Tue 03/01/2022 – 3:38 pm | From: David Tisdale
All things related to the wonder and joy of children’s literature are on the agenda April 6-8 when the University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) ( USM) presents, online, the annual Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival and the Ezra Jack Keats (EJK) Book Awards Ceremony.
Out of an abundance of caution, the festival’s steering committee has opted to continue to hold the event in a virtual format due to ongoing concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic.
Each year, the festival honors a noted children’s literature author or illustrator with its top prize, the Southern Miss Medallion, for their contributions to the genre. This year’s recipient is award-winning author and illustrator Brian Selznick, the creator of The New York Times bestsellers The invention of Hugo Cabret, adapted from the Oscar-winning film Hugo by Martin Scorsese; and Amazed, adapted from the eponymous film by acclaimed filmmaker Todd Haynes, with a screenplay by Selznick. Selznick will give the keynote speech at the festival
Selznick is also the author of The New York Times bestsellers Wonders and Baby monkey, private detective co-written by David Serlin. More recently, he illustrated the covers for the 20th anniversary paperback edition of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. His books have been translated into over 35 languages.
“We are entering our third fully virtual Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival, and while we miss our in-person community very much, we believe it is the safest for everyone involved,” said Karen Rowell, “I am proud that despite the ongoing pandemic, we have never stopped bringing award-winning authors and illustrators to our Festival. We plan to be back in person in 2023.”
Other keynote speakers at the festival include Jen Bryant, Lesa Cline-Ransome and James Ransome, Nic Stone, Raúl the Third, Angie Thomas, Dr. Eric Tribunella and Donna Washington.
Thomas is a Mississippian and author of the famous The hate you give, and her keynote address is the first this year to be sponsored by a generous gift from retired SLIS Director Dr. Theresa Welsh to establish the USM SLIS Conference; Dr. Tribunella, a specialist in children’s literature, is a member of the Faculty of Human Sciences at USM.
The Ezra Jack Keats Award was created to support illustrators and writers, early in their careers, who create extraordinary books that reflect our diverse people, the universal experience of childhood, and the strength of family and community. community. Over the years, the EJK has successfully nurtured the early careers of many of our country’s leading children’s book makers.
This year marks the 10and year of USM’s Grummond Children’s Literature Collection co-administering the Ezra Jack Keats Prize. In 2012, Dr. Deborah Pope moved the Keats Book Prize from the New York Public Library to USM and the awards ceremony in conjunction with the Kaigler Children’s Book Festival.
Not only does the de Grummond serve as a repository for the work of Ezra Jack Keats, but the festival provides the perfect setting for recipients of the award. The audience is made up of authors, illustrators, librarians, academics and general lovers of children’s literature, said Ellen Ruffin, curator of Grummond’s collection.
“It has been a pleasure to follow the successes of the Keats Award winners as their careers have taken off,” continued Ruffin. “In 2012, Meg Medina received the Keats Prize for her magnificent picture book, Tia Isa wants a car. It seemed like her career had been shot by a cannon because she started publishing young adult novels, middle-aged children’s books, and even more picture books. In 2019, when she received the Newbery Medal for Thank Suarez Chagearswe all felt a sense of pride.
Ruffin noted that USM was part of a milestone with the Keats Prize when, in 2021, it celebrated its 35and a year of recognition for new authors and illustrators whose books portray the universal qualities of childhood, a strong and supportive family, and the multicultural nature of our world.
“The awards ceremony is something we all look forward to at the Kaigler Children’s Book Festival,” Ruffin continued. “Even though this year’s ceremony will be virtual, the presentation is almost as exciting as when we meet in person. It is possible for people to view past awards sessions by visiting degrummond.org.
In 2021, the Keats Foundation produced the film “Tell Me Another Story”, which focuses on the nature and necessity of the prize: https://www.ezra-jack-keats.org/tell-me-another-story / .
Richard Peck, a longtime supporter of the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival, made a generous donation in 2016 that now provides an annual stipend to offset festival attendance fees for a limited number of festival attendees; the application deadline is March 4. Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are available through the festival. For more information, including registration details, visit https://www.usm.edu/childrens-book-festival/.