Author donates funds to aid festival, library


Children and young adult author Richard Peck donated $100,000 to the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival and de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at The University of Southern Mississippi.

Children’s Book Festival coordinator Karen Rowell said the funds will aid the de Grummond Collection. The money will help cover registration and travel costs for some regular festival attendees whose sponsors have budget challenges that include travel expenses.

“We have a dedicated group of librarians and teachers from the Southeast region and beyond who, because of budget shortfalls, sometimes find it difficult to attend,” Rowell said. “However, Mr. Peck’s generosity will make it easier for professionals or followers of children’s literature make their way to the festival.”

Peck has won many prestigious awards for children’s literature. He also won the Margaret A. Edwards Award from School Library Journal, the National Council of Teachers of English/ ALAN Award and the 1991 Southern Miss Medallion from the Kaigler Children’s Book Festival. His works include “A Year Down Yonder” and “The River Between Us.” He spoke at the festival’s Ezra Jack Keats Lecture in 2000 and at a de Grummond Lecture in 2010.

“While our list of keynote authors and featured speakers is an important part of every festival, the number and variety of attendees is just as important for making it work,” Rowell said. “Without them, half the discussion would be missing.”

The book festival will be April 6-8 and is expected to have participants from 46 states.

The festival will feature keynote speakers Keats Lecturer Michael Cart, George O’Connor, Joyce Sidman, Melissa Sweet, Coleen Salley, Storytelling Award winner Tim Tingle and Rita Williams- Garcia. The festival will also celebrate the 50th anniversary of the de Grummond Collection by welcoming back 2003 Medallion winner Lois Lowry as the de Grummond Lecturer. Also in celebration, a special Centennial Keats Lecture given by author Deborah Pope will recognize the 100th birthday of children’s literature illustrator and writer Ezra Jack Keats, who died in 1983.

“These awards were established to honor illustrators and writers of children’s books new to the field because very often people don’t get the encouragement they need in the beginning when they need the encouragement the most,” Pope said. “The books are given to writers and illustrators who create books in the spirit of Ezra Jack Keats, not to copy him, but books that celebrate the diverse nature of our population.”