Boston Book Festival 2019

Cindy Ritter:

I started off the morning setting up our booth. Two moments of pride: figuring out how to hang up our banner using some zip-tie chain-link magic; and discussing with passersby the 2019 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award–winning books we had on display, which I’d chosen this year with committee chair Monica Edinger (whose sister stopped by the booth!) and Kim Parker, who hosted the Kids’ Keynote with Erin Entrada Kelly. (And thanks, as always, to the Boston Globe for again sponsoring our booth!)

Then I was off to the "YA: Historical Fiction" panel in the Boston Public Library’s Teen Central, hosted by James Kennedy of 90-Second Newbery Film Festival fame and featuring authors Julie Berry (Lovely War), Susan Carlton (In the Neighborhood of True), and Kip Wilson (White Rose). I was particularly struck by a comment Berry made about grappling with outdated viewpoints. She emphasized that to be authentic to the period, it can be important to include opinions that by today’s standards may be offensive; this allows young readers get a more accurate representation of the past, including both the good and bad of society’s previously accepted views, with the goal of learning from history’s mistakes to avoid repeating them.

I also stopped by the BPL’s Children’s Library for an awesome storytime with Ryan T. Higgins, who read Bruce’s Big Storm and drew the title character (plus an extra drawing of dinosaur Penelope from We Don’t Eat Our Classmates) before costumed character Mother Bruce himself stopped by for a visit.

A bit unusual for me, but the afternoon lineup provided a chance to look beyond children’s and young adult books to sample what the BBF’s panels had on tap for adults. "Is There Still Sex in the City?" featured Candace Bushnell and nonfiction author Ada Calhoun, hosted by WBUR's Here & Now co-host Robin Young. I got a glimpse forward at my 40s–60s as the women frankly discussed everything from menopause to dating to vaginas (and two seventeen-year-olds asked impressive, insightful questions during the Q&A, giving me renewed hope in our future). I also learned more about climate change, nuclear power, and environmental racism at the "Paper or Plastic and Other Environmental Conundrums" panel hosted by WBUR’s Barbara Moran and featuring authors Harriet Washington, Andrew McAfee, and Joshua Goldstein. And I finished out my day at "The Peanuts Papers" panel, where Northeastern professor Hillary Chute hosted a fascinating group of contributors to the new Library of America book The Peanuts Papers: Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang, and the Meaning of Life, including Chip Kidd, Chris Ware, Clifford Thompson, and the book’s editor Andrew Blauner. 

Shoshana Flax

Marie Lu gave the YA keynote, moderated by Shelf Awareness children’s and YA editor (and former Horn Booker) Siân Gaetano. Lu’s latest novel, Rebel, returns to the world of her Legend and Warcross books, and their conversation focused largely on revisiting a series after a long period of time, especially given real-world changes in the interim. It can be hard to keep up with developing technology, said Lu, in a world where “science fiction is becoming science fact.” She added that her next book, The Kingdom of Back (out next March), is something completely different: a historical YA fantasy novel about Nannerl Mozart, the real-life sister of that other Mozart.

I spent the afternoon in the Horn Book booth, offering up stickers and magazines as well as, of course, book recommendations. We had this year’s BGHB winners and honor books on display, which meant I got into good conversations about everything from The Patchwork Bike to On the Come Up. Appropriately for the season, we also had our Horn Boo Halloween recommendations ready to hand out; if you missed it, check out #13DaysofHalloween on our Twitter and Instagram!

Elissa Gershowitz

While I was at the Horn Book booth, my family visited the other booths for “Passport to Imagination” stamps (and candy…soooo much candy). Although we weren’t giving away sweets, there were free copies of the Magazine, along with bookmarks, stickers (“that’s Roger’s face!”), and posters. Oh, and rubber bands, which made one young festival attendee’s day: “Ooooh! Rubber bands! How useful!”

The “YA Warrior Girls” panel with Amy Rose Capetta, Cori McCarthy, Charlotte Nicole Davis, Rory Power, and Brittney Morris, moderated by Horn Book reviewer Monique Harris, was packed (I sat on the floor in the back). Discussion was wide-ranging, honest, and empowering, with an informative Q/A session: “What advice would you give your sixteen-year-old self?” “Get a therapist!”

The next day’s events were held in Roxbury (on its own day for the first time!) and my kids and I attended the Sunday Storytime panel, featuring Oge Mora, Raúl the Third, E. B. Goodale, and Gloria Respress-Churchwell, hosted by Boston Public Librarian, Grove Hall Branch, Angela Bonds. We said hello to Ekua Holmes, who was setting up a workshop based on The Stuff of Stars (and whose community-loving Twitter handle is @imaroxburygirl), visited booths, ate more candy, ran into longtime Horn Book Guide reviewer Norah Piehl, executive director of the festival (phew!), and spent some money at Frugal Bookstore down the street, which was then hosting “A Home Is a Poem” poetry workshop.

Things we missed that day but would’ve gone to if there were thirty hours: Erin Entrada Kelly's Kids’ Keynote, hosted by 2019 Boston Globe–Horn Book judge Kim Parker; YA/Speculative Fiction Keynote by Akwaeke Emezi, hosted by Horn Book reviewer Nicholl Montgomery; Mitali Perkins’s “A Whole New World” talk; “The Best-Laid Plans” panel of YA authors; and Wee The People’s “Wee Wear the Crowns” event; and countless other storytimes and panels on Saturday — you can relive the whole lineup here. And while I was not able to attend Hena Khan’s middle-grade panel on Saturday, I was able to see her at a school visit on Monday, where she reminded fourth- and fifth-graders that “All of Our Stories Matter” and she encouraged them all to “find their own voice.”  

Horn Book
Horn Book

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