BookFest 2012

Held on Saturday, October 27, 2012, BookFest @ Bank Street went smoothly this year, with a sellout crowd of 150 attendees. Lisa Von Drasek had the plans well underway before she left for Minnesota, and Ellen Greene continued to co-chair the event (as she has all three years) along with Jennifer Brown, who took over as interim director of the Center for Children's Literature.

Keynote speaker Mary Pope Osborne spoke of the children's books she came to as an adult and the seeds that were planted for her Magic Tree House series, which celebrates its 20th Anniversary this fall. She also described for teachers and librarians how they could register for classroom sets of the books for underprivileged classrooms.

Max Rudin, publisher of Library of America and a Bank Street parent, introduced Caroline Fraser, editor of The Little House Books: The Library of America Collection. Jenny Brown interviewed Fraser about how she came to work on the project, and how she refuted a Missouri professor's claims that Rose Wilder Lane (Wilder's daughter) ghost-wrote the books. Rudin approached Fraser as a result of Fraser's research for an article she authored for the New York Review of Books. Fraser's notes for the Library of America edition place Wilder's views of and comments about Native Americans--often dismissive and/or racist--in the context of her times, in the aftermath of the Minnesota Massacre. She also discusses the music and other cultural details of Wilder's times.

A panel of middle-grade authors--Bruce Coville, Liz Levy, John Coy, Michael Dahl and Adam Gidwitz--engaged in a lively discussion of series writing moderated by Jennifer Hubert Swan, Middle School Librarian and Library Department Chair at Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School. One of the oft-repeated themes was the importance of stressing to parents that it's okay for children to read series, that many of the authors on the panel started reading thanks to series, and to trust that (A) children will set aside books that are too mature for them and (B) they will eventually move on to other books. The important thing is that they're reading.

Ten book discussion groups offered participants an opportunity to participate in a mock-Caldecott, mock-Newbery, and mock-Geisel selection, as well as to discuss picture books, information books, high interest books and young adult novels. The Bank Street Bookstore sold books by the authors and artists featured so that attendees could have them autographed.

Chef Chad prepared both vegan/vegetarian lunches and "I'll Eat Anything" lunches for authors and attendees. Author John Coy commented that it was "the best meal I've ever eaten at a conference, bar none."

An afternoon panel about Window-Mirror books moderated by Children's Book Committee member Rita Auerbach raised penetrating themes about the importance of books that reflect the experiences of children and that also offer them a window into other children's experiences. The featured authors and artists were: Jacqueline Woodson, Dan Yaccarino, Andrea Davis Pinkney and E.B. Lewis. They discussed writing from inside a community versus writing from outside a community, the importance of breaking through stereotypes and of doing one's homework to accurately represent the experiences of individuals within a culture and community. 

All in all, a stimulating day, and as far as we know, everyone got home safely despite Hurricane Sandy's imminent threat.