Monday, April 24, 2017

A Celebration of Kids' Books

By C.J. Hirschfield

Kids, books, authors and illustrators: an irresistible combination – and the inspiration for Turn the Page!, a celebration at Fairyland of the role of literature in the lives of children. We held our first Turn the Page! last year, and it was a hit, with more than 25 local children’s book authors and illustrators, nearly 2,000 guests, and 365 books sold.

That kind of success calls for an encore. And so we’re thrilled to bring back Turn the Page! on Saturday, May 6, from 10 to 4.

We learned a few things from last year’s event that we hope will make this year’s festival even more rewarding for everyone.

For starters, we plan to keep the relaxed format, which allows kids to weave in and out as their interest waxes and wanes— they can meet and greet the authors, then play, then come back later to watch an illustrator draw pictures or hear an author read a story. “There’s no pressure on them to keep focused so that they burn out,” says Fairyland Education Director Shana Barchas, who conceived the event. “They’re in charge of setting the pace – they can take little bites of the event throughout the day.”

Author Kathryn Otoshi reading her book at the 2016 Turn the Page! festival.

We also learned that authors and illustrators don’t get together often; both activities tend to be solitary. Guess what? They loved the chance to mingle. Over and over, we heard that our event helped them feel like more of a community.

Best of all, we learned that parents are as enthusiastic about children’s books as kids are! The festival gives grownups a chance to rekindle their love of classic kids’ books while discovering new titles.

Browsing the Laurel Bookstore table at the 2016 Turn the Page! festival.

Although we’re changing some of this year’s lineup, one thing remains the same: the diversity of the books’ subject matter. Our themes include gender identity, love of family, exploration and adventure, silliness and laughs, history and biography, science and gorgeous art. As a lover of anthropomorphic animals, I’m particularly looking forward to Dashka Slater’s Escargot, which depicts a French snail’s adventures in search of the perfect salad.

And as someone who loves her city, I’m excited about two books that will be featured that focus on Oaktown: Kamaria Lofton’s My City Is Oakland, and ABC Oakland, by the wonderful, whimsical artist Michael Wertz.

"ABC Oakland," by Michael Wertz.

And we have something that’s really extra-special. Katrina Goldsaito’s The Sound of Silence tells the story of a boy living in the bustling city of Tokyo who learns about the space between sounds from a musician playing the traditional koto instrument. That boy is based on Goldsaito’s father, and he’ll be joining Katrina at our event – and he’ll play the koto!

"The Sound of Silence," by Katrina Goldsaito

We’re adding a new feature to the event this year: Thanks to the generosity of a local family foundation, we’re giving 200 free passes to families who otherwise would not be able to attend; each of the children will be given a book of their choice to take home.

We hope you and your children will join us as we meet the people behind the books we love. Independent bookseller Laurel Books will be there, selling books by our featured authors. And librarians from the Oakland Public Library will show kids how to make their own books that can be donated to the traveling bike library. The event is made possible in part by donations from event sponsor Kaiser Permanente and supporters Chronicle Books and ScholarShare.

The Oakland Public Library's bicycle library at the 2016 Turn the Page! festival.

“A book festival just for kids encourages kids to feel like books are an important part of their lives,” says Shana, and we couldn’t agree more.

For a complete list of our featured authors and illustrators – along with bios and schedule – go to
C.J. Hirschfield has served for 14 years as executive director of Children’s Fairyland, where she is charged with the overall operation of the nation’s first storybook theme park.

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