Children’s Book Festival big hit with kids, adults

By Sean Barron


Five-year-old Josiah Moss of Liberty Township was proud of the colorful drawing he had made that depicted tulips, a cupcake and a mouse on top of a large pencil, but more went into his artwork than probably met the eye.

That’s because the E.J. Blott Elementary School kindergarten student attended a half-hour session Wendy Anderson-Halperin had given on the importance of learning and applying good fine-motor skills to art and countless other endeavors.

“I teach how to hold the pencil correctly and change the pressure on the crayon. Doing that makes many colors,” explained the South Haven, Mich., artist and illustrator of more than 30 children’s books.

Anderson-Halperin added her main priority is helping children in kindergarten through second grade improve their fine-motor abilities.

Anderson-Halperin was among the guest illustrators and authors who conducted workshops as part of Saturday’s 10th annual Children’s Book Festival at Mill Creek MetroParks’ Fellows Riverside Gardens and D.D. and Velma Davis Education & Visitor Center, 123 McKinley Ave., on the West Side.

Hundreds of children and adults came to the five-hour indoor and outdoor family-friendly gathering, called “Grow Through Reading.” The event was designed to encourage literacy and further connect youngsters with books and other reading materials, noted Samie Winick, a festival committee member and volunteer.

Mill Creek MetroParks, the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, Western Reserve Public Media and the International Altrusa Foundation Inc., a service organization dedicated to promoting literacy, were main sponsors said Winick, who also is a former special-education teacher in the Youngstown City Schools.

“He’s always loved to draw, even at the age of 2,” Angela Moss said, referring to her son, Josiah. “My father-in-law is an artist, so he gets his skill from him.”

Anderson-Halperin wrote and illustrated a book titled “Peace,” which contains more than 100 quotes from civil-rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others on promoting nonviolence. She also had on hand two colorful, quote-filled chairs, one of which was painted by several children at Sojourner House, a facility for victims of domestic violence.

Another big draw was David Catrow of Columbus, an author and artist who has created illustrations for close to 100 books with titles such as “I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More,” “I Like Myself” and “Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon” by Patty Lovell. “Have Fun” is based on and named after a girl who sat in front of him in first grade, Catrow recalled.

“We all have a natural, instinctual ability to have fun,” he said in explaining a main theme that runs through his books.

Sadly, today’s high-tech world has created more stress for many people and has caused them to disconnect with one another and lose the desire to “manufacture our own fun,” he continued.

In several 30-minute seminars he gave, Catrow used humor and storytelling techniques to point out that artists have ideas and the ability to communicate them, something that many other people also have and can use if they’re willing to tap into them.

To highlight that point, Catrow drew a humorous self-portrait while using colorful anecdotes to explain that art is a work in progress and never perfect.

“These lines talk to me; I actually listen to them,” he said to laughter.

The festival also featured information on literacy and developmental milestones in youngsters, a variety of children’s books for sale, puppet shows to music and crafts made from recycled newspaper, folders and paper. Also available were handouts from Eastern Gateway Community College and the local Head Start program.

Other guest authors and illustrators who conducted workshops were Dar Hosta James and Tim Hartman.

Guest readers were Heidi Daniel, the public library system’s executive director; Ellen Tressel, wife of Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel; and Mayor John A. McNally.

Additional attractions were Curious George, the Man with the Yellow Hat and the Magic School Bus.

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