The National Book Festival’s Roadmap to Reading is a “Literary Trip” Around the Country
By: Lisa Carrico, Program Director, Missouri Humanities
The 2023 National Book Festival was held in the nation’s capital at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Saturday, August 12, and welcomed tens of thousands of attendees. Presented by the Library of Congress, the Festival hosted more than 70 authors, writers, poets, and illustrators, and featured more than 30 genres of writing for readers of all ages. The Festival lineup included actor Elliot Page, sci-fi superstar TJ Klune, former NFL football player R.K. Russell, children’s author R.J. Palacio, Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction winner George Saunders, former U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo and poet Camille T. Dungy, nonfiction authors Siddhartha Mukherjee and Matthew Desmond, and many more.
Missouri Humanities, as the Missouri Affiliate for the Library of Congress Center for the Book, participated in the Festival’s Roadmap to Reading. Sponsored by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Roadmap to Reading features tables with representatives from 54 Centers for the Book—one for each state as well as tables for Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Marianas. Each Center for the Book selects a children’s book and book for a general adult audience. Books may be written by authors from the state, take place in the state, or celebrate the state’s culture and heritage. These book titles are then added to the annual Great Reads from Great Places book list.
Every year since 2002, thousands of families and individuals visit affiliate booths to collect stamps for their Roadmap to Reading passport maps while learning about Great Reads from Great Places book selections from all over the country. With input from numerous literary and literacy-based organizations, authors, and educators from across the state of Missouri, The Rhino Suit by Colter Jackson was selected for young readers and The Last Children of Mill Creek by Vivian Gibson was selected for adult readers.
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. 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.
Vivian Gibson was raised in Mill Creek Valley and her bestselling memoir, The Last Children of Mill Creek, transports readers back to her life before her neighborhood was razed in 1959 in the name of “urban renewal” in the City of St. Louis. As told from the perspective of herself as a young child, her memoir chronicles the lived experiences of her family and the individuals who made Mill Creek Valley, a segregated working-class neighborhood of St. Louis, into a tight-knit African American community.
During the event, with the help of Maya Kucij, Special Collections Librarian at the James C. Kirkpatrick Library at the University of Central Missouri, and the Director of the Children’s Literature Festival, we interacted with hundreds of people while stamping passport maps, handing out bookmarks, companion stickers for The Rhino Suit, and a reading guide for The Last Children of Mill Creek. In addition, we presented an activity inspired by Jackson’s Rhino Suit Storytime kit where 650 festivalgoers added colorful tags with words of gratitude to our “MO Gratitude Garland.”
Missouri Humanities is full of gratitude to celebrate this year’s Festival theme, “Everyone Has a Story,” by showcasing Missouri authors and their stories.
To learn more about our role as the Missouri Center for the Book, visit: mohumanities.org/literature/