The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


March 7, 2013

Children's Book Festival page-ing young readers

JOHNSTOWN — Kids soon may enjoy the world of friendly critters as The Learning Lamp offers its fifth annual Children’s Book Festival.

The event’s theme, “Animal Tales,” will be the platform for two renowned authors who will headline the festival, scheduled for March 22-24 at Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center and Art Works in Johnstown, both in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

Organizers are inviting children to participate in book readings, shows, demonstrations, crafts and activities.

Appearing at the festival is award-winning author and illustrator Suzanne Bloom, whose book, “A Splendid Friend, Indeed,” was named a Theodor Seuss Geisel Beginning Reader Award Honor Book in 2006 and a Pennsylvania One Book in 2007.

“Bloom’s latest book, “Bus for Us,” is Pennsylvania’s One Book, Every Young Child 2013 selection.

Bloom said the goal is to inspire children to read by “bringing them books, and authors and illustrators – up close and personal.”

“It is such an honor to be that personal connection between stories and students,” Bloom said.

Bloom, who resides in upstate New York, said she starts every book with a blank piece of paper, a pencil and her imagination.

“I sketch and scribble and doodle. There are lots of do-overs and cross outs until I get it just right,” Bloom said. “With ‘A Splendid Friend, Indeed,’ the title came first because I focused on how words sounded together.”

When a book is finished, Bloom enjoys reading it out loud to children and families.

“I admit it – I like to ham it up,” she said. “I’m very expressive in my reading because people often asked how I come up with all those voices? I watched a lot of Bugs Bunny in my youth.”

“Bus for Us” is a colorful picture book for children ages 3-6.

 Waiting at the bus stop with her friend Gus, Tess eagerly asks, “Is this the bus for us, Gus?” as each vehicle passes. From fire engine to front loader, Bloom introduces young readers to a variety of vehicles through simple text and spirited illustrations.

In addition to Bloom’s appearances at Children’s Book Festival, she will share a special story time with children and parents at Cambria County Library, 248 Main St. in downtown Johnstown and visit with students at two area elementary schools.

Bloom will be joined by New York Times’ best-selling author and illustrator Nick Bruel.

Bruel’s popular chapter-book series familiar to many youngsters includes “Bad Kitty for President,” “Bad Kitty Meets the Baby,” “Bad Kitty vs. Uncle Murray,” “Happy Birthday Bad Kitty” and “Bad Kitty Gets a Bath.“

“Bad Kitty Meets the Baby” was the 2012 Children’s Choice Book Award winner in the grades three and four category.

Also headlining the festival is master storyteller, narrator, instrumentalist and singer Charlotte Blake Alston.

Alston has hosted “Carnegie Kids,” Carnegie Hall’s preschool concert series, for six seasons.

Her performance will include traditional and contemporary stories from African and African-American oral and cultural traditions.

The book festival will kick off earlier in the week with school visits, a regional bookmark

contest and an array of arts- and literature-based activities for families.

Each child also will receive a free age-appropriate book just for attending the festival.

“Sometimes we take for granted that all children have books,” said Wendy Kesslak, festival chairwoman.

Festival hours are 6 to 8:30 p.m. March 22, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 23 and noon to 4 p.m. March 24.

The event, which is free, is designed to get children in pre-K through grade six excited about reading.

Information: 262-0732 or visit

For the kids

What: Fifth annual Children’s Book Festival.

Where: Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center and Art Works in the Cambria City section of


When: March 22-24.

Admission: Free.

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