(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – More than 30 authors and illustrators and some 4,300 children and teachers converged on campus over spring break during the 50th Children’s Literature Festival.
“The program started pretty small back in 1969,” said Maya Kucij, special collections librarian in the James C. Kirkpatrick Library and director of this year’s Children’s Literature Festival.
History of this event begins with Philip Sadler, professor of children’s literature, and Ophelia Gilbert, laboratory school librarian, who invited five authors to come to the Central Missouri State University campus back in ‘69.
All of the authors were from Missouri, one author – Cena Christopher Draper – lived right here in Warrensburg, Missouri. Children from the laboratory school were able to listen to authors speak about their experiences and have their books autographed.
The family-oriented event has evolved over the years from a local festival to children attending from all over Missouri and Kanas to see what new books where being sold and read by the authors each year.
“We consider this to be, as far as I know, the longest running literature festival geared towards children in the country,” Kucij said.
There is no other literature festival for children that has been operating as long as the Children’s Literature Festival in Warrensburg.The festival kicked off Sunday with a visitor’s luncheon with guest speaker and award-winning author, Jack Gantos, whose works have received a Newbery Award, Scott O’Dell Award, Newbery Honor, Printz Honor, Sibert Honor, and National Book Award Finalist nomination.Sunday’s luncheon was followed with a book signing by authors and illustrators. The lunch was provided for members who registered while ticket sales went to support the festival.
“We are completely self-supported through our book sales and registration costs and that’s the way it’s been operating for 50 years,” Kucij said.
The campus-wide event included stations set up from the art gallery, to the Elliott Student Union, to the James C. Kirkpatrick Library.
The art gallery “50 Years of Illustrators” exhibit showcased talents of former illustrators and how children’s book illustrations have evolved over the years.
Monday and Tuesday children began to arrive with teachers to meet authors and buy books at the fair located in the Elliott Student Union Ballroom. At various campus locations authors were available to sign books after their presentations about their books.
Hundreds of books were available for children and parents to purchase. Children could be seen lining up down the hall to grab a treat at the snack booth provided with candy, popcorn, and drinks before they rushed to grab the last copies of their favorite books.
“It’s really a magical thing when you see the kids meet an author or illustrator that they really admire… I think they find it really fascinating.” Kucij said.
View the full list of the books that were available at the festival and their prices at clf.ucmo.edu/booklist.pdf.