Most people mark the ides of March (or at least a few days afterward) with green beer, but in the subtropics it means something vastly more important ... Southwest Florida Reading Festival time. Because we are where we are, a lot of very excellent authors don't mind coming down for a break from shoveling snow to hawk their wares, or at least present and sign them. This year's reading fest takes place Saturday, March 16 down on the riverfront and I'm really excited about the line-up for the kid set. Plus the Greek food vendor, of course.
The good news is that even if you're not spending the end of winter in paradise, you can still check out these writers and illustrators:
Tedd Arnold's Fly Guy Series
Dr. Seuss rescued us from the monotony of Dick and Jane, and a generation later a couple of authors have moved the easy reader genre even further forward. (Mo Willems, the reigning king of the beginning reader, needs his own post later.) Tedd Arnold's Fly Guy has earned his ranking in the easy reader hall of fame. Where else can you read a book and come away with warm feelings about a fly that is actually cute? With just a few words per page and good repetition, these are perfect for very beginning readers. Even better, they are hilariously funny, so adults can stand reading them, too!
Once you move past the easy reader days, check out Arnold's Parts. It's even funnier and spawned two sequels.
The Ivy + Bean Series by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall
Ivy and Bean are two sevenish-year-old girls who like to get into trouble together, sometimes involving playing pranks on babysitters and older siblings. If you're a literalist who thinks kids books should only feature well-behaved children with no penchant for misadventure, this is not the series for you. (We won't discuss whether or not you are missing the point of fun reading.) But if you like spunk combined with wonderful pencil drawings, I highly recommend these. Ivy + Bean (there are now nine books in the series) is a great next step from Junie B. or Horrible Harry, and perfect for most first through third graders.
Bob Shea's Dinosaur vs. Series
If you view life with your preschooler as one wrestling match after another, both between you and your kid and your kid and the situations s/he encounters, you should own at least one book from this series. Whether he's riding a bike, going to bed, visiting the library, or meeting Santa, Dinosaur tackles (literally) each new experience with aplomb. Frenetic energy, a strong sense of invincibility, and lots of loudness are the hallmarks of this series. Dinosaur says, "ROAR ROAR ROAR DINOSAUR WINS," and indeed, the Dinosaur vs. books do just that.
This is the author/illustrator I am most looking forward to seeing at the reading festival. Nelson is a multiple-award winning artist, whose outsized, detailed renderings have brought numerous juvenile biographies to the next level. His books suit kids from about second through sixth grades. My two favorites are Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom and Abe's Honest Words. Above is the cover from Nelson's latest title, Nelson Mandela. I have a thing for children's biographies and even more of a thing for those that are particularly well delivered. Kadir Nelson is where that's at.
Besides the list above, Gail Carson Levine (remember Ella Enchanted?) and Melanie Watt (Chester is very cool!) will be present, along with three young adult authors and hordes of adult ones. Every kid gets a free book and lots of crafts and other shows are available. Plus the Greek food. Join me.