Children's Book Festival

Top-selling and nationally acclaimed authors and illustrator (from left) Barry Louis Polisar, Sherri Duskey Rinker, Tom Watson and Joe Wos will headline the 11th annual Children’s Book Festival of Johnstown. The festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 6, 2019, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 7, 2019, at Bottle Works in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

This festival will take youngsters on a grand reading adventure.

The 11th annual Children’s Book Festival of Johnstown will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 6 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 7 at Bottle Works, 411 Third Ave. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

The two-day festival, sponsored by The Learning Lamp, is geared toward children in prekindergarten through sixth grade.

The annual event connects top-selling, nationally acclaimed authors with area children. The festival’s goal is to provide a quality, interactive literacy experience.

This year’s theme is “Pails, Scales and Tails” and it’s a take on the books by the three headlining authors.

Each child who attends will receive a free, age-appropriate book from the First Book national book bank.

Kerri Belardi, book festival organizer and director of communications for The Learning Lamp, said the goal of the festival is for children to establish a love of reading.

“Our main focus of the festival is to encourage kids to get involved with reading and not feel that it’s a chore for them but actually an enjoyable activity that can take them places they’ve never been before,” she said.

“We hope children will want to start a home library of their own, and that they’ll get excited about seeing and meeting an author from one of their favorite books.”

Organizers have a lineup of three headlining presenters that is made possible through a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts and a $3,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and its regional partner, the Pennsylvania Rural Arts Alliance.

“These grants and sponsorships are what allows us to do this festival, and without them, this probably would not happen,” Belardi said.

This year’s headliner will be author Sherri Duskey Rinker, The New York Times best-selling author of  “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site” series.

The series follows the adventures of all the hardworking trucks at a big construction site.

“She is a favorite of my son and that’s how we found her,” Belardi said.

“She’s excited about attending. As soon as I contacted her, she was on board from the very beginning.”

Rinker’s other books include “Steam Train, Dream Train” and the nonfiction picture book biography “Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton.” She’s also authored “The 12 Sleighs of Christmas,” “Tiny and the Big Dig” and “Celebrate YOU!”

Rinker will have an author presentation at 10:30 a.m. April 6, followed by a book signing at 11:15 a.m. She will also offer a writing workshop at 1:15 p.m.

On April 7, Rinker will have an author presentation at 11:15 a.m. and a book signing to follow at noon. At 2 p.m., she will present a writing workshop.

Five-time Parents’ Choice Award winner Barry Louis Polisar, an author, songwriter, poet and storyteller, also will be on hand.

He is the author of “Something Fishy” and “The Trouble with Ben.”

Polisar performs his songs on two different Grammy Award-winning albums and sings his song “All I Want is You” in the opening credits of the Academy Award-winning movie “Juno.”

He has written songs for “Sesame Street” and “The Weekly Reader” and starred in a television show for children that won two Emmy Awards.

“He contacted us last year after we had already booked everyone, so I reached out to him this year and I had no idea what he is all involved in until we started talking,” Belardi said.

Polisar will give an author presentation at 2 p.m. April 6, followed by a book signing at 2:45 p.m. He also will give a music and storytelling performance at 12:45 p.m.

On April 7, Polisar will have an author presentation at 2:15 p.m. with a book signing to follow at 3 p.m. At 1:30 p.m., he will present a music and storytelling performance.

Also in attendance will be Tom Watson, author of the “Stick Dog” and “Stick Cat” early chapter book series.

He draws the original sketches for all the stories and his illustrator takes Watson’s ideas and pens the final pictures that readers see in all of his books.

“We wanted to have not only an author for preschoolers and early elementary grades but also someone who does chapter books,” Belardi said.

“Watson really was on board from the get-go.”

Watson will give an author presentation at 12:15 p.m. April 6, followed by a book signing at 1 p.m. He also will offer a writing workshop at 2:15 p.m.

On April 7, he will have an author presentation at 12:45 p.m. with a book signing to follow at 1:30 p.m. At 11:15 a.m., he will present a writing workshop.

To add to the creativity of the festival, Pittsburgh illustrator Joe Wos, who has been a professional cartoonist since the age of 14, will lead workshops at 10:45 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. April 6 and 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. April 7.

“Wos has become a very good friend of The Learning Lamp, and when I contacted him about coming back, he was super excited,” Belardi said.

“He’s an internationally renowned cartoonist and does workshops around the country.”

No registration is required to attend the presentations or workshops.

In addition, authors will visit area schools on April 5 to talk about their books and their writing and illustrating process.

Throughout the weekend, there will be local and regional author tables set up, where attendees will be able to meet them and purchase their books.

There also will be face painting and arts and crafts by local organizations, a new-and-used book sale, bookmark contest and STEAM-based workshops that have a science, technology, engineering, art and math focus.

“The festival is full of entertainment that will keep everyone busy,” Belardi said.

She said the festival typically attracts around 4,000 families throughout the two-day event.

“Last year and again this year, we were approved for a tourism grant from the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Convention & Visitors Bureau and that helps with our advertising to those outlying areas,” Belardi said.

“We’re trying to hit places outside of the 100-mile mark of Johnstown.”

Admission to the festival is free.

For more information and a complete schedule of events, visit and click on the For Families tab.

The festival’s Facebook page can be found at

Kelly Urban is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5073. Follow her on Twitter @KellyUrban25.