April 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Princeton Children’s Book Festival Celebrates 10th Anniversary, Sees Record Book Sales

The 10th annual Princeton Children’s Book Festival (NJ) drew a gathering of about 5000 book lovers to the Library Plaza of the Princeton Public Library on Saturday, September 19. The festival has grown

Author Rita Williams-Garcia signing copies for fans at the Princeton Book Festival.

Author Rita Williams-Garcia signing copies for fans at the Princeton Book Festival.

significantly from the inaugural event in 2006, which boasted 24 authors and illustrators, to the more than 100 who participated this year, including such legendary names as Jerry Pinkney, Rosemary Wells, and Bruce Coville.

The list included two authors, Herman Parish and Margery Cuyler, who were participants at the first

Herman Parish, Rocco Staino, and Amelia Bedelia.

Herman Parish, Rocco Staino, and Amelia Bedelia.

festival. “It just gets better and better. More and more people come out and they are so enthusiastic!”, said, Parish, who writes books starring Amelia Bedelia, the character created over 50 years ago by his aunt, Peggy Parish.

“Everyone loved the festival right from the beginning,” said youth librarian Allison Santos, the Princeton Public Library staffer who first conceived the event. “Now authors, illustrators, publishers, and literary agents often contact me to ask to be part of the festival.” Santos, with the help of her library colleagues, continues to coordinate the festival each year.

Somewhat surprisingly, a good number of Brooklyn authors were in attendance, despite the fact that the children’s events at the Brooklyn Book Festival fell on the same day. Brian Floca, Edward Hemingway, Sophie Blackall, and Sergio Ruzzier, all of whom share a studio space in Brooklyn, each participated in Princeton.  Fellow Brooklynites Tad Hills, Michael Buckley, and Mike Curato also joined them.

The Jerez Family

The Jerez family attends the Princeton Book Festival.

Among the attendees was the Jerez family from Lawrenceville, NJ, who were strolling the festival loaded down with an armful of books. Vanessa Jerez is a parent volunteer at her son’s school, Slackwood Elementary, where she helps coordinate author visits; she sees the festival as an ideal recruiting opportunity. There were also many librarians in the crowd. Public librarian Melissa Davis of  Phoenixville Public Library, PA, exclaimed, “This is amazing! So many authors who are so friendly. It is a perfect location with perfect weather.”

For Leigh Woznick, attending the festival is her annual birthday present to herself. This year, the middle school library media specialist at the Bridgewater-Raritan School District, NJ, purchased 20 books. “What I especially love about this event is that it is intimate enough that you can spend a bit of time one-on-one with the authors,” said Woznick. “I had a great connection with Rachel Vail this year, whom I’d never met before.” For Woznick, her highlights also included meeting  Gail Carson Levine, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Steve Sheinkin.

Sheinkin was recently named to the National Book Award (NBA) longlist for Young People’s Literature for Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War (Roaring Brook Pr., 2015). He took time out from an interview at the KidLit.TV tent to talk to School Library Journal about his books. This year marks the third time in four years in which Sheinkin has been included on the NBA longlist. In the short video below, Sheinkin talks about his past titles, interviewing Daniel Ellsberg for his latest book, and reveals what he’s working on now.

Picture book author and illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka created this year’s festival poster, using images from his latest book, It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon (Knopf, 2015). Krosoczka was looking forward to the festival. “For authors, meeting readers is like an actor getting to jump on stage and perform,” he explained. Past Princeton Festival poster-creators have  included picture book artists such as Dan Yaccarino and Peter Brown. “With a new illustrator creating distinct artwork for us, our festival is reinterpreted and made fresh yearly,” said Santos.

This year’s festival broke a record for book sales. The one-day event, lasting just five hours, brought in
approximately $69,000 in sales, according to jaZams, the festival bookseller. Twenty percent will go to the youth services department of the Princeton Public Library.

Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.