The Guild was involved with book fairs when it was only one year old (1946). That fair, put on in cooperation with the Cleveland Park Community Library Committee in the local Congregational Church, was successful beyond anyone's expectations. Hundreds of children and their parents and teachers flocked to the church, and hundreds of books were sold, the proceeds going to a fund for furnishing and equipping the Cleveland Park Branch library, which, although unbuilt, was being partially funded by Congress and by private citizens. All Guild members' books were available, and the chief attraction appears to have been the talks by the authors. The Guild was generally in charge: Mrs. Coblentz organized the activities, and the programs were arranged by Barbara Nolen.
The church fair was held for three years, when presumably sufficient funds were collected for the library because there was never a fourth. The idea had taken root, however, and after a lapse of a year, the Guild had a fair again, sponsored by The Washington Post. This partnership resulted in a spectacular series of twenty-three book fairs, from 1950 to 1974. (Two years were skipped-1968 and 1969.) All but two were held at the Department of Commerce; in 1952 the fair was held on the second floor of The Washington Post Building on L Street, and in 1955, at the Pan American Building.
The fairs were directed by Enid Reque of The Washington Post's communications department, a member of the Guild. Other members who worked with her agree that the fairs' success was largely due to Enid's enthusiasm, hard work, and careful planning. Besides arranging for the speakers, the publicity, and the school visits, she supervised the exhibits-the best new books, old favorites, classics, and books by Washington authors and illustrators-which made a colorful display throughout the Commerce Building's lobby. On opening day in 1950, 1,200 books, donated by the publishers, were on view, and attendance topped 3,000. As time went on these figures increased until 3,000 books were being shown and an estimated 50,000 men, women, and children were looking at them.
It was an exciting time. The Post ran a story every morning and followed through with stories and photographs of the many activities. Bus loads of children came from most of the local and some suburban schools, filling the Department's 800-seat auditorium several times a day. Suitable programs were arranged for them, geared to their ages, which ran from kindergarten through the sixth grade.
Visiting authors and artists joined Guild members in telling stories about their books and giving chalk talks, which the children loved; and it should be mentioned here that Marion Holland and Hazel Wilson were among the stars of these performances. All in all, the fair was a festive occasion and it went on for ten days. It was a sad moment for everyone when the government needed the space for its own purposes and the book fair had to be discontinued.
The Book Fair Luncheon, now the Children's Book Week Luncheon, was the natural outgrowth of this gathering of book lovers. Initiated in 1952, to honor authors, artists, and editors, it has been held every November since and has become our largest and most successful yearly function. It is the only one, incidentally, for which others than Guild members may purchase tickets.
Following is a list of the speakers at the early Children's Book Week Luncheons:
1952 Louise Bonina, Paul Brown, James Daugherty
1953 Marguerite Henry, Oveta Culp Hobby, Munro Leaf, Lynd Ward
1954 Glen Blough, Marguerite Di Angeli, Alfred Friendly
1955 Richard Chase, Erico Verissimo, Dr. Herbert S. Zim
1956 Virginia Fowler, Nancy Larrick, Bill Martin
1957 Fritz Eichenberg, Patricia Lauber, Virginia Sorenson
1958 Phyllis Fenner, Joanna Foster, Munro Leaf
1959 Genevieve Foster, Louis Slobodkin, William Steele
1960 Edgar Parin D'Aulaire, Ingri D'Aulaire, Agnes E. Meyer
1961 Wesley Dennis, Justice William O. Douglas, Marguerite Henry
1962 Elizabeth Enright, Louis Untermeyer, Elizabeth Gray Vining
1963 Virginia Haviland, Maurice Sendak, Noel Streatfield
1964 Olivia Coolidge, Beatrice DeRegniers, Roy Gallant
1965 Patricia Beatty, Jean Karl, Burke Wilkinson
1966 Natalie Savage Carlson, Mrs. Robert S. McNamara
1967 Irene Hunt, William Jay Smith
1968 Rebecca Caudill, John Langstaff, Lavinia Russ
1970 William M. Armstrong, Barbara Cooney, Julia B. Hamblett
1971 Natalie Babbitt, Arna Bontemps, Walter Lorraine
1972 Annis Duff, Virginia Hamilton, Jane Langton
1973 Marianne Carus, Lucille Clifton, Jean George
1974 Olivia Coolidge, David Macaulay, Sharon Bell Mathis
1975 Tomi de Paola, Scott O'Dell, Jane Yolen
1976 Nancy Bond, Arnold Lobel, Johanna Reiss
Note: The November Children's Book Week Luncheon was replaced by a Spring Nonfiction Award Celebration in 2008.
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