Time to celebrate kids and books: Mass Kids Lit Fest offers a wealth of programs in Valley during Children’s Book Week

LaRocca

LaRocca Image courtesy Mass Center for the Book

Author and cycling enthusiast Christina Uss comes to the Easthampton Public Library on May 8 to talk books, bicycling, and fixing a flat tire.

Author and cycling enthusiast Christina Uss comes to the Easthampton Public Library on May 8 to talk books, bicycling, and fixing a flat tire. Image courtesy Mass Center for the Book

Lerner

Lerner Image courtesy Mass Center for the Book

The Mass Kids Lit Fest, a new program created by the Massachusetts Center for the Book in Northampton, takes place during the national program Children’s Book Week, May 6-12.

The Mass Kids Lit Fest, a new program created by the Massachusetts Center for the Book in Northampton, takes place during the national program Children’s Book Week, May 6-12. Image courtesy Mass Center for the Book

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 04-25-2024 11:56 AM

Just in time to coincide with Children’s Book Week, a national event established in 1905, the Massachusetts Center for the Book (MCB) has created a children’s literary showcase here in the Valley.

The Mass Kids Lit Fest, a new book festival taking place May 6-12, will feature readings, workshops, and author and illustrator visits by Massachusetts artists at numerous locations across Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties — all designed to celebrate the joy and importance of reading for children and young teens.

Partnering with the Center for the Book, a Northampton organization affiliated with the U.S. Library of Congress, are public libraries in communities up and down the Valley, as well as selected schools, the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, High Five Books in Florence, the Children’s Museum at Holyoke, and other locales.

Among those leading the free programs and readings are Rajani LaRocca, a Mass Book Award winner and Newberry honoree who also happens to be a Harvard-trained physician; Jarrett Lerner, creator of the “EngiNerds” series of middle grade novels; and bestselling graphic novelist and illustrator Scott Magoon.

There’s plenty of variety in the festival. Magoon, for instance, will offer a drawing demonstration and workshop at the South Hadley Public Library. Christina Uss, an avid biker who’s written middle-grade novels about a young girl’s cycling adventures, will talk about her books at the Easthampton Public Library — and she’ll show you how to fix a flat tire, t.

Meantime, Jonathon Todd, author of the middle-grade graphic novel “Timid” and a co-founder of the Boston Kids Comics Fest, will lead a drawing workshop at the Clapp Memorial Library in Belchertown. And the mother-and-daughter team of Corinne Demas and Artemis Roehrig will read from their picture book “Do Jellyfish Like Peanut Butter?” at the Ware Library.

Three area legislators — State Representatives Mindy Domb and Patricia Duffy, and State Senator John Velis — will also do readings at regional public libraries as part of the festival.

“The idea of a festival was a no-brainer given the strong community of children’s and young adult authors in Massachusetts,” Courtney Andree, executive director of the MCB, said in a statement.

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“We know that author visits and events lead to improvement in kids’ reading enjoyment, attitudes, and confidence, boosting reading frequency and comprehension,” she added.

Andree also said MCB, in launching this pilot program in the Valley, hopes to take the project statewide in the future by “prioritizing programming and partnerships in gateway cities and rural areas.”

For adults, there’s a panel discussion and reception at the Northampton Center for the Arts that will feature authors LaRocca, Mary Wagley Copp (another Mass Book award winner), and Hannah Moushabeck.

Their presentation, “Kidlit Beyond Borders,” will focus on the critical impact of migration stories on young readers as they develop cultural understanding and a sense of belonging.

The Mass Center for the Book, which also hosts the annual Mass Book Awards, began in 2000 as a collaborative project of six organizations in the state, including the Boston Public Library and Five Colleges, Inc. Today it’s one of 50 book agencies — one from each state — that work with the Library of Congress to advance the value of books and reading.

There are over two dozen events on tap for the Mass Kids Lit Fest. You can learn more about them by visiting makidslitfest.org.

Steve Pfarrer can be raeched at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.