Community leaders turn out for book fest

By DEBORA GILBERT

IN ADDITION TO PROVIDING A CHANCE to meet over 100 authors, the Third Annual Hudson Children’s Book Festival last Saturday, May 7 at the high school on Harry Howard Avenue, provided the opportunity to see many of our community leaders up close in an informal setting.

Superintendent Jack Howe offered me a hand shake when I arrived. School board member Mary Daly was sitting in for one of the authors and across the room Christine Keeler, a senior who sits on the school board, manned another author’s table.

Representative Chris Gibson (R-20th) came over to suggest a book, and when I suggested another, he went and found that author, Ryan Smithson, a former GI who described his experiences as a 19-year-old in the army in Iraq in “Ghosts of War.”

State Senator Steven Saland (R-41st) also said a brief hello as he was chatting with others.

Edgar Acevedo, who teaches third and fourth grades at the Hudson Intermediate School, staged a song and dance performance of “Tall Tales” by the Columbia County Youth Theatre, which he directs during the summer in the auditorium. Their accomplished performance was followed by singer/songwriter John Farrell accompanied by second graders from John L. Edwards Elementary who had written a song for the occasion. Many of the girls wore their best outfits, including heels.

John was headed for Zambia the following Wednesday where planned to work with kids on universal themes like peace and friendship in music and poetry. He’ll be accompanied by his wife, Ann Marie, a grade school teacher at Taconic Hills School, and J.L. Edwards’ recently retired principal, Carol Gans.

In the middle of Mr. Farrell’s performance a fire alarm rang. “Walk slowly,” he advised, as the audience departed. Ten minutes later, he was back, with a reduced audience, but the show went on, and so did the book festival. Crowds had poured out of the building making it possible to get a better idea of just how many people had come to the event, and most went right back in after fire department officials gave their consent.

Parking lots had filled to capacity early in the day and cars lined Harry Howard Avenue.

Back in the authors’ room, cartoonist and columnist for The Columbia Paper Barbara Slate was surrounded by people interested in creating their own graphic novels, and two young boys were transfixed by the live, three-inch-long roaches on Amanda Marrone’s table next to her books “The Multiplying Menace” and “The Shape Shifter’s Curse.”

It was hard not to be fascinated by Susan Albee’s innovative approach to history in her illustrated book, “Poop Happened,” about society’s solution to an ever present problem through the ages. In her workshop she talked about problems faced by Scarlett O’Hara, and knights in shining armor.

Taconic Hills School Middle School Principal Neil Howard, who came to the event with his family, said that he had spent $140, and I was not far behind in that department. Free books were on offer too, for any kid who wanted one.

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