The Savannah Children's Book Festival gives young readers the chance to celebrate the joy of reading, the power of the written word and the magic of storytelling.
This year's festival, set for Nov. 18 at Forsyth Park, presents award-winning children's book authors and illustrators from around the country. There will be book signings and readings, arts and crafts, and food available for sale.
Children's Librarian Kady MacFarlane is delighted with this year's lineup of authors.
This year's headlining author is New York Times bestselling author Kwame Alexander. He is an award-winning poet, educator and author of 24 books, winning the Newbery Medal for his book, "Crossover," a novel told in verse.
MacFarlane says, "It's an interesting way to get kids reading poetry. He is one of my absolute favorite authors."
Alexander's other awards include the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, the NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and the Paterson Poetry Prize.
Some of Alexander's other works include "The Playbook: 52 Rules To Help You Aim, Shoot, and Score in the Game of Life" along with picture books "Animal Ark," "Out of Wonder" and "Surf's Up" and the novels "Booked," "He Said She Said" and "Solo."
This year's featured authors and illustrators are R. Gregory Christie, Carmen Agra Deedy, JosÃ© Lucio, Susan Rubin, Don Tate, Carole Boston Weatherford and Salina Yoon.
Featured authors on the Teen Literature Panel are E. Lockhart, Kekla Magoon and Cynthia Leitich Smith. They will participate in a one-day discussion Nov. 17 before the festival. Contact Bull Street Library at 912-652-3600 for more information.
"At Forsyth Park, we take up from where the playground ends up to Gaston Street through the fountain," MacFarlane says. "The physical festival starts coming together the Friday before, but we've been planning since the last one ended.
"The authors have been on board since the first of January," she says. "We've been working really hard."
This year's official logo of an owl and books was created by Coral Hayes, a sixth-grade homeschooler. The artwork was selected from among book festival poster contest winners.
"We also have a local Savannah author, JosÃ© Lucio," MacFarlane says. "We are so impressed with his work, we asked him to be a featured author this year. He's fantastic."
Author and illustrator of "Heave Ho!" and illustrator of "Free Rain," Lucio has his own publishing house, Annelidical Books, in Savannah. He visits schools and libraries to present a program about the process of writing and illustrating children's books, and also works as an illustrator for Scribble Art Studio.
The Savannah Children's Book Festival brings in top authors and illustrators of everything from picture books to teen literature. Being chosen as a featured author is a major step up.
"It's definitely a real honor," Lucio says. "I've just been keeping with it, building momentum.
"As a smaller publisher, I realize that actually getting in front of people as opposed to online marketing works better for me. I do small weekend tours, and just got back from a nationwide tour where I was out for two weeks.
"Live Oak Public Libraries has been very supportive," he says. "Just knowing I have their support helped me branch out to schools. I've been cold-calling schools on the other side of the country and their support legitimizes what I'm doing."
Making it work
Originally from Kansas, Lucio came to Savannah to study at the Savannah College of Art and Design.
"I would definitely call myself an illustrator before a writer," he says. "With my first book, I created the whole thing digitally first and then brought in the text. My second book, I worked with a friend in Seattle."
With writer Daniel Wentzel, Lucio created a vibrant story, "Free Rain," featuring chickens who learn their ranch is about to become free range. Becoming an author/illustrator was a natural progression for Lucio.
"I've been working as a visual artist for most of my adult life," he says. "I've always been looking for ways to make it work.
"I come from a working class family," Lucio says. "We always had to make sure the bills were paid, so I'm always looking for ways to work it in."
A class helped him put it all together.
"During my time at SCAD, one of the last semesters I was there, I took a picture book illustration class," he says. "I felt like I had something.
"I made some prototype copies to get out to friends and family. I sat on it for about a year and a half, then went ahead and printed books and self-published."
Fans at the fest
Participation in the Savannah Children's Book Festival is a must.
"Since my first book, I've been there every year," Lucio says. "The setting there at the park around the fountain is magical, plus the fact that the committee has always been very welcoming is great. Even when I was there as a local author, I got to meet the big authors and illustrators and talk to them."
Lucio particularly enjoys interacting with readers.
"One of my favorite parts is meeting people," he says. "If I was just writing books and a publisher was taking them and doing what they are doing with them, it wouldn't be nearly as gratifying.
"I really love public performance. I used to play music, and I'm always looking for the performative aspect."
After a year's work, MacFarlane also is looking forward to the festival.
"I'm really proud of the lineup," she says. "We have really great authors who are representative of the cultural diversity of Savannah.
"I think people are going to have a really great time," MacFarlane says. "This year is going to be the best festival ever."
IF YOU GO
What: Savannah Children's Book Festival
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 18
Where: Forsyth Park