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CPL's Bookamania Brings The Reading Fun For Kids

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 20, 2009 8:00PM

2009_11_20_bookamania_2009.jpg Special to Chicagoist from Elizabeth Mikel

If we had kids, we'd certainly be bringing them to Chicago Public Library's Bookamania event on Saturday. Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., the Harold Washington Library Center will be opening its doors to youngsters aged three to ten for a slew of free book-related events. Thanks to a grant from the Chicago Public Library Foundation and the Target Corporation, there will be enough crafts, music, theater, dance, puppetry and magic for all. Life-sized storybook characters from across the world are being summoned for the event. As they scurry between the 24 activities, kids can get their photos taken with the Very Hungry Caterpillar, Max and a Wild Thing, Madeline and others. Several activities will correspond with the work of featured children's authors, illustrators and photographers who will be present on Saturday. Check out a full schedule of events here.

To stave off our anticipation to meet these famous authors in person, we spoke with one of them. Jim Aylesworth has written more than 30 children's books. His most recent work is The Mitten, a new version of the story in which several animals squeeze into a lost mitten. Barbara McClintock is the illustrator.

Chicago Public Library's Bookamania, Saturday, November 21, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Harold Washington Library Center, 400 South State Street

Chicagoist: What inspired you to write a new variation of The Mitten?

Jim Aylesworth: I really love folklore, and I know that children love folklore. For many years, I was a first grade teacher. I spent a lot of time with kids and reading out loud to kids. I've gained a sense of what they like, and I want to write something they like. That's the whole point.

2009_11_19_mitten.jpg C: So what do kids like?

JA: Out-loud sounds, songs, and rhymes and animals. And pretending. Children love to pretend: Animals talking, or a cookie coming to life like the gingerbread man. "The Mitten" has all those things, including talking animals.

C: You've written a lot of children's books. Do you have some sort of process when you sit down to do a new one?

JA: I wish I knew how to answer that. If I were sure of that, I would do it everyday. The best I can tell you is that I spend a lot of time with kids. Because of my experience, I know what kids like more than the average person. The stories I favor are the ones that read out loud well to a group of children. Not just one or two, that's easier. But if you can read and entertain 20 or 30 kids… and that's the amazing thing about children's books. If kids like it, everyone else likes it too.

C: Do you have read kids drafts of your books to see if they like them or not?

JA: A lot of people ask that. When you're a first grade teacher, kids really love you and want to please you. You can't really trust them. And there are no pictures. I always note that a book of this kind is partly text and partly art, and they both have to be really good to make the book successful. I'm not the illustrator, and I have to give credit to the artist.

C: Who is your favorite children's author?

JA: My favorite children's author is probably one of your favorites, too: Dr. Seuss. Of course he was both the artist and illustrator. His work is out-loud, with sounds and rhymes and happiness. And lots of animals and crazy pretending.