Who: Chris Van Allsburg and Kate DiCamillo
When: 2 p.m., Sunday
Where: Fitzgerald Theater, 10 Exchange St. E., Saint Paul
Cost: $15 for adults/$9 for kids 12 and under
A young girl with a smiling dog. Magic board games. A midnight train to Santa’s workshop. A tiny mouse with very big ambitions.
Children’s literature may be one of the few genres with an age-specific niche, but the vivid worlds that populate favorite stories from childhood are a place worth revisiting, even into adulthood.
On Sunday, the Fitzgerald Theater will present two authors of youth fiction, a mid-afternoon event appropriate for young and old alike that will end early enough for all to take a nap afterward.
Featured at the dialogue will be Chris Van Allsburg, the legendary writer and illustrator responsible for “Jumanji” and “The Polar Express,” alongside local author Kate DiCamillo, who penned “Because of Winn-Dixie” and “The Tale of Despereaux” before they were made into feature films.
DiCamillo, who started her career as a writer of short stories for adult readers, received over 470 rejection letters for her work before Candlewick Press published “Because of Winn-Dixie” in 2000, a work that received a Newbery Honor the following year and was adapted to film in 2005.
“I don’t know what kept me going but I’m so glad I didn’t stop,” DiCamillo said. “I’ve been rewarded beyond my wildest dreams.”
DiCamillo will share the stage with her peer Van Allsburg, who was awarded with a Caldecott Honor for his first book, “The Garden of Abdul Gasazi.” He would go on to receive two Caldecott Medals for his work.
“I’m in awe of him so I’m a little intimidated,” DiCamillo said. “He’s a genius.”
Last month, Van Allsburg published an update of his classic 1984 work, “The Mysteries of Harris Burdick,” a series of surreal illustrations with cryptic, single-sentence captions. The original, the literary cousin to the Rorschach test, has long been a writers’ workshop mainstay for both children and adults. The new edition features stories written by 14 authors who spun tales inspired by a selected image in “Burdick.” The project roped in the likes of Sherman Alexie, DiCamillo, Louis Sachar and Stephen King, among others.
“I remember when I got the letter I thought A. I can’t do that. B. I’m going to regret it if I don’t try,” DiCamillo said.
The children’s author still dabbles in adult literature, but notes that there’s something special about writing for a young audience.
“I feel a duty for it to be hopeful. There’s also a lot more room … for magic. Possibility,” DiCamillo said. “The world being a magical place.”
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