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Boston Book Festival 2018 — Happy with Horn Book-ers

We always enjoy attending the Boston Book Festival (and thank you to the Boston Globe for sponsoring our booth!). The festival was celebrating its tenth year at Copley Square; its second in East Boston; and its first in Roxbury, in partnership with the Boston Public Library, the Roxbury Cultural District, and (Friend of The Horn Book) Frugal Bookstore.

This year’s festival was Happy with Horn Book-ers. Along with our own friendly faces (Elissa, Shoshana, Cindy, Katrina, intern Rachel, and Roger…in sticker form) at Booth 51, Horn Book reviewers, contributors, and friends were performing (Wee the People), reading, and moderating panels: Stacy Collins on supernatural middle-grade; Sarah Rettger (who also transcribes all of our Talks with Roger interviews!) on feminism and romance; Monique Harris on middle-grade “Choices and Challenges”; Laura Koenig on YA inspiration; Amy Pattee on YA sci-fi; Lauren Rizzuto hosting the opening Kids’ Keynote with Kate DiCamillo; and Kim Parker hosting the closing YA Keynote with Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. Here are some of our thoughts, observations, and photos from the day. NB: We also hear from Rachel that listening to Kate DiCamillo read from Because of Winn-Dixie was “everything I ever wanted.”

Cindy Ritter

I only had the chance to go see one panel, and surprisingly it wasn’t a children’s books panel; but it was a kid-adjacent panel, in that it was a discussion of the first full-length biography written about Mister Rogers: The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King (former director of the Fred Rogers Center). The session, held in the Boston Public Library’s McKim Exhibition Hall, was moderated by WBUR senior correspondent and host Deborah Becker and touched on the development of King’s book, some facts he learned about Rogers while writing (e.g., humble-as-ever Mister Rogers never let a biography be written about him during his lifetime because he didn’t want the spotlight on himself), and King’s excellent timing in bringing this book out the same year as the fiftieth anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and the upcoming biopic starring Tom Hanks as Rogers. The sizeable audience had lots of interesting questions for Mr. King, and I was so engaged by what he had to say that I had him sign a copy of the book that I bought to give as a gift. I’m also curious to listen to the audiobook, as I hear it is narrated by LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow fame.

Shoshana Flax

After a soggy but otherwise lovely morning in the Horn Book booth, I headed to the “Middle Grade: Choices and Challenges” panel. Monique Harris (an educator who gave a shout-out to her “favorite job”: reviewing for the Horn Book!) moderated a session with authors Meg Medina, Tami Charles, and Kheryn Callender. The discussion ranged from the need for representation (Tami Charles emphasized letting kids choose their own reading material, and remembered a woman telling her grandson that Like Vanessa was “not for people like us” because the cover showed a girl of color) to source material (Kheryn Callender, like her Hurricane Child protagonist, was born right around the time of a hurricane and was considered unlucky because of it) to getting into the heads of young characters (Meg Medina uses “I remember” as a writing prompt, then asks herself: “Why do I remember that?”).

The YA Keynote featured What If It’s Us coauthors Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, moderated by Kim Parker (educator, Horn Book contributor, and 2019 BGHB judge). Adam wrote Ben’s chapters and Becky wrote Arthur’s in the dual-POV novel, with their editors Donna Bray and Andrew Eliopulos tag-teaming across two HarperCollins imprints. The novel’s setup was inspired by a Craigslist “Missed Connections” ad of Becky’s, and elements of both of their lives made it into the story; Adam said that Ben’s close relationship with his straight best friend was similar to his own friendship with fellow YA author David Arnold. The authors played off each other hilariously, but the serious value of this particular rom-com was also made clear: they recalled an event on their tour where one attendee had tried to convince them it was “a shame” that they were using their talents to write about queer characters — and the next person in line shared that he’d driven hours to tell them he wished he’d had books like this when he was growing up.

Slide 1
Intern Rachel Marsh and Shoshana Flax at Booth 51. Photo: Cindy Ritter
Slide 2
Intern Rachel is excited about her Roger sticker! Photo: Rachel Marsh
Slide 3
Passport to Imagination. Photo: Elissa Gershowitz
Slide 4
A Roger Sutton fan -- Ferris who? #LetMyCameronGo. Photo: Elissa Gershowitz
Slide 5
Wee the People: Tanya Nixon-Silberg and Francie Latour. Photo: Elissa Gershowitz
Slide 6
Madeline in Copley Square. Photo: Cindy Ritter
Slide 7
"Choices and Challenges" panel: Monique Harris, Meg Medina, Tami Charles, Kheryn Callender. Photo: Elissa Gershowitz
Slide 8
Mister Rogers panel: Deborah Becker and Maxwell King. Photo: Cindy Ritter
Slide 9
Monique Harris, Kim Parker, Nicholl Montgomery, with Roger (in sticker form). Photo: Elissa Gershowitz
Slide 10
Ten years of the Boston Book Festival.
Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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