Children's authors come to town
Published 1:05 am, Friday, October 23, 2009
Some books for young readers transcend their intended audiences, so much that even older audiences can enjoy the book. That possibility is fully embraced at the Westport Public Library's ninth annual Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature.
Today, six authors of history and biography will be spending time with students at Coleytown Middle School and Bedford Middle School. On Saturday, the audience will be a little older when each of the authors speaks to the public on Saturday, 9 a.m. at Saugatuck Elementary School. Admission is free, although afternoon lectures and workshops have already been booked to capacity.
"It's a good chance for people to hear each of them. It's very inspiring" said Joan Hume, director of community relations at the library. "They often talk how their careers started, the importance of teachers and parents "� [and] how people encouraged them. It's a good message for people to hear even now that they're all adults."
Middle school students became familiar with the authors' work and then signed up for whomever they wanted to see. Candice Fleming, who flew in from Illinois, was slated to appear on Bedford A.M., the student-run morning TV show. In her biographies, she creates a scrapbook for historical figures such as Ben Franklin, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Connecticut's own P.T. Barnum. Those books include Franklin's Almanac, Our Eleanor and The Great and Only Barnum.
The historical subjects covered by the authors are range from days of slavery to Alexander Fleming's accidental discovery of penicillin.
For example, Susan Campbell Bartoletti wrote Hitler Youth: Growing up in Hiter's Shadow based on interviews from young Germans who became swept up in the movement during World War II.
The husband-and-wife team of Dennis and Judith Fradin investigated and wrote a large series of books, From Sea to Shining Sea, which covers every state of the United States, and a biography, Ida B. Wells.
Rita Hennessey, media specialist at Bedford Middle School, regretfully missed the last time authors came to her school. She thinks this year will provide a great opportunity for the students to actually meet authors in person rather than just reading their work.
"Some kids, if they want to pursue writing as a creative writing outlet or hobby, it's a good way to learn," Hennessey said.
She added that middle school students have limited time during the day because they're so busy, but she's glad students will be able to make time for this if they wanted to see the authors.
"It's really nice that the Westport Public Library helps every year to bring in authors," she said.
Every year, the varying authors switch between middle school and elementary school students. The authors come from all over the country, but it was somebody local that the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature is named after. Robert Lawson, who lived and worked in his home and on Weston Road. His workplace was called Rabbit Hill.
According to the event's Web site (www.westportlibrary.org/rabbithillfestival), Lawson is the only author/illustrator to have won both the Caldecott and Newbury Medals. These awards are generally considered the highest honors for children's literature. His works include writing and illustrating Rabbit Hill and doing the illustrations for Mr. Popper's Penguins. He passed away in 1957, but his works live on with the annual celebration of literature.
"I think it's always a good experience for students to meet actual authors because they learn about how authors go about writing and this will help the students the students in their own writing," said Cary Bell, interim principal of Bedford Middle School.
There are a limited number of seats available for a dinner today at 6:30 p.m. at The Red Barn Restaurant, 292 Wilton Road. To obtain tickets, priced at $35, or inquire if any are available, Joan Hume can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.