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17 November 2008

Savannah Children's Book Festival - What a Blast!

     Wowsa! What happens when you create an entire festival celebrating only children's books? You get tens of thousands of excited readers and dozens of wonderful children's book authors, illustrators, librarians and teachers, all ready to have a great time. And that's exactly what we did!
     I drove to Savannah Friday afternoon (listening to "Eighth Grade Bites" by Heather Brewer) arriving a bit early and realizing that I had totally packed wrong. I thought it was supposed to be cold and rainy! Not even close. It was hot and humid. I rushed out to buy a short sleeved shirt (so I wouldn't melt during my engagements the next day), and ended up taking a lovely walking tour of downtown Savannah. It really is a stunning city with all those grand oaks dripping with Spanish moss, and all the gorgeous Victorian homes. The Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) made a proud showing as well - with locations all over the city. Must be a rough life for professor Daniel Powers, one of the illustrators in our upcoming "Storybook Look: Illustrations by Southern Artists" show.
     Upon my return to the hotel, I caught up with Joe Davich, my host from the Georgia Center for the Book, and Katie Davis, author/illustrator extraordinaire - we met at Kindling Words last year and it was such a treat to be able to hang out and get to know each other better!
     Friday night the Festival organizers, Janet Langford and Christian Kruse, put on a true southern BOIL. Can I just say, no shrimp will ever be able to live up to this high standard again? They were truly the best I'd ever had. Katie, Joe and I met up with other visiting speakers including the keynote, Mo Willems.
     The best part of the party was when Janet invited us to draw on the walls of the children's section in their library. I used to get in trouble for that sort of thing! And I can't believe I didn't take a picture of my "Read more Booooks" cow - but I hope you'll get a peek next time you visit the Live Oak Public Library!
     There were threats of rain for Saturday, but it started out positively gorgeous with a nice breeze to dispel the heat. The Georgia Center for the Book tent was ideally located near the fountain in Forsyth Park. Joe and Bill Starr, my other host, put together a display of a recent children's art contest and our little home for the day looked charming. Volunteers from READ IT LOUD! arrived throughout the day and we staggered between me sharing Paco and the Giant Chile Plant and them reading stories. And we had a constant crowd! Christian guessed there were about 25,000 attendees, so there were plenty of people to enjoy every speaker.
     Of course, the best crowd occurred when the skies decided to open wide and rain on our parade. Everybody ran for cover and we were suddenly packed to the gills under our little tent. One of the RIL volunteers finished reading Glitter Girl and the Crazy Cheese (he did such a great job I learned a few things!) and we went ahead with my third reading of Paco for the day. We were having so much fun that when one of the festival heads came by to let us know the festival was officially over due to the rain, everybody insisted we continue with the story and drawing Rosebud! What a wonderful, enthusiastic audience - it just doesn't get any better than that!
     Here's why I love speaking at festivals - along with a crowd of people who love books, I get to hang out with fellow author/illustrators and make new friends. We're very lucky, most of the people in this industry are just so danged cool.
     Twelve of us ended up going to dinner and we had a BLAST!! I'll try to do my best here. I never met the first woman on the left, but going around the table from the left are: Joe Davich, Georgia Center for the Book; David Biedrzycki, author/illustrator of "Ace Lacewing: Bug Detective" and others, and his wife, Kathy; Michelle (Mikki) Knudson (uber-groovy chickie!), author of "The Library Lion," a new novel in April, and lots more; Yours Truly; Debra Ghigna, author and wife of Charles Gigna, poet, a.k.a. "Father Goose" (what a great couple!); Mike Thaler, author/illustrator of "The Librarian from the Black Lagoon" series; none other than Miss Rosa, from "Mornings on PBS Kids"; Donald Crews (peeking in there), award-winning author/illustrator of "Freight Train" & "Truck"; and Katie Davis, author/illustrator of such classics as "Kindergarten Rocks" and the new "The Curse of Addy McMahon"!

     *Whew*! Can you imagine better dining companions? We had a rockin' good time and landed on the candy store across the way afterwards to load up on home-made pralines you would not believe! Truly, children's book people are so intelligent, interesting and fun, I made some great new friends!
     Anyhow, a few of us straggled down to breakfast the next morning (we weren't hungover or anything, noooooo), where I was able to catch up with my new BFF Katie again, and Michael White and his family. Michael illustrated "The Library Dragon" by Carmen Deedy who was supposed to be there but came down with a last-minute flu bug and couldn't make it. (Hope you're feeling better Carmen - we missed you!)
     The promised cold snap had finally arrived so I decided against the walk along the river and headed back home, in hopes that I'll be invited back to speak at the fantabulous Savannah Children's Book Festival another year!
     p.s. - I was terrible about getting pictures, but I know others did, so I'll post more as they come in!
     Update: Here they come! Here's a slide show from Savannah Now (they caught me sharing a dummy for my forthcoming book "Soap, soap, soap! ~ ¡Jabón, jabón, jabón!):

and...
More great pics and a write-up on Katie Davis' Blog!

Yeah! Janet sent me a picture of my cow on the wall of the children's department in the Live Oak Library!


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