Kiddie lit


Children are front and center at 2004 Midwest Literary Festival :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

photos courtesy of Midwest Literary Festival A junior Shakespearean listens intently at the 2003 Midwest Literary Festival, while storyteller Linda Gorham (below) entertains another group.

Sherman Jenkins and Mike O'Kelley noticed there were no literary festivals paying homage to Midwestern writers and illustrators. So, the two, now directors of the Midwest Literary Festival, decided to make one happen.

"We saw many book fairs in the Midwest, but none of them concentrated on the authors," says Jenkins. In 2003, the first Midwest Literary Festival drew more than 7,000 people who came to hear from authors such as Anne Lamott, Jacqueline Mitchard and Frances Mayes.

While last year's festival included a few events for children, the tents were in the back corner. This year, event planners learned from that mistake and "the kids programs are more than doubled and have been moved to the center of the festival," says coordinator Tracey Daniels.

More than 80 authors and presenters will be at this year's festival in Aurora, up from 40 last year. Notables for the children's audience include Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries; Mordicai Gernstein, the 2004 Randolph Caldecott Medal winner for The Man Who Walked Between the Towers; and Eric Rohmann, the 2003 Caldecott winner for illustration for My Friend Rabbit.

Rohmann, who keeps his Caldecott medal on his mantle guarded by a multitude of rabbit figurines, loves attending events where he gets to meet kids.

"I love meeting children who don't know me," Rohmann says. "They are always generous, curious, impulsive and pleased with simple joys."

He will be one of the speakers at a Sept. 11 panel discussion on illustrating children's books. Rohmann wants kids to know that "there's always a different place to go" with books.

At this year's festival kids can attend a Jim Gill concert, commit "random acts of princess" with Meg Cabot, party with their American Girl dolls, become an artist with chalk on a city-block sidewalk, attend writing workshops for kids and enter an essay contest.

Adult attractions include presentations by former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins and best-selling author E. Lynn Harris, whose most recent effort is a memoir titled What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.

The Midwest Literary Festival events are scheduled for a number of downtown Aurora locations on Sept. 11 and 12. All events are free and open to the public. Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

For a full schedule of events, visit www.midwestliterary Michelle Sussman

Kids Eat Chicago

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