Childish Things

Children’s book authors Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Allsburg come to the Fitzgerald

Martina Marosi

Who: Chris Van Allsburg and Kate DiCamillo

When: 2 p.m., Sunday

Where: Fitzgerald Theater, 10 Exchange St. E., Saint Paul

Cost: $15 for adults/$9 for kids 12 and under

A young girl with a smiling dog. Magic board games. A midnight train to SantaâÄôs workshop. A tiny mouse with very big ambitions.

ChildrenâÄôs literature may be one of the few genres with an age-specific niche, but the vivid worlds that populate favorite stories from childhood are a place worth revisiting, even into adulthood.

On Sunday, the Fitzgerald Theater will present two authors of youth fiction, a mid-afternoon event appropriate for young and old alike that will end early enough for all to take a nap afterward.

Featured at the dialogue will be Chris Van Allsburg, the legendary writer and illustrator responsible for âÄúJumanjiâÄù and âÄúThe Polar Express,âÄù alongside local author Kate DiCamillo, who penned âÄúBecause of Winn-DixieâÄù and âÄúThe Tale of DespereauxâÄù before they were made into feature films.

DiCamillo, who started her career as a writer of short stories for adult readers, received over 470 rejection letters for her work before Candlewick Press published âÄúBecause of Winn-DixieâÄù in 2000, a work that received a Newbery Honor the following year and was adapted to film in 2005.

âÄúI donâÄôt know what kept me going but IâÄôm so glad I didnâÄôt stop,âÄù DiCamillo said. âÄúIâÄôve been rewarded beyond my wildest dreams.âÄù

DiCamillo will share the stage with her peer Van Allsburg, who was awarded with a Caldecott Honor for his first book, âÄúThe Garden of Abdul Gasazi.âÄù He would go on to receive two Caldecott Medals for his work.

âÄúIâÄôm in awe of him so IâÄôm a little intimidated,âÄù DiCamillo said. âÄúHeâÄôs a genius.âÄù

Last month, Van Allsburg published an update of his classic 1984 work, âÄúThe Mysteries of Harris Burdick,âÄù a series of surreal illustrations with cryptic, single-sentence captions. The original, the literary cousin to the Rorschach test, has long been a writersâÄô workshop mainstay for both children and adults. The new edition features stories written by 14 authors who spun tales inspired by a selected image in âÄúBurdick.âÄù The project roped in the likes of Sherman Alexie, DiCamillo, Louis Sachar and Stephen King, among others.

âÄúI remember when I got the letter I thought A. I canâÄôt do that. B. IâÄôm going to regret it if I donâÄôt try,âÄù DiCamillo said.

The childrenâÄôs author still dabbles in adult literature, but notes that thereâÄôs something special about writing for a young audience.

âÄúI feel a duty for it to be hopeful. ThereâÄôs also a lot more room âĦ for magic. Possibility,âÄù DiCamillo said. âÄúThe world being a magical place.âÄù