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Children’s Book Festival April 1-3 on Hattiesburg Campus; Event Includes Ezra Jack Keats and Magnolia Book Awards Ceremonies

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 15:59pm | By: David Tisdale

The Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book FestivalThe 53rd edition of the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival, one of the nation’s most popular events that celebrates and advances children’s literature, will be held on the Hattiesburg campus of The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) April 1-3. The event, presented annually by the USM College of Education and Human Sciences’ School of Library and Information Science and the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, will again also serve as host for the Ezra Jack Keats Awards, as well as the Magnolia Book Awards ceremonies.

This year’s recipient of the festival’s top award, the Southern Miss Medallion, is Rita Williams-Garcia, an author of novels for young adults whose Newbery Honor-winning novel, One Crazy Summer, is also a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Author Award, a National Book Award Finalist, the recipient of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, and a New York Times bestseller. She is a previous presenter at the festival.

Rita Williams-GarciaWilliams-Garcia is also the author of six distinguished novels for young adults: Jumped, a National Book Award finalist; No Laughter Here, Every Time a Rainbow Dies (a Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book), Fast Talk on a Slow Track (an American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults recognition recipient); Blue Tights; and Like Sisters on the Homefront, which earned the Coretta Scott King Honor Book designation.

“We're so excited Rita Williams-Garcia is returning to the Fay B. Kaigler Festival, this time as our medallion recipient,” said Karen Rowell, director of the festival. “From her cherished Gaither Sisters series, which have become contemporary classics of childhood, to her pioneering, fearless young adult classics including Like Sisters on the Homefront, she is one of the most influential and beloved writers for young people today and we're thrilled to be giving her the recognition her work deserves at this year's festival.”

The Ezra Jack Keats Awards Foundation, in partnership with the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection at Southern Miss, will recognize the winners of the award, as each year a writer and an illustrator are recognized early in their careers for their outstanding work. The Magnolia Book Awards recognize books voted as a favorite by Mississippi children and teens in four age categories, with the goal of introducing the state’s youth to current literature in the field and instilling a love for reading.

In 2012, the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation brought the Ezra Jack Keats Award, established in 1985 and given annually to an outstanding new writer and new illustrator, to USM to be administered by the de Grummond Collection. The Snowy Day, written by Keats, is the New York Public Library’s most frequently checked-out book across time and genres.

The de Grummond Collection is the exclusive repository of all of Keats’ original artwork and papers. In 1980, USM awarded Keats the Silver Medallion for Outstanding Service in the Field of Children’s Literature, and in 1985 the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection became the home of the Keats Archive.

The Children’s Book Festival annually draws approximately 400 visitors to USM and Hattiesburg annually, including librarians, educators and fans of the genre who enjoy and benefit from the event’s programing that includes lectures and workshops featuring renowned authors and illustrators and other experts in the field who share their knowledge and experiences creating timeless stories and images enjoyed by both youth and adults. CEUs are available for Mississippi educators.

In addition to Williams-Garcia, other children’s literature icons serving as keynote presenters for the event include Matthew Cordell (Wolf in the Snow), Michael Fry (The Naughty List) , Sonia Manzano (“Maria” from the television series Sesame Street, who is the 2020 Festival’s de Grummond Lecture presenter), Megan McDonald (author of the Julie Albright series), Daniel Jose Older (Shadowshaper), Jason Reynolds (All American Boys) and Randy Testa (Harvard Graduate School of Education, Ezra Jack Keats Lecture presenter).

For a complete schedule of events and other information about the 53rd annual Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival, visit or contact Rowell at karen.rowellFREEMississippi. Follow the festival for upcoming announcements about its schedule of events by signing up for its listserv at, and like the Festival on Facebook at