Storyfest Explores Diversity

Books & Literature | Culture & Identity | VFH News

Kwame Alexander signs books during the 2015 Virginia Festival of the Book - Photo by Pat Jarrett
Kwame Alexander signs books during the 2015 Virginia Festival of the Book - Photo by Pat Jarrett

Each year, the Virginia Festival of the Book coordinates a wide variety of public programs that focus on young readers. Collectively, these are known as Storyfest, and they feature some of the brightest talents in children’s publishing, from picture book illustrators to young adult novelists. In 2017, Storyfest programs also represent the Festival’s focus on diversity and providing a platform for underrepresented voices.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the 2017 youth headliner program, Out of Wonder: Kwame Alexander and Ekua Holmes on Wednesday, March 22 at 7 PM.

Alexander is a beloved poet, educator, and Newbery Medal-winning author of twenty-one books for children, including The Crossover. He is also the founder of two youth literary organizations and regularly travels the world as a literacy advocate, working to ensure access to books as well as the enjoyment of them.

Holmes is a fine artist and children’s book illustrator whose work has earned her a Caldecott Honor as well as a Sibert Honor and the John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award. She is also the founder and director of the Great Black Art Collection, providing a platform for emerging artists while introducing Black art to new audiences.

Together, the author and illustrator will discuss their new collaborative book, Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, and engage in conversation on topics from children’s publishing and collaborative projects to the African American experience and creating books for underrepresented readers. Tickets to this program are $5 for all ages and are available in advance or at the door.

Working with We Need Diverse Books (WNDB)—an organization that works to ensure that all children have access to books featuring diverse characters—the Festival will also present a program celebrating a new anthology of middle-grade work by WNDB-affiliated writers, including Kwame Alexander, Matt de la Peña, Jacqueline Woodson, and others. The Festival program will feature anthology editor Ellen Oh (The Prophecy Series) in conversation with contributing authors Soman Chainani (The School for Good & Evil) and Meg Medina (Burn Baby Burn) on Saturday, March 25 at 10 AM. This program is free to attend and open to the public.

Inclusive, authentic, and eminently readable, this collection of short stories is an excellent addition for libraries and classrooms.”—School Library Journal, starred review

Storytime Marathon on Saturday, March 25 at 2 PM also provides a wide range of diverse authors and stories for children ages 3-6 and their parents. Eleven authors and illustrators will read aloud from their work in this informal and high-energy program that also features short activity breaks between readings. Featured readers include Priya Mahadevan (Princesses Only Wear Putta-Puttas), Minh Lê and Isabel Roxas (Let Me Finish!), Ali Pfautz (Butterflies Keep Flying), and others. Click here for the marathon schedule.

Finally, for parents, teachers, and aspiring children’s book authors, Drawing and Writing Libros: A Conversation about Children’s Publishing explores themes of diversity in publishing through the experiences of three acclaimed—and bilingual—authors and illustrators: Lulu Delacre (¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! Olinguito, from A to Z!), Angela Dominguez (Marta! Big and Small), and Juana Medina (Juana & Lucas). The three will discuss their Latinx roots and the behind-the-scenes aspects of creating award-winning and critically-acclaimed works for children that also represent diverse characters and settings. This program takes place on Saturday, March 25 at 4 PM and is free to attend and open to the public.

Explore More

Explore the full schedule of Storyfest programs in the 2017 Virginia Festival of the Book.