Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rabbit Hill

I had the time of my life at the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature in Westport, Connecticut, last week! Grace Lin and I drove down to Connecticut last Thursday. Grace was one of the festival’s featured children’s illustrators. The other illustrators were Steve Jenkins, Barbara McClintock, David Wiesner, E. B. Lewis, and Mo Willems. It doesn’t get any better than that!!!

Here’s a description of the festival from the Web site:

The theme this year is Bringing Life to Literature,
featuring six creators of ground-breaking picture books
for all ages who will discuss how their lives inform their work.

Grace and I had dinner at Rabbit Hill, the home where Robert Lawson lived, with the other presenters and the festival organizers on Thursday evening. Our hosts, the present owners of Rabbit Hill, served up a sumptuous spread. The hosts gave us a tour of the downstairs after dinner. Then we headed off to the Westport Public Library for the keynote address by H. Nichols B. Clark, the Founding Director of the Eric Carle Museum. (BTW, Grace and I met Susan Thomsen of Chicken Spaghetti at the library. It was great to finally see Susan in person.)

Grace, Moi, and Susan Thomsen

On Friday, I accompanied Grace to Long Lots School where she did several presentations for students in the auditorium. The children were so excited to see her. Later, a small group of fifth graders interviewed Grace in the library…while the librarian filmed a video of the question and answer session. The teachers and school librarian had prepared the children well for Grace’s school visit. Students had made kites, paper fortune cookies, and one class even designed their own snowflakes.
Scenes from Long Lots School

Friday evening, we all had dinner at the Red Barn Restaurant. I had the great fortune to sit next to Steve Jenkins, one of my favorite authors and illustrators of nonfiction books for children. The gentleman is a font of knowledge about science and the natural world. That evening, I also met and chatted with children’s poet Patricia Hubbell. That was an unexpected--and happy--surprise.
On Saturday, attendees of the festival got to hear the large group presentations of all six illustrators and authors. We learned about their early years and how they became authors and illustrators of children’s books. Their presentations were all outstanding and unique--like the art these individuals create for their books.

After lunch, I sat in on the small group breakout sessions led by Steve Jenkins and E. B. Lewis. Steve explained his process for writing and illustrating a nonfiction book, discussed how he selected handmade papers for his illustrations, and talked about science. In E. B. Lewis’s session, we had an informal discussion about the current state of publishing multi-cultural books for children and other topics. He also showed us some of his beautiful watercolor originals. E. B. is a fine artist--as well as an illustrator. He coined the term artistrator for himself.

Then, after the book signing, Grace and I headed off for a lovely buffet dinner with the rest of the “Rabbit Hill Gang.” We decided not to drive home on Saturday--so we spent one more night in lovely Westport.

Mo Willems & Marcia Leonard

(Marcia is an editor for Clarion.)

David Wiesner & E. B. Lewis

Barbara McClintock & Steve Jenkins

I can tell you that all the public and school librarians who guided us around and drove us from place to place while we were at the festival were some of the finest, warmest, and most helpful people I have ever met. I just wish I had taken pictures of them all!

Grace Lin with two of the fabulous librarians of Westport and a young admirer.


Susan (Chicken Spaghetti) said...

Great report, Elaine! It was wonderful to meet you and Grace.

Elaine Magliaro said...


I thought the festival was fantastic! How fortunate you are to live in a community that is so supportive of libraries, literature, and the arts.

It was such a pleasure to finally meet one of my favorite kidlit bloggers in person.

gail said...

Thanks so much for sharing your experiences at Rabbit Hill! Sounds like it was absolutely wonderful!!


Elaine Magliaro said...


The Rabbit Hill Festival was truly one of the finest children's literature festivals/conferences that I have ever attended--and I've been to many. All of the featured speakers did marvelous presentations.

Jules at 7-Imp said...

WAHOO!! Look at all those fabulous people, including SUSAN T.!!

Elaine Magliaro said...


Grace and I had the best time in Westport. The librarians and the rest of our hosts were just the greatest people. It's like we were among old friends.