There are a lot of ways to foster a love of reading in children, but one of the best is to have them listen to a real live author.
Fortunately, the Texas Book Festival is here to provide plenty of opportunities to do just that. Whether your child is a graphic novel enthusiast, picture book fan, realistic fiction devotee, fantasy maven, humor aficionado or poetry buff, there’s a session that will intrigue, challenge and entertain.
Among the biggest names is Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who returns to Austin with her newest picture book, “Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You.” The book spotlights a dozen children working together to plant a garden, each completing their task differently as a result of a chronic illness or disability. The theme sprang from a moment in Sotomayor’s own life: She injected insulin to manage her diabetes, but overheard a woman whispering to a friend that she was a drug addict. She confronted the woman, saying, “If you don’t know why someone’s doing something, just ask them,” Sotomayor told NPR last month.
Sotomayor’s last appearance in Austin sold out. So if you’re hoping to snag a seat in the House chamber, be sure to line up early (the Capitol doors open at 9 a.m.) and read the specifics about securing a required wristband for the signing line at www.texasbookfestival.org. (11:30 a.m. Sunday, House chamber)
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Also on tap from the best-seller lists are “Wonder” author R.J. Palacio with a new story from that world, “White Bird” (12:45 p.m. Saturday, First United Methodist Church); “Guts” graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier (“GraphixCon: Great New Graphic Novels for Young Readers” panel, 10 a.m. Saturday, First United Methodist Church) and “Spy School” creator Stuart Gibbs with his new series launch “Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation” (“Thrills, Chills and Figuring It Out” panel, 3 p.m. Saturday, Next Chapter Tent).
Many of the authors and activities for young people are conveniently grouped in tents lining Congress Avenue, which makes it easy to pop between sessions.
It’s all young adult literature, all the time at the YA HQ tent. Discover the strong heroines featured on the “Taking Care of Business: Kick-Butt Women in Fantastic Worlds” panel, including L.L. McKinney’s “A Dream So Dark” (11 a.m. Saturday), or the secrets hidden in the novels that make up the “What I Never Told You: Spinning Secrets and Uncovering Truths” panel, including “Patron Saints of Nothing” by National Book Award nominee Randy Ribay (2 p.m. Sunday).
Younger readers have much to choose from at the Next Chapter tent, from the “Spies in Training: Didi Dodo” panel with “Origami Yoda” author Tom Angleberger (1:45 p.m. Saturday) to the “True Stories that Inspire” panel, which features the non-fiction picture book “Instructions Not Included: How A Team of Women Coded the Future” by Tami Lewis Brown and Debbie Loren Dunn (1:15 p.m. Sunday). The “True Stories” panel is also part of the Cirrus Logic track that links festival panels and authors with a STEM focus.
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The Kirkus Reviews tent, helmed by the influential industry journal, also spotlights several acclaimed authors for young people. Kwame Alexander returns to Austin to showcase “The Undefeated,” a picture-book paean to black life in the United States from Alexander’s new Versify imprint (noon Saturday); “Repeating the Past” is a history-themed panel with young-adult author Ruta Sepetys, whose newest novel, “The Fountains of Silence,” explores fascist Spain through the eyes of a teenage photojournalist from Texas. (11 a.m. Sunday)
Fledgling bibliophiles can see a rotating cast of picture-book authors in 30-minute segments perfect for wee attention spans in the Read Me A Story tent. On Saturday, sample from “A Soldier for Equality” from Duncan Tonatiuh (2 p.m.; Tonatiuh also reads the book in Spanish during Bilingual Storytime in the Latinx Lit tent, 10:30 a.m.) or “Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies!” by Megan and Jorge Lacera. Sunday, try “Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao” from Kat Zhang (11:30 a.m.), “Explorers” from Matthew Cordell (1:30 p.m.) or “We Are Grateful” from Traci Sorell (4 p.m.).
In between sessions, young ones can also carom from the Children’s Entertainment Tent — the lineup includes magic, music and drawing with prominent children’s book illustrators — to the Children’s Activities Tent, staffed by several Austin nonprofits, including Girlstart and volunteer powerhouse Austin Allies. (Hey, the hands-on activities help balance all that necessary sitting!)
Parents, still need more ideas to intrigue your young reader? Don’t miss the “How to Raise a Reader” panel, with New York Times Book Review editor Pamela Paul and Kyle Lukoff, a former bookseller, librarian and author of “When Aidan Became a Brother.” (1 p.m. Saturday, Capitol Extension E2.028)
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