African-American children’s book author headlines Kansas Book Festival

A group of children pose for a photo with Curious George at the 7th annual Kansas Book Festival on the north grounds of the Kansas Statehouse on Saturday. Nearly 30 authors presented and signed copies of their books during the event that has been hosted since 2011 by Kansas First Lady Mary Brownback. (Angela Deines/The Capital-Journal)

Kansas First Lady Mary Brownback said her main focus as host of the Kansas Book Festival for the past seven years has been to let the world, and Kansans, know how many great authors come from the Sunflower State.

 

“That’s what’s been impressive to me,” Brownback said. “You can find them all over. When we started, we weren’t sure how many we’d find or about what kind of authors. But when you start looking, they were either born here, or went to school here or they were writing about Kansas. It was great to see that, yeah, Kansas does produce a lot of authors.”

This is the final year that Kansas’ First Lady will host the book festival given that Gov. Sam Brownback has been appointed by President Donald Trump as ambassador at large for international religious freedom.

The Topeka Capital-Journal will begin hosting the Kansas Book Festival in 2018 that is held on the north grounds of the Kansas Statehouse.

“I’d love for it to continue and people to continue to come out and see what a wealth of talent we have in the state,” Brownback said.

The keynote presenter for this year’s festival was Andrea Davis Pinkney whose latest children’s book is about the story of Ezra Jack Keats and his creation of “The Snowy Day” which was published in 1962.

Pinkney, of New York City, said the fact that the book about a boy and his adventures on a snowy day in a big city was the 1963 winner of the prestigious Caldecott Medal was an achievement during the civil rights movement.

“That was the year that Martin Luther King gave his landmark ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” she said. “One month later, there were four girls who were killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bomb. So we had these two realities: We had great hope with this speech from Dr. King. One month later we had this unthinkable, racially motivated incident. In the middle of that, was a book called ‘The Snowy Day.’”

“While a picture book cannot erase a tragedy,” Pinkney continued, “a picture book can help a child make sense of a very complex world.”

Jennifer Gordon, principal of McClure Elementary School, attended the Kansas Book Festival on Saturday and said she was looking forward to meeting Pinkney, given her affinity for African-American children’s books in how they can be used to teach black history.

“She just has a good ear and I love the way she uses language,” Gordon said. “I love that she’s kind of one of those political writers where she’s writing some important pieces about African-American history. Children need to understand and be exposed to that at an early age, even adults.”

Contact reporter Angela Deines at (785) 295-1143 or follow her on Twitter @AngelaDeines.

 

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