Art & Culture, Community

The Children’s New Bedford Bookfest isn’t just child’s play

I think it happened to me when I discovered The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Ostensibly a “children’s book,” reviewer after reviewer hailed the book by the author of American Gods and The Sandman as something that transcended the genre label. It was and is simply a great read – whether you’re 12- or 28- or 72-years-of-age. A fan due to Gaiman’s “adult” novels and graphic novels, The Graveyard Book opened my eyes to the richness of children’s book literature.

And then, he doubled down by writing The Ocean at the End of the Lane – and superior “children’s books” remained on my radar. So, it was no surprise to meet so many uniquely talented local authors at the New Bedford Book Festival who mined the same territory as Neil Gaiman in equally innovative ways.

Meeting so many creative authors – sometimes also gifted illustrators themselves or astute judges of which artistic partner to team-up with on a project – prompted another wholesale evaluation of the craft of creating a great children’s book. It also sent me scouring the house for my own childhood favorites, like The Borrowers by Mary Dent and all of Aesop’s Fables. And then, it led myself, Sarah Athanas and Dena Haden – co-founders of Groundwork!, and the New Bedford Bookfest – to elect to host an all-children’s book edition of the popular ‘fest.

The Children’s New Bedford Bookfest is timed to take place just before Halloween on Saturday, Oct. 28 and Sunday, October 29, noon – 4:00 p.m. each day. Like the other New Bedford Bookfests, it is free and open to the public and designed to be a platform for regional writers to sell their books to the reading public – of all ages.

GIven the beautiful artwork that is a feature of so many great children’s books, we’re also looking to host local illustrators in the co-working facility’s Draper conference room for the two days – a special space where the artists can make connections and also sell prints or even original artwork to patrons.

In all, the Children’s New Bedford Bookfest will host 20 authors and up to 10 illustrators on the weekend beginning on Saturday, October 28. Author spots still remain and writers or publishing houses can purchase one here. Illustrators should contact us at with at least three digital samples of their work and a short bio to claim some wall space.

Dedicating a New Bedford Bookfest designed for – but not limited to – children is very much in keeping with our mission of bringing to the City of New Bedford, the regional hub of Southcoast, the types of things you’d expect to find in a metropolitan area. It’s why we launched the Bookfest in the winter of 2016 – and were pleased to watch it become a huge success.

The Children’s New Bedford Bookfest takes a deeper dive into the vein of creativity that courses through our city and state and showcases it for the public at large. It’s a new insight into the city – just as good children’s literature is also a different kind of insight into how to be an adult, we think!

We’re especially happy to get the opportunity to work with area schools for the Children’s New Bedford Bookfest. An open-mic will be set up both days and students will be reading from books featured at the ‘fest or from their own personal collections.

Back in the day, when I attended J. A. Parker Elementary, I fondly recall a school-wide reading in the auditorium of Aesop’s Fables. In a sign of things to come, I was the narrator that day. I guess that’s the 4th grade equivalent of a blogger!

I’ll leave the narrating to the kids during the Children’s New Bedford Bookfest at Groundwork!, on Saturday, Oct. 28 and Sun. Oct. 29. Although Aesop’s wise words still resonate…


A fisherman who liked music more than his vocation took his flute and his nets to the seashore. He played several tunes in the hope that the fish, attracted by his melody, would dance into the net placed below. After playing a long time without being rewarded, he laid aside his flute and, casting his net into the sea, caught a multitude of fish.

Moral? It is a great art to do the right thing at the right time.

Steven Froias

Steven Froias

Mad Man at Groundwork!
Steven Froias is Groundwork!'s resident blogger. He sleeps in the boiler room at 1213 Purchase Street.
Steven Froias