On May 17, Gaithersburg will welcome more than 100 authors to the city’s fifth annual book festival, held on the grounds of the Gaithersburg City Hall. This local event has become an important regional literary festival. Authors of every kind of book will be on hand, including writers of thrillers, romance, history, cooking, science, psychology, sports, business — the list is still growing.
While each year the festival attracts readers of all ages, this year, the children’s lineup of nearly three dozen writers is especially diverse and generous. Whether readers are preschoolers, preteens or teens, they’ll discover numerous opportunities to meet and hear from their favorite authors.
More than 30 writers of books for younger readers are expected. Here are four highlights.
Perhaps some adults have never heard of the seven volumes in Rachel Renee Russell’s “Dork Diary Series,” but plenty of elementary and middle school children have. This resident of Virginia is an admitted former dork, and she bases her popular books on her own and her two children’s middle school experiences.
Maybe it’s the history, maybe it’s the romance, maybe it’s the science, but almost everybody, old and young, is interested in trains. Writer and illustrator Brian Floca’s recent book for young readers, “Locomotive,” is a blend of beautiful illustration, history and technology that tells the story of a family’s 1869 journey across America on the newly completed Transcontinental Railroad. Floca, who has written books about ships and space shuttles also, said he wrote “Locomotive” because he “fell in love with these incredible machines, fell in love with the crazy-looking people who operated them and fell in love with the hood ornaments.” The 2013 New York Times Best Illustrated Books Award-winner will be on hand at the book festival to talk about his many loves and the creation of “Locomotive.”
Festival-goers should be on the lookout for James L. Swanson. This author of many biographies and histories written for adults, also writes them for younger readers. In the fall he published his third book for youthful history enthusiasts, “The President Has Been Shot: The Assassination of JFK.” Swanson has great respect for his young readers. “Kids are very sophisticated,” he said in a televised interview on the book and his writing process. “You can’t write down to them — they’ll catch you like ‘that.’”
Authors who write for the very young will be represented at the book festival too. Tad Hills writes books for babies with textured illustrations, as well as picture and board books for toddlers and early readers. When he comes to Gaithersburg, he will share about his newest picture book, “Duck & Goose Go to the Beach,” latest in a series that includes New York Times bestsellers “Duck and Goose” and “Duck, Duck, Goose.”
Participation is a theme in the Children’s Village, and there are many ways for children — and their adults — to be part of the fun and learning. In addition to author presentations, books come alive at the festival’s “Imagination Station” with storytelling, juggling, drama and dance.
Other book-oriented amusements include puppet show presentations sponsored by the Friends of the Quince Orchard Library and performed in their historically accurate Penny Theater. Look for their presentation of Eric Carle’s “The Hungry Caterpillar” and Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Halley Came to Jackson.”
Numerous artisans and volunteers will lead children in craft activities, from bookmarks to bird collages. In the “Book Nook,” Home Depot will help kids construct a personal “writer’s tool box.”
Children can try a wide variety of writing styles, including poetry and drama, in several free workshops. The national nonprofit organization of poets, artists and activists, “Split This Rock,” will sponsor a “spoken word” workshop that will allow young people to explore poetry.
Young people drawn to drama can experience playwriting in a workshop sponsored by Young Playwrights’ Theater, an award-winning, nationally recognized D.C.-based leader in arts education whose programs aim to teach young people that what they think matters and is important.
Other workshops will be announced on the Gaithersburg Book Festival website soon.
Children and their families will also want to be watch for a number of celebrities who plan appearances at the festival, including Ronald McDonald and the infamous Waldo of “Where’s Waldo” fame. Festival-goers will have the chance to meet Oreo, the pony made famous in the book “The Adventures of Oreo and Algonquin,” along with author Leah Taylor Jefferson.
Baseball fans should plan to meet “Keyote,” mascot of the Frederick Keys Baseball Team.
When it is time for a sit-down, children and their families will want to visit the “StoryTime Tent” to hear stories read by authors, school librarians and students. Francisca Moreno, Miss White Oak Outstanding Teen 2014, will entertain with stories and songs in Spanish.
The Gaithersburg Book Festival will be held May 17, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the grounds of Gaithersburg City Hall, 31 S. Summit Ave. Admission, parking and handicap-accessible bus transportation are free. The Gaithersburg Book Festival is funded by sponsors and supported by the city of Gaithersburg. For more information, including the schedule of author presentations and activities, visit www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org.