BONITA SPRINGS — ANDREA CARTER
Special to The Banner
This would seem to be the year of the economical family spring break, the one where the family comes to Florida and stays with grandma and grandpa. In the library, we see grandma and grandpa looking for materials to entertain the various ages of the grandchildren who will be visiting. In addition to materials and activities for all ages that the library usually offers, March brings the Lee County Library System’s Tenth Annual Southwest Florida Reading Festival. Having evolved from the initial efforts and vision of three Lee County Library System librarians, the Festival has become a well-known venue in the publishing world. This free event is being held Saturday, March 21 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Harborside Event Center and Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers, on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River. The combination of adult, teen and children’s authors’ presentations, book signings and activities for all ages throughout the day, makes the Festival the perfect package for a multi-generational day of enjoyment and celebration of reading for all the family.
Do you have your doubts that the family’s teenager will want to go? Amazingly, we think they will. In the morning Guitar Hero and Wii Games will be offered inside the tent at the west end of Centennial Park. There will be an opportunity to make a beaded bookmark in the afternoon and a free ‘Zine for every teen. Writing contests for middle school and high school students are being held under the auspices of the Lee Council Teachers of English with awards given at noon and 12:30 respectively but all entries of teenage angst will be displayed. Computers will be set up to gather teen feedback on the festival for next year.
Included in the children’s six participating authors are Lois Lowry, well-known author of the trilogy “The Giver,” “Gathering Blue,” and “The Messenger,” and Jeff Kinney, author of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series. Kinney will present inside Harborside since interest has already outgrown his original venue. Library kids are wild to meet this guy.
Adults will have Dennis Lehane, author of “Mystic River” and “The Given Day” among other titles. Lehane was one of the first authors to come to Southwest Florida nine years ago when he attended the first Reading Festival. Tess Gerritsen, New York Times Bestselling author of medical thrillers, will be here as well as Florida’s own Jeff Lindsay, (author of the books the “Dexter” series is based on). Also from Florida, and working in Cape Coral, author Lisa Black, whose latest book is “Takeover,” will be presenting. Other well-known local authors who will be at the Festival include Tom Smoot, author of “The Edisons of Fort Myers: Discoveries of the Heart;” Ad Hudler, author of “Man of the House,” “House Husband” and “Southern Living;” Bob Macomber, author of the popular Peter Wake series, and Tim Dorsey, former journalist from Tampa and author of many wacky Florida fiction titles. Rounding out the list is Jeff Shaara, bestselling author of World War II fiction and son of the late civil war fiction author, Michael Shaara, and Annie Vanderbilt, author of “The Secret Papers of Madame Olivetti.”
Storytelling in English and Spanish will be offered all day in the children’s area. “Wild Wizard,” a program about Thomas Edison, is sponsored by the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. The ever-popular John Storm and his reptiles will wrap up the children’s programs at 3:45 p.m. Every child will receive a free book at the “Book for Every Child” venue. Participating authors’ books will be available to purchase and authors will be signing during the events. Your Lee County Library will have schedules and maps closer to the event.
Picture: Dolores Cardona, a library assistant at East County Regional Library, pictured here with her family, enjoying the day.