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Release: Immediate

UI Festival of Books for Young People focuses on diverse cultural heritage

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Librarians, teachers, and others who are interested in children's literature are invited to the University of Iowa Saturday, Nov. 7 for the 30th Annual Festival of Books for Young People. This year's theme is "Heritage," and guest speakers will discuss children's books that celebrate diverse cultural backgrounds. The one-day event is sponsored by the UI School of Library and Information Science and will be held at the Iowa Memorial Union.

Jean Donham, an assistant professor of library and information science and one of the festival organizers, said the festival gives participants an opportunity to hear authors and illustrators talk about how their personal experiences influence their creations. "It is the story behind the story," she said. "To hear how an author's childhood led to development of a character or where an illustrator gets the ideas for images gives teachers and librarians wonderful insights to share with young people as they introduce them to books and their creators."

This year the festival features illustrator James Ransome, who has illustrated a wide variety of picture books, among them an illustration of James Weldon Johnson's poem, "The Creation," as well as Tony Johnston's The Wagon.. Ransome describes himself as a visual storyteller, saying, "By conveying to young readers the individual traits of characters, I only hope that I am instilling an appreciation for the wonderfully unique qualities and cultural and racial differences we all possess."

Festival participants will also hear from Gary Soto, an acclaimed poet, essayist and fiction writer. In his work he brings to life the sights and sounds of the barrio, the urban Spanish-speaking neighborhood where he was raised. A third featured guest, Joseph Bruchac, brings to the festival a tremendous storytelling talent as he draws on his Native American heritage through poetry and story to give young people insights into cultural values, languages, traditions, and emotions.

The event also includes booktalks with several Iowa children's librarians who will describe books for children and youth. Carol Elbert, Ames Public Library, will share new books for preschool and primary grade children, Barbara Stein and Victoria Walton, school media specialists in Iowa City Community Schools, will describe new books for upper elementary and middle school readers, and Barb Black and Craig Johnson, Iowa City Public Library, will present new books for young adult readers.

The festival also offers a display of hundreds of children's and young adult books published in 1998, giving participants a first-hand look at what's new in this part of the publishing world. Donham said this chance to examine new literature allows teachers and librarians to know what to put on the "must-buy" list for their schools and libraries.

"The 'festival' atmosphere of the day encourages participants to chat, share ideas and opinions and simply re-charge their enthusiasm for the world of literature for young people," Donham said.

The annual festival honors Louane L. Newsome, who taught children's literature at the UI for more than 20 years before her retirement in 1973.

For information on how to register for the festival, contact the UI Center for Conferences and Institutes, (319) 335-3231.