A new children’s literature festival will attract seven internationally known authors and book lovers of all ages to downtown Kansas City next month.
The big names include Brian Selznick, Jon Scieszka, Sophie Blackall, Kansas City’s Shane Evans and other Caldecott and Coretta Scott King award winners.
LitFestKC, scheduled for April 28 and 29, is a collaboration between The Rabbit Hole, a nonprofit organization working to inspire the reading life of children and adults, the Kansas City Public Library and Crossroads Charter Schools.
“Our whole goal is to curate and preserve the cultural memory of children’s literature,” says Pete Cowdin, who founded The Rabbit Hole with Deb Pettid.
LitFestKC evolved from the DNA Children’s Literature Festival, an annual event presented by Reading Reptile, Cowdin and Pettid’s Brookside bookstore, which closed last year.
“We sort of retooled (the festival) and partnered with the library,” Cowdin says. “We’re trying to shine a light on the downtown library district and the Crossroads.”
Cowdin says that eventually The Rabbit Hole would like to plan three literature festivals a year, each focused on a different age or genre.
“We could do a Kid ComicCon with graphic novels for children and young adults,” he says.
Booking presenters for LitFestKC wasn’t hard for Cowdin and Pettid, who befriended many children’s book authors while operating the Reading Reptile for more than 20 years. The festival’s lineup of award-winning presenters includes:
▪ Sophie Blackall, an Australia-born illustrator with more than 30 books under her belt, including the “Ivy + Bean” series and “Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear,” which won the 2016 Caldecott Medal.
▪ Nina Crews, the Brooklyn, N.Y., picture book maker behind “One Hot Summer Day” and “The Neighborhood Mother Goose.”
▪ Shane Evans, a Kansas City author and illustrator who won the 2012 Coretta Scott King Book Award for “Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom.”
▪ John Bemelmans Marciano, a Brooklyn writer and illustrator whose credits include four “Madeline” books and “The Witches of Benevento,” a collaboration with Sophie Blackall. Bemelmans Marciano is the grandson of Ludwig Bemelmans, who created the “Madeline” book series.
▪ Javaka Steptoe, a New York City author who won the 2017 Caldecott Medal and the 2017 Coretta Scott King Book Award for “Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.”
▪ Jon Scieszka, author of “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales” and “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.” Scieszka, who lives in Brooklyn, was named the country’s first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature in 2008.
▪ Brian Selznick, the award-winning author of “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” which inspired Martin Scorsese’s 2011 film “Hugo.” Selznick lives in Brooklyn and San Diego.
On April 28, more than 1,200 area elementary school students will travel to LitFestKC’s Kids Day at the Central Library and Crossroads Academy. Each student will hear two author presentations and leave with a signed book. That evening, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., the public is invited to a free book signing with all seven presenters at The Rabbit Hole Workshop, 110 Southwest Blvd.
The Rabbit Hole will also host a VIP author reception at 7 p.m. April 28, a Friday. The event includes dinner catered by Lidia’s Kansas City at Weinberger Fine Art, 114 Southwest Blvd., followed by cocktails and dessert at The Rabbit Hole. Tickets cost $100 at litfestkc.org/vip. Proceeds help fund the festival.
The following day, book lovers are invited to a conference with the presenting authors. Morning and afternoon sessions cost $40; a full day costs $75. For more info, go to litfestkc.org.