Redefining the Classroom

LSSU professors bring book festival for children to community

Posted: July 13th, 2012

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. -- When Lake Superior State University English and creative writing professor Janice Repka moved to Sault Ste. Marie, she set out to improve the number of cultural activities for young readers.

An avid festival participant and a published children's book author, Repka said, "I moved here from a town that billed itself as the festival capital of the world and found that as far I could determine, there had never been a children's book festival held in the entire Upper Peninsula. I saw that as an opportunity to start one."

As a result of a collaborative effort, the Superior Children's Book Festival will take place from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, July 21, in the atrium at Avery Square in downtown Sault Ste. Marie, with special afternoon activities being hosted at Bayliss Public Library and Island Books and Crafts.

The festival will offer free books, activities, games, snacks and family fun for children of all ages. Events include a picture book party and storytelling for the younger crowd, a book character dress-up contest and meet-the-author book signings for all ages, and a learn-to-draw Manga presentation and graphic novel celebration for teens. Numerous children’s book authors will be special guests.

The festival came together quickly due to a community effort. Prof. Jillena Rose, a colleague of Repka's in LSSU's creative writing program, volunteered to help organize a committee. They were soon joined by two members of the LSSU Dept. of Education, Prof. Shirley Schoenemann and Prof. Sandra Rink.

"We wanted this to be a community effort," said Repka, "so we contacted Bayliss Public Library for help."

Bayliss Director Ken Miller, Asst. Director/Reference Librarian Susan James, and Children's Librarian Debbie Lehman, were enthusiastically welcomed to the committee.

"After that,” said Repka, "there was an avalanche of support from across the community, including LSSU student and faculty volunteers Dena Bliss, Sarah Becks, and Prof. Guidi Yang, community members Melissa Belevender and Daisy Fentiman, and organizational volunteers from the Pickford Library and the Chippewa County Historical Society.

In addition to the special events, children's book authors who will be on hand include Bernadine Cook, author of children's picture books The Little Fish that Got Away, and Looking for Susie; Lori Taylor, author of the new middle grade novel Holly Wild: Bamboozled on Beaver Island; Repka, author of the humorous kids' books The Stupendous Dodgeball Fiasco and The Clueless Girl's Guide to being a Genius; Kathleen Allen, author of many young adult books including Fitzroy: The Boy Who Would be King, and Witch Hunter; and Lizabeth Jenkins-Dale, author of the parenting self-help book Middle School Years Without Tears: Getting Ready (At Any Time) For Wonderful, Awesome, Successful, and Thrilling Middle School Experiences!

The authors will be signing books at 1:30 p.m. at Island Books and Crafts, located on the corner of Portage Avenue and Ashmun Street.

In the atrium at Avery Square, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., tables will be set up where children can participate in crafts, games, and activities, and enjoy snacks. At 10:30 a.m. in the atrium, Susan Askwith will perform as a storyteller. Askwith is a singer-songwriter-storyteller who has written and performed many songs that celebrate Sault history and, with Dave Stanaway, has released a CD.

At 11:15 a.m. in the atrium, participants can compete for a prize for the best-dressed children's book character at the Book Character Dress-Up Contest. Participants may come in costume or dress up in items that will be provided at the festival before the contest begins.

At noon, younger children can enjoy a picture-book party that will take place in the Community Room of Bayliss Library. The party will have a Chinese culture theme. There will be a panda craft session and children can learn some simple Chinese characters. There will be a festive party atmosphere with books, music, crafts, snacks, and games, perfect for pre-schoolers and elementary-age children.

At 2 p.m. in the Community Room of Bayliss Library, local manga artists Dena Bliss and Daisy Fentiman will treat festival participants to a hands-on "Learn to Draw Manga!" presentation. Using the Japanese comic style known as manga, participants of all age and skill levels will be able to create their own drawings to take home.

At 3 p.m. in the Community Room of Bayliss Library, graphic novel expert and LSSU Prof. Chad Barbour will give a presentation on the best graphic novels available today. This event will be geared toward a middle-grade, teen, and young-adult audience. Parents, teachers and other family members are also welcome.

Throughout the festival, participants will be encouraged to swap books with each other. They may bring their own books for swapping or get a free book to swap at the book swap table.

For more information, go to the Superior Children’s Book Festival website.