Book country

I took my daughters, ages 3 and 7, to the Orange County Children’s Book Festival today at Orange Coast College. After getting lost along the way (partly due to me misremembering the map I’d left at home, and partly do to getting sucked into traffic for the swap meet that is also on the OCC campus), we arrived about noon and spent three hours mostly enjoying ourselves.

I’ll get the low point out of the way first: that would be when the Dippin’ Dots ice cream pouch my 3-year-old was eating started leaking out the bottom. Toddlers are messy enough without being sabatoged by defective packaging. The high point was definitely the train ride tour of the OCC campus, even if we did have to spend a half-an-hour waiting our turn. Okay, I confess — I may consider that the high point because it’s about the only time I got to sit down all afternoon.

It was a nice day for a festival, sunny but not too hot with a nice breeze that kept the free balloons dancing around merrily. The event was pretty low-key, with just enough people there so that attendance couldn’t be considered sparse, but neither were we elbowing our way through crowds every where we went.

There were not nearly as many vendors there as I’d thought there would be. Borders had the biggest, busiest booth. Everything else seemed to be small, independent publishers with, at most, a half-a-dozen titles for sale. I’ve nothing against small publishers, of course, but we didn’t see much among the meager offerings that tempted us (my 7-year-old is really hard to tempt beyond her avid devotion to Junie B. Jones anyway), so I spent less than $15 on books, far less than I was anticipating.

Aside from vendors, there was a variety of entertainment. The mainstage had a number of local performers while storytellers and magicians and so forth gathered audiences in various venues. There were some lectures for those interested in creating children’s books, too, though with the kids in tow I chose not to attend. Kid-pleasing festival standards (balloon animals, face painting, jumping tent and the train ride) were all free, and there were a small number of refreshments available, including the campus cafe which was open for business.

This is the first of what is supposed to become an annual event, and I think they’ve gotten off to a pretty good start. Sure, it’s small, and there are no big-name authors or publishers present, but it hasn’t lost sight of who the Festival is for, and you can tell the planners were keen on making the event entertaining for kids. One thing that might be nice is to provide some more book-and-reading-oriented activities for the kids, though, instead of jumping tents which can be found just about anywhere anymore. I’m sure it couldn’t be too hard to put together some ideas that would create a distinct and memorable character for the Festival, to distinguish it from all the other community events in the county Uh oh…I better stop before I end up volunteering for next year’s Festival!

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