The cover for this year’s Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival brochure brings to mind the old song “Sentimental Journey” and its line “I got my bag and got my reservation.” Luckily, I live right here in Hattiesburg and won’t need the bag. I did make my reservation.
While I was signing in, I noted that the deadline for early reservation is February 3 and thought I would put out an alert for my loyal readers who may need to think about another line in the song – “spent each dime I could afford.” Early is cheaper with even more dimes saved if you can support a claim of being over 60 or a retired librarian.
While the festival will be overrun with librarians, the only real requirement to attend is to be a lover of books for the younger set. Author presentations, storytelling, interesting breakout sessions, and autographing are nonstop for three days. This year’s authors include Christopher Paul Curtis who receives the medallion for his body of work, the team of David Small and Sarah Stewart, Kathi Appelt as the de Grummond lecturer, M. T. Anderson, and Leda Schubert. Just Google the names and look at the list of awards they have won to get a picture of what awaits those who attend.
A bonus for the last few years has been the movement of the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer/New Illustrator Awards to the festival. It’s been fun to watch how many of these “new” writers and illustrators have gone on to fulfill the promise of their awards and become stars in the world of children’s books. We get to meet them early in their careers and get books signed before they are “rich and famous.”
One more line from the song fits many of us as we return year after year on “a sentimental journey home” to hang out with old friends. Yet even first timers are never strangers. Those who love children’s books are automatically bonded.
After February 3, the price goes up. If you’re watching those dimes, be forewarned. The website where you can sign in is www.usm.edu/childrens-book-festival. See you there!