Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival underway on Southern Miss campus


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. The event got underway Wednesday and continues through Friday, April 5, at The University of Southern Mississippi’s 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 No. 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. 

• 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. 

• For more than two decades, Kevin Lewis has been one of the most highly regarded children's book editors in the industry. 

• Urban Destruction stylist Bweela Steptoe will present the festival’s Ezra Jack Keats Lecture. She designs family inspired, one-of-a-kind Wearable Art. 

• 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. 

• 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.