This past weekend, I attended the Turning the Page: New Stories for Newtown event in Connecticut. The tragedy that befell the people of Newtown at Sandy Hook Elementary School this past December left so many of us wishing we could reach out and help the community recover. This literary festival, cosponsored by the Children’s Book Council (CBC), the C.H. Booth Library’s Books Heal Hearts fund, and many children’s book publishers, including ABRAMS, had an important impact on the community. The two-day event occurred during the ninety-fourth celebration of Children’s Book Week; author/illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi (THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES) proposed this incredible project to the CBC. Robin Adelson, executive director of the CBC, described the program wonderfully, saying that Turning the Page recognized “the healing powers of storytelling and the desire to create new and positive memories for all those in Newtown who continue to suffer.”
On Friday, May 17th, authors and illustrators, including our own Jeff Kinney and Michael Buckley, visited Connecticut schools. I attended Michael’s presentation to grades five through eight at St. Rose of Lima School. The students enjoyed the entire session and laughed the whole way through it. The presentation included Michael having to make the final decision on a school-wide conundrum: Who would win in a fight, a watermelon or a pineapple? (Michael chose a watermelon.) And the crowd erupted in cheers when Michael revealed TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD as his favorite book. After his presentation, a librarian asked me to thank Michael for visiting the school and relayed to me “just how much these kids need to laugh.”
On Saturday, May 18th, the CBC held a book festival at Newtown Middle School that included themed presentations as well as meet and greets with Newtown families, school librarians, and teachers. I was in awe that so many distinguished authors and illustrators took time out of their busy schedules to attend this event: R. L. Stine, Brian Selznick, Christopher Paolini, Peter Brown, Barbara McClintock, Jerry Pinkney, and Jane O’Connor, just to name a few. I heard two school employees share a moment of disbelief about just “how big of a deal” this event really was. The festival presentation topics ranged from “Reimagined Fairytales” to “Iconic Characters” to “Books into Movies,” but there was a collective thread: the beauty and importance of stories, of sharing, and of creating new memories.
Again, Robin Adelson said it best: “This is the kind of outreach that the town wants and needs.” The event inspired and uplifted the attendees, and the sense of gratitude from both the members of the Newtown community and the authors/illustrators themselves was heartwarming. Jeff, Michael, and I were incredibly grateful to attend Turning the Page on behalf of ABRAMS.
Here are some photos from the event:
Morgan Dubin is a publicity & marketing associate at ABRAMS.