EpicFest 2017

About 180 third- and fourth-graders at Rama Road Elementary learned about interpersonal skills through the colorful lens of author Kathryn Otoshi.

Otoshi visited the school Nov. 3 as part of the third annual EpicFest. The literacy festival brought 10 acclaimed authors to 20 schools to discuss reading and writing with more than 2,000 students.

EpicFest is a partnership between the CMS Community Partnerships and Family Engagement department and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library Foundation. The foundation is donating 20 copies of each author's latest book to participating schools.

Otoshi is best known for her character-building series – Zero, One and Two – and Beautiful Hands. She is also an illustrator and graphic designer who has worked for George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic, a film visual-effects company. She said she had always wanted to write children's books and considers them to be mini-movies.

One has won 10 writing awards and addresses bullying and tolerance. Otoshi told the students that she had been afraid to stand up for one of her classmates when she was in school and that it is important to have courage.

"We have to talk about this stuff because it's hard to be a human being," Otoshi said. "We have to know how to treat each other."

Her newest book is Draw the Line, which addresses friendship and the push and pull that occurs in relationships.

"Sometimes we clash and we accidentally bump, but when you actually have a connection with someone, it's like magic," she said.

Otoshi was assisted by Mary Lane Lennon, whose family started EpicFest.

"My dad wanted to do something in memory of my mother, who had died the year before," Lennon said. "She was such a reader and she was a librarian with the schools."