Philly author’s first novel featured at nation’s oldest African-American children’s book fair

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Philadelphia children's book author Christine Kendall wrote

Philadelphia children's book author Christine Kendall wrote "Riding Chance." (Emma Lee/WHYY)

One of the oldest and largest single-day events for African-American children’s books in the country returns Saturday. The 26th Annual African-American Children’s Book Fair is set to host more than 3,500 readers at the Community College of Philadelphia.

Among the acclaimed authors and illustrators in attendance will be Philadelphia resident Christine Kendall, author of the book “Riding Chance: It’s how the game is played.” The novel is the first for Kendall who spent the majority of her writing career focusing on short fiction.

Troy, the book’s protagonist, is a Philly kid who ends up in a program that mentors at-risk youths through horseback riding. It’s fiction, but his story was inspired by the city’s Work to Ride nonprofit. “I had been attempting to write picture books. I didn’t realize I was a novelist,” Kendall said. “But, one morning I was listening to NPR, and I heard this phenomenal story about kids who play polo and had just won the 2011 championships. I thought, ‘This is a fantastic story.’ ”

Kendall is excited to be a part of an event that is pushing the publishing industry to be more inclusive than it was when she was a young reader.

“I recall weekly trips to the library. But I can’t recall specific books that I read, and I think part of the reason is because those books didn’t necessarily mirror who I was,” she said. “There weren’t many — if any — books that featured African-American characters.”

You can hear more of author Kendall’s conversation with NewsWorks Tonight’s Dave Heller in the audio above.

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