Longwood’s campus will soon be host to several beloved and award-winning children’s book authors as part of the inaugural Virginia Children’s Book Festival. Headlining the festival is a remote appearance by beloved novelist Judy Blume; several scholarly panels centering on a range of issues cement the lineup of events.

The festival also offers a bevy of interactive events, from storytelling workshops to stage combat lessons to unique opportunities to re-imagine favorite stories, including the Madeline series, with the authors.

"We put an emphasis on excitement," said Juanita Giles, festival director. "Children who attend the festival will find a schedule packed with fun and inspiring events. From exploring comic books to workshops with some of the country’s best-known illustrators, there are truly activities for all ages."

Two of the most anticipated headliners are beloved author Judy Blume, who will appear via Skype for a live question-and-answer session in Jarman Auditorium, and Todd Parr, author of The I Love You Book and other children’s best-sellers. While Blume is not able to make it to Longwood’s campus, she will interact with crowd members and be available for several questions. Blume’s appearances are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 10, and 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 11. Parr is scheduled for several illustration workshops on both days of the festival.

Other headlining authors are Mac Barnett, author of the Caldecott Honor book Extra Yarn, and the popular Battle Bunny; John Bemelmans Marciano, grandson of the author of the Madeline series who has written several more books featuring the iconic schoolgirl; National Book Award winner Kathryn Erskine; PEN/Faulkner Award winner Ben Saenz; and illustrator of the Newberry-winning book The Tale of Despereaux Timothy Basil Ering.

The scholarly panels include an exclusive keynote event at the Moton Museum, a festival partner, centering on civil rights in reading. The panel, titled "Civil Rights in Children’s Literature: An Ongoing Story," will look at civil rights as an ongoing issue and the role children’s literature can play in the struggle for equality. Informed by anecdotes from the past and books such as Teri Kanefield’s The Girl From The Tar Paper School, the panel also features Hispanic and LGBT authors who have dealt with issues of equality in their own work.

Longwood is deeply invested in the festival, acting as host institution while numerous faculty members are contributing their scholarly expertise to panels and roundtable discussions:

  • Dr. Rhonda Brock-Servais, associate professor of English and children’s literature expert, will speak on the "Writing, Reading, Teaching and Studying Children’s Literature" panel Saturday, Oct. 11, at 11 a.m.
  • Dr. Dave Magill, associate professor of English, will moderate the "Hey, I Can See Myself: Diversity in Children’s Literature" panel on Saturday, Oct. 11, at 11:15 a.m.
  • Dr. Larissa Smith Fergeson will moderate the "Civil Rights in Children’s Literature: An Ongoing Story" keynote panel on Friday, Oct. 10, at 7:30 p.m.
  • Longwood alumna Kathryn Starke is hosting several workshops during the festival.
  • The Women’s & Gender Studies department is sponsoring PEN/Faulkner award winner Saenz.

Numerous staff members and community members associated with Longwood have volunteered to help with logistics during the two-day event.

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