Storybook capital plans colorful Children’s Art & Literacy Festival for 2018

Seventh annual event celebrates “The Day the Crayons Quit” illustrator June 7–9; early bird discount tickets available through May 15

ABILENE — The official Storybook Capital of Texas is celebrating all things Oliver Jeffers at the seventh annual Children’s Art & Literacy Festival (CALF), from lost penguins to a moose named Marcel to fed-up crayons who quit and travel the world!

The festival is June 7–9, 2018, in downtown Abilene and takes places at fourteen venues. One of those is the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (the NCCIL), where the original artwork of Jeffers will go on display for the summer.

Jeffers is a Northern Ireland artist who now lives in Brooklyn. He has illustrated more than twenty children’s picture books, including the best-selling The Day the Crayons Came Home, The Way Back Home, Lost and Found, and The Incredible Book Eating Boy. The Day the Crayons Quit reached No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. Jeffers has authored and illustrated about fifteen children’s picture books.

In addition to his children’s books, Jeffers has achieved fame for his paintings, including “dipped paintings” — a series of performances where he dips his fully painted artwork into vats of enamel paint that permanently hides half or more of the painting. His film work includes music videos for the band U2, a 24-minute animated short film, Lost and Found, based on his book of the same name, and the opening video for the 2013 TED Talks.

Jeffers plans to fly to Abilene to take part in the CALF festivities, which start Thursday night, June 7, with a costume contest followed by the Storybook Parade down Cypress Street that ends at the Abilene Convention Center. There, the newest addition to the Storybook Sculpture Project will be unveiled at the Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden. The Marcel the moose sculpture, based on the Jeffers book This Moose Belongs to Me, brings the total number of storybook sculptures here to 24. Abilene has the largest collection of public storybook sculptures in the U.S. In fact, Abilene has decided to re-brand itself the Storybook Capital of America and has applied to trademark the term.

“We really are the Storybook Capital of not just Texas, but the country,” said Lynn Barnett, executive director of the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council. “We define the theme with all that we have to offer here, from our storybook sculptures to the NCCIL, the festival, the costumed characters and the children’s literature themed events that happen here year round.”  The council hosts the CALF, commissions the storybook sculptures, and works closely with the NCCIL and other arts organizations to host activities that enhance a love of reading and art.

After the sculpture is unveiled Thursday night, families can enjoy food trucks and entertainment as they tour the sculpture garden. At 6:30 p.m., Jeffers will deliver an artist talk followed by a book signing at the Paramount Theatre. All Thursday night events are free.

On Friday and Saturday, families registered for the festival can continue the fun with lots of activities planned. They’ll be invited to listen to dramatic readings of Jeffers’ most popular books with a costumed character followed by an art activity; see ventriloquist Nancy Burks Worcester perform with her friends; sing along with Joe McDermott at the Storybook Garden; and dance with Geppetto’s Marionette Theater. There are also train rides, the Abilene Philharmonic Instrument Petting Zoo, Professor QB magic shows, and the balloon sculptor Kornpop.

Visitors earn buttons for festival lanyards as they complete each activity. Other activities include workshops, a Storybook Sculpture Audio Tour, and a festival scavenger hunt for mobile phone. Last year’s festival drew more than 4,780 people from nearly 81 cities across Texas and eight states.

Tickets are $8 for children (2 and under are free) and $13 for adults until May 15. After that date, tickets are $11 for children and $16 for adults.

The festival is sponsored by the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council, an affiliate of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce dedicated to promoting the arts in Abilene, a city of 119,000 people between Midland and Fort Worth. For more information, visit or call (325) 677-1161. For information on Abilene’s attractions and hotel accommodations, visit, or call 800-727-7704.

(Information from organization’s press release and website)

TIL announces Bryce Milligan resignation

Staff reports

The Texas Institute of Letters announced yesterday morning on its Facebook page that San Antonio author Bryce Milligan had resigned from the organization.

According to TIL President Carmen Tafolla, interviewed via email by Lone Star Literary Life, Milligan resigned in response to allegations about inappropriate conduct with a former student.

A now 31-year-old woman who studied creative writing as a high school student of Milligan alleges he engaged in inappropriate conduct with her when she was 14 and a student at North East School of the Arts. This week, she posted her accusations on Facebook.

According to Tafolla, a San Antonio poet who has published with Milligan’s Wings Press, after Ms. Johnson's allegations were widely re-posted on social media and then in the newspapers, she contacted Milligan to discuss the implications.  “He expressed concern that this scandal might affect the TIL’s excellent reputation, and tendered his resignation, "in the interest of the organization,” she said.

Tafolla indicated that the resignation was unprecedented because she said, “TIL Membership is an honor extended for literary accomplishments, and both bylaws and tradition dictate that once given, it is given for life. The symbolism of his resignation is that his status goes from Active to inactive, so he will no longer be involved in our committees, programs, or awards.  Over the history of the TIL since its founding in 1936, its emphasis has been on celebrating Texas Literature and recognizing distinctive literary achievement. It has never been focused on personal behavior although, as with any honor, ethics is always a part of the respect and esteem which we hold for an individual.”

As for the effect of this incident on future TIL decisions, Tafolla said that as TIL President she will appoint an Ethics Committee, when situations such as this arise, to study and consider whether a member’s personal or professional ethics are affecting the mission, activities or impact of the Texas Institute of Letters.

She added, “Our job is not to judge, avenge, vindicate, or prosecute. That is the job of our courts and our legal system. Our job is to encourage ethical professionalism and excellence in the literary arts in Texas.”

“All that said, I have to emphasize that TIL has made huge strides forward in the inclusion and celebration of a wide diversity of writers who more accurately represent the population of our state, and who reflect the voice of the many peoples of Texas.  With a Council of Directors that is equally balanced between male and female, and with 54% of our Council being Latino or Black, we have a rich diversity of leadership that reflects a concern for social justice and equality.  We stand firmly against abuse of any sort, or disempowerment of any segment of our society.”

* * * * *

* * * * *