The first Decatur Children’s Book Festival aims to engage readers of all ages

The free event takes place May 3 to 5

The first Decatur Children’s Book Festival aims to engage readers of all ages

Photograph by / Getty Images

When the Decatur Book Festival was canceled in 2023, readers wondered what would become of the city’s thriving literary culture. They needn’t have worried, because local bookshops came to the rescue. In February, booksellers Brave + Kind and Eagle Eye Book Shop helped organize Love Y’all, the first-ever Atlanta romance novel festival. This month, it’s the kids’ turn: Beloved bookstore Little Shop of Stories hosts the Decatur Children’s Book Festival at venues around downtown Decatur.

The free event takes place May 3 to 5, the same weekend as the Decatur Arts Festival. Organizers picked spring dates to leave the fall free for a possible return of the Decatur Book Festival. It was a prescient decision: in March, that event announced its return this October. “We’re so glad to see the Decatur Book Festival coming back,” says Little Shop co-owner Diane Capriola, who helped launch the children’s festival. “People in Decatur and Atlanta get very excited for kids’ books, so I think these festivals will really help each other.”

Decatur’s bookish reputation enticed more than 40 authors to appear at the children’s festival, including keynote speaker Kate DiCamillo, author of such award-winning books as Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux. “I love Decatur and Little Shop,” DiCamillo says. “When I got asked to give the keynote, it was like, ‘Yes, please!’”

The magical-realism writer’s keynote address won’t just be for kids. “I tell the audience where the stories came from and the power of reading stories together,” DiCamillo says. “It’s the same way I write a story—I don’t think about trying to write to a certain group of people, but just to write the truth.” DiCamillo’s mission matches Capriola’s: engaging people of all ages in reading.

The festival will host two stages, one featuring children’s and middle-grade authors, illustrators, and graphic novelists, and another for young-adult fiction. Rebecca Ross, Georgia’s own fantasy sensation, will close the festival’s young-adult programming. Little Shop of Stories handled the ambitious preorder campaign for Ruthless Vows, the final book in her bestselling duology, and Ross hopes to pay it forward. “The book community in Atlanta has been just wonderful,” she says. “I’ve had some readers come to every single launch since my debut in 2018. It’s been a slow but steady rise, but it’s been very reader-driven.”

Ultimately, the festival is about finding and celebrating these readers. “Kids’ books are for everyone,” Capriola says. “We want to reach families and get young kids excited about books.”

This article appears in our May 2024 issue.