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Missouri’s “Great Reads from Great Places”

Missouri Humanities and the Missouri Center for the Book Planning Team have selected The Rhino Suit by Colter Jackson and The Last Children of Mill Creek by Vivian Gibson to represent the state at the 2023 National Book Festival.

These titles are a part of the “Great Reads from Great Places” list for the 2023 National Book Festival by the Library of Congress. The list features books and authors representing the literary heritage of all 50 states and U.S. territories.

The 2023 National Book Festival will take place on Saturday, August 12th, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Missouri Humanities will participate in the “Roadmap to Reading” activity, where each Affiliate Center showcases its book selection. Every year since 2002, thousands of families and individuals visit affiliate booths to collect stamps to fill their “Roadmap to Reading” passport maps while learning about books from all over the country. MH is looking forward to showcasing a selection of Missouri’s brilliant books and authors to people nationwide!

For Adult Readers: The Last Children of Mill Creek by Vivian Gibson, published by Belt Publishing

Vivian Gibson was raised on Bernard Street in Mill Creek Valley and has lived in New York City and Liberia, West Africa. She started writing short stories about her childhood memories after retiring at age sixty-six. Her work has been produced as part of 50in50: Writing Women Into Existence at the Billie Holliday Theater in Brooklyn (2018) and published in The St. Louis Anthology (Belt Publishing, 2019).

Vivian Gibson’s bestselling memoir of growing up during the 1950s in a segregated St. Louis neighborhood has been hailed by critics as “a spare, elegant jewel of a work” and “a love letter to Gibson’s childhood.” In gorgeous prose, Gibson transports us back to her everyday life before her neighborhood was demolished. You’ll read about the triumphs and daily struggles of her family and about the individuals who made Mill Creek into a tight-knit African American community.

The Missouri Library Association named her 2022 Author of the Year, and Missouri Humanities honored her with a Literary Achievement Award in 2020. The Last Children of Mill Creek is an essential book for anyone interested in urban development, race, and community history―or for anyone who was once a child. To watch author Vivian Gibson, guest author Kim Lozano, and students from John Burroughs School in St. Louis, Missouri read aloud selected vignettes from The Last Children of Mill Creek, visit the link below. There is also a reading guide for teachers, families, and book clubs.

Reading Guide for The Last Children of Mill Creek

Read Aloud YouTube Playlist

For Young Readers: The Rhino Suit by Jackson Colter, published by Sounds True

Children’s author/illustrator Colter Jackson grew up in Sedalia, MO, and her children’s book, The Rhino Suit is somewhat autobiographical, though the little girl in the story is drawn to look like her daughter. Jackson admits that she was very sensitive growing up — she was often told to “toughen up” or “get a thicker skin”— and that is the basis for her book.

The Rhino Suit tells the story of a young girl who feels everything so deeply that seeing things like litter in the street, an animal without a home, and a parent in pain is enough to make her want to hide. She creates a rhino suit to protect herself — but soon realizes it keeps her from seeing the good, too. The book ends with “A Note to My Extra Sensitive Friends” and a list of things kids can do when they are overwhelmed by their feelings. By visiting the links below, you can watch Jackson read The Rhino Suit and download a storytime kit.

Jackson moved to the East Village of Manhattan in New York City in 2002 after earning a journalism degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She has worked in advertising as a writer and creative director in New York City for over a decade, spent time at the United Nations as a speechwriter, and has written scripts for Tina Fey and the UN’s Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is currently working on a novel.

Watch Jackson Read The Rhino Suit

The Rhino Suit Storytime Kit