Children’s Art and Literacy Festival

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Children’s Art & Literacy Festival in Abilene, Texas! You may not know that Austin and I used to live in Abilene. He grew up there and we met while both attending Abilene Christian University. Over the last decade, we’ve seen this beautiful quiet town take off in development! The people are what make this place so special and the secret is finally getting out! This year the C.A.L.F. set a new attendance record, hovering around 5,500 registered attendees!

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What is the C.A.L.F.?

To start, Abilene is the Storybook Capital of America. It’s home to the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, a museum that rotates installments of original illustration pieces from some of the most renowned artists in the industry.

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The Children’s Art & Literacy Festival is an annual event that emphasizes the importance of families, art, and literacy. It takes place the second weekend in June. 

The C.A.L.F. celebrated its 10th anniversary this year by honoring the work that Sophie Blackall has given to children’s literature. This three day event consisted of dramatic readings, interactive shows, educational workshops, hands-on extension activities, and community involvement all centered around children’s literacy. The joyful smiles and giggles were impossible to miss.

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Here’s an outline of what I did in two days. . .

If it seems like a lot, that’s because it was! This festival was packed with activities!

  • Dramatic Reading of Finding Winnie
  • Meet and Greet with Sophie Blackall
  • Musical Performance by Joe McDermott
  • Cookie Decorating
  • Petting Zoo
  • Kornpop Balloon Art Interactive Show
  • Nancy & Her Friends ventriloquist show
  • Dramatic Reading of Hello Lighthouse
  • Birds of Prey presentation
  • Puppet Show by Gepetto’s Marionette Theater
  • Dinner with Sophie Blackall
  • Meet the Storybook Characters in the Sculpture Garden
  • Dramatic Reading of Wombat Walkabout
  • Dramatic Reading of The Mighty Lalouche
  • Dramatic Reading of Big Red Lollipop
  • Dramatic Reading of Negative Cat
  • Dramatic Reading of No, David Read and Dog on a Bicycle (previously honored author/illustrator David Shannon)
  • Hands-on activities and experiments connected to Blackall’s books
  • Reading aloud to therapy dogs
  • Storybook Train Ride
  • Live performance “Wild Boars Cook: Live!”
  • Instrument Petting Zoo
  • Live performance “Ivy + Bean: The Musical”
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Friday:

I started the morning in the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL), where we listened to a vibrant reading of Finding Winnie, the book for which Sophie Blackall’s sculpture was created. More on that later!

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I met Sophie Blackall and had my copy of Finding Winnie signed. It was such a treat meeting her!

After leaving the NCCIL, I walked down Cypress Street to find Stilt Walkers entertaining kids with exciting costumes and dance moves.

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My next stop was at Minter Park, where I saw Joe McDermott perform his original silly songs and poems. He had both kids and adults captivated with his wit and humor!

Did I mention that it was a weekend of record breaking heat?! Well, next I stopped at Monks Coffee Shop, an Abilene staple, and ordered an iced lavender vanilla latte. Amazing, 10/10 def recommend. 

With my coffee, I headed across the street to McKay’s Bakery, another unofficial Abilene landmark, for cookie decorating. McKay’s set up a decorating station within their bakery for kids (and adults) to try their hand at the culinary arts!

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As I made my way to the next scheduled event, there were so many examples of community involvement. Students from a local private school volunteered to host a face painting and hair chalk station that STAYED BUSY! This was the place to be in between readings and performances!

Once I made my way to the Convention Center, I spent a few minutes outside before heading in. Along with a petting zoo, there was chalk galore on the front patio, an invitation for children to express their creativity throughout the event. There was also a chalk art installment by a local artist that represented the lighthouse from Blackall’s illustrations in the book Hello Lighthouse.

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Inside the Convention Center, I watched the adorable Kornpop Balloon Art Interactive Show. Kornpop (yes, that is his real name) had every kid mesmerized with balloon art and magic tricks. They loved him!

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After the silliness at Kornpop, I walked to the historic Paramount Theater to watch an educational show titled “Nancy & Her Friends.” This was my favorite show of the weekend! Nancy is a skilled ventriloquist and kept her audience (kids and adults) captivated with interesting facts about butterflies and spiders and funny jokes from her puppet children. 

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Next up was a short walk to Nora Hall to listen to a read aloud of Hello Lighthouse. After each read aloud, there was a related craft for children to complete!

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I had a quick lunch at The Local before heading over to Frontier Texas for some outdoor fun! There, I learned about hawks, vultures, and owls, and the Birds of Prey show. I also got to get up close and personal with the most adorable warthogs I’ll ever see! Remember, each event connects to Blackall’s books. These two were extensions of The Crows of Pearblossom and Meet Wild Boars.  

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Last event of the day was a marionette show at The Well put on by Gepetto’s Marionette Theater from Dallas. 

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I was lucky enough to be invited to dinner at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literacy, where we all got to observe a Q & A with Blackall. It was spectacular! 

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Saturday:

First up on Saturday was Meet the Storybook Characters in the Sculpture Garden located next to the Convention Center. I found Winnie, as well as many other characters!

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I stopped for another coffee at Monks and headed to the Grace museum for two dramatic readings: Wombat Walkabout and The Mighty Lalouche.

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Next were two more dramatic readings at the Community Foundations Center: Big Red Lollipop and Negative Cat.

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No, David Read and Dog on a Bicycle dramatic readings (honoring David Shannon from years past) were presented at the Majestic Theater.

At the Center for Contemporary Arts, was a “STEAM Room” full of hands-on activities and experiments that were extensions of Blackall’s books. “STEAM” stands for Science Technology Engineering Art and Math.

They also had an area for children to practice reading aloud to therapy dogs provided by Hendrick Pets.

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I stopped for a quick turkey sandwich at Cypress Street Café and then was off to the Storybook Train Ride at the T & P Depot!

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One of my favorite shows was the Wild Boars Cook: Live! Show presented by Abilene Christian University’s theater department at the Abilene Public Library! 

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The afternoon ended with a unique experience, an Instrument Petting Zoo at the Wooten! This event allowed children to explore all kinds of instruments, providing early exposure to musical arts.

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I wrapped up the weekend’s event on Saturday night with a live performance of Ivy + Bean: The Musical at the Paramount theater. It was the perfect way to wrap up a weekend of children’s literacy and honor Sophie Blackall’s work.

What a fantastic experience! This event is incredibly centered around the child’s experience, making it the perfect family friendly summer bucket list event! If you’re a parent, grandparent, teacher, or bookworm, the Children’s Art and Literacy Festival is a must!

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Five Star Read: Shadows of Pecan Hollow by Caroline Frost

3 Reasons Why Shadows of Pecan Hollow Should Be Your Next Read

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“Is it better than Crawdads?!”

That’s the question I’m still hearing in my head. Someone asked me this question on Instagram and my answer was. . . Yeah, I think it might be. This is not a comparison I make lightly.

It’s been a few weeks since I finished Shadows of Pecan Hollow and I’m still thinking about it. Here are three reasons why you should pick up a copy for yourself!

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Shadows of Pecan Hollow by Caroline Frost

Reason #1: Rich Character Development

I was immediately enveloped by the characters. Frost had me feeling like I’d known them forever in the first 50 pages. How is that even possible?! To my delight, the characters only got deeper and deeper. Some I loved with my whole heart, and some, well. . .

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Reason #2: Emotional Roller Coaster

Frost’s writing took ahold of my heart and did not let go. I got mad. I cried MORE THAN ONCE. My anger was resolved. I felt pride for these women. I even laughed through some tears. The suspense kept me gripped! I forced myself to read it slowly, in small bits because I didn’t want it to end.

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Reason #3: Texas Setting

As a native Texan, it’s no surprise that I hold a high standard for the way that my state is portrayed. It’s my home, as it is Frost’s. I love living here. Our history is rich with blood, sacrifice, and strength.

Frost nailed it. She told me she was trying to win over the Texans with this one and she surely did. Aside from geographical accuracy, there was special attention to community.

Texas is called The Friendly State for a reason. Although there are inevitably bad people like Manny, there is no shortage of community to rally behind you through difficult times.

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Order your copy of Shadows of Pecan Hollow here and thank me later!

This post contains affiliate links.

How to Organize Your Bookshelf

You’ve got the books. You’ve got a designated space. Now, how are you organizing?

Hello, friends! We’re talking about organization! I get asked all the time how I organize the bookcase and I’m happy to finally lay it all out!

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There’s no right or wrong way to organize. In fact, when we first built our bookcase, there was ZERO organization. 100% aesthetic display and, although it was pretty to look at,  it created an internal fury every time I went to search for a book.

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There are several ways to go about it. Many organize by genre, fiction & nonfiction, alphabetically by author, celebrity book club picks, and even the eye-catching color-coding rainbow. Organization only needs to make sense to YOU!

My Hybrid Approach to Organization

I’ve taken a hybrid design to lining my shelves and have two systems in place. 

The bookcase is made up of eight rows of five shelves each.

The Top Four

The top four rows of shelves are only books that I’ve read and kept. These are organized alphabetically (left to right, top to bottom) by the author’s last name. 

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The Bottom Four

The bottom four rows of shelves are all books I haven’t read yet- hold your judgment! They are also organized alphabetically (left to right, top to bottom) by the author’s last name.

Keeping my read and to be read (TBR) books separately makes locating a book so much easier. If I’m looking to lend a book to a friend, it’s one I’ve read and loved and I know to look at the top. 

If I’m looking for my next read, having all available books within arms reach makes the process more accessible and the decision overall less stressful. I don’t have to climb a ladder every time I want to read a synopsis or first chapter of a potential next read!

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The Exceptions

Of course, there are exceptions! Scattered throughout the bookcase, there are some special edition sets and our Bible on display.

There is also a dedicated space for books that have not been published yet. I keep these lined in order of their publication dates. I organize those chronologically, as opposed to alphabetically, to ensure that I can share about the book in a timely fashion. 

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To each their own! Like I mentioned earlier, organization only needs to make sense to YOU!

So, tell me! How do you organize? Do you have exceptions to your organization, too?

Leave me a comment!

4 Reading Habits to Bring into 2022

“New Year, New You,” right?! It’s healthy to set new goals for yourself! These are four helpful reading habits that I’m bringing with me into 2022.

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Four Reading Habits to Bring into 2022:

1.DNF’ing a book when I’m not enjoying it: If you’re unfamiliar with the term, DNF means “did not finish.” It’s the action of putting a book down. I used to feel SO much guilt {and pride} to finish any book I started. It took me way too long to prioritize my preferences and enjoyment over my desire to complete a task! Learn from my mistakes! There are way too many good books to waste your time on one you’re not enjoying!

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2. Star Ratings: Giving a book a star rating used to terrify me! Who was I to “grade” a book?! I focused more on non-rating reflections, which is a great way to express thoughts! What I’ve learned though, is that by giving books some type of rating, I’ve learned more about books that I’m likely to enjoy. It takes some time to figure how to rate books in a way that works for you. If you’re like me, you’re going to through our Five Star ratings a lot in the beginning! That’s okay, as you read more and reflect on your own experience reading a book, that scale will slide and you’ll find a measurement that reflects you!

I know I’m going to get questions on how I determine a star rating- it’s totally a gut feeling! Leave it at that! Did you enjoy it? Fantastic!

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I know I’m going to get questions on how I determine a star rating- it’s totally a gut feeling! Leave it at that! Did you enjoy it? Fantastic!

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3. Nightly Reading Routine: Spending (at least) the last hour of my evening reading really helps me unwind and sleep better! I wake up feeling rested and refreshed! Prioritizing this time to care for myself helps me to feel reset and calm. I get grumpyyyy when I don’t get this routine time. My brains feels better when I’m reading!

I also try to start my day with 15-20 minutes of reading while waking up and enjoying my coffee! I find that it’s a great way to get my mind going and ready for the day!

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4. Audiobooks: Never NOT going to listen to audiobooks again. Life. Changing. I’m much more inclined to work through chores, tasks, and errands, when I’ve got a fantastic audiobook entertaining me. It’s a powerful source to connect with books and I often feel like I’m a part of the story. (Especially when there’s an incredible narrator! Or better yet, a full cast!) My go-to apps for audios are Libro.fm and Libby.

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What reading habits are you bringing into the New Year?

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Welcome! I’m so glad you’re here!

Welcome, friends!

Chances are, if you’re reading this we probably are actually friends. If we’re not yet, I look forward to getting to know you! This is the launch of something new for me and The Bookcase Beauty. What began as a small Instagram page to chronicle my thoughts and reflect on books has grown into a space for cultivating connections through many different hobbies and interests! Over on Instagram, I know readers, teachers, lifestyle influencers, home decorators, beauty enthusiasts, and travelers.

As I’ve grown and connected with so many others, I’ve felt a little constrained when it comes to sharing my content. It’s felt a little disjointed, trying to share all that I want from these difference facets of life all on one feed. The streamline look that my IG profile once had, now feels a little more like small glimpses into my life on a larger scale. These glimpses have brought in new perspectives and voices and have created a stronger community of people actively looking for the beauty in life.

But, small glimpses are not where the real connections lie. Small glimpses are how we end up comparing ourselves based algorithms, likes, and brightly colored photos. This had lead me to realize that there’s so much more for us to share with each other and that I WANT to share with you.

As The Bookcase Beauty has grown, I’ve set my sights on cultivating deeper connection. Having a pretty esthetic is a bonus, but not my main mission in taking on this type of commitment. With the growth of a website, I hope that The Bookcase Beauty will become an even stronger place for people to share, find joy, and seek the beauty in life.

I’m happy you’re here! Thanks for joining me!

Katelyn

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