- By Sharyn Vane Special to the American-Statesman
Yes, you should take your kids to the Texas Book Festival. Whether your young reader is elementary age or young adult, voracious or reluctant — there’s a program aimed to engage.
Building on the success of last year’s themed tent for young adults, this year includes the addition of a dedicated “Next Chapter” middle-grade tent that will host the likes of “Frindle” author Andrew Clements, Kate Milford (“Greenglass House”), and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang. Bestselling and award-winning authors like Mac Barnett (numerous picture books and the “Terrible Two” middle-grade series), “Bridge to Terabithia” writer Katherine Paterson and fan favorite Lemony Snicket highlight a lineup that also includes workshops for educators, hands-on crafts activities and live music.
With so much on tap, you’ll need a game plan to make the most of your weekend (and minimize meltdowns for the younger set). Here are standouts from the schedule for every age group:
The young-adult offerings include several books whose themes are topical and timely. National Book Award finalist Jason Reynolds’ newest, “Long Way Down,” tackles a teen’s decision about whether to lash out at his brother’s murderer (11 a.m. Saturday, YA HQ Tent). Debut novelist Nic Stone’s “Dear Martin” was inspired by the tragic deaths of numerous African American teens (“Catch the YA Buzz” panel, 10 a.m. Saturday, YA HQ tent; “Writing for Justice” panel, 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Omni Ballroom). And fellow “Justice” panelist Angie Thomas’ debut, “The Hate U Give,” hit No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list and was longlisted for the National Book Award for her depiction of a teenage girl who is the sole witness to a police shooting. (“Justice” panel, 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Omni Ballroom, followed by “Breakthrough” panel at 4 p.m. in the same space.)
Sarah Dessen and Libba Bray write books that diverge dramatically — except in their popularity. Dessen has written more than a dozen novels rooted in the travails of real life, including her most recent, “Once and For All,” which follows Louna during the summer before college starts. She’s juggling her duties as a wedding planner for her family business and the appeal of the rakish yet charming brother of the bride. Bray — a former Austinite — hearkens back to the Jazz Age in her New York-set spooky “Diviners” series, tinged with the occult and plenty of intrigue. They’ll join forces for a “Lifetime Achievement” conversation. (12:15 p.m. Sunday, YA HQ tent)
Katherine Paterson, author of “Bridge to Terabithia,” will discuss her work in conversation with celebrated illustrator Peter Sis, who is an eight-time winner of the New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year award. “Terabithia,” which centers on a young boy and girl and the fantasy world they create to escape the trials of their lives as fifth-graders, won the Newbery medal in 1978; it also has been one of the most-challenged books over its four decades in print for its themes of loss and religious intolerance. (12:30 p.m. Saturday, First United Methodist Church)
The new middle-grade tent expands offerings for the 8- to 12-year-old demographic. Its lineup features powerhouse Andrew Clements, the author of more than 100 books for children, including the now-classic “Frindle.” His latest is “The Losers Club,” about a boy who starts a reading club — of one — in an effort to page through his beloved stories undisturbed. (10:30 a.m. Saturday, Next Chapter tent)
Kate Milford brings back Milo and a new passel of unexpected guests in “Ghosts of Greenglass House,” her sequel to the 2014 novel that introduced the twists and turns that befell her young protagonist during a holiday snowstorm. The same mystery and smart plotting that were the hallmark of “Greenglass House” return along with Milo. (11 a.m. Sunday, Next Chapter tent)
National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang, author of “American-Born Chinese” and numerous other graphic novels and comics, including “The Last Airbender” and “Superman” series, anchors a powerhouse panel of authors devoted to diverse stories. Joining him are We Need Diverse Books founder Ellen Oh and David Barclay Moore, author of “The Stars Beneath Our Feet,” which tells the story of a boy trying to find a safe life in Harlem after his brother’s death. (“Books Bring Us Together” panel, 12:15 p.m. Sunday, Next Chapter tent)
The youngest readers have a plethora of options from the Read Me A Story tent, which rotates picture-book authors in quick half-hour segments ideal for wee attention spans. On Saturday, consider “Take A Picture of Me, James VanDerZee!,” Andrea J. Loney’s non-fiction ode to the African-American photographer (12 p.m.) or “Princess Cora and the Crocodile” with Caldecott winner Brian Floca (2 p.m.). On Sunday, learn why “Nothing Rhymes With Orange” from Adam Rex (12 p.m.) or get a two-fer from Chris Barton, who weighs “Book or Bell?” along with explaining the trompe l’oeil inherent in “Dazzle Ships.” (1 p.m.)
Celebrated picture-book author Mac Barnett will discuss his multiple best-selling books, which include two Caldecott-honor collaborations with illustrator Peter Klassen: “Extra Yarn” and “Sam and Dave Dig a Hole.” His newest is “I Love You Like A Pig,” full of whimsical wordplay that will have young readers asking plenty of questions about the odd similes. (“We Love You, Mac Barnett!” 11 a.m. Saturday, Capitol Auditorium)
And Daniel Handler — better known as persnickety Lemony Snicket, creator of the 13-volume “A Series of Unfortunate Events” — follows “The Bad Mood and the Stick” in his new picture book, which explores how bad moods come and go: “You never know what is going to happen.” (11 a.m. Sunday, Capitol Auditorium)
Parents, meanwhile, may want to sneak off later in the day to hear him discuss “Writing Desire” relative to his new novel for decidedly adult readers, “All The Dirty Parts.” (3:30 p.m. Sunday, Capitol Extension E2.036)
Sharyn Vane’s column on children’s books appears monthly in the Statesman. firstname.lastname@example.org.