Sophie Blackall
Sophie Blackall

Two Virginia Children’s Book Festival mainstays took home the most coveted awards in children’s literature this year: the Caldecott and Newbery Honors.

Richmond-based author Meg Medina, who has appeared at the VCBF twice and was instrumental in developing the event in its infancy, won the Newbery Medal for her young adult book Merci Suárez Changes Gears. The Newbery Medal is awarded for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature, widely viewed as the top book of the year.

Sophie Blackall, who has appeared at the VCBF three times, earned her second Caldecott Medal for her children’s book Hello Lighthouse. The Caldecott is given each year to the most distinguished American picture book for children. Blackall previously won the award in 2016 for illustrating the book Finding Winne: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear.

All it takes for a child’s life to change is one spark from a book—whether it’s from the words or pictures on the page.

Juanita Giles, director of the Virginia Children’s Book Festival Tweet This
Meg Medina
Meg Medina

The Virginia Children’s Book Festival is held each year at Longwood University in Farmville, and attracts thousands of children from across the state to be inspired by incredible children’s authors and illustrators. The sixth annual festival will be held Oct. 16-18, 2019, and all events and presentations are free and open to the public, as they have been since the beginning.

“We are very proud of both Meg and Sophie, both of whom we have gotten to know and love over the last five years,” said festival director Juanita Giles. “Meg Medina was a champion for the book festival when it was little more than an idea, and to say that it wouldn’t have happened without her support is not an understatement. She’s a wonderful force for good in the field of children’s literature, and it’s fitting that her YA writing is recognized. Sophie Blackall quickly became a fan favorite at the VCBF, and has inspired thousands of Southside Virginia children with her illustrations. Some of my favorite moments of the festival are watching her create art with students at the LCVA. Congratulations to both of them on their well-deserved honors."

“Longwood’s partnership with the VCBF is one that we are very proud of,” said Brent Roberts, dean of Longwood’s Greenwood Library. “I can’t underscore enough how rare it is that children meet, learn from, and are inspired by authors and illustrators the caliber of Meg Medina and Sophie Blackall. It’s even more gratifying that our campus community and town have made such an impression with them too that they return year after year. The festival is one of the highlights of the fall calendar at Longwood, as we look forward to reconnecting with authors like Meg and Sophie and meeting the next generation of great children’s book writers and illustrators.”

Medina is an award-winning Cuban-American author based in Richmond. She is most known for her young adult novels The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, and Burn Baby Burn. Her work is often noted for its use of strong Latina protagonists. She is also the co-founder, with fellow VCBF author Gigi Amateau, of the annual Richmond literary event Girls of Summer, which celebrates books by and about girls.

Blackall is an Australian illustrator of more than 40 books, including the extraordinarily popular Ivy and Bean series with fellow VCBF author Annie Barrows. With her second Caldecott Medal, she joins an exclusive group of just nine illustrators who have won multiple awards, including Chris Van Allsburg (Polar Express) and Robert McCloskey (Make Way for Ducklings).

“We celebrate all children’s book authors, not only those who win these prestigious awards,” said Giles, “though it is gratifying to see people we know recognized on this level. All it takes for a child’s life to change is one spark from a book—whether it’s from the words or pictures on the page—and we remain committed to helping provide those sparks each fall at the festival and through other programming throughout the year.”

About the Virginia Children’s Book Festival

The Virginia Children’s Book Festival is a three-day event each fall that celebrates and encourages reading by youth of all ages by inviting children and teens from across Virginia to meet, learn and explore with some of the most popular and acclaimed authors from across the country. The VCBF began in 2014 and annually draws thousands of children and book lovers from across the state. The event is held on the picturesque campus of Longwood University, a liberal arts institution in Farmville, the heart of Virginia, and one of the hundred oldest colleges in the U.S. One of the premier literary events in the Commonwealth, the VCBF continues to grow and inspire children of all ages, and remains committed to providing every event free of charge and open to the public.

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