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Ed Surovell Named 2015 Kerrytown BookFest Community Book Award Winner

The Kerrytown BookFest has named Ann Arbor Realtor Edward Surovell as the 2015 Community Book Award Winner. Each year, the BookFest selects one person to recognize for their ongoing commitment to the book community in Ann Arbor said Robin Agnew president of the Kerrytown BookFest.

“Edward Surovell was chosen for his invaluable commitment to Ann Arbor’s book community; especially his avid support for the Ann Arbor District Library,” she said.

Ed Surovell speaks at the 2007 BookFest while Josie Parker looks on.

Josie Parker and Ed Surovell at the 2007 BookFest

He has generously offered his time on numerous state and local boards including the Michigan History Foundation, the Library of Michigan Foundation, The Historical Society of Michigan and was president of the Michigan Historical Commission. He is also the current vice president of the governing board of the Ann Arbor District Library and its longest serving member (1996). He is also a member of the prestigious Grolier’s Club which limits its membership to 800 and promotes books worldwide.

Surovell is considered one of the state’s premier collectors of books on early Michigan history, books on books, and Indian language bibles and other Indian language religious publications. He also specializes in books produced by Michigan publishers including those from Father Gabriel Richard’s Press of Detroit, King Jesse James Strang’s Press of Beaver Island and Dr. Chase’ Steam Printing Press of Ann Arbor. He has one of the most complete collections of books published by Dr. Chase.

Previous winners of the Community Book Award include Jay Platt of Westside Books, Tom and Cindy Hollander, and Nicola Rooney, former owner of Nicola’s Books, author Loren Estleman and Josie Parker, director of the Ann Arbor District Library.

Surovell. A graduate of Columbia University, moved to Ann Arbor in 1968 and quickly became one of its leading realtors, selling his business in 2012, he is a consultant to the current owner.

He attributes his love of books to his mother who he says “Loved books deeply.”

“I grew up in a house with a substantial library,” he said. Before moving to Ann Arbor he worked at several New York Publishers including Harcourt Brace & World as an editor of grammar and spelling books.

Surovell said it was during this time that he began collecting books related to his career including books on type design, the history of publishing, booksellers and collectors and books on editorial style.

He said, “I root for all libraries and libraries are central to democracy and the struggle to improve one’s self.”

Former award winner Josie Parker said Surovell is deserving of the award for his support of the book community.

“Words are very important to Ed,” she said. She also said that he was very supportive of her career.

Parker said, “When I look back on R. Surovell’s years of public service his vision for the Library has been very important with a view forward that has been steadfast and steady.”

“He has been my mentor for my entire professional career as a librarian and his support of the Library is unparalleled,” she said.

The Award will be presented to Surovell, 74, at the Kerrytown BookFest Sunday, September 13 at the Farmers Market in Ann Arbor. The BookFest is in its 13th year. For more information on the BookFest go to

Winners of the 2014 Book Cover Design contest announced

Nancy Shaw, author; Nikita Torielian, Pioneer; Hana Christoffersen, East Grand Rapids; Maria Rossi, East Grand Rapids; Robin Agnew, Kerrytown BookFest

Nancy Shaw, author; Nikita Torielian, Pioneer; Hana Christoffersen, East Grand Rapids; Maria Rossi, East Grand Rapids; Robin Agnew, Kerrytown BookFest

Maria Rossi, a sophomore at East Grand High School, was selected as the winner of the 2014 Kerrytown BookFest Cover Contest and was feted at a recent reception in Ann Arbor.

Robin Agnew, president of the BookFest, said “for the first time, high school students from across the state participated in the Cover Contest resulting in 80 entries.”

She said the contest asks students to re-design a cover for an existing book.  This year’s selection was the children’s classic, Paddle-to-the-Sea by Michigan author Holling C. Holling.

“The judges were blown away by the creativity, quality and execution of the book covers,” Agnew said.

Students from Crystal Westfield’s graphic design classes at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor and Keith Rayner’s classes at Lakeview High School in St. Clair Shores contributed work, as did art students from Elizabeth Miller-Wallau’s class in East Grand Rapids.

Finishing second in the competition was Candice Kim, Pioneer; in a third place tie were Nikita Torielian, Ann Arbor Pioneer, and Hana Christoffersen, East Grand Rapids High School.

More than 80 entries were reviewed by the judging panel of Caldecott Medalist Christopher Raschka (A Ball for Daisy); children’s author Nancy Shaw (Sheep in a Jeep); and artist Cecily Donnelly.

All the work submitted will be on display in an exhibit at the Ann Arbor Public Library downtown branch through October 13.  The complete submission of covers can be seen here and the winning submission is number 54.

Holling (1900-1973) grew up in Leslie, Michigan before setting out for Chicago and California and becoming a noted author and illustrator of children’s books. His 1942 book Paddle-to-the Sea was awarded a Caldecott Honor which is presented to the best illustrated children’s book of the year. Holling authored and or illustrated more than 20 children’s books including two books which won the Newbery Prize given to books for young adults.

After graduation Holling attended the Art Institute of Chicago and also worked on the popular exhibit “Man-Eating Lions of Tsavo” at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Later, he worked on war-training films for Disney and was responsible for the design of Indian Village in Disneyland. He also illustrated a Suinday comic strip “The World Museum” which included a diorama that children could cut and paste together.

Paddle-to-the-Sea is about a canoe that travels from Lake Superior to the ocean exploring five Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.

The Leslie Area Historical Museum holds a collection of his art, artifacts from his life and a couple unusual childhood drawings which were sketched on the back wall of his bedroom closet. Read more about Holling on a fan blog here.

Biographer of UAW labor leader to appear at BookFest

Ken Morris barely hung on to his life after a beating

Ken Morris barely hung on to his life after a beating

What better time to showcase the impact of organized labor on society than Labor Day 2014. Next week the Kerrytown BookFest will host Bob Morris who will talk about his recent book “Built in Detroit: A Story of the UAW, a Company, and a Gangster”. The legendary folk singer Pete Seeger performed and helped write the classic union organizing song “Talking Union” for men and women just like Ken Morris of Detroit. Seeger who died recently understood the hazards, the glories and frustrating paths followed by union organizers and his song was almost a primer for local organizers.

United Auto Worker (UAW) leader Ken Morris pretty much followed the song’s advice and the lyrics “they’ll raid your meeting hit you on the head” were almost prophetic for Morris who died in 2008. The elder Morris’ personal story is told by his son, Bob Morris, in the new book “Built in Detroit: A Story of the UAW, a Company, and a Gangster”.

The book tells the dramatic history of the formation of the UAW through the eyes of one worker, Ken Morris, who rose through the union ranks at Briggs Manufacturing in Detroit to become the President of Local 212 for seven years beginning in the late 1940s before being elected co-director of UAW Region 1 in 1955, a position he held for 28 years until his retirement. Region 1 was considered one of the largest and most influential UAW Regions in the country since it encompassed Detroit.

Kefauver hearings

Kefauver hearings

In his book, which was impeccably researched using the resources of the Walter Reuther Library in Detroit, the younger Morris also tells the story of how his father became very involved in Democratic Party politics which for the longest time was intertwined closely with the UAW.

Using stories his father told him and his brother older Greg growing up, Bob Morris is able to show how one man working for labor unity and equality could make a difference in the lives of everyday workers.  Since the elder Morris would work from sunrise to sunset six days a week, Bob and Greg’s mother insisted he spend time with them on Sunday so they would accompany their father on his day “off” to UAW meetings and political gatherings where as young boys were able to take in the operations of the union and its political ties. Along the way they would be introduced to men like the Brothers Reuther (Walter, Roy and Vic), Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, Martin Luther King and G. Mennen Williams..

Although they heard many stories about the early days of UAW organizing one story they didn’t hear was the day their father was beaten for his union activities by gangsters who were  for-hire corporate thugs in the tradition of Harry Bennett, Henry Ford’s anti-union enforcer at Ford Motor Company.

Ken Morris introducing John F. Kennedy

Ken Morris introducing John F. Kennedy

“As little kids you pick up things, but he never told Greg and I what happened,” Bob Morris said.

What happened is a vicious attack with a pipe or iron bar that left the elder Morris fighting for his life with two skull fractures, a broken wrist, arm and nose. It would take a long painful recovery. Morris’ beating was the fifth attack on Briggs union members in little over a year in 1946 and the Detroit newspapers began referring to the attacks as “The Terror.”

One particular grisly photo shows the grievously wounded Ken Morris in a hospital bed, his head swollen beyond recognition. If anyone is doubt the commitment of the early leaders of the UAW this photo, shot on-the-sly by a newspaper photographer provides ample proof of the brutality waged against unions.

Shortly after the attack on Morris, Walter Reuther was the victim of an attempted assassination which left him wounded. A year later Walter Reuther’s brother, Victor, was also targeted for an assassination and was seriously wounded by a shotgun blast.

Bob Morris said he spent a “year of his life” at the Walter Reuther Library researching details for the book.

“It is a gift to researchers,” he said.

After doing his research he would visit his father who at that time was in an extended care facility.

“I think he was pleased,” Morris said.

Morris like many of us didn’t really know much about his father‘s early life and that six oral histories his father completed before his death along with his father’s high school yearbooks helped provide him insight into who his father was as a young man.

“He was very active in everything at school and the inscriptions (in the yearbooks) helped form who he was,” he said.

One thing that Bob Morris learned, but not until he was in his forties, was his father had changed his name from Katz to Morris.

“He was not a religious guy and we had no idea he had a Jewish background,” Bob Morris said.

While still in his twenties Ken Morris had moved from Pittsburg to Detroit looking for work as door-to-door salesman. He soon found that a Wasp name resulted in more sales and he changed his name without ever looking back.

While researching the book, Bob Morris the extensive report issued by the Kefauver crime fighting committee fascinating helped put the era in perspective.

Few, today, except Labor historians remember Kefauver, but In 1951 Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee held hearings in 14 major U.S. cities including Detroit in order to ferret out the connections he believed existed between organized crime and business.  Among other things, the committee wanted to explore the relationship to gambling in auto plants some related to Harry Bennett and also the violence that had been perpetrated on labor leaders.

What the committee didn’t know at the time the hearings were scheduled was that a Grand Jury had investigated the “Briggs” beatings, but nothing had come from those investigations since the Judge had become convinced he would be “safer” in Florida.

The Grand Jury investigation had turned up connections between organized crime and Briggs and how organized crime had cut lucrative deals with Briggs and other companies in exchange for keeping “industrial peace” a euphemism for eliminating labor unions. In Detroit the hearings were televised live and Morris said if you watch those hearings closely they look like a scene from the gangster movie “On the Waterfront.”

The Kefauver findings would turn up the heat on the investigations of the attempted killings of the Reuthers, but as Bob Morris points out in the book the UAW through its involvement in paying a key witness muddied the investigation.

At the end of the book Bob Morris gives some details on his father’s efforts to build a progressive Democratic Party in Michigan and how he became an expert on unemployment compensation. One young politician who Morris supported was Jim Blanchard who went on to become a congressman and governor of Michigan. Both of the Morris sons later worked for Blanchard.

Bob Morris saved one of what he calls “his father’s proudest moments” for last: a photograph of Ken Morris introducing presidential candidate John F. Kennedy in 1960, naturally on Labor Day.

Bob Morris, 62, works for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), and lives in Canton.

Ann Arbor Public Library hosts reception for exhibit on the Book Jacket competition

Book Jacket contest entry

Book Jacket contest entry

Join the Ann Arbor Public Library for a pre-BookFest reception for the upcoming 12th annual Kerrytown BookFest, 7 P.M.-8 P.m., Friday, September 5 at the downtown branch library, 3rd floor. The event includes elegant refreshments and exquisite music by harpist Deborah Gabrion. The reception marks the grand opening of The Art Of The Book, Kerrytown BookFest Exhibit at the Library which showcases entries from the BookFest’s 7th annual Book Cover Design contest for high school students. The exhibit and will be on display on the 3rd Floor of the Downtown Library through October 12. The contest, which was open to all Michigan High School students and was sponsored in part by the Michigan Humanities Council, asked the students to re-imagine a cover for a chosen book and give a visual interpretation of the written word. This year’s book was “Paddle-to-the-Sea, a Caldecott medal winning book by Holling C. Holling who was raised in Leslie Michigan.  This year’s BookFest features three modern-day Caldecott winners: Chris Raschka, Brian Floca and Eric Stead. Read more about the Book Cover contest here and here. Check out the covers of all the entries here. The program includes remarks by John Hilton, editor of the Ann Arbor Observer, who will discuss the 12th annual Kerrytown BookFest and provide an overview of the exhibit and the book design contest.  Robin Agnew, co-owner of Aunt Agatha’s and president of the Kerrytown BookFest will announce the contest winners. She will be joined by Nancy Shaw, local children’s author, and contest judge. The 12th annual Kerrytown BookFest, (, which will be held on Sunday, September 7,is an event celebrating those who create books and those who read them. The primary goal is to highlight the area’s rich heritage in the book and printing arts while showcasing local and regional individuals, businesses, and organizations. Since 2003, the BookFest has been growing, sharing, and discovering more and more about the rich book culture in this region. For more information on this event, call the Library at 734-327-4555 or visit our website at

12 reasons to attend the 12th annual Kerrytown BookFest

 kerrytown art

1. One “Baddass” writer from Traverse City (Mardi Jo Link, “From Broke to Badass”)

2. Free parking and free admission

3. Three Caldecott winners talk about illustrating children’s books

4. Four Graphic novelists make words jump from the page

5. Five Historical Romantic Suspense writers to keep you up at night

6. 100 vendors in the literary marketplace

7. Hands-on book making, drawing workshops and letterpress printing demos

8. Eight writers explore the deadly art of mystery

9. Four unusual memoir writers

10. Biographers, short story writers and an architect join Mother Goose in telling great stories

11. Eleven panels of authors and illustrators

12. Lots of free stuff