A column in the Freeport Journal-Standard touts the upcoming Freeport Family Book Fest.
Born to bark. Born to run. Born to be read to? Absolutely. This week’s column is going to the dogs – literally a special group of tail-wagging canines who, along with a dozen award-winning authors, all from Illinois, will participate this year in the third Family Book Fest May 2 at the Freeport Public Library.
Hanni and I are tickled to be appearing at the Family Book Fest with such other great childrens book writers from Illinois: Leone Castell Anderson, Cheryl Bardoe, Marlene Targ Brill, Laura Crawford, Ophelia Julien, Donna Latham, Tim Magner, Janet Nolan, Kimberly L. Sullivan, Darwin McBeth Walton and Sheila Welch. That last author – Sheila Welch –also helped put this year’s Family Book Fest together in the first place. I was flattered when Sheila contacted me last year to ask us to be part of the fest, but when I found out how far away Freeport is from Chicago, I thought I’d have to decline. Freeport is hours away, past Rockford, and too small a town to have a train or bus station.
Sheila to the rescue! The two of us put our heads together and figured that if Hanni and I take a commuter train as far west as it goes, Sheila and her husband Eric could pick us up and drive us the rest of the way. Fellow author Janet Nolan, who lives in Oak Park, generously offered to drive us back home after the fest. Transportation taken care of, Sheila put Hanni and me on the Family Book Fest program. Not only that, but she worked with the other fest coordinators to develop a “dog theme” for the day.
Representatives from the Paws for Reading program (part of a local chapter of Therapy Dogs International) will be there, and it’s rumored that Clifford the Big Red Dog will be among costumed storybook characters roaming the library. The other authors there (if you read their bio’s, you’ll see that many are professed dog lovers!) will be giving private 10 to 15 minute presentations throughout the day — attendees can hear their full stories and have time to ask questions.
And Hanni and me? We’re the main presenters! From the column:
This year, one wonderful pooch in particular, a golden lab/retriever and Seeing Eye dog named Hanni will appear along with her owner and author, Beth Finke, to tell their story. Beth is the main speaker at the Book Fest and will talk about how she, as a blind person, and Hanni developed the companionship and teamwork necessary to work together and meet her needs.
Beth lost her vision when she was in her 20s, following complications that occurred from juvenile diabetes.
She will read in Braille from her award-winning picture book “Hanni and Beth: Safe and Sound” about how a Seeing Eye dog does an important job.
This book won a Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 2008 and is available in print as well as in Braille for children who are blind. The book also contains four pages of information describing the Seeing Eye school where these special animals are trained. She autographs the books both in Braille and in print and Hanni’s paw print is rubber-stamped onto each individual copy.
Beth lives, works and travels around Chicago with help from Hanni. She also is the author of an adult book, her memoir, “Long Time, No See” and has published articles in Woman’s Day, the Chicago Tribune, Dog Fancy and Dogs for Kids.
The Family Book Fest runs from 10 am to 4 pm this Saturday, may 2 at the Freeport Public Library, 100 E Douglas St in Freeport, IL. For more information, call the library at 815.233.3000 or link to the Freeport Public Library web site.