Another Children’s Book Festival to hit Hinds Plaza

For 11 years, children’s book authors and illustrators have flocked to Princeton during September to enliven the spirit of reading for area youngsters.

On this day, Sept. 24, Hinds plaza fills with tents, under which are stacks of books that make imagination come to life. With these books are the creative minds behind them, just waiting to sell and sign their stories.

Children and parents spend the day weaving through booths of their favorite authors while also discovering new ones.

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This year, more than 80 of the most acclaimed voices in children’s literature will be present. The festival is one of the largest children’s book festivals on the East Coast.

According to one of the event’s masterminds, Princeton Public Library’s Susan Conlon, the festival is only broadening its target audience. Since the “Twilight” series created a widespread reading phenomenon, there has been a significant increase in publishing for young adults. This year, the festival committee, driven by JaZams Toy Store and Friends of the Princeton Public Library, is excited to have added a teen section to the fest.

Some teen highlights include “Jessica Darling’s It List 3” by Megan McCafferty, “Dove Arising” by Karen Bao and “The Revelations of Louisa May.” Other notable guests include the 2015 Caldecott Honor-winner Lauren Castillo with her book “Nana in the City,” Wendy Mass with the “Space Taxi” series, 2016 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor-winner Angela Dominguez with “Maria Had a Little Llama/María Tenía una Llamita” and more.

“My favorite aspect of the festival is the fun of getting to know the authors and illustrators along with being able to bring this level of talent to the Plaza each year,” Conlon said. “It is fantastic for our community, and we are fortunate to live in a town that truly appreciates it. Providing a space for children to interact directly with authors and illustrators is terrific.”

Conlon, along with Caroline Quinones and other library staff, spend the whole year preparing for the festival. The process begins with a long selection process – which includes screening applications and selecting the authors and illustrators who are to join. Another aspect of the selection process is finding the right illustrator to create the iconic Children’s Book Festival flyer.

Author and illustrator Greg Pizzoli took on the task this year. Pizzoli has written and illustrated “The Watermelon Seed,” the 2014 recipient of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. Characters from his new picture book called “Good Night Owl” dance across the paper of the 2016 poster. Pizzoli will also have a booth at the festival.

“We hope to encourage young children and teens to get excited about reading,” Conlin said exuberantly. “It is so important for children to be allowed to choose their own books and to read for fun. A lot of our authors write very popular books, and if kids see their interests represented in books, they will hopefully become lifelong readers and learners.”

About Erica Chayes Wida

Erica Chayes Wida is a writer, mom, and complete zealot when it comes to poetry, paella and globe collections. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology from UCLA, Erica moved to Italy where the seasons and old architecture inspired her journey back to the East Coast. Since then, she and her husband have created a nest egg locally and, over time, developed a rather grand love affair with the town of Princeton. Erica is senior editor at The Princeton Sun and enjoys fulfilling her Princeton affections on a daily basis. | View all posts by Erica Chayes Wida