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2015 Boston Book Festival highlights

The annual Boston Book Festival took place over the weekend, and we had a blast seeing some familiar faces (and lots of new ones!) at the Horn Book booth and attending programming.

roger and paul o zelinsky

Paul O. Zelinsky and Roger. Photo by Shoshana Flax

roger, rebecca stead, and kristin cashore

Rebecca Stead, Roger, and Kristin Cashore. Photo by Shoshana Flax

Here are some highlights from events staff attended.

Elissa:

My family attended several Story Time sessions in the newly renovated, amazingly beautiful, perfectly kid-friendly (those color-changing sculptures! those low shelves…that you can run through like a maze!) BPL Children’s Room.

First was Stephen Savage, reading Where’s Walrus? And Penguin? while wearing a plastic Viking helmet. (Why? I don’t know; we got there a few minutes late. But it was funny.) Next was Laura Vaccaro Seeger. She read I Used to Be Afraid, then let the audience vote on what to read next: Dog and Bear! Dog and Bear! Paul O. Zelinsky was up, and he created an amazing illustration of Lumphy and Plastic (from Toys Meet Snow) out of a smudgy seemingly-nowhere.

bbf stephen savage

Stephen Savage reads Where’s Walrus? And Penguin? in Viking headgear. (Why? Why not?) Photo by Elissa Gershowitz

bbf laura vaccaro seeger

Laura Vaccaro Seeger reads from a Dog and Bear book. Photo by Elissa Gershowitz

paul o zelinsky art

Paul O. Zelinsky with a charcoal drawing of Lumphy (and smudgy fingers). Photo by Elissa Gershowitz

At around this time my toddler started majorly losing his marbles, so that was it for us. But outside we saw some giant costumed bird and dragon figures in Copley Square, and even got to dress up.

bbf puppets

Puppet parade! Photo by Elissa Gershowitz

Shoshana:

MY BBF day started with the Kids’ Keynote, a conversation between Roger and Louis Sachar, where I learned some great stories-behind-the-beloved-stories. My favorite: Mrs. Gorf started as a creative writing assignment to write a children’s story, and Sachar’s teacher accused him of not taking the assignment seriously!

sachar keynote

Louis Sachar and Roger during the Kids’ Keynote. Photo by Elissa Gershowitz

Next, I attended a YA panel titled “Real Lives,” composed of three authors with recently published nonfiction books: Steve Sheinkin, Sonia Manzano, and M. T. Anderson. All three had super-smart observations about how and why to write true stories for teens, and how and why to share the truth even when it’s grim. I’m paraphrasing, but Manzano (who recently retired from portraying Maria on Sesame Street) pointed out that young people want to know hard truths that adults know because they see how much power adults have.

Then, after a chilly but chatty few hours in the Horn Book booth, I went to “Regret and Recovery,” a YA panel featuring Cammie McGovern and Edwidge Danticat (Adam Silvera wasn’t able to make it). Again, super-smart authors, both of whom started as adult authors but had respect for and knowledge of YA, and spoke wisely about the difficult themes of their recent works.

regret and recovery bbf panel

BPL’s Laura Koenig, Cammie McGovern, and Edwidge Danticat in the “Regret and Recovery” panel. Photo by Shoshana Flax

All in all, a day rich in things to think about. (But — you hear me, universe? — I still need to hear Libba Bray.)

Siân:

I had the first booth shift of the day at BBF (which I did alone, Roger), in which I chatted with lovely people, explained the awesomeness of The Horn Book, and sat directly on top of a space heater.

When I was relieved of duty, I checked out the fantastic YA “Real Lives” panel with M. T. Anderson, Sonia Manzano, and Steve Sheinkin (hosted by Carey Goldberg). The three authors were poised, extremely well-spoken, engaging, and so remarkably intelligent that the hour flew by and before I knew it, it was time for grilled cheese at the Roxy’s food truck.

Post feeding, I was lucky enough to attend the YA “Boys to Men” panel with Matt de la Peña, Brendan Kiely, Jason Reynolds, and Andrew Smith (hosted by Simmons’ own Amy Pattee). This particular panel was to be a discussion of masculinity: what it is to be a male author, what it is to be a male author of YA, and what it is to write males. Pattee led the conversation brilliantly, asking focused and fascinating questions of the authors (more than once, before giving a well-developed and thorough reply, Jason Reynolds breathed an amazed “wow”), all of whom replied with sincerity, wit, and intelligence. Each author spoke about his craft, about his most recent work, and about the male: reader, protagonist, and author. There were interesting discussions of the role each man has taken on (or been thrust into) since becoming a published author of YA, about the universality of experience in their works — no matter the race or privilege of protagonist or reader, and about the execution and meaning of the male “shoulder bump.” Additionally, when it came time, all but one of the questioners was a male teacher, asking about defining the male experience for their young men students and how they might be able to encourage more male readers (Reynolds reminded the group that any kind of reading — graphic novels, magazines, nonfiction works — is reading). Overall, it was a fascinating and engrossing panel and I want everyone to read all their books.

We’re already looking forward to next year’s BBF!

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