The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


March 8, 2014

Best-selling authors will headline Children’s Book Festival

JOHNSTOWN — Children’s authors and books as well as kid comedy, theater, storytelling, a book sale and crafts will mix together for a kid-friendly good time.

The sixth annual Children’s Book Festival of Johnstown will be presented from 6 to 8:30 p.m. April 4, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 5 and noon to 4 p.m. April 6 at Bottle Works, 411 Third Ave., and its Art Works building, 413 Third Ave., both in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

This year’s theme is “Tell Me a Story,” the desire of every reader, child or adult.

Every child who comes to the  festival will receive a free book from FirstBook.

“We want to stress that this is free,” said Angela Rizzo, development director for The Learning Lamp, which sponsors the festival along with Bottle Works.

“It’s a great opportunity for parents to get out with their kids. There is something different every day. We have some families who come the whole weekend. We want to get the kids excited about reading.”

Funds from a National Endowment for the Arts grant will help bring three best-selling children’s authors to the festival.

“We’ve received the grant two years in a row, and all of it goes to the book festival,” Rizzo said.

“We can bring in more authors and expand our reach. Last year, we had two authors, this year, we have three.”

Heidi Rizkalla, director of education at The Learning Lamp, said last year’s book festival was a huge hit with the community, and this year’s will be hard to top.

“This year, we knew we had to really pull out all the stops and recruit the same caliber of authors as last year,” Rizkalla said.

“All three headliners for spring 2014 have consistently produced high-quality books for kids of all ages.”

The three authors slated to headline the festival are New York Times best-seller Gail Carson Levine; author-illustrator James Warhola; and kid series author Debbie Dadey.

Levine, who has a magical story for every age, is the author of the internationally acclaimed, Newberry Honor winning novel “Ella Enchanted.”

The twist on the popular fairy-tale “Cinderella” is a New York Times best-seller, and has been made into a hit movie.

Her recently published Disney Fairies books are set in the world of Never Land.

Warhola’s picture book, “Uncle Andy,” brought him the International Reading Association’s Award for Best Non-Fiction Picture Book in 2004.  

Warhola is the nephew of the late artist Andy Warhol and illustrates and writes about the times he spent at his uncle’s house as a child.  

His sequel, “Uncle Andy’s Cats,” allows readers a further glimpse into his eccentric and famous uncle’s life.  

Audiences will get the chance to watch Warhola work his magic on canvas in real time at the festival.

Dadey has written more than 80 chapter books in the whimsical Bailey School Kids series, which includes titles such as “Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots” and “Ghosts Don’t Eat Potato Chips.”

Rizzo said the authors will appear multiple times during the three-day festival, talking about their characters and developing a storyline, showing children how they can write their own books.

“We all have stories to tell,” Rizzo said.

“If the authors have a book that’s suitable, they will read it aloud. This year, we’re going to have an author area where children can talk one-on-one and have their book signed.”

Rizzo said the week before the festival, authors and storytellers will visit area schools.  

In addition to the author presentations, there will be a performance by the quirky scientists of Stunt Lab, who will do silly tricks and science experiments in their interactive show, which will be presented April 6.

The performers of theatrical group Zany Umbrella Circus will bring stories to life multiple times April 5.

Beauty and the Beast Storytellers, a husband and wife storytelling duo, also are award-winning authors and recording artists.

They are renowned for their presentations of world tales, delivered seamlessly as a team.

Rizzo said a story-illustrator corner will feature Indiana author Liz Kriston, who will read aloud preschool-age books, and tell parents how to read aloud to keep their children engaged.

The Learning Lamp has partnered with retailer Books-A-Million for a book sale, and there also will be a used book sale for families who want to start a home library.

“Gently used books will be available for 25 cents and up,” Rizzo said.

“Anyone wanting to make donations can bring them to The Learning Lamp.”

Bookmarks from a contest sponsored by The Learning Lamp featuring this year’s theme will be on display and ready for voting.

The winner in each age group will receive a basket of age-appropriate books.

“Last year, we had more than 700 entries,” Rizzo said.

Craft stations will be open the entire festival. There also will be a basket raffle and refreshments.

Any individual or business wishing to donate to the book festival may contact Rizzo at The Learning Lamp.

“This year’s donations will go toward next year’s festival,” Rizzo explained. “We also need volunteers for crafts and other duties.”

Ruth Rice covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at

‘Tell Me a Story’

What: Sixth annual Children’s Book Festival of Johnstown.

When: 6 to 8:30 p.m. April 4, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 5 and noon to 4 p.m. April 6.

Where: Bottle Works, 411 Third Ave., and its Art Works building, 413 Third Ave., both in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

Admission: Free.

Information: 262-0732 or

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