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Literature Festival

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The Franklin County Children's Literature Festival exists today because of the power of one: one great idea, one strong personality, and one willing organization.

Gerry Getty had a dream that every child in Franklin County would have a chance to listen and meet real authors, illustrators, and storytellers. This would provide an amazing experience for children to share the excitement of books with the creators of those stories. With grit and determination, Gerry and The Franklin County Reading Council were able to organize the first festival in the spring of 2002.

The Children's Literature Festival is possible because of the efforts of Gerry, Franklin County Reading Council, Friends of the Ottawa Library, Ottawa Library, committee members, and Ottawa University's gracious hosting.

 

Many times in history a great idea is born. It is talked about and thought about, but often gets lost without giving it the love and attention it needs to thrive. The one idea that started the festival is only the introduction to the story. The rest of the story is still being written, and you are a part of the story.

2024 Presenters

       An accomplished author, Jennifer Brown is renowned for her captivating middle-grade titles, including "Life on Mars," "How Lunchbox Jones Saved Me from Robots, Traitors, and Missy the Cruel," and her beloved Pennybaker series. As a versatile writer, she has also made a significant impact in the young adult genre with acclaimed novels such as "Hate List," "Bitter End," "Perfect Escape," "Thousand Words," "Torn Away," and the thrilling Shade Me series.
     Heralded for her literary prowess, Jennifer's debut novel, "Hate List," earned three starred reviews and secured its place as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA "Perfect Ten," and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. The success continued with "Bitter End," which received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and VOYA and found its spot on the YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list.
Notably, Jennifer's venture into middle-grade fiction was marked by triumph as her debut in the genre, "Life on Mars," clinched the prestigious 2017 William Allen White Children's Book Award.
     Residing and writing in the Kansas City, Missouri, area, Jennifer Brown continues to weave imaginative tales that resonate across diverse age groups and genres.

Jennifer Brown

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      Mary Casanova is an award-winning children's author of novels and picture books. Many of her books stem from her life on the Minnesota-Canadian border; yet some of her stories have taken her as far away as France, Norway, and Belize for research. Whatever the setting for her books, Casanova writes stories that matter--and stories that kids can't put down.

      Her book awards include: American Library Association "Notable," Aesop Accolades by the American Folklore Society, Parents' Choice "Gold" Award, Booklist Editor Choice, and two Minnesota Book Awards. Her books frequently land on state children's choice book master lists across the country. "The greatest reward for me," Casanova states, "is when a young reader tells me she or he loves one of my books. For me, it's all about communicating writer-to-reader through a character and story."

      Casanova grew up in a family of ten children in St. Paul, Minnesota. In a bustling camp-like atmosphere, Casanova found that writing became her voice. "Words are my paintbrush," she explains, "my way of exploring the world around me."

      Now, with 38 books published and many more under contract and forthcoming, she divides her time between writing and traveling. Nationally and internationally, at schools and conferences, Casanova shares her love of writing and reading with children and adults.

Mary Casanova

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Jody Feldman

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      Jody Feldman has always loved riddles, brainteasers, and word games, and she lives in a city on a river whose name contains four s's, two p's, and four i's. Jody has written as many books for young readers as there are players in a doubles tennis match. To find out how many brothers she has, take the number of bases on a baseball diamond and divide it by the number of times Grover Cleveland was president of the United States.
     Award-winning middle-grade and YA author Jody Feldman had early thoughts of working as a treasure hunter, a codebreaker, a movie director, and an inventor. However, through a series of happenstances, she enrolled in the Mizzou School of Journalism and discovered she could write. Her middle-grade novels—The Seventh Level and The Gollywhopper Games series (HarperCollins/Greenwillow)—have appeared on 26 state reading lists and have won, among other honors, the Georgia Children's Book Award and the Grand Canyon Readers Award. Jody resides in St. Louis, Missouri, where she discovered she could explore all her passions through the characters in her books.

Kelly Milner Halls

       For approximately a decade, Kelly Milner Halls dedicated her focus to submitting articles to magazines and newspapers, resulting in the publication of over 1000 pieces in a wide array of publications such as Highlights for Children, Ask! Dig, Children’s Digest, U.S. Kids, and many more, including renowned outlets like the Chicago Tribune KidNews and Teen PEOPLE. Her extensive contributions also encompassed genres like Family Fun, Writer’s Digest, and Booklist, showcasing her versatility.

       Over time, Halls' interests evolved, leading her to channel her energies into the realm of children’s nonfiction books, which has since become her primary endeavor.

Despite this shift, she continues to indulge her passion for writing for magazines and newspapers, particularly when inspired by compelling books, authors, or topics.

      Currently residing and working in Spokane, Washington, Kelly Milner Halls shares her home with a menagerie that includes one dog, two daughters, an abundance of cats, and an impressive 4-foot rock iguana named Gigantor. Her commitment to her craft extends beyond the written word, as she frequently embarks on travels, engaging in school visits and conference presentations across the country. Juggling the responsibilities of a single mom with two college-bound kids, Halls views writing and speaking not merely as a pastime but as her full-time profession, one that brings her perpetual joy and fulfillment.

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Ann Ingalls

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      Ann Ingalls passes the day exaggerating (writing fiction) or telling the truth (writing nonfiction).

      She has written nearly fifty books for young readers. Her books have won several awards: The 2015 Annual American Graphic Design Award and the Ella Fitzgerald Foundation’s “A Book Just for Me!” When given the choice between educating children or entertaining them with her writing, Ann chooses to do both! Before she was a children’s writer, Ann taught elementary and special education classes and worked as a parent educator. Ann’s students enjoyed rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, canaries, salamanders, fire belly toads, and what seemed like millions of fish. Three new titles are forthcoming in 2024 and 2025. Ann lives in Kansas City with her husband, Winston, and two lucky black cats.

Bobby Norfolk

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      Bobby Norfolk began his career as a stand-up comedian. He started locally at the Funny Bone Comedy Club. He was also an actor who worked with The St. Louis Black Rep and Imaginary Theater Company in St. Louis. Bobby Norfolk worked as a National Park Service Ranger at the Gateway Arch. To start his storytelling career, Norfolk first appeared in 1979 at the St. Louis Storytelling Festival. He discovered that he could combine his acting and comedic skills to become a talented storyteller. With this career, he received many honors and awards. In October 2009, Bobby Norfolk received the National Circle of Excellence Oracle Award that the National Storytelling Network presents. The most prestigious storytellers are awarded this honor. During his career, Norfolk has also created over ten CDs of storytelling. Some of these CD's have won the Parents Choice Gold Award. He has also co-authored eight children's books. Norfolk is known to travel nationally and internationally and give performances, keynotes, and workshops for audiences.

Jacqueline West

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      Jacqueline West is the author of the middle-grade fantasy series THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE. VOLUME ONE: THE SHADOWS was a Publisher's Weekly Flying Start, an Indie Next List Top Ten Pick, a Junior Library Guild selection, a New York Times bestseller, and the winner of the 2010 CYBILS Award for Fantasy.
Her other books for middle-grade readers include the Schneider Family Book Award Honor Book THE COLLECTORS and its sequel, A STORM OF WISHES, THE STORY PIRATES PRESENT: DIGGING UP DANGER, and the mystery/ghost story LONG LOST, which is a Junior Library Guild Selection and an Indie Next List pick.
     Jacqueline's first YA novel, DREAMERS OFTEN LIE, braids Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and A Midsummer Night's Dream into a modern-day teen's life. LAST THINGS, her 2019 YA horror novel, is a modern-day Minnesotan metal retelling of the legend of a musician who may have sold his soul to the devil and was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Awards and longlisted for the Bram Stoker Awards.
     Jacqueline's short fiction for adults and children appears in various publications. Her poetry has received many honors, including three Pushcart nominations, three Rhysling Award nominations, and a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg prize.

Jenny Whitehead

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      Jenny Whitehead is the author-illustrator of several books for kids, including Lunch Box Mail and Other Poems, Holiday Stew, and You’re A Crab.
Growing up in Ohio, Jenny loved writing stories and poems, doodling patterns, taking photos, and collecting beads. She earned a B.F.A. in Surface Design at Miami University, then worked at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City as a Creative Product Designer.
     Eventually, she left Hallmark to focus on creating children’s books full-time and raising her two beautiful daughters, Bailey and Chelsea. During that time, she taught art, writing, and creative-thinking classes and was a preschool assistant for six years.
     Jenny and her family eventually moved back home to Ohio and now live and work by Lake Erie in the sleepy town of Bay Village. Here, she continues to write and illustrate children’s books, create Washer Woman pendants, and photograph the world around her.

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