Under sunny, bright blue skies, and with some 8,000 attendees and 152 authors gathered in downtown Chappaqua on October 5, the 2019 Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival had “its best day ever,” said founder Dawn Greenberg, “And we can’t wait to do it again.” The ‘literary loyalty’ on hand,” she said, included Ce Ce Bell who travelled from Virginia, Jarrett J Krosoczka, Nikki Grimes, and Dan Gutman. “All were lovely and so thrilled to meet so many excited readers in one place.” The event is possible due to the creative and hardworking efforts of the CCBF’s Board of Directors Greenberg, Madeline Finesmith, Amy Kaiser, Joanna Segal, Lori Morton, Cheryl Fisher, Arianna Grassia and Sally Cook, plus many generous sponsors. Behind the scenes, a village of volunteers work everything from author hospitality and panels to costumed characters and downtown decoration, and more! Visit CCBFestival.org to stay abreast of 2020 plans.
A new story for your bookshelf. A photograph with your favorite author. A signed copy of a book you love. On October 5th, the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival (“CCBF”) returns to Robert E. Bell Middle School, offering area children and their parents the opportunity to meet the writers behind the most popular children’s stories and find or foster a love for reading. With a record 145 authors scheduled to attend and a wide selection of special events and activities, the 7th annual Festival is primed to build on prior years’ great success, expected to attract over 8,000 visitors.
Voted the Best Annual Festival by Westchester Magazine, the CCBF is proud to host a variety of esteemed authors in October, including big names in children’s literature such as Kate Messner, Dan Gutman, David Kirk, Padma Venkatraman, and Tiffany Jackson. A number of these authors will participate in themed panels throughout the day, offering visitors a chance to hear the voices behind their favorite stories and learn about the writing process at large. Kicking off the author panel will be a keynote address from New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka, whose more than 30 published books include the Platypus Police Squad middle school series as well as his popular graphic novel collection titled Lunch Lady.
Exciting New Panel Presentations
While visitors will have ample opportunity to meet writers and purchase books at the individual author tables, new panels will offer a deeper look into the values and objectives behind the creation of children’s literature, exploring a variety of themes and topics intended to engage both young readers and their parents. Author participants on the “Keeping it Real” panel will discuss their experiences with nonfiction writing, while those on “All the Feels” will examine how their books help children make sense of their feelings and emotions. “Girls in the World” contributors will explore how their books depict the empowerment and growth of young girls throughout the complex issues faced during their developmental years.
Additionally, this year’s panel series will welcome Project LIT Community, described by founder Jarred Amato as a “national, grassroots literacy movement” through which dedicated authors empower young people “as readers, writers, and leaders” by sharing books that “make them feel seen, heard, affirmed, and valued”. Project LIT unites educators and students through books that teach youth about current events and culture, helping them become leaders who can make their voices heard.
Growing Every Year
The Chappaqua’s Children’s Book Festival has become one of Westchester County’s signature and largest events, garnering national attention and growing immensely in size and scope to accommodate larger numbers of both visitors and authors. Outreach efforts extend to schools and libraries in Westchester, Connecticut and New York City, welcoming families from well beyond the Chappaqua community and making this year’s festival likely the largest yet.
To ensure the safety of the growing number of visitors, CCBF organizers have arranged for the town to close off lower Greeley Avenue during the event, creating an easier path for families arriving by train or parking in the train station lot. The closed road, as well as the Bell soccer field, will allow more space for sponsors and food trucks, accommodating the anticipated attendees as well as abundant activities and refreshments.
Also appearing at the Festival will be KidLit TV, a website that connects parents and educators with authors, illustrators, and their work. The station will be broadcasting from the Festival with live interviews from the many visiting authors taking part in the event. Author readings, always an integral part of the CCBF, will now take place in the gazebo on the Recreation Field, and various activities involving art and music will add to the festivities. With a dedication to the principles of community and literacy, a portion of book sale proceeds will go to local literacy programs, encouraging area schools to invest in their reading programs and ensuring that the values of CCBF reach far beyond the Festival itself.
As a community-based event, CCBF is proud to engage both local organizations and families for this highly anticipated day that connects writers and readers in a shared love of literature.
Financial Asset Management of Chappaqua (FAM), one of the festival’s sponsors will be supporting a variety of lead-up events throughout the month of September, including window decorations of local businesses, an art show by author and illustrator Mara Van Fleet and a Storywalk created by the Chappaqua Public Library.
So clear your calendar for October 5th to attend the 7th Annual Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival. ccbfestival.org for more information or to sign up as a volunteer at the event or become a sponsor.
Listening to Scott Mason wax poetic (pun intended!) about haiku, a traditional form of Japanese poetry, it is clear that he has a true passion for the subject having published close to 400 haiku in edited literary journals or anthologies. And that passion has helped him earn more than 150 awards, including more than 20 first place finishes in international competitions– more than any other North American, in the genre. To coincide with National Poetry Month coming in April and the launch of his latest book, The Wonder Code, Inside Press had the opportunity to sit down with this prolific poet and learn more about this art form.
Mason claims writing and also reading haiku (it is the same in both singular and plural form) has changed his outlook on life. Admitting that it sounds grandiose, Mason claims that haiku has made him “more attentive and more appreciative.” The Chappaqua resident though never intended to become a haiku poet. “If you told me twenty years ago that I would be doing this, I would have looked at you like you have three heads,” he chuckles.
As an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, Mason majored in art and did a minor in math and physics. He obtained his MBA at Harvard Business School and worked in advertising at Prudential. Following that he consulted for advertising agencies to help them strategize and win new business opportunities. “My background isn’t what people typically think of when they think about poets.”
Always an avid traveler, Mason and his wife Carla Gambescia (the former owners of the now defunct Via Vanti in the Mount Kisco train station) took a hiking trip to Japan in the early 1990s with a company called Wilderness Travel. The tour guide challenged the group to write their own haiku over dinner one evening in the traditional Japanese format of three lines with, five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second and five again in the last line. Mason wrote one but didn’t think much about it at the time.
Fast forward a decade later and Mason found himself wanting to express himself poetically. As he took his first attempts at writing, he noticed that his poems were short and resembled haiku.
He later learned that haiku poems in English do not need to conform to a 5-7-5 structure since English and Japanese word sounds are not comparable in duration. On a whim, he sent some of his poems to Modern Haiku magazine and they accepted one of his haiku for publication.
Since then he has become the co-editor of The Heron’s Nest, an online and print haiku journal with an international readership. Having an analytical mind, Mason sought to figure out why this form of poetry resonated with him so deeply and what characteristics the best haiku have in common. He poured through 9,000 haiku that had been published over the years in The Heron’s Nest and eventually chose his favorites writing each one on index cards. He sorted through them and found to his surprise that the poems wound up naturally being organized into five piles. “Each poem had one common denominator and that is wonder. Now wonder is both a verb and a noun and they operated on me in both ways. These poems brought me to wonder in some ways but also caused me to wonder in a verb sense,” explained Mason.
The five groups also had some imperative that eventually formed the five chapters of The Wonder Code. So for example, think small was an imperative and the haiku in that particular pile all focused on things like small animals or bugs. It struck Mason that this was the “diametric opposite of our culture and our times. Each haiku seemed to offset some aspect of our Western culture that tend to estrange us from wonder. Americans want big cars, big restaurant portions. Bigger is better is our credo but there is so much wonder and beauty in small things.”
Mason is gratified that this book has been so well-received in the haiku community but hopes to expand its readership to a wider audience. Kirkus Reviews magazine noted that is “ a superb haiku collection for readers who thought they didn’t like poetry, richly expressive and very accessible.” The first five chapters feature haiku written by various authors and the last chapter features haiku written by Mason. The book also received a Kirkus Star which signifies a book of exceptional merit.
As we wrap up the interview, Mason reminds us that “haiku is the people’s poetry. It is the opposite of elitist and truly treasures the everyday.” Mason will be giving a presentation on “Looking at Nature the Haiku Way” on March 27 from 7-8:30 pm at Teatown in Ossining–a place where he enjoys hiking and of course has inspired many of his haiku. Tickets are available at teatown.org/events/haiku-way where his book will be available for purchase at the event.
By Scott Mason
Venetian canal –
lifting fog reveals
another mask shop
of toe prints on sand
The sixth annual Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival was held on Saturday, September 29th at the Robert E. Bell Middle School’s grounds. With a bright blue sky above, smiling faces all around, overjoyed kids playing and browsing their favorite books, the festival was a special and memorable day for the approximate 7,000 local book lovers as well as visitors from as far away as Boston, Albany, Maryland and New York City.
The goal of this year’s festival was to attract people from all backgrounds and expose children to authors and books about different cultures. The festival showcased a diverse group of 95 authors. The festival exceeded its expectations as the kids were quite eager to learn about the unique culture and diversity around them through the pages of books and conversations with the authors.
The event saw a huge turnout this year. Dawn Greenberg, the event organizer, said “The police estimated there were at least 7,000 attendees. Last year we had about 6,000. We worked very hard to get the word out throughout schools in Westchester County, lower Connecticut and New York City. Our goal was to have every child in the area attend and get a book.” The festival sold more than 9,000 books.
Rye Brook resident Michael Barnett attended the book festival with his two daughters. He stated “I’ve been to this book festival several times. This is the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen. We did notice a lot of books with characters of different races and ethnicities and I think it’s great.”
Inside Chappaqua asked several authors and illustrators “What does diversity at the festival mean to you?”
Torrey Maldonado, who was voted a “Top 10 Latino Author” and best Middle Grade and Young Adult novelist for African Americans, uses his students and his experiences in his work. He said “Being here at the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival is amazing. I feel like I am more at an amusement park. Because every book is a different journey, different thrill ride. You can get elementary, early childhood books or just enjoy something fun and thrilling at that level. I have met a lot of different people here from different places so it seems to be like the United Nations, but about books.”
Jerry Craft, an illustrator and author who has won five African American Literary awards, said “It’s showing the crowd different kinds of books that they may not necessarily be familiar with. Whether it is boys having books that have female characters, African American characters or Latino characters. That’s something I always try to vary in my work.”
John Parry is an illustrator. “I think diversity represents all of us. For me, most of my book focuses on Latino culture or other different cultures. Growing up, all my friends were from different backgrounds and different families and learning from each one of those families is so important. I think that helps to influence me in my work. Having the background I have is a very positive thing for me. So, I celebrate those things. Like diversity, the more the merrier, and everyone is invited to the party.”
Vivek Agastya is a Chappaqua resident who thinks it is important for his kids to be exposed to diversity in literature: “As the dad to two Chappaqua girls that are part of a minority community, I think it’s helpful for my kids to be able to experience literature that has a diverse theme. The diversity theme of the festival gives me a chance to expose them to that.”
MORE PHOTOS BY BO SANDERS
The sixth annual Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival comes to town on Saturday, September 29th with more of everything–new authors, food trucks, activities and special attractions like the Bubble Bus.
Food trucks will include Mobile Pie, Walter’s Hot Dogs, The Melt Mobile and Three Little Pigs. Dessert will be available at the Great Chappaqua Bake Sale and also at Penny Lick Ice Cream’s cart which will feature a custom CCBF flavor in homage to author Bernard Most: If the Dinosaurs Came Back for Ice Cream. The Mike Risko Band and the Random Farms Kids’ Theater will provide entertainment.
Ninety-four authors including favorites like Victoria Kann, Rosemary Wells, Nick Bruel, Jane Yolen and Mark Teague will sign books and chat with their fans. Books are available through Best Book Fairs (cash or credit cards accepted). The festival, an all-volunteer effort, will also feature 18 new authors. A focus for the festival’s organizers was bringing books to a more diverse audience in 2018.
Dawn Greenberg, founder and executive director of the festival, noted: “Each year the author selection committee attempts to find books that will offer our visiting families the opportunity to be transported by our authors to different and diverse worlds, giving them a window on all kinds of characters and experiences–real and fictional. We are thrilled to bring in a wide selection of authors and genres this year who are getting great buzz in the children’s publishing world for their riveting stories and fresh voices.”
Snapshots from 2017