Two of the brightest stars in children’s literature will take the stage for a unique conversation about books, writing and broadening perspectives at the second Virginia Children’s Book Festival this Friday, Oct. 16.

Jacqueline Woodson, who won the 2014 National Book Award for her collection of poems Brown Girl Dreaming, will join Kwame Alexander, whose novel The Crossover was awarded the 2015 Newbery Award. The two awards are recognized as the top two prizes in children’s literature. A Conversation with Jacqueline Woodson and Kwame Alexander, led by Dr. David Magill of the Longwood University English faculty, will take place on Oct. 16 at 7:30 p.m. in Blackwell Hall Ballroom at Longwood University. The event is free and open to the public.

"We are excited and proud to bring authors of this caliber to the Virginia Children’s Book Festival in only our second year," said festival director Juanita Giles. "Their work is not only poignant, but reflects a broader perspective than is found in much of children’s literature. Jackie and Kwame’s voices are ones that need to be heard, especially when they share so many experiences with children in this region."

For VCBF attendees and Longwood University students, faculty and staff, the evening is a unique opportunity to meet with two extraordinarily influential authors, learn what inspired their work and draw lessons applicable to their own lives.

Woodson’s work is filled with strong images from her African-American heritage and childhood partly spent in South Carolina.  She is perhaps best known for her 2000 work Miracle’s Boys, which was made into a miniseries directed by acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee. Miracle’s Boys is the story of three young brothers—one of whom has just returned from juvenile detention—who are dealing with the unexpected death of their mother. The book was awarded with the Coretta Scott King Award, Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and ALA Best Book for Young Adults.

"Jacqueline has been very open about her own struggles with reading as a child, so in many ways her life is reminiscent of the festival’s mission: to inspire children to read," said Giles. "She knows firsthand the affect reading can have on a young person’s life—revealing vivid and whimsical worlds and opening up the doors of possibility. She’s committed to sharing her point of view with children and young adults so they can not only gain perspective but dream big dreams."

Alexander’s work breaks the boundaries between novel and poetry and focuses on urban experiences and African-American culture. For the bestselling author, his festival appearance is also a return home of sorts: the Texas native is an alum of Virginia Tech. His award-winning The Crossover is a story—written in verse—of twin 13-year-old basketball stars. The book is tailored exclusively toward reluctant readers, which brings the mission of the VCBF into sharp focus.

"Kwame’s work deeply reflects our mission as a festival," said Giles. "His appeal to communities and pockets of children who don’t have high reading levels, sharing and relating common experiences, is a powerful tool. The way he threads hip-hop through his work broadens the appeal that much more, and we are proud to have him be a part of the festival.

About the 2015 Virginia Children’s Book Festival

The Virginia Children’s Book festival is a two-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 drew hundreds 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. Already one of the premiere literary events in the Commonwealth, the VCBF continues to grow and inspire children of all ages.

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