From books to campfire stories, Nova Scotia literary festival delights visitors, authors

(Raissa Tetanish photo) Lana Button reads from her book Percy’s Perfect Friend to kick off WordPlay at the beginning of the three-day Read By the Sea festival in River John, N.S. Button, who is originally from St. Stephen, read from three of her books in total during the event.

RIVER JOHN, N.S. – Literacy was front and centre last week as Read By the Sea brought a number of award-winning and new artists to River John, N.S., including one from Charlotte County.

WordPlay kicked things off with authors Lana Button and Olga Manzoni delighting the crowds. Button, who is originally from St. Stephen, N.B., but now lives in Burlington, Ont., read from three of her storybooks in the gardens at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 108.

“I’ve been dying to do this festival,” said Button, before things got underway. “To me, this is home. Being from New Brunswick, I consider this home. And this is a fabulous festival. I’m a huge fan of Sheree Fitch.”

This year’s festival was the 23rd of its kind and Button said she’d been watching the festival for years.

“I’ve wanted to celebrate stories in the Maritimes,” she said. “I had let my publishers know I was interested in attending the festival. It’s highly anticipated by any author.”

Button fell in love with picture books while studying early childhood education. She’s published 10 books and says she has another eight in the works.

During her spot, Button had the youngsters in the crowd participating, from helping her read The Cow Said Boo! to singing along to Old MacDonald Had a Farm.

The author is making a trip home to St. Stephen this summer, which will include a special event.

“Whenever possible, I do a free story time at the St Croix Public Library,” she said.

This year, she will host a story time at 10 a.m. on Aug. 10, where she will read Percy’s Perfect Friend and The Cow Said Boo!, which is the TD Summer Reading Club’s recommended book. Both books, including others Button wrote, are available locally at Spree.

Her upcoming book, First Ones on the Ice, is coming out in 2024. Her hometown and memories of skating on the ice in her backyard was her inspiration for First Ones on the Ice.

Halifax’s Manzoni said her participating in Read By the Sea came by chance during a Saltscapes Expo when one of the committee members stopped by to look at her debut book, Mondays with Nonna. Following that interaction, the organizers invited her to participate.

“For me, going out and reading to kids, it’s exciting,” said Manzoni. “It’s my passion.”

She said she prefers to talk about her book to people in person rather than use social media, and loves reading it to children.

“And get their opinion on it.”

Manzoni says her book spurs a lot of conversation with adults, because it’s about staying positive about Mondays and not dreading them.

“Part of the reason I wrote this book is because I didn’t want my grandson to grow up dreading Monday,” she said, adding she’s worked in human resources for years and has seen employees dread that first workday of the week.

“I started to be purposeful and intentional, and looked forward to Mondays, and it has changed me. If you dread one day, it can really negatively impact three days. There’s value in enjoying every day, including Monday.”