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Crowds Descend on Chappaqua for 10th Annual Children’s Book Festival

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Author Carol Weston speaks to a young reader during Saturday’s Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival.

Record-breaking rain less than 24 hours earlier couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm or limit the turnout for Saturday’s 10th annual Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival.

When the festivities began at 10 a.m., crowds of parents and children quickly swelled in the Chappaqua train station parking lot, and visitors continued to stream in throughout the morning.

Nick Bruel, a local author and illustrator of the “Bad Kitty” series, started signing and selling books on a line that had started forming consisting of his young fans even before he was fully organized.

“This festival never, ever disappoints,” Bruel said. “It’s extraordinary. The turnout is already enormous and it’s just going to get bigger and bigger as the day goes on.”

Organizers kept a wary eye on the weather throughout Friday, hoping they would catch a break even after a state of emergency was declared in Westchester from the intense rainfall. Executive Director Dawn Greenberg said the only difficulties that the weather ultimately posed was having to start working before daybreak on Saturday to prepare.

Despite flooding in portions of southern Westchester and New York City where some of the authors were traveling from, nearly all of the 180 authors and illustrators invited for this year’s festival were able to make it, Greenberg said. The only ones who didn’t were the six authors who had tested positive for COVID, she said.

“This year, we really needed the Friday start because we had 17,000 books, so that meant this morning we’d be doing double time, 6 a.m. to opening, and we probably had 40 people show up to help us,” Greenberg said.

The longest line at the event was for those who wanted to meet one of the most successful authors today, Mary Pope Osborne, creator of the “Magic Tree House” series. Sarah Peterson of Ossining came with her four children, and was patiently standing with seemingly hundreds of others to get a chance to greet and meet and take a picture with Osborne.

Peterson said her second oldest child particularly enjoys the “Magic Tree House” series.

“(He likes) the reading, all the adventure stories and everything about it,” she said. “He likes to read them on his own, too. He was very excited when she was coming.”

Acclaimed children’s book author Mary Pope Osborne greets fans at Saturday’s Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival.

Karen Miller of Briarcliff Manor said her family made sure to fit the festival into their busy Saturday schedule to pick up books for her son, Landon Grossman, and have a chance to meet Osborne.

“It really teaches you something,” he said of her series, which has reportedly sold more than 130 million books worldwide.

In addition to the food trucks, bubble bus and various vendors, one intriguing feature of this year’s event was a table that had a wagon with copies of books from about 30 of the festival’s authors that had a book of theirs banned somewhere in the United States. A toy wagon was holding the materials with a sign reading “Jump on the Banned Wagon.”

Relieved that the event was able to be held as planned was New Castle Supervisor Lisa Katz, who spent time greeting visitors. She said that had it continued to rain there would have been a contingency plan, but she was thankful that it didn’t need to be used.

Katz said the festival is indicative of some of the best that the town has to offer, including the legions of volunteers who donate their time to make it happen.

“I think it represents a lot of the values that we hold dear – education, community, belief in lifting up our children and bringing people together, and that’s so important,” Katz said. “The fact that we’re able to share our town with thousands of people from all over is just so wonderful. It really brings the best of our town to light.”

Greenberg, who brought the festival to Chappaqua a decade ago, said she hoped she could organize children’s book events in other areas, including New York City, in the future. She’s also happy that books for children haven’t gone out of style.

“You know what I always say, books are books and you can’t ever tell me kids don’t love to meet their (favorite) authors,” she said. “It changes their whole framework on reading.”



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