Literary Luminaries Gather at Bank Street’s Ninth Annual BookFest

On October 24, Bank Street’s annual BookFest event brought together some of the most celebrated names in children’s literature for a day of exploration, discussion, and discovery. This year, guests heard from a number of renowned authors, illustrators, editors, reviewers, and scholars on hot topics in children’s literature through panel discussions, thought-provoking presentations, and interactive book groups.

The first panel, “Collaborative Couples in KidLit,” was moderated by School Library Journal Editor Shelley Diaz and featured three couples who partner together to create children’s books. The couples, Wade and Cheryl Hudson, Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, and Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann—discussed how they make a delicate process work well by taking on different creative roles. The conversation highlighted the joys and challenges of this unique type of collaboration and how they make their work come to life.

Next, children’s author Emma Otheguy moderated the discussion, “Authors/Illustrators: School Visits and Their Impact on Practice” with authors Adam Gidwitz, Rita Williams-Garcia, Kat Yeh, and Stephen Savage. The panelists, who spend a lot of their time visiting schools and classrooms and speaking to students, spoke about how the children they interact with have influenced their work and inspired their creativity. They told stories of many of their visits and shared how they create lesson plans that fit in with what the children are already studying to promote engagement.

Following the morning panels, former Bank Street Children’s Librarian and Director of the Center for Children’s Literature Lisa Von Drasek delivered a presentation on “Writing Boxes: The Reading/Writing Connection for Supporting Literacy in the Library.” Afterwards, guests dispersed into small group book discussions where they explored topics like mock Newbery, graphic novels, mock Caldecott, and Best Spanish Language Books.

The larger group came together for a final panel on “Bringing the Real World to Life! Illustration in Informational Books,” moderated by Gillian Engberg with panelists Maira Kalman, John Parra, Roxie Munro, Melissa Sweet, and Zeke Peña. In this discussion, the group explored the challenges and rewards of writing informational books for children, which involves appropriately and accurately depicting people, places, animals, events, and more.

Adam GidwitzThe day culminated in a keynote presentation by Newbery Medalist Adam Gidwitz, GSE ‘09 author of The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. Gidwitz began with stories of his earliest experiences as a classroom teacher, which he credits with helping him recognize the power of storyelling to reach children. According to Gidwitz, every evening, he would write stories for his students, which eventually turned into his first published collection of fairy tales: A Tale of Dark and Grimm.

Later in his presentation, Gidwitz referenced some of the flawed characters seen in his fairy tales. He also took the time to candidly reflect on his own flaws as a human being and admitted to examples of his implicit biases. According to Gidwitz, these biases have acted as powerful moments of realization that have encouraged him to commit to improving his life and work moving forward. Part of this, he says, involves tapping the expertise of diverse athors to add a new dimension of wholeness to his literature.

Watch the full livestream of the event on KidLit TV.