The blessing of the Texas Book Festival is also its challenge, particularly for parents — how to make the most of your time at a gathering overflowing with talent without conking out along the way. Like most outings with young ones, it takes a plan: Here are just a few of the fest’s many highlights for young readers. (Times and locations are subject to change; check schedule on the book fest's website before you go.)
“Brown Girl Dreaming” author "Jacqueline Woodson has won the National Book Award and Newbery and Caldecott honors — a trifecta of the highest ranking awards for children’s literature — in addition to serving as the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
Woodson has used her platform to visit schools that often don’t get visits from authors and describes her tenure’s theme as “Reading = Hope x Change.” Fittingly, she has two new books out, both of which highlight the power of connecting through story: the middle-grade “Harbor Me” (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, $17.99), which showcases a group of sixth-graders who meet weekly to discuss their lives; and “The Day You Begin” (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, $18.99), a picture book that charts both the nervousness young children feel and the relief that happens when they find compatriots through their stories. (12:30 p.m. Oct. 27, First United Methodist Church)
Dhonielle Clayton wanted to spark conversation about the mores and boundaries around women’s bodies. The result was “The Belles” (Freeform, $17.99), a richly drawn young-adult fantasy set in Orleans, where most people are born grey, relying on the titular Belles to give them any look they desire. Heroine Camellia is anointed to be the royal family’s Belle, but there’s a dark underpinning to her powers, as she soon discovers. A second book in the series arrives in March; until then, you can see Clayton along with “American Marriage” author Tayari Jones and “Well-Read Black Girl” book club and fest founder Glory Edim (noon Sunday, Capitol Auditorium). Clayton will also appear in conversation with “Miss Peregrine” creator Ransom Riggs, who in “A Map of Days”(Dutton, $22.99) uses color photographs for the first time as the vintage images that accent his series. (3:30 p.m. Oct. 28, YA HQ).
Most avid young readers go through a “Magic Tree House” phase, when they can’t get enough of the New York Times best-selling chapter-book series that follows siblings Jack and Annie on various adventures through the time-traveling tree house of the title. Inspiration for Mary Pope Osborne’s newest, “Hurricane Heroes in Texas” (Random House, $13.99), springs from the 1900 hurricane that savaged Galveston. Together with her sister, Natalie Pope Boyce, who’ll also be at the festival, Osborne writes accompanying Fact Tracker companion books: “Texas” includes plenty of details about the Lone Star State, including how it got that nickname. (2:30 p.m. Oct. 27, Kirkus Reviews Tent)
Got an “Ivy and Bean” series fan? Author Annie Barrows will be at the festival, too, on a panel with Newbery winner Erin Entrada Kelly, who traces the friendship between two middle-schoolers in “You Go First” (Greenwillow, $16.99). (1 p.m. Oct. 28, Kirkus Reviews Tent)
Yuyi Morales’ “Dreamers” (Neal Porter Books, $18.99) is an eloquent and elegant showcase of the immigrant story, based on the author and illustrator’s own travels from her native Mexico to the United States with her then-infant son. Morales, a five-time Pura Belpre illustration award winner as well as a Caldecott honoree, layers her rich illustrations with multicultural references and magical flights of fancy. (2 p.m. Oct. 27, Read Me A Story Tent)
She also appears with activist, commentator and author Julissa Arce, who shares her story of growing up undocumented in Texas in the middle-grade memoir “Someone Like Me: How One Undocumented Girl Fought For Her American Dream” (Little, Brown, $16.99). (11 a.m. Oct. 27, Latinx Tent)
As the festival has grown over the years, it’s been easier for families to navigate with the advent of demographic-specific tents along Congress Avenue, including the young-adult YA HQ and the Next Chapter tent for middle-graders. A perennial favorite has been the Read Me A Story tent, where picture book authors rotate through in half-hour segments perfect for the shortest of attention spans.
On Oct. 27, consider Vanessa Brantley Newton’s ode to “Grandma’s Purse” (11:30 a.m.); “Mixed,” Arree Chung’s ode to acceptance (1 p.m.), or Roda Ahmed’s ode to the first African-American woman to travel in space, “Mae Among the Stars” (2:30 p.m.). For Oct. 28, choose from the latest volume in Austinite Divya Srinivisan’s “Little Owl” series, “Little Owl’s Snow” (11:30 a.m.); illustrator A.G. Ford’s rendition of “Construction Site on Christmas Eve” (2 p.m.); and Liz Garton Scanlon’s epistolary paean “Dear Substitute” (2:30 p.m.).
MORE PICKS FOR THE FEST
10:30 a.m. A trio of “Buzz Books” young-adult authors have created a fantasy anchored by fierce women (Claire Legrand’s “Furyborn”), a hockey-themed graphic novel born as a webcomic (Ngozi Ukazu’s “Check, Please!”) and an Austin-set romance steeped in today’s digital world (Mary H.K. Choi’s “Emergency Contact”). (YA HQ Tent)
1:30 p.m. An American grandson and his Thai grandfather are “Drawn Together,” with author Minh Lê and illustrator Dan Santat, creator of the Disney hit “The Replacements.” (Kirkus Reviews Tent)
3:30 p.m. Prolific, award-winning Don Tate illustrates the picture book biography “No Small Potatoes,” which spotlights a Kentucky man’s journey from enslavement to “Potato King.” (Read Me A Story Tent)
11 a.m. Embrace “Love When You Want It Least” with Cynthia Leitich Smith’s look at identity through the lens of a Native American high school journalism student (“Hearts Unbroken”); Ibi Zoboi, the National Book Award finalist whose “Pride” updates Jane Austen with Afro-Latino characters and a modern Brooklyn setting; and Nisha Sharma, who deftly mashes up romance, humor and Indian pop culture in “My So-Called Bollywood Life.” (YA HQ Tent)
12:30 p.m. Daria Peoples-Riley showcases the power of movement in her picture-book ode to working out the jitters, “This Is It.” (Read Me A Story Tent)
2 p.m. Stay “Close To Home” on a panel featuring three authors who explore the lure of that distinctive setting as part of their middle-grade novels: Sharon Draper (“Blended”), Varian Johnson (“The Parker Inheritance”) and Pablo Cartaya (“Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish”). (Next Chapter Tent)