Babar the Elephant session at the 2018 festival

One of the most celebrated and beloved authors in America is coming to Longwood this month as the featured author at the sixth annual Virginia Children’s Book Festival

Katherine Paterson’s books, including classics like Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved, have earned her more than just two National Book Awards and two Newbery Medals—the top awards in children’s literature; they have placed her firmly among the upper-echelon of authors regardless of genre.

What we do makes a difference in their lives, and they will remember these experiences forever.

Juanita Giles, festival director Tweet This

“Katherine Paterson simply doesn’t appear at many events like this anymore,” said festival director Juanita Giles. “But when she heard about our mission and how the VCBF different from other festivals, she was excited. We are lucky to be able to host her and are honored to introduce thousands of children to her incredible words, which have meant so much to generations of young people, myself included.”

The Virginia Children’s Book Festival will be held Oct. 16-18 at Longwood University in Farmville. All events and sessions are free and open to the public—and book lovers of all ages are encouraged to attend. The annual event draws thousands of children and families to Longwood to enjoy dynamic sessions and meet some of the top authors and illustrators in the world.

The 2019 lineup features many faces familiar to returning festival-goers along with best-selling and award-winning authors and illustrators making their first appearances in Farmville. Also new are innovative programs that combine basketball and reading, and lowrider culture with illustration.

Parents and grandparents of elementary-school children are more than likely quite familiar with Pinkalicious and her brother, Peterrific. The series of best-selling books, now a popular series on PBS Kids, is written and illustrated by Victoria Kann, who will make a rare festival appearance on Oct. 16. An artist reception at the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts, where Kann’s illustrations are exhibited, will give parents and children the chance to meet the creator of their favorite lover-of-all-things-pink. 

“It’s hard to overstate the popularity of Pinkalicious,” said Giles. “Victoria Kann has been someone we have been wanting to bring to Farmville for many years, and we are thrilled to have her brings so much joy to the festival. The exhibit at the LCVA is open now through November, and there’s more than just great illustrations from the series—there’s lots for kids to interact and play with to further immerse themselves in Victoria’s world.”

For older readers, the annual keynote on Thursday night will feature two best-selling authors who have achieved incredible success with book series: Kazu Kabuishi and Tui Sutherland. Kabuishi writes and illustrates the Amulet series of graphic novels and Tui Sutherland has published the enormously popular Wings of Fire series of middle-grade novels. 

Longwood professor Dr. Jennifer Miskec will moderate the discussion on the rise of book series and explore how the best-selling books took shape. That discussion will take place Thursday, Oct. 17, at 7 p.m. in the Soza Ballroom of Upchurch University Center. The event is free, and the public is warmly invited to attend and meet these best-selling authors.

As always, innovative programming takes center stage during the Virginia Children’s Book Festival as organizers create sessions built around books that will capture young people’s imagination:

  • Books and Basketball: Author Phil Bildner (Rip & Red series) takes kids to the basketball court for a discussion of his books, teamwork and overcoming obstacles.
  • Technology in Reading—Lowriders: Illustrator Raul The Third (Lowriders in Space) explores lowrider culture with young readers while helping them build a working engine.
  • Hip-Hop in Children’s Literature: Author Tiffany Jackson (Let Me Hear a Rhyme) works with high-schoolers and hip-hop artist Malik 16 to create a one-of-a-kind immersive experience in which students work to create their own raps based on themes in Jackson’s book.

“We work very hard with authors and illustrators to create programming for young people to explore different pathways into reading,” said Giles. “These are programs and sessions that are unique to the Virginia Children’s Book Festival, not something that can be found anywhere else. The authors and illustrators actually jump at the chance to do something new and innovative, in part because they know what we know: Reading that is fun and exciting and grabs a young person’s interest is the most effective kind of reading. And if they are dribbling a basketball or working on a car engine or writing their own raps while exploring a book, then reading comes to life in a powerful and profound way.”

As is the case each year, each day of the festival will be filled with sessions across Longwood’s picturesque campus free and open to the public, led by top authors and illustrators from around the world. They are:

  • Tui Sutherland
  • Johnny Marciano
  • Russell Ginns
  • Jay Cooper
  • Phil Bildner
  • Kazu Kibuishi
  • Victoria Kann
  • Katherine Paterson
  • Tim Ering
  • Todd Parr
  • Lamar Giles
  • Corinna Luyken
  • Matthew Cordell
  • Sophie Blackall
  • Madelyn Rosenberg
  • Raul The Third
  • Tiffany Jackson
  • Jay Coles
  • Pablo Cartaya
  • Padma Venkatraman

Also returning in 2019 is muralist and Longwood graduate Monty Montgomery, who will collaborate with young people at the festival to create a mural based on the illustrations of Jay Cooper, which will be donated at the end of the festival. Previous murals now hang in children’s hospitals and public buildings across Virginia.

“Six years have flown by,” said Giles. “Putting on this book festival each year is hard work, but we love it. It’s worth it to stand on campus in October and watch children pouring out of author sessions, smiles on their faces and talking about what book they want to read next. What we do makes a difference in their lives, and they will remember these experiences forever.”

The Virginia Children’s Book Festival partners with Chop Suey Books in Carytown to provide an on-campus bookstore featuring books from all of the authors and illustrators appearing at the festival. This year, the bookstore will be open during festival hours (9 a.m.-4 p.m.) each day of the festival, in the lower level of Lankford Hall. The main entrance will be off Stubbs Mall. Authors and illustrators will be available at scheduled intervals to sign copies of their books. 

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