Friday, April 20, 2012

Road Trip to Hattiesburg

Early April has become my favorite time of year and not just because I can leave winter behind and welcome in springtime, but because I get to take my yearly road trip to USM in Hattiesburg. Why? Because the second week in April is the Fay B Kaigler Children's Book Festival. For forty-five years the festival has been THE place to meet nationally known authors, illustrators, and storytellers.
Each year over 500 teachers and librarians from across the nation come to the University of Southern Mississippi to hear major speakers and participate in concurrent sessions and workshops as authors, illustrators, and experts in the field share their knowledge and experience.
In the past 3 years that I have attended the festival, I met many of my favorite teen authors such as Richard Peck, T A Barron, Maureen Johnson, and Sharon Draper. It is so inspiring to hear their stories of how they became writers and why they love the teen genre. It's also a great opportunity to visit and share books and program ideas with librarians from around the country.
My second favorite thing to do at the book festival is to visit the Lena Y de Grummond Collection which is housed at the university library. The de Grummond Collection is one of the largest literary collections in the country. According to the Dictionary of Literary Biography,


"Lena de Grummond came to the University of Southern Mississippi to teach children's literature in the School of Library Science in 1966, and she envisioned resources that went beyond the classroom textbook. It was her belief that if students could study the creative processes of authors and illustrators by examining the manuscripts and illustrations first hand, she knew they would better appreciate the literature. Before long de Grummond began her search by writing to her favorite creators of children's books and solicited contributions of original manuscripts and typescripts, illustrations, sketchbooks, galleys, dummies, publisher correspondence, and fan mail--any materials related to the publication of a children's book. Today the Collection houses works by more than 1200 authors and illustrators. These original materials are supplemented by a book collection of more than 100,000 volumes of historical and contemporary children's literature dating from 1530. These include fables,fairy tales, folklore, alphabet books, nursery rhymes, textbooks, religious books, moral tales, fantasy, fiction, primers, and children's magazines."
This year the festival highlighted Beatrix Potter who just happens to be one of my personal favorites. I had a wonderful opportunity to see one of the largest collections of Beatrix Potter in the South. Hundreds of pieces of art and literature surronded the showcase life-sized prints of The Arrival and The Departure. Outside I toured Mr. McGregor's Garden which was filled with beautiful day lilies of all sizes and colors while sipping a cool glass of lemonade. I couldn't help but picture Peter Rabbit nibbling away on the vegetation.
All in all it was a great trip. I relaxed with friends, I learned new ways to put good books in the hands of children and teens, and I was reminded of why I love children's books and why I chose to be a young adult librarian.

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