May 25, 2019  

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Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival, Keats Awards Presentation April 3-5 on Hattiesburg Campus

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Tamora Pierce
Acclaimed fantasy novelist Tamora Pierce will be awarded the Southern Miss Medallion April 4 at the 52nd annual Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival.

An award-winning author considered among the best in the fantasy genre will be honored at the 52nd annual Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival, when the event is held April 3-5 at The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) Hattiesburg campus.

Tamora Pierce, renowned for her young adult fantasy books and who breaks norms by featuring female heroines in her work, will be presented with the Southern Miss Medallion, the festival’s top award, during its Medallion Session from 10:15 – 11:15 a.m. Thursday, April 4. The festival, which also includes presentation of the Ezra Jack Keats Awards, is presented annually by the USM School of Library and Information Science.

Pierce’s works include Song of the Lioness Quartet, The Protector of the Small Quartet, Circle of Magic Quartet, Legend of Beka Cooper series, Numair Chronicles, The Immortals Quartet, and The Trickster series. A self-proclaimed “geek,” she is recipient of the 2013 Margaret A. Edwards award, and a #1 New York Times bestseller. Book one in the Song of the Lioness quartet, Alanna: The First Adventure, was voted in 2018 by Unbound Worlds as one the best fantasy novels of all time. 

“Tamora Pierce is an icon of fantasy literature, and we look forward to presenting her with our event’s highest honor, the Southern Miss Medallion,” said Karen Rowell, director of the festival. “I know festival guests and organizers are eagerly looking forward to her talk at our Medallion Session.” 

In addition to Pierce, keynote presenters for the festival include:

*Australian artist and Ezra Jack Keats Award winner Sophie Blackall will serve as the festival’s de Grummond Lecturer. Blackall has illustrated more than 30 children's books and featured her characters in Ivy + Beans to join the fight against measles in Ivy + Beans versus the Measles. She just won the 2019 Caldecott Medal for Hello Lighthouse!  Some of her works include New York Times Top Ten Picture Book Big Red Lollipop, Caldecott Medal winner Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear, Are You Awake?, and Pecan Pie with Jacqueline Woodson.

*An author and illustrator from Temple, Texas, Brian Floca is known for his award-winning illustrations and collaborative works with Avi on the Poppy series. He's a New York Times Bestseller for Lightship, winner of the 2014 Caldecott Medal for Locomotive, and his book Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 won the Robert F. Sibert Medal. Other works that include Floca are Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox, Hawk Rising by Maria Gianferrari, and Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan.

*For over two decades, Kevin Lewis has been one of the most highly regarded children's book editors in the industry. At Scholastic Inc., he worked with Dav Pilkey on the original Captain Underpants. At Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, where he served as an editorial director, Lewis worked with a veritable who's who of authors and illustrators including Laurie Halse Anderson (Fever 1793, Chains), Spike and Tonya Lee (Please Baby Please), Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles), Derek Anderson and Lauren Thompson (Little Quack), Alex Sanchez (Rainbow Boys), Jim Benton (Franny K. Stein) Angela Johnson, Kadir Nelson, Cynthia Rylant, and Loren Long. As an Executive Editor at Disney Press, Kevin developed and produced the Vampirina Ballerina series and edited books by Matthew Cordell, Barney Saltzberg, and Chris Barton. In 2018, Lewis became an agent for the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, primarily focusing on writer-illustrators and diverse voices.

*Urban Destruction stylist Bweela Steptoe will present the festival’s Ezra Jack Keats Lecture. She designs family inspired, one of a kind Wearable Art. The Fashion Institute of Technology Graduate admits to having fun when she is designing, and believes fashion enhances personal expression. The daughter of well-known author and illustrator John Steptoe and painter and collagist Stephanie Douglas, Steptoe says "Life is about survival, but to do it with style makes a difference."

*Coretta Scott King Illustrator winner for In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers, Javaka Steptoe is an artist and illustrator who uses everyday objects to reflect strength, vitality, and playfulness in his creations. Steptoe is committed to making the audience connect to his world through similar shared experiences. He also visits various schools and conferences in support of children's education. His other works include Do you Know What I'll Do? by Charlotte Zolotow, Jane Addams Children's Book Award Winner Hot Day on Abbott Avenue by Karen English, and Amiri and Odette: A Love Story by Walter Dean Myers.

*10th Annual Coleen Salley Storytelling Award winner William Joyce is a recipient of the Coleen Salley Storytelling Award and a well-known author, illustrator, and producer. He is the author of such popular titles as the Guardians of Childhood series, picture books Dinosaur Bob and Santa Calls, and was the executive producer of the movie based on the series Rise of the Guardians. Joyce was the first children's author to win a Louisiana Writer Award, and has helped produce popular shows such as “Rolie Polie Olie” and “George Shrink.” He also lent his creativity to blockbuster films “Toys Story,” “A Bug's Life,” and “Meet the Robinsons.”

*Special guests will share their memories of the late author and 1991 Southern Miss Medallion recipient Richard Peck at a special session, “Remembering Richard,” Wednesday, April 3 from 3-4 p.m. in the Thad Cochran Center Ballrooms. Peck loved lemons, so a special lemon dessert reception will be part of this event. Guest speakers will include Louise Borden, Sophie Blackall, Chuck Galey, USM President Emeritus Dr. Aubrey K. Lucas, Cheryl Peck, Patsy Perritt, Sonya Sones, Bennett Trammer, and Paul O. Zelinsky.

Two of the festival’s keynote speakers, Floca and Javaka Steptoe, have agreed to visit local schools. Floca will visit the Hattiesburg Public School District’s Lillie Burney STEAM Academy, and the Kaigler Book Festival purchased a copy of his picture book Moonshot ( The local Alpha Gamma chapter is sponsoring three school visits by Javaka Steptoe. His picture book Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat won the 2017 Caldecott Award.

For more information about the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival, including its schedule of events, visit, or contact Rowell at; for information about the USM School of Library and Information Science, visit