Stacy McAnulty appears Saturday at the Bookmarks Festival, for the Children’s Author Pancake Breakfast at 8 a.m., Space Storytime at 11 a.m. and Footnote Middle School Stinks at 1:45 p.m. She also has book signings at 11:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. Jon Sundell performs on the Family Stage Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 12 p.m.
Creating children’s entertainment, as both author Stacy McAnulty and musician Jon Sundell (pictured above) know well, requires being able to communicate and keep the attention of audiences much younger than themselves. Jon Sundell musicalizes folktales and educational stories, while McAnulty authors books for middle schoolers and new readers alike.
“Let’s be honest,” Stacy McAnulty says. “[Kids] have better imaginations than we do.”
McAnulty, who has authored more than a dozen children’s books, has ventured through a field of hypotheticals, requiring her to look at things from a more childlike perspective. It’s fitting that her latest book, The World Ends in April, began as a dinnertime conversation with her three kids.
“We just asked each other: ‘If you knew the world was going to end in six months or a year, what would you do?’” She says. “What would you want to knock off your bucket list in those six months or a year?”
At the Bookmarks Festival, she hopes to engage with her audience, and meet other creators over a pancake breakfast. With writing aimed from children to middle schoolers, McAnulty pulls from both silly jokes and NPR podcasts to build the “what if’s” that spark her stories. She credits her background as an engineer for what she does after the question.
“You start with an idea,” she explains. “You perhaps do some research on that idea. And then you make that draft. And then you reevaluate that idea. And then you make that draft better.
“And that’s what we did in engineering, too.”
While Stacy McAnulty writes stories, Jon Sundell knows how to share them.
At the North Carolina Folk Festival, he will perform on the Family Stage, singing out tales from Southern folklore, English myths and picture books alike.
“I’m what you call an edu-tainer,” Sundell says.
The hybrid word meshes together Sundell’s two performance priorities: educating young audiences and entertainment. He spins folk tales into songs, twisting in interactive movements, questions and choruses like a Winston-Salem-based bard.
As much as Sundell employs acoustic instruments and plot, he saves a slot in his musical toolbox for balloons animals to keep smaller children engaged. One work involves Sundell building a balloon dog as Daniel Boone superglues a halved dog back together. He makes the children count to five as Boone holds the pieces together, and then he proclaims the dog’s all fixed.
“‘Well, almost,’ I tell them. ‘Daniel made just a little mistake, he was in such a hurry.’”
“And then I take the back end of the balloons and I twist them so the back legs are upside down.”