Children’s Book Festival opens registration

Published 8:00 am Sunday, September 3, 2023

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The favorite field trip of thousands of Southside Virginia children and teenagers is back for its 10-year anniversary with a lineup of award-winning and national bestselling authors and illustrators.

The Virginia Children’s Book Festival (VCBF) — the largest book festival for young people on the East Coast — will be held on the campus of Longwood University Oct. 11-13.

Registration for school groups and home-school groups of 10 or more begins Sept. 5. Teachers and administrators can plan which sessions they would like to attend by visiting the up-to-date schedule at On the morning of Sept. 5, the sessions will open to be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Session attendance is based on room capacity.

Individual families or people are not required to register for individual sessions.

“We are honored to have served this community for 10 years,” said Juanita Giles, VCBF founder and executive director. “This year will be a celebration of the last 10 years as we welcome back many of our favorite authors like Peter Brown (The Wild Robot), two-time Caldecott Award winner Sophie Blackall (Hello Lighthouse), LeUyen Pham (The Bear Who Wasn’t There), Tim Ering (The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone), and Johnny Marciano (Klawde), as well as some new faces that will excite our young people like Abby Hanlon (Dory Fantasmagory), Barbara McClintock (Adele & Simon), and Doreen Spicer-Dannelly (Love Double Dutch)!”


The three-day event will be punctuated by sessions with the authors and illustrators of two runaway bestsellers: the Last Kids on Earth series and Wonder. Max Brallier, who wrote Last Kids on Earth, will be joined by Jay Cooper, a VCBF veteran, who has illustrated the graphic novels in the popular series set in post-apocalyptic times. The pair will appear at several sessions on all three days of the festival.

Also appearing Friday, which is geared toward teens and young adults, is R.J. Palacio, author of the celebrated novels Wonder, Pony, and White Bird. She will be joined by another VCBF veteran, the National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature and Newbery Medal recipient Meg Medina. Wonder also found its way to the screen as a 2017 box office smash starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson.

“Even the most reluctant of teen readers are compelled by the story of Augie Pullman in Wonder,” said Giles. “It has an incredible power and real humanity that young people are drawn to, and I cannot wait to see the looks on their faces when they meet R.J. Palacio and tell her what her words have meant to them.”

As has become expected of the Virginia Children’s Book Festival, many sessions will feature innovative programming that brings books to life.

Students will help build working robots at Peter Brown’s sessions. Sophie Blackall and Barbara McClintock, two illustrators who have drawn books about horses, will have actual horses at their sessions together. Pablo Cartaya takes students — literally — to a basketball court where he shoots hoops as he discusses writing. X. Fang’s sessions center around her book Dim Sum Palace – and students in her sessions will make actual dumplings.


For a limited number of special classes, the VCBF is continuing its signature Hip-Hop In Children’s Literature program, a three-day intensive study of a novel with the author and a hip-hop artist, in which the classes write and produce a hip-hop song and music video based on the themes of the novel. High school English teachers who want to learn more about the Hip-Hop In Children’s Literature program are encouraged to reach out directly to Giles.

“Every year we try to make reading and illustrating exciting for our young people who come to the festival,” said Giles. “A lot of the time that means putting them in a position to see how inspiration strikes authors and illustrators so that they can recognize that impulse to write or draw or read when it hits them. There’s nothing like listening to students spontaneously start talking about the books they are going to write!”

Each day at the Virginia Children’s Book Festival is broken into three sessions. Classes often choose three distinct sessions, with built-in time to eat lunch, visit the VCBF bookstore, and have books signed by their favorite authors.

No book festival would be complete without a mural by Farmville native and painter Monty Montgomery, who annually collaborates with a VCBF illustrator on a larger-than-life mural project that children contribute to at the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts during the three days of the festival.

This year, the mural will center on the work of Timothy Basil Ering, who is one of few authors and illustrators who has appeared at all ten Virginia Children’s Book Festivals.

To register your class or school, please visit