For reading-minded parents, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Austin’s already booming literary scene for young people goes super-sized at the Texas Book Festival, massing dozens of authors that cover all the book bases: picture, chapter, middle-grade and young adult. The only problem? Fitting it all in.
The good news is that your festival mode is just Parenting 101: Plan ahead — but be willing to change course. Here’s our guide to get you started.
The biggest names in kids’ books coming to the festival are “Goosebumps” creator R.L. Stine and Lemony Snicket, the nom de plume of Daniel Handler.
Stine unveils “A Midsummer Night’s Scream,” a mash-up of Shakespeare and late-night B movies that marks his return to the teen horror market. (1 p.m. Saturday, House Chamber). Snicket will showcase the second of four planned mysteries for middle-graders, “Where Did You Last See Her?” His trademark dry wit complete with literary in-jokes is on display in this hunt for an heiress who also happens to be a brilliant chemist. (12:15 p.m. Sunday, House Chamber)
Stine and Snicket also provide the perfect reason always to have a Plan B: Though the House Chamber is among the largest of the festival venues, there will be lines for the most popular authors, and rooms will close at capacity. (Not to mention that little people get so tired of waiting and aren’t shy about complaining. Loudly.) If either is your must-see, get there early.
Otherwise, know you always have another choice. Miss Stine? Swing across the street and listen to the “Build It and They Will Come” panel on successful series, with the likes of “39 Clues” author Jude Watson, aka National Book Award winner Judy Blundell (1 p.m. Saturday, Family Life Center). Shut out of Snicket? Pop downstairs and try Gordon Korman, a fellow “39 Clues” series writer whose latest adventure is “The Hypnotist.” (12:15 p.m. Sunday, Capitol Extension Room E2.010)
You’ll also want to consider your children’s ages, of course. Fledgling and emerging readers will likely be happiest at the Read Me a Story tent adjoining the Capitol grounds. Never having to navigate the Capitol’s steps and a rotating cast of authors that changes on the half-hour makes this a perfect stop for wee attention spans.
On Saturday, look for noted illustrator Chris Raschka’s “Daisy Gets Lost” (10 a.m.), funnyman Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett’s “Battle Bunny” (1:30 p.m.) and Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin’s newest “Click, Clack” Halloween title, “Click, Clack, Boo!” (3:30 p.m.) Sunday’s lineup includes Adam Rex, the “Cold Cereal” saga author who returns to his picture-book roots with “Moonday” (1 p.m.), and Bob Staake, the renowned artist whose wordless “Bluebird” — a moving exploration of loneliness and friendship that Staake spent a decade polishing — has already been named to several best-of-2013 lists. (2 p.m. in the tent; Staake also discusses wordless picture books in panel format with Raschka at 11 a.m. in Capitol Extension Room E2.010.)
Take advantage of the proximity to the activity tents, where diversions abound: Come dressed as a favorite storybook character and participate in a fashion show (11 a.m. Saturday); enjoy alphabet crafts and stories with the staff of Rawson Saunders, Austin’s school for dyslexic children (noon Saturday); or create a paper calavera just in time for Dia de los Muertos (11 a.m. Sunday). And don’t forget the entertainment tent, where favorites like the Biscuit Brothers (11 a.m. Saturday) and Joe McDermott (1 p.m. Sunday) offer tunes made for getting out the wiggles.
Older readers already have their favorite titles, and it’s a good bet nowadays that at least one is set in a post-apocalyptic world. Festival organizers have created plenty of opportunities to delve into this genre, including the appropriately named “Apocalypse Now” panel with “Tumble and Fall” author Alexandra Coutts (4:15 p.m. Saturday, Capitol Extension Room E2.014) and “Is It the End of the World as We Know It?” slate of authors that includes Neal Shusterman, whose third book in the “Unwind” trilogy, “UnSouled,” published just days ago (3:30 p.m. Saturday, Family Life Center).
These kind of worlds call for a special kind of heroine — the ones featured in the novels of the “Girl Power” panel. Fittingly, this includes powerhouse Kami Garcia, who co-authored the best-selling “Beautiful Creatures” series that spawned this year’s feature film of the same name. “Unbreakable,” the first title in her “Legion” series, focuses on a secret society of ghost hunters. (1:30 p.m. Saturday, Capitol Extension Room E2.014)
Lest you think it’s all supernatural dystopias out there, there are lots of titles for older readers that spotlight the challenges of real life, too. The “Summer Changes Everything” panel features a trio of writers who laser in on teen struggles like love and fitting in: Leila Sales’ “This Song Will Save Your Life,” for example, is a poignant, funny and ultimately triumphant story about escaping the conventional highschool wisdom. (12:15 p.m. Saturday, Capitol Extension Room E2.014)
And if your older teen used to be a “Goosebumps” fan, maybe you don’t have to wait in line to see Stine at the Capitol. Go to Plan S (for spooky) and venture out Saturday night to the “Ghosts in the Graveyard” section of the festival’s ever-growing Lit Crawl, where Stine and James Preller (“Good Night Zombie”) will read inside the gates of the Texas State Cemetery. (8 p.m. Saturday)