a line from Robert Frost and say, “You come, too.” You can learn all about it at www.usm.edu/childrens-book-festival. Well, not quite all. The site doesn’t begin to tell about all the friends you’ll make and see on returning years nor just how much fun you’re going to have.
Coleen Salley – children’s literature professor, writer, and loveable character – summed it up nicely in an interview. “When my friends go on vacation, they go to places like Palm Springs or Acapulco. I come to Hattiesburg!”
As I post this blog, I think I’m close enough to be edging in on the “Is it here yet?” question. I have five days, two hours, and forty-one minutes before the fun begins.