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Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival to Highlight Banned Books

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The fanciful world of children’s literature comes alive at the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival (CCBF) on Saturday, Sept. 30, at the Chappaqua Train Station.

In its 10th year, the festival is highly anticipated by children, parents, teachers and librarians throughout the tristate area. This is the largest CCBF festival with 10,000 visitors expected to attend. CCBF will be hosting 180 renowned and award-winning children’s book authors and illustrators, each of whom will be interacting one on one with delighted young readers.

The celebrity author headlining the festival is Mary Pope Osborne, author of The Magic Treehouse Series. New to the festival is Alan Gratz, New York Times best-selling author of 19 young children’s novels.

CCBF is also dedicating a section of the festival to banned books that have been removed from schools, public libraries and throughout some states. Close to 30 authors invited to the festival have had their works banned or challenged somewhere in the U.S. There will be a display of banned books by participating authors and promotions of banned books by author Maulik Pancholy, a well-known actor from NBC’s 30 Rock, award-winning children’s book author Phil Stamper and Ryan Sala, among others.

According to the free speech group PEN America, book bans in public K–12 schools continue to intensify. In the 2022–23 school year, PEN America recorded 3,362 instances of books banned, an increase of 33 percent from the 2021–22 school year. More than 40 percent of all book bans occurred in school districts in Florida that had 1,406 book ban cases, followed by 625 bans in Texas, 333 bans in Missouri, 281 bans in Utah and 186 bans in Pennsylvania.

 CCBF Founder and Executive Director Dawn Greenberg said the festival is obligated to address book bans because they negatively impact not only young readers but those in the industry.

“There are people that may not be aware of how pervasive book banning is. Focusing on book bans has definitely been a seismic change to our festival because kids’ literature has exploded over the last decade and every year more authors are affected by this,” Greenberg said.

Addressing the banned book issue openly at the festival will be KidLit TV, an educator-led organization that promotes an appreciation of reading for children through web-based television programming and videos seen in more than 700,000 schools nationwide.

KidLit TV will live stream a panel hosted by author Phil Phil Bildner (A High Five for Glenn Burke). The panel includes Padma Venkatramam (Born Behind Bars), Maulik Pancholy (Nikhil Out Loud), Raj Haldar (This Book is Banned), Lisa Fipps (Starfish), Jessica Love (Julian is a Mermaid) and Nick Bruel (Bad Kitty – Supercat).

For the first time the festival will be inviting visitors to purchase books that festival organizers will send to the Florida Freedom to Read Project (FFRP), an organization started in January 2022 to protect Florida students’ right to access information and ideas.

Greenberg said the booth dedicated to FFRP will have a red wagon and a sign that says, “We’re with the Banned.”

 “Some authors are really tired of hearing about books being banned,” Greenberg said.  “But at the same time, writers speak eloquently about why we have to fight back and they welcome being questioned about it.”

Nick Bruel, author and illustrator of New York Times bestseller Boing! and the Bad Kitty books, has been part of the festival for many years. Bruel, who is a Pleasantville resident, said his picture book series “Bad Kitty” was one of the most banned and challenged books from 2010-2020 because of a reference one of his characters makes having a “partner.”

“For about 12 years [that reference] sent people into a spiraling rage,” Bruel recalled. “The amount of furious emails my publisher and I got was incredible. The book was outright banned in a school in Houston.”

Bruel said the angry emails about the word ‘partner’ started to die down after the 2015 Supreme Court’s decision upholding same sex marriage.

“We are in an unusual time right now when people supporting book bans are more amplified and organized than ever before,” Bruel noted. “The whole weird cultural mission is all done in the name of protecting children. When my books were banned, it was nothing compared to authors whose works feature people of color or characters who may not have conventional gender identities.”

The festival, which received a WestchesterArts 2023 Arts Alive grant, will have authors covering different reading levels and multiple genres, including a larger selection of graphic novels than at previous festivals, LGTBQ themes, and books that celebrate diversity.

There will be author readings and special presentations, illustrator demos, book signings, a bubble bus and books for sale. This year food will be available from gourmet food trucks and the local Chappaqua Farmers Market. The festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.



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