The Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival

I’ve been writing a long piece about another book when I realized I wanted to wait until Feb 20 to publish it. Only last night did I realize you can work on another post and just hold the first one until later. Look, I can still learn new things!

I helped found a book festival in my town a few years ago. I’ll tell the full story of that later but today I want to talk about the graphics. Once we were officially underway we had decided it would be the Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival. I designed a cute crab character reading a book for the logo. You see a lot of crab logos around this region, I myself have designed at least a half dozen. I try to steer local businesses away from them toward something more unique but I broke my own rule because it seemed appropriate in this case.

Then we needed a poster to advertise the event. I took the same crab and enlarged him. I wanted to show him reading surrounded by a bunch of books, but what books to choose? We had not chosen authors for the first festival yet so I could not use any of their books. I could just make up pretend books but I thought that would be boring and I wanted an image that would get people talking.

I have a history with parody. I’ve loved good parody since I was a kid. When Bugs Bunny would tangle with the Sheriff of Nottingham or Little Red Riding Hood or even better, Humphrey Bogart, I loved that. I loved the Fractured Fairy Tales cartoons. Professionally I have poked fun at Beanie Babies with the Meanies, I have sculpted parodies of other toys including Cabbage Patch Dolls, Disney Babies and other toys in magazine illustrations and I’ve used parody in a number of my books, especially I Hate Picture Books!.

So I created a bunch of book parodies combining crabs and classic books everybody knows. It was very well received by the committee and it’s gotten a good response from the public. I was told that some kids asked if they could get those books.

We re-used the image for the second year of the festival since we were developing a brand. Let me explain before I go further, although I helped found the festival it’s never been my intention to make it the Timothy Young Book Festival. It’s not even the Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival featuring Timothy Young. I’m not putting my art on the posters for self promotion. My signature on the art is tiny and hard to see.

The reason I’m doing the work is two-fold. One, I’m the guy with the graphics and illustration skills who is willing to do the work and two, we don’t have enough money to pay anyone to do it. We are a charity event, most of the money we raise goes to giving away books to many of the children who attend. The rest is to cover costs. Since I opened my big mouth and suggested we organize a festival I do the work gratis. Maybe some day we will have a contest or be able to hire someone else.

For the third year we did something special, we combined our festival with our local Juneteenth Celebration. We happened to schedule both events for the same weekend but more importantly, it was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass who was born in Talbot County. Since we were honoring him we didn’t want to use the same funny image. I didn’t think I was going to have time to create something new and we were thinking about what to do. Then, I got this picture in my head. I remembered Douglass writing about watching the white sails of the ships on the Chesapeake Bay and wishing he could be as free as they were. I also remembered his quote “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” I then found the time I didn’t think I had and created the art we used on last year’s poster.

So now we arrive at this year’s event, the fourth annual Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival. We had a planning meeting in December. The folks from the library asked if we could incorporate the theme of this year’s summer reading program, “A Universe Of Stories,” since the festival kicks off the program. So I thought “Ok, the crab is going to space! And if I’m sending the crab into space he’s going to want some space books to read!”

Over the last few weeks I’ve been posting a few of the parody book covers I’ve been creating on my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter but now I’m pleased to reveal the full illustration. The festival is on June 8th and we hope to see you there. We’ll be filling in sponsor logos soon, if you’d like to sponsor the festival you can contact us here. We are also still accepting author and illustrator applications through the end of January, you can download the form here.

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