Artists and authors who have enriched the lives of both young and old alike were honored Thursday at the 45th annual Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Literature Festival on The University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg campus.
Jane Yolen, author of more than 300 books and winner of the coveted Caldecott Medal, was honored with the festival’s top honor, the Southern Miss Medallion. She was presented the award by Southern Miss President Martha Saunders.
She’s been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the 20th century for her work, which has also earned her six honorary doctorates in literature. Among her more popular works include a series about dinosaurs, which includes such titles as How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?
“I’m still flying, and I suppose I will be for quite some time,” Yolen said of her reaction to receiving the award. “The most important thing is it’s for a body of work - it’s not for a single book but for everything I’ve written. That’s huge for me to know that people value what I have spent a lifetime doing, though I’m not done yet.”
For the first time, the Ezra Jack Keats Awards were presented at the festival. The recipient of the 26th annual Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award was presented to Meg Medina for Tía Isa Wants a Car, while theEzra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award Winner (and New Writer Honor) was presented to Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw for Same, Same but Different.
Margery Cuyler, an award-winning children’s book author and publisher at Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books, was the guest presenter. Deborah Pope, executive director for the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, was also on hand for the presentations.
Keats revolutionized children’s literature culturally and artistically in 1962 with his inclusion of Peter, an African American child living in a large city, in his acclaimed The Snowy Day. The Keats awards were established to honor his work while also encouraging new authors and illustrators in the field of children’s literature.
Keats award winners create books in the spirit of Keats that “celebrate the diverse nature of our people,” Pope said. “The children of the world live in the United States and they deserve to see themselves in the books they read,” she said. “We are talking about books that are beautiful to look at and have wonderful stories that kids will love and that parents will love reading to them.”
The Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival is presented annually by the university’s School of Library and Information Science and de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection. For more information about the festival, online visit www.usm.edu/childrens-book-festival. To learn more about Ezra Jack Keats and the foundation, online visit http://www.ezra-jack-keats.org/