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Sixteen authors to take part in Youth Literature Festival at U of I

by Sharita Forrest / Oct 1, 2012

Celebrated authors of books for children and adults will share their enthusiasm for their craft in a series of events as part of the College of Education’s biennial Youth Literature Festival, to be observed Thursday-Saturday (Oct. 4-6).

“Literature at the Heart of Our Lives” is the theme of this year’s festival. The event, YLF's fifth, celebrates the ways in which written works enrich peoples’ lives and promotes reading as fun. Hands-on activities, performances and author presentations will be available for literature lovers of all ages to enjoy on Community Day, Saturday (Oct. 6) at the iHotel and Conference Center in Champaign.

“Much research tells us that there is a direct correlation between reading and success in today’s world,” said Mary Kalantzis, the dean of the college. “Our Youth Literature Festival brings 16 magnificent authors to our local communities to enthrall and inspire our students. It is wonderful to see the intensive preparation by schools for these visits and the consequent bump in the borrowing of library books by students. Our day of festivities – involving public readings, puppetry, multimodal storytelling, advice about effective reading strategies and much fun – brings together educators, parents, grandparents and many others to demonstrate just how much we value the power and joy of reading.”

This year’s participating authors will visit 58 schools and libraries in Champaign-Urbana and surrounding communities on the first two days of the festival to share their love of literature with area children through assemblies, book discussions, readings and writing workshops.

Chicago-based author Blue Balliett is among the 16 artists participating in the 2012 festival. Balliett’s bestselling books have been translated into more than 35 languages and garnered the Edgar Award and the Chicago Tribune Prize for Young Adult Fiction. Balliett’s fourth and most recent book is “The Danger Box,” a mystery set in a tiny town in Michigan with a plot that explores the nature of science and the special capabilities of people with physical disabilities.

Also participating this year:

Acclaimed photographer and author Nic Bishop, a prolific artist who has more than 60 children’s books to his credit but began his career writing and producing photography for natural history books for adults. Educated as a biologist, Bishop has explored the remote cloud forests of New Guinea, survived ice avalanches in News Zealand and trekked the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. His books on spiders, tree kangaroos and tarantulas each won the American Library Association’s Robert F. Sibert Honor Award. Bishop’s numerous other honors include the Orbis Pictus Award and The Boston Globe-Horn Book Award.

U. of I. alumnus Nnedi Okorafor, a science-fiction/fantasy writer, playwright and essayist, whose works for adults and children explore many themes salient to her ancestral homeland of Nigeria, including death, myths and magic, and poverty in oil-rich regions. A professor of creative writing at Chicago State University, Okorafor has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the World Fantasy Award and the Kindred Award for her first adult novel, “Who Fears Death” (DAW Books, 2010).

Poets Pat Mora and Greg Neri, three-time Emmy Award-winning comedy writer Bill Odenkirk, storytellers Joseph Bruchac and Dan Keding, and nature writers April Pulley Sayre and Jennifer Ward.

Author biographies and a complete schedule for Community Day, which will be 10 a.m.-3 p.m., is available on the website. Admission and parking will be free at the hotel and conference center, 1900 S. First St.

Community partners and sponsors of this year’s festival: Adams Outdoor Advertising, Busey Bank, Carle Foundation, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, the Kiwanis Club of Champaign-Urbana, the News-Gazette and Starr Limousines.

U. of I. partners and sponsors: the College of Education, the Deparmtent of Special Education Special Friends Project, the University Library and WILL/Illinois Public Media.