LeUyen Pham had already encountered baboons, dodged a herd of antelope and startled a warthog out of a log when she realized she was surrounded by elephants.
Pham said her tale of getting lost in the Zimbabwean jungle was true, but it’s hardly surprising that it sounded like a captivating children’s story. Pham (her name is pronounced Lay-Win Fam) is one of 10 authors who visited Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools on Friday as part of EpicFest.
The festival is part of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation’s attempt to raise money and awareness for the public library. Thursday brought Verse & Vino, a literary fund-raiser for adults. After that event debuted three years ago, the foundation decided to add free family-focused events to reach a wider audience.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, the festival continues with family activities and book signings at ImaginOn, 300 E. Seventh St. Dozens of students got a preview Friday as authors visited schools and attended a gathering for teens at Charlotte’s Google Fiber Space.
Pham, who has written and illustrated more than 80 books, started by showing Westerly Hills Academy second-graders a princess drawing she had done as a preschooler, followed by one of her illustrations of a princess.
“How much do you think you have to draw to get like this?” Pham asked.
“A lot,” several students responded.
“You have to draw every single day of your life,” she said.
Pham told the kids how she used to draw Star Wars characters to make friends in school. She regaled them with tales of her adventure in the African jungle, read them her newest book, “The Bear Who Wasn’t There,” and sent them searching through the school library to find a postcard of the missing bear. She finished by calling students up to her easel and drawing caricatures of them as animals.
Even the adults in the room were rapt.
“This is the best part of EpicFest,” said library foundation staffer Melanie Baron, “and nobody even knows about it.”