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April 11, 2005 // UPDATED 1:53 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Anna Pratt
Anna Pratt

Festival of Children's Literature

Embarrassingly, in my youth, I was both a librarian's dream and nightmare: When I got my first library card, I checked out huge stacks of books, as many as I could. (Just as countless bookmarks and posters decreed, books could indeed "take you places."). But my obsessive-compulsive behavior also got me into trouble when a librarian complained that I was trying to check out too many books.

My parents didn't help. They fostered my fanaticism. Especially when my mom started a household reading contest wherein a half-hour of reading a day seven days a week earned my siblings and I exactly one dollar each. If I worked really hard, I could make two or three or more dollars by Sunday under the incentive program.

So, having the opportunity to make a profit and satisfy my own interests, I pretended to go to bed at bedtime. Clandestinely, I crawled under the covers with a flashlight to find out what happened at the end of a Nancy Drew mystery (they were that suspenseful). I also loved classics like "The Secret Garden" and anything historical. But before I discovered "chapter books," I was drawn to meticulously drafted pictures, vivid colors and bouncy verses.

Of course, different types of stories appealed to me through time, and I could get fickle (although some titles always remained perennial favorites). Sometimes, I rebelliously chose books for their covers. What interested me one day wasn't sure to be as engaging the next.

Anyone who has ever babysat knows how difficult it is to please kids, no matter what age. Certainly children are a discriminating audience and authors don't have an easy job, even if a story sounds simpleminded and fun.

The Festival of Children's Literature expounds on this trying business of writing for kids. Editors, writers and illustrators discuss how kids read (even those who aren't yet literate), what makes a tale entertaining and informative, and how to market a story. They'll describe current trends and other creative and logistical details in breakout sessions and lectures. Daunting as the pressures of the publishing industry may seem, these speakers lend valuable insight into its many challenges and rewards.

- F-Sa April 15-16.
Loft Literary Center, 1011 Washington Ave. S.
$56. 379-8999, www.loft.org.

Anna Pratt can be reached at annapratt@artlover.com.