Local luminaries: Inspiration for writerly kids

Spring is my favorite time of year. Yes, it’s getting warmer and flowers are starting to sprout, but one of the best parts of spring is the Virginia Festival of the Book.
This year’s family events at the Festival spotlight the wealth of literary talent living in and around Charlottesville, giving kids the chance to shake hands and talk with authors, storytellers, artists— even “famous” kids— all of whom might live right down the street.
Marcia Silvermetz is one of these hometown folks who will read from her book, Gertrude the Albino Frog, a story that lets kids know that being different is something special. Photographer Peggy Harrison– whose books, We Love Soccer and We Love Baseball, feature the photos of local preschool sports stars– will be on hand along with the kids who are pictured in the books. Preschool teacher Latifa Berry Kropf, whose students are featured in her book It’s Challah Time!, will also be there, along with the book’s photographer Tod Cohen.
And just so kids don’t get the idea that only adults can be writers, winners from WHTJ’s Reading Rainbow Young Writers and Illustrators are scheduled to present their work in an awards ceremony at the Jefferson Theatre. Middle and high school students from many area schools will read their work at the Omni hotel. And winners of the University of Virginia Art Museum’s Writer’s Eye competition— most of whom are kids— will read at Barnes & Noble. 
Other family Festival fun includes La Hora de los Cuentos en Espanol (Storytime in Spanish), celebrating the Festival of the Book with a special presentation at Central Library. Teens will enjoy the unique brand of poetry presented by The Loudmouth Collective at McGuffey Arts Center. Old Michie Theatre lets little ones peek behind the curtains and meet the puppeteers of Sleeping Beauty before the Saturday afternoon performance. AlbemarleKids returns with their Junior Journalist Workshop. And back by popular demand is the hands-on bookbinding workshop also at the McGuffey.
And kids should not miss the chance to meet Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, one of only three women to play professional baseball in the legendary Negro League. Johnson is the subject of the book, A Strong Right Arm, a young adult chapter book written by Michelle Green. The former ball player will be appearing in a special event at the Omni, where she will sign copies of the book as well as baseball memorabilia.
With so much inspiration right in our own neighborhood, maybe the Festival of the Book will have kids saying, “Hey! I can do that too!”

The Virginia Festival of the Book takes place all over town March 19-23. Most activities are free. A complete schedule of events is available at various locations including libraries, bookshops, and recreation centers. Or check the website, www.vabook.org.