Children’s Picture Book Author-Illustrator Revels in Abilene Exhibit

By now, William Joyce knows Abilene well.

And Sophie Blackall too.

This year’s guest author-illustrator for the 10th Children’s Arts and Literacy Festival has returned to Abilene, where she visited in the fall of 2018.

This time, however, the whole city center is decorated for her, not just the gallery of the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature.

But, my daughter, did she like it.

“It’s quite moving,” she said Thursday morning, seeing her work spanning 20 years on every wall in the space. “It was also moving last time, but the older we get and the more this happens in our lives, it all overlaps with the things we’ve seen before.”

Blackall was set for a big afternoon and evening that would include the annual storybook costume event and parade, the unveiling of Winnie’s sculpture based on the “Finding Winnie” book, and her appearance at the Paramount Theater.

After:What’s happening at the Children’s Arts and Literacy Festival?

Joyce was the third guest artist at CALF, which launched in 2012, and has made several visits to what is now the storybook capital of America since. It was his book “Santa Calls” that sparked efforts to exhibit sculptures and each June focus on children and reading.

Blackall said his books would bring back memories for readers and those who listen to them, and that for authors and illustrators alike.

“They remind me of where I was in my life. They remind me of milestones in my family and in my children’s lives,” she said. “Seeing them all together in one room is like watching one life.”

She was reminded that her first book, “Ruby’s Wish,” was published in 2002. It’s now 2022.

It’s a keepsake for her.

“And not just mine, but for the kids who have read these books and the parents who have them with their kids,” she said. “Now I have the great experience of meeting young adults who read these books. To be honest, it makes me feel old…but it’s really a beautiful thing.

“I really look forward to the time when they read to their own children the books they read as children.”

After:Oh, the places you’ll go: Abilene Children’s Arts and Literacy Festival turns 10

Greg Jaklewicz is editor of the Abilene Reporter-News and general columnist. If you enjoy local news, you can support local reporters with a digital subscription to

Grover Z. Barnes