RED WING -- The Anderson Center’s 21st annual Minnesota Children’s Book Festival will be a hybrid celebration including online and in-person book fun.

Due to the pandemic, an afternoon of physically distanced family activities will take place Sept. 19 at Tower View. Starting the week before that gathering, however, children and their parents can “meet” the authors and learn about their new books via the Internet.

This summer, videos were filmed at Tower View to “bring children’s literature to life through images, artifacts, and each author’s own words and stories,” said Adam Wiltgen, the center’s development director.

The taped interviews with eight of the region’s most acclaimed authors of children’s and young adult books will be published online – one at 1noon each day Sept. 12-19.

“It was really important to me and to the Anderson Center” to continue the 20-year book festival tradition despite limitations imposed by the pandemic, Anderson Center Executive Director Stephanie Rogers said.

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“Families are looking for safe activities they can do together,” she added. Since officials did not feel confident in the safety of a big festival, they developed a plan for a hybrid event.

Hearing authors and illustrators talk about their work is a key component, Rogers said, but it’s also important to celebrate new books and offer fun, creative family activities.

Eight authors/illustrators participated in the multi-camera videos

Children benefit when they find people like themselves in literature. Astrid and Apollo are Hmong American protagonists created by Minnesota author V.T. Bidania. Image courtesy of V.T. Bidania
Children benefit when they find people like themselves in literature. Astrid and Apollo are Hmong American protagonists created by Minnesota author V.T. Bidania. Image courtesy of V.T. Bidania
, which were professionally filmed by Nathaniel Nelson of Winona-based Treedome Productions. They are Daniel Bernstrom, V.T. Bidania, H.M. Bouwman, Cori Doerrfeld, Bao Phi, Caren Stelson, Lauren Stringer and Kao Kalia Yang.

Each of the featured books is a story of resilience, Rogers said. “They all have something to do with helping kids overcome difficulties.”

Themes include everyday concerns such as a first camping trip or the first day of school. Some books tackle more difficult issues, such as going through the grieving process when a family member dies.

Each day starting Sept. 12 children can prepare for the book fair by watching one of the videos on the Anderson Center’s website (andersoncenter.org/bookfest), YouTube channel, or Facebook page.

All eight interviews will be available the day of the in-person book fair and afterward.

On Sept. 19, families that come to Tower View from noon to 5 p.m. will receive an activity booklet that encourages movement and exploration of the center’s large outdoor space, Rogers said.

Erin Aadalen, the city of Red Wing’s park naturalist, has created a “Bio Blitz” scavenger hunt that connects to some of the book themes.

Family groups will hike into the Sculpture Garden to find and photograph different species in the natural biodiversity, Rogers said – insects, plants and other wildlife.

A second scavenger hunt, which was created by Paul Hildebrandt, education and outreach coordinator at the Goodhue County Historical Society, will focus on historic structures at Tower View Estate.

Children who participate in the activities will have a chance to win a book prize.

Sales will not take place onsite this year, Rogers said, but books featured at the festival will be available online at bookshop.org/lists/2020-mn-childrens-book-festival. Purchases will be shipped directly to the buyer, and the Anderson Center will receive a portion of the proceeds if the books are ordered through bookshop.org.

Numerous local businesses and supporters helped make this year’s book fair possible, Rogers said. “They really stepped up this year.”

All activities will be outdoors; however, the bathrooms will be open, and people will be able to view exhibits in the main gallery, including a historical timeline. Everyone 5 and older should wear a mask.