Some events give joy twice – once in the experience and again in retrospect as one relishes it and finds additional meaning. Such was this year’s Kaigler Children’s Book Festival. I will not say, though it is true, that this was the best one ever because I’ve been accused of saying that every year. (So far, and I’m up to sixteen, it’s been true every year, but I didn’t start this to justify my opinion.)

My “job” for the festival was to run my Honda taxi and get the people from the Keats Foundation to all the sessions. (It’s tough, but somebody has to do these things.) As we neared the end of the festival, one of the first-timer board members accurately appraised the event. He said, “The conference is a mix of heart and mind.”

I always look for good quotes and hints from festival speakers. No disappointment this year as you can see by a sampling:
• Joyce Sidman: “Read widely yourself. Choose books/poems you love. Read poems aloud to children.”
• Rita Williams Garcia: “Write a sentence from another author to see what it might have felt like to have written that sentence.”
• Melissa Sweet: “Success can be measured in what we’ve done or what we have, but success is really the ability to go to the studio and work each day.”

Celebrating the centennial of Ezra Jack Keats at the Keats Awards luncheon, I confess to a bit of pride as the opening video carried my byline. Deborah Pope, daughter of Keats’s lifelong friend Martin Pope and executive director of the Keats Foundation, gave a professional and personal Keats lecture. She opened with a poignant picture of Keats propping his arm on her head when he vacationed with her family in her childhood and with her claim to be his first biographer. She wrote his story for a school assignment right after he won the Caldecott Medal for The Snowy Day and told the teacher her sources were original.

I enjoyed these carefully planned and executed events as I mulled over something Deborah said as we set out to the first session. “My advice to board members coming for the first time is go with the flow. Some of the best things are unplanned.”

She was right. One may see old friends first met when they were student volunteers finishing library degrees who are now returning library science professors or nerdy friends like yourself coming for their annual children’s book fix. An unexpected author or illustrator dinner companion may be someone whose work you’ve admired. You might watch Keats Award winners form a bond among themselves, and the storyteller may turn you into a listening child once again.

Next year – best again? Well, Kate DiCamillo is receiving the USM Medallion for her body of work so it’s just possible. I have my calendar marked for April 5-7, 2017!