It takes guts to stand in front of an audience of school librarians and tell them you hated books as a child. But that's the way Bruce Hale felt growing up.
"I thought books were boring," he said.
So how did Hale turn out to be a bestselling children's book author with more than 25 published books to his credit? It's there in the title of his keynote speech: "Dream Big: How the Right Books (and Right Librarians) Turned a Reluctant Reader into an Author."
"When I started working on my dream of being an author, I knew it helped to have a home to support that," said Hale, who was raised just outside of Los Angeles. "And for me that was the public library."
Hale, who lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., was the guest speaker Thursday at the Kansas Association of School Librarians statewide conference at the Salina Bicentennial Center.
The conference, which continues today, brought together about 180 elementary, middle and high school librarians from throughout Kansas to attend seminars and workshops dealing with library-oriented subjects ranging from new technology to programming ideas.
"They're given professional development they won't get in their own schools," said Gwen Lehman, president of the Kansas Association of School Librarians. "It's a good opportunity for them to connect with other librarians from around the state, ask questions and see how things work in other districts."
The librarians are joined by members of the Kansas Association for Educational Communications and Technology and the Kansas State Department of Education for the joint conference.
'My best friend was the TV'
Hale writes and illustrates books for young readers that range from picture books to a book series featuring a lizard-like detective called Chet Gecko.
As a small child, Hale said his imagination initially was fed not by books but by television.
"My best friend was the TV," he said.
Hale said that after watching a pirate show, he wanted to be a pirate. That is, until he found he would have to set sail on the ocean and risk seasickness. Then, after watching a western with Clint Eastwood, he decided to be a cowboy.
"But my parents refused to buy me a horse," he said.
Then he saw Kirk Douglas play a dashing gladiator in "Spartacus" and decided the gladiatorial ring was his destiny. When Hale's dad said he might have to fight wild tigers and lions, Hale reconsidered his career path once again.
'Tarzan of the Apes'
Then Hale discovered a book his dad was reading: "Tarzan of the Apes." The classic story of the English nobleman who was raised by apes and became king of the jungle instantly captured Hale's imagination.
"I've said that all it takes to make a reader is the right book at the right time," he said. "The book 'Tarzan' turned me into a reader. Then my dad told me the book was written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I never knew a real man wrote that book, I thought it came out of a machine.
"After I found that Burroughs had created 'Tarzan' from his imagination, I decided being an author would be a cool job."
Those great librarians
That led Hale to his nearby public library, which, he said, was an old 1920s building that inside smelled like old leather.
"Those great librarians guided me to other books that had a similar adventurous feel as 'Tarzan,' " he said.
From then on, Hale said, libraries and librarians always have had a significant place in his heart.
"Not only do I still use the library, I travel to a lot of libraries to speak," he said. "Authors and librarians are like best buds, because we support each other's work."
Topeka – Kansas First Lady Mary Brownback today announced the second annual Kansas Book Festival will take place on Saturday, September 15th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Kansas Historical Society in Topeka. The festival will showcase current authors and books and will promote the importance of reading. It is free and open to the public.
“Our mission is to promote literacy and encourage a life-long love of reading. We believe that we achieved that in our first festival last September and are excited to see where this year’s event takes us. We have a great lineup of locally and nationally known authors and illustrators that kids and adults will enjoy,” Brownback said.
More than 30 authors will take part in the festival including local favorites such as Matthew Polly, Harriet Lerner, and Thomas Fox Averill. Candice Millard, Author of the New York Times’ bestseller Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, will also be presenting. Kansas City author and illustrator Shane Evans will also attend. Evans has illustrated books for Shaquille O’Neal, Holly Robinson Peete and Taye Diggs and won the 2012 Coretta Scott King award for his book, Underground. One of the day’s key presentations will be made by 91-year-old Chester Nez along with the help of his co-author. Nez is one of the original Navajo Code Talkers from World War II. The awards ceremony for the Kansas Notable Book winners will take place at noon.
Along with the author presentations there will be book signings, outdoor entertainment and activities for children of all ages.
Festival organizers have limited space left for vendors. Vendor categories include authors, publishers, bookstores and food vendors. To see the full list of authors or for event, sponsor or vendor information, visitwww.kansasbookfestival.com.
Jane Kurtz will be officially awarded the Kerlan Award on this Saturday in Minneapolis. She is such a great friend of literacy through her own writing, mentorship of other writers as a faculty member at the /Vermont/ College of /Fine Arts/ MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults, and with her tireless work to establish libraries and bring literacy to children in Ethiopia.