By Benjamin Joe
It’s an exciting time when someone first starts to read. There are so many choices: “Nancy Drew,” “Goosebumps,” and “Charlotte’s Web.” It’s like a lightbulb goes on, and stays on throughout their lives. All through reading.
To all the young readers who’ve just learned, or are just learning to open those rooms, the fifth annual WNY Children’s Book Expo is back from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, 153 Franklin St.
“How it all started was my Mom and I opened a children’s bookstore in Clarence, New York, just 10 years ago,” said Kim Krug, one of the organizers of WNY Book Expo. “We have a tag-line: ‘Our bookstore is the little bookstore with big ideas.’ ”
Krug said that it began as simple as anything does. She saw an ad about a contest – from best-selling author James Patterson – where independent bookstores could vie for $1 million with creative ideas to get kids to read. Krug said she filled it out and didn’t think anything else about it.
Then a check came in.
“The week before Christmas, we received a check for $8,500,” she said. “It was a letter from James Patterson saying, ‘Start your first expo!’ … That’s how the ball started rolling. … We had nine months to plan it. We had to find a location; we had to invite authors to Buffalo, in November, which was kind of a hard thing to sell. … The expo cost $34,000 that first year. We had over 2,000 people show up.”
Krug said they quickly realized her expo was going to need lots of funding, so she teamed up with local businesses.
“The wonderful news is that, from its beginning, we’ve had incredible community support and business support. We put on our thinking caps; we started really asking local businesses in our community, ‘Will you help us? We feel like this is an important event for our community.’ Just by asking, we received sponsorship help by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Rich Products and Wegmans,” she said. “It was, quite honestly, incredible, and it is still, to me, amazing. We say we’re the City of Good Neighbors and we truly are.”
Of the 40 authors at the expo, Krug said, a third of them are local. Two of them talked to the Tribune: Brigette Callahan and Kristin Warham, the creators of “Bob Uffalo” and his journey in “Buffalo from A-Z.” Both are instructors at Errick Road Elementary in the Niagara-Wheatfield School District, and will present in the BlueCross BlueShield of WNY Main Stage Room between 11:40-11:55 a.m.
“We were members of the consortium last year. We were listed as new authors to showcase our book,” Warham said. “It was such an honor to be invited as local authors, to be included in the event. This year, we’ve been invited back and receive the honor of being the authors who are doing the kickoff celebration at Medaille College on Nov. 4 from 6 to 7 (p.m.). We will be hosting the event at Medaille and we will be presenting on our new book.”
“We feel completely honored. Our whole goal with this book was to get kids out and about in their city and use our book to tour around the city. We just feel exposing kids to ‘Bob Uffalo’ and all the beautiful places in our book is going to get them more excited to get out and see these places, and to read about them,” Callahan said.
“The whole premise of our book is about community, and celebrating community, and getting kids involved and motivated to be an influential piece of community,” Warham said. “By being a part of this celebration of authors and being a part of the Western New York Book Expo, it gives us that much more exposure to be visible to kids and families.
“And to get kids and families in our own community, being local authors, out to the expo, celebrate our community together and venture into the world of books and what books can do for you and the adventures they can take you on (is exciting).”
It’s not just a one-day event. For a full week, starting on Nov. 4 till the expo date on Nov. 9, school districts from Ripley, Pennsylvania, to Niagara County will experience visits from authors and their books in what’s called “KidsLit Week.”
“The meat of our whole event is ‘KidsLit Week,’ because it’s where we can really see the most amount of children and impact lives right in the school setting,” Krug said. “We have a captive audience. Everyone just embraces this opportunity and, for many, it’s a first-time experience.”
The expo itself will include over 200 book giveaways, feature “Pete the Cat” and other characters, as well as Paws for Love Therapy Dogs – to whom kids can read – and book-related craft tables.
The event is free. More information can be found at www.wnycbe.com.