Dan Santat

Sophie Blackall

Three of the nation’s most sought-after illustrators—each of them recognized with a Caldecott Medal in the last three years—will appear together for the first time at the 2017 Virginia Children’s Book Festival.

The trio, who will present the keynote conversation for this year’s festival, set for Oct. 19-21, are:

  • Dan Santat, who was awarded the 2015 Caldecott Medal for his book The         Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend.
  • Sophie Blackall, who delighted and inspired groups of children at the 2015 VCBF and was awarded the 2016 Caldecott Medal for her illustrations in the book Finding Winnie.
  • Javaka Steptoe, a New York Times best-selling author and illustrator, who was awarded the 2017 Caldecott Medal for his book Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Each artist works in a different style and approaches creating art for children’s books from a different perspective, from whimsical and fun paintings to bright collages with bits of found material.

Illustration helps capture the magic of a story for young readers.

Juanita Giles, VCBF executive director

The keynote, titled “You’ll Never Win the Caldecott: A Conversation with Three Caldecott Winners,” will include the story of how each presenter was told at some point they would never win what is recognized as the top illustration award in children’s literature. They’ll also discuss their careers and the process of creating award-winning art that captures the imagination of children across the world. Budding artists may also glean a few tricks of the trade from these three accomplished illustrators.

“Illustration helps capture the magic of a story for young readers,” said Juanita Giles, VCBF executive director. “Many times pictures are the spark that helps kindle the flame of imagination, allowing it to grow and spread beyond the pages of the book. Over the first three years of the Virginia Children’s Book Festival, some of our most popular and impactful programming has centered on our incredible illustrators, and, with these three anchoring the lineup, this year will be no different. We are incredibly proud to offer these three artists in conversation for the first time, where they will offer a perspective on children’s book illustration that cannot be found anywhere else.”

The keynote conversation will be held Thursday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. in Blackwell Ballroom. The special event is free and open to the public, as is all programming at the Virginia Children’s Book Festival, and book lovers from across the region are invited.

This is the first appearance at the VCBF for Santat and Steptoe. Santat lives in Southern California and in 2006 created the Disney Channel animated television program The Replacements. Steptoe lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, and has written or illustrated more than 10 children’s books. Blackall appeared at the second VCBF in 2015. A native of Australia, she is best-known for illustrating the popular Ivy & Bean series.

This year’s keynote presentation anchors a strong illustration program at the VCBF, which is expected to serve more than 9,000 children across three days.

The Longwood Center for the Visual Arts is hosting several VCBF workshops amid the largest-ever exhibition of illustrator John Parra’s work. Parra has been honored with the Pura Belpre Award for Illustration, the nation’s top prize given to a Latino/Latina illustrator whose work celebrates the Latino cultural experience.

Longwood alumnus and San Diego-based artist Monty Montgomery will reprise a mural project based on 2017 VCBF author Peter Brown’s award-winning book The Wild Robot. Last year’s mural, painted by children and based on the work of VCBF author Todd Parr, is on display at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond.