“So Tall Within,” a book about Sojourner Truth illustrated by Maine artist Daniel Minter, will be part of this summer’s Beautiful Blackbird book festival. Courtesy of Indigo Arts Alliance

The Beautiful Blackbird Children’s Book Festival, which debuted last year in honor of renowned Maine artist and author Ashley Bryan, will return with a virtual edition throughout the month of August.

Last year’s festival reached more than 100,000 people in 44 countries, according to Indigo Arts Alliance, which conceived and presented the event. Originally envisioned as a community block party, it evolved into a summerlong and wildly successful international online celebration of Black authors and illustrators with videos, read-alouds and art projects. The festival also provided books and activity kits to 750 Maine school kids, and this year’s goal is to distribute more than 1,500 books.

Indigo is raising $30,000 to pay for this year’s festival. Details are available at the festival’s website.

Indigo is presenting the festival in partnership with I’m Your Neighbor Books and the Diverse BookFinder. The goal of the festival is educating and entertaining children and bringing attention to the need for more characters from the African diaspora in children’s literature, said Daniel Minter, co-founder of Indigo and an award-winning children’s book illustrator and artist.

“Ashley Bryan’s ABC of African American Poetry” also will be part of the celebration. Courtesy of Indigo Arts Alliance

“Black and brown children are less likely to encounter books that depict their own life experience. Growing up, the stories of my ancestors, my elders, my family were passed on to me through the oral tradition. We didn’t see ourselves in literature. Representation is vital. It has an impact on self-esteem, and also on developing strong reading skills,” he said in a press release. “The Beautiful Blackbird Festival is giving kids access to characters who look like them, and cultivating artists who appreciate that necessity.”

Minter won the 2020 Caldecott Medal for “Going Down Home With Daddy” by Kelly Starling Lyons.

Another book Minter illustrated, “So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom,” written by Gary D. Schmid, will be among those featured at this year’s festival. Also featured will be “Ashley Bryan’s ABC of African American Poetry,” “Joseph’s Big Ride” by Terry Farish and Ken Daley, “Your Name Is a Song” by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and Luisa Uribe, “Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut” by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James, and “Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky” by Kwame Mbalia, winner of a Coretta Scott King Author Honor.

The festival takes its name from Bryan’s book “Beautiful Blackbird.”

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