EASTON — Hard-copy picture books are alive and well, even in this digital age, and a crowd at the Talbot County Free Library proved it last Saturday, June 17.

It was the Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival, and the library’s main room in Easton was filled with authors and illustrators, probably the largest gathering of youthful-thinking genius and creativity ever assembled under that roof.

And then there were their fans. Small book lovers arrived in a steady stream, some of their faces hardly reaching above the tables, but with the same objective in mind – getting their hands on a nice, juicy book. Or two.

Sure, the authors and illustrators had books online, but what the crowd really seemed to want were hard-copy books made on paper, originals that could be autographed.

And it wasn’t just picture books. The festival’s book creators wrote for young adults too, mysteries, tales of teenage troubles, and young love.

This is the second year for the festival, and authors came from all over the East Coast and then some, according to local children’s author Tim Young, who helped organize the festival.

He named authors from Boston, New York, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. There were 33 in all.

Library volunteer Barbara Mann roamed the library grounds dressed as Mother Goose, complete with “Gertie,” a rather shy domestic goose puppet.

Author Tara Lazar signed books seated next to her travel companion “Normal Norman,” which is also one of her book’s titles.

Author Alison Ashley Formento was dressed as a bee during the festival to match her book, “These Bees Count!”

Author Terry Catasus Jennings had a pan full of desert-like dirt through which youngsters could sift and discover archaeological treasures to accompany her book, “Vivian and the Legend of the Hoodoos.”

Author Robin Newman had just finished another in her Wilcox and Griswold Mystery Series, in which two mouse-like police detectives search for clues to find missing food, as in “The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake” and the “Case of the Poached Egg.”

She said she had deliberately made the smallest animals on the farm the enforcers of justice.

“It’s kind of a spoof on Dragnet,” she said, referring to the popular television series of the 1950s.

Local authors and illustrators at the festival included Timothy Young, Barbara Lockhart, Lynn Lockhart, Heather Crow, and Laura Rankin.

Tim Young published three books last year, “Am I Big Enough?” “Just One Thing!” and “Do Not Open the Box!”

Another of his books will be out in September: “I’m Going to Outer Space” about a boy who leaves planet Earth in search of a robot and encounters some classic movie robots and aliens in space, along with very new ones.

His “Creatures and Characters” will also be published in September and, in January, a follow-up to “The Angry Little Puffin” entitled “If You Give the Puffin a Muffin.”

Author Deborah Blumenthal sat wistfully early in the afternoon, saying she had run out of books. Blumenthal has published more than 20 books for all ages and is an award-winning contributor to The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and a long list of national magazines, among others.

During the festival there were more than 15 authors who gave readings from their books.

There was also free pork barbecue and other treats supplied by student chefs at the Chesapeake Culinary School of Denton.

Easton High School art students held an exhibition of their work around the library courtyard.

Blacksmith David Collier of Baltimore Corner set up his portable forge and made old-fashioned nails, wall hooks and other items for visitors.

There was also a make-a-book session, a plant and seed exchange and live music.

This year’s summer reading program at the library is entitled “Build a Better World” and involves a partnership with Habitat for Humanity Choptank.

Each time a child participating in the program reads a book, Habitat will receive a donation. During the festival, Habitat featured a “Build Your Own Home” activity and photo prop house that children could have their picture taken in.

The Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival was sponsored by the Talbot County Free Library with the help of Friends of the Talbot County Free Library, Eventful Giving and many other supporters, including The Star Democrat.

For a complete list of authors, visit http://www.chesapeakechildrensbookfestival.org/.

Follow me on Twitter @chrisp_stardem. Email me at cpolk@stardem.com.

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