Event inspires children to love reading and the arts
By Sidney Schumann Levesque
The official Storybook Capital of Texas will celebrate international artist Oliver Jeffers at the seventh annual Children’s Art & Literacy Festival (CALF), June 7-9 in historic downtown Abilene.
“Abilene learned ‘How to Catch a Star’ when the NCCIL invited Jeffers to be this year’s festival honoree,” said Lynn Barnett, executive director of the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council, which organizes the three-day event. “He is an artist whose work is adored by children and celebrated by adults.”
Jeffers’ original work will go on exhibit June 7 for the summer at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature in downtown Abilene. The NCCIL was the first museum in the nation to exclusively exhibit children’s picture book art. The exhibit, “Oliver Jeffers: 15 Years of Picturing Books,” will include many original pieces from his best-selling books.
Jeffers’ latest book, “Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth,” has topped the New York Times’ Best Seller List since its debut last fall. He has been honored with more than 50 international literary awards, and his multi-media work has been exhibited in Berlin, Dublin and Belfast, Sydney, New York City, Washington, D.C.
Jeffers will be in Abilene for the opening of his art exhibition and for the CALF festivities, which start Thursday afternoon with an Oliver Jeffers character costume contest followed by the Storybook Parade through Abilene’s historic district. After the parade, a new sculpture in the Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden will be unveiled – Marcel the moose, based on Jeffers book “This Moose Belongs to Me.” The bronze sculpture, crafted by artist Steve Neves, will be the 25th sculpture added to Abilene’s whimsical public sculpture collection.
Stay for food trucks and entertainment during “The Night the Crayons Partied” at the Abilene Convention Center. Meet the renowned illustrator at an artist talk and book signing at the historic Paramount Theatre at 6:30 that evening. All events Thursday night are free.
Friday and Saturday, festival registrants can choose from a dizzying selection of stimulating activities scattered throughout 14 downtown locations. Children collect keepsake buttons for their festival lanyards as they complete each activity, which includes dramatic readings of Jeffers’ most popular books, art activities, a ventriloquist, train rides, musical instrument petting zoo, and perennial childhood favorites like a magician and balloon sculptor.
Abilene has the largest collection of public storybook sculptures in the country. The Texas legislature already deemed the city “The Storybook Capital of Texas,” and local arts council leadership has applied to trademark the image on a national scale: christening the town the Storybook Capital of America.
A Storybook Sculpture Audio Tour and festival scavenger hunt are handy to download to mobile phones via iTunes.
Last year’s literacy festival drew more than 4,780 people from nearly 81 cities across Texas and eight states. Past festival honorees have included Dr. Seuss, Walter Wick, David Shannon, Williams Joyce and Garth Williams.
Registration opened in February. Tickets are $8 for children ages 2 to 12 (2 and under are free) and $13 for ages 13 and up. After May 15, tickets cost $11 for children and $16 for adults.
For more information and full schedule of events, visit www.abilenecalf.com or call 325-677-1161.