Literacy comes to life

Bookamania on Nov. 19 brings kids and authors together

You never forget your first time. That is, unless you didn’t have one.

"When I was little, authors didn’t come to schools," says Evanston children’s writer Carolyn Crimi. "I didn’t meet an author until I was an author, and I met me."

Thanks to Bookamania, kids won’t have to wait that long. Families with children ages 3 to 10 are invited to meet authors and illustrators, including Crimi, at the Chicago Public Library’s annual free celebration of Children’s Book Week, Nov. 14-20.

"For some of these children it’s the first time they’re meeting an author," says Elizabeth Basile, an early childhood specialist with the library. "Those reactions can be very rewarding."

Kids will have the chance to hear stories and do crafts with authors, including hat making with Crimi, whose new book is Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies. Or pea planting with Amy Lowry Poole, author of The Pea Blossom and hot-air balloon decorating with Marjorie Priceman, author and illustrator of Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride.

"It’s great for kids to see the different types of people who write books," says Crimi. "When I was little I thought the kids [in the books] themselves were writing the books."

In addition, families can watch performances and meet storybook characters. Kids can sing along to the call-and-response storytelling of Kucha Brownlee and Baba Tony, dance on stage to the Caribbean rhythms of Nelson Gill or tap their toes to the Emerald City Theatre’s musical "Stellaluna and Other Tales." Also, on hand to greet young readers will be costumed characters, such as Daisy the Duck from the books by Amy Hest and Spot the Dog from the books by Eric Hill.

Mary Baumeister, mother of three from Chicago, says her kids can’t wait to go to Bookamania. "My kids love to read," says Baumeister. "They request to go every year." Daughter Audrey, 7, says she liked the projects last year, and "really liked the free book at the end." (Not every child gets a free book but some activities, such as the one Audrey did, include free books.)

Basile says the library is expecting anywhere between 3,000 and 4,000 people. While visitors don’t need library cards to attend, there will be tables where interested families can apply for them.

"[We want kids to see that] reading is fun, reading is enjoyable," says Basile. "It’s something that can be shared and it takes many forms."

Bookamania is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St., Chicago. For more information, call the Chicago Public Library’s Children and Young Adult Services at (312) 747-4780 or visit the library’s Web site at

Teresa Dankowski


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