Celebrating Books at the Rochester Children’s Book Festival

The Rochester Children’s Book Festival is one of the very first author events I participated in when my first book came out, and it remains one of my favorites. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a place full of so many enthusiastic readers, and every year it just seems to get better.

In addition to the usual excitement, there were some lovely surprises this year.  One girl, Katie, spent some time chatting with me about her own writing after I’d signed THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. for her at last year’s festival. This year, she came right to my table to get a copy of SUGAR AND ICE and let me know how her book is coming along. (“I finished, and I’m on my first revision!”) I asked her some questions, and she told me all about the changes she’s making since we talked last year. The excitement in her voice reminded me that those of us who write are truly kindred spirits.

My friend Penny came from Hornell, NY to say hi, give hugs, and pick up some books for her fourth graders. Here she is (in the middle) with my husband and me.

My online teacher-friends Andy and Tina came from the Syracuse area to enjoy the festival.

I’ve Skyped with their classes, but this was the first time we got to meet in person. After we’d chatted a little, Andy reached into his backpack. “I’ve got to show you something,” he said…and pulled out these student-created scrapbook pages for MARTY MCGUIRE.

How awesome is that?!  I couldn’t believe how thoughtful Andy was to think of bringing them…and to understand what it would mean to me to see them.

I always end up making new friends at this book festival, too.

These two brothers made the rounds with their grandmother several times before deciding on their books to take home  — and both ended up choosing OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW.  I gently suggested to them that one might want to get a different book and then they could share, but it apparently wasn’t up for discussion, so I signed two copies, and off they went.

And then there was Lily…

She came to show me the OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW collage she’d made in the craft room and then got a copy of her own.  “Please sign it to me. Lily,” she said. “It’s L-I-L-Y.”

“All right… L-I-L-Y.”  I started signing…


“Yep. I got it, Lily.”

“L-I-L-Y… L-I-L-Y…L-I-L-Y.”

Needless to say, her name is spelled correctly on the dedication. 🙂

It was a wonderful day, full of fantastic, friendly kids like Lily, and though I seem to have left my voice back in Rochester, I wouldn’t trade that time with readers for anything.

Many thanks to Kathleen Blasi, Sibby Falk, and ALL the organizers and volunteers who made this magic happen. It was truly an amazing day to be a writer and a reader.

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