The 45th Annual Fay B. Kaigler children's book festival at Southern Miss brought some of the world's top children's literature authors and illustrators to the campus to be honored Thursday. This year marked the first time the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award was presented at the university.
Many of us may remember the fun, colorful and often educational children's books read to us as kids.
There may be special memories attached to some of them. Even the type of memories that inspire the authors who write children's books. One was the inspiration for author Meg Medina's book "Tia Isa Wants A Car".
"Tia Isa wants a car, really? Si, really, to take us to the beach," said Medina as she read aloud to the crowd.
The book won Medina the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award during the Festival.
In the book, Medina recounts her childhood thoughts of the night she met her aunt. Medina's aunt had just arrived in the country. She didn't speak English, and after months getting to know her, it was the aunt's determination to have a car, although she didn't drive well, to take them anywhere they wanted, that brought them closer.
"The memory of Isa in that wild cat never left me it was just waiting for the perfect time to come calling again as a reminder that nothing really is ever impossible," said Medina.
The experience of a different culture encouraged Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw, Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award Winner, to write and illustrate her second book "Same, Same but Different".
"I spend so much time in my studio, and working to create these books for kids. The best moment for all is to be in the schools with the kids and reading to them, and seeing they respond," said Kostecki-Shaw.
The festival's top award, the Southern Miss Medallion, went to Jane Yolen. Yolen has more than 320 published books, and numerous awards. But it was the response to her book, "How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon", from a little boy whose parents read it to him while he was in a burn unit of a hospital, healing after being badly burned by fireworks, which amazes her.
"And when he was sent home he wanted to be able to get copies of the book to give to every child who was in the burn unit," said Yolen.