Center for Children’s Literature

BookFest @ Bank Street

BookFest logo

BookFest is an event devoted to the celebration, discovery, and discussion of books for children and teens. This event, designed for adults, features luminaries from the children’s literature community. Authors, illustrators, editors, reviewers, and scholars will take part in panel discussions and breakout sessions.

BookFest was founded in 1971, by Frances Henne, a faculty member of the School of Library Service at Columbia University. The event was originally known as Let’s Talk About Books for Children and Youth Day, or Velma Varner Day, in honor of Henne’s close friend and colleague, Velma Varner, editor of Viking Press. The event has been hosted by Columbia University, Teachers College, and the New York Public Library. Bank Street College of Education has been a proud producer of this wonderful event since 2010.

Virtual BookFest @ Bank Street, Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Center for Children’s Literature is delighted to celebrate this half a century old event with the wonderful  Jerry Craft  as its 2021 keynote speaker.  Jerry is the 2020 Newbery, Coretta Scott King and Kirkus Prize winner for the graphic novel New Kid.  Class Act, the sequel to New Kid, has received multiple starred reviews. Jerry is also known for his syndicated newspaper comic strip, Mama’s Boyz.

Jerry was born in Harlem and grew up in nearby Washington Heights. He is a graduate of The Fieldston School and received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts. In 2020 Jerry was the Bank Street School for Children Dorothy Carter Writer-in-Residence.

We are thrilled to have Jerry back to Bank Street and so honored that he and the other brilliant authors, illustrators and moderators listed on our program will join us.  We welcome them and our registrants with open arms.

Register for BookFest 2021

Follow us on Twitter using the hashtag #bookfest21


9:20 AM – 9:30 AM (EST)
Chat Room
Sign in and say hello in chat.

9:30 AM – 9:35 AM (EST)
Welcome by Cynthia Weill, Director, Center for Children’s Literature, Bank Street College of Education

9:35 AM – 10:35 AM (EST)
Black Women Biographers: Claiming Our Space and Shining Our Light

  • April Harrison, illustrator of Shirley Chisholm Dared: The Story of the First Black Woman in Congress
  • Oge Mora, illustrator of The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read
  • Lesa Cline-Ransome, author of Before She Was Harriet
  • Cozbi A. Cabrera, illustrator of Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks
  • Connie Schofield-Morrison author of Stitch by Stitch: Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly Sews Her Way to Freedom
  • Traci Todd, author of Nina: A Story of Nina Simone.

Moderator: Carole Boston Weatherford, author of Respect: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul

10:35 AM – 11:35 AM (EST)
Publishing As Passion: New Imprints and Voices

  • mineditionUS, Maria Russo
  • Make Me a World, Christopher Myers
  • Heartdrum, Cynthia Leitich Smith
  • Unruly, Claudia Zoe Bedrick
  • Levine Querido, Arthur Levine
  • Kokila, Namrata Tripathi

Moderator: Vicky Smith, Young Readers’ Editor, Kirkus

11:35 AM – 11:50 AM (EST)

11:50 AM – 12:50 PM (EST)
Matt de la Peña & Christian Robinson: The World Without and the World Within

  • Matt de la Peña author of Milo Imagines the World
  • Christian Robinson, illustrator of Milo Imagines the World

Moderator: Jenny Brown, Senior Editor, Shelf Awareness; member of the Bank Street Children’s Book Committee

12:50 PM – 1:20 PM (EST)
Closing Keynote

  • Jerry Craft, 2020 Newbery Medalist, New Kid

Note that the breakout sessions and our short program have been trimmed this year to offer a more online-friendly format.

2021 Virtual Book Store

Books listed on the 2021 BookFest @ Bank Street program can be purchased at Virtual BookFest @ Bank Street 2021 book store.

Beyond the Book

Children’s book illustrator Tonya Engel discusses how she created the illustrations for Your Legacy: A Bold Reclaiming of Our Enslaved History by Schele Williams (Abrams).


Kidlit TV host Rocco Staino interviews Steven Banks author of the Middle School Bites series (Holiday House).