Monday, April 08, 2002

Doesn't This Woman Ever Stay Home?

At this time of year it seems as if anyone interested in children's literature can find a kidlit event to attend nearly every weekend, and I found one this past Saturday at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The Perspectives in Children's Literature Conference was cofounded by Jane Yolen thirty-two years ago. She served as co-director for eight years with Professor Marsha Rudman, who has been directing it ever since. (Kidlit people have incredible staying power.)

Over 450 people attended this conference, mainly teachers and librarians. I have never been to a children's literature event that was not well attended (well, there was one, but you get my point), which is extremely interesting to me since in my daily life within the general population not only do I not find that much interest in children's books among adults, kids' books are often looked down upon by anyone much over the age of fifteen. But within the subgroup of humanity that does have an interest, the interest is huge. Professor Rudman and her staff understand that interest and provided something to nurture every aspect of it.

A freebie table (I'm mentioning that first because isn't it the best part of every conference?) was overflowing with publishers' catalogs, cartons of beautiful book posters, illustrated postcards, bookmarks, and informative brochures. And new stuff kept coming out all day. Usually at these things books written and illustrated by the presenters are offered for sale. This conference offered a book sale that covered three rooms--one room for the presenters and authors/illustrators who were attending the conference and two other rooms of books covering all genres. College conference book sales are sometimes a little on the "improving" side--lots of non-fiction and beautiful books with multi-cultural themes, folktales, award-winners, etc. The Perspectives sale included books for all tastes. There was also a publishers' room, in which maybe fifteen or sixteen publishers had sent copies of books for inspection. Then I stumbled onto a room offering original illustrations for sale.

This was all in addition to the authors who spoke.

In case you haven't picked up on it, I'll be blunt--I had a great time. And for those of you who couldn't be there, I'll give you a report on the speakers I heard over the next week or so.

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