Sunday, October 22, 2006

Special Report: Fall Festival of Children's Books

Let me do a little explaining for those of you not from Pittsburgh: once a year for the past 45 years or so, various city institutions (universities, literacy groups, museums, etc.) pool their resources to have a little one-day children’s literature conference. They usually round up three fabulous authors or illustrators, bring ‘em in, and we all get to hear them talk whilst munching on free bagels. Due to such things as childbirth and vacations, I’ve missed the last couple of Fall Festivals, so I was very happy indeed that the stars aligned and I could attend this year. Especially since the conference featured Lynn Rae Perkins, who I am in intense awe of, Bryan Collier, who makes gorgeous pictures, and John Manders, who I didn’t know that much about before the conference, but whom I highly admire now. So: let’s cut to the chase. I know that nobody out there is probably all that interested in reading a minutely detailed play-by-play of the three lectures given by each speaker. Let’s just go with the Top Facts of Interest for each one, eh?

Lynne Rae Perkins

  1. Is a local girl – she grew up just down the river from Pittsburgh
  2. Is just as elegantly beautiful and whimsical as her novels and paintings
  3. Spent time as a child coloring the mortar in her parents’ brick house with crayons to make it look prettier (and whoa, got in trouble for it)
  4. Is the only children’s book author I know who can make a reference to The Talking Heads AND Blade Runner in the same speech, and have it tie in seamlessly
  5. As a child, she attempted to teach her best friend how to play the piano using a cardboard replica of a keyboard. When her friend wasn’t satisfied with this, she realized that “if you want to bring someone close to beauty, you can’t forget the beauty part.”
  6. Talked about what parts of her books were inspired by real-life events: the trailer in Home Lovely is based on a real building; on a school visit Perkins met the grandson of the trailer owner, with pleasant results.

Bryan Collier

  1. Has deep reverence for the subjects of his books
  2. Traveled to Montgomery, Alabama to do research on Rosa Parks for Rosa; actually walked from the bus stop to Parks’ house to see how difficult it was for her to do such a thing
  3. The illustration of the boy in Uptown was modeled by Collier’s nephew. The nephew is now a college freshman and uses Uptown as a way of getting dates
  4. Rambled a bit too much during his speech; it went overtime by a good half hour, leaving poor John Manders with only ten minutes of speaking time. Blah!

John Manders

  1. Spent the bulk of his (alas, hurried) presentation describing the craft of painting and illustration
  2. Is incredibly friendly and a pretty dynamic speaker
  3. He passed around lots of thumbnail sketches, color samples, and storyboards for several of his books (very cool)
  4. Has a pet parrot that likes to sit on the lower rungs of his desk while he works
  5. Likes to use real-life locations as inspiration for his illustrations – the illustrations of the library in Clarence the Copy Cat are based on the architectural details of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, where I work in the children’s department. Yes – that’s our cast-iron hanging globe lamp! Our built-in honey colored bookshelves! Our little red-and-yellow storytime chairs! Our copy machine with the big green button! Ours, ours, OURS, mwah ha ha ha!!! Because of this, some of the original art from Clarence hangs in our director’s office. Rah-rah, team.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

This was a great write-up. Sounds like fun!