Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The 2018 Texas Book Festival

The Texas Book Festival is my favorite book event of the year. Serendipitously, it occurs every year right around the time of my birthday, so it has evolved into a way to happily celebrate my big day. 

This year, because of other obligations, we only had time to make a quick trip to Austin on Saturday. I was worried I wouldn't be able to squeeze much into one day. 

I shouldn't have worried.
Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson

Both Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson were separated from their parents as children. De la Peña's dad was in Mexico while Matt lived with his mother in the US. Robinson was raised by his grandmother because his mom was struggling with addiction. 

Both men have used these struggles in their work, de la Peña as an author of children's picture books and young adult novels, and Robinson as an illustrator of children's picture books.

Together, de la Peña and Robinson created the Newbery award-winning picture book, Last Stop on Market Street. Their latest book together is Carmela, Full of Wishes.

Nathan Hale

There was a wall-to-wall crowd for author Nathan Hale. Have you ever heard him speak? If you have, you know why there were so many people willing to stand for an hour to hear him. Nathan Hale is mesmerizing. He tells the stories of American history and draws cartoon illustrations as he is talking. 

His newest book is the latest in his Hazardous Tales series. It's called Lafayette.

Juana Martinez-Neal

Every children's author at the Texas Book Festival is introduced by a group of children. Juana Martinez-Neal, the author of the picture book, Alma and How She Got Her Name, was introduced by a group of children who each told how he got his name. Martinez-Neal told us how she hated her name when she was growing up. People didn't know how to pronounce it, and when she told them she was from Peru, people immediately thought she wore a tall Peruvian hat, lived in the mountains, and had a llama. The story of Alma and How She Got Her Name, she told us, was inspired by her own story.

Lunch at Mmmpanadas

Pie Squared

I'm a pie fanatic, so I was happy to see Cathy Barrow in the Central Market Food Tent sharing her new cookbook, Pie Squared. Barrow said she has always been a pie maker, but she'd never tried rectangular pies until she entered a contest in her hometown of Washington DC. She was astonished at home much easier rectangular pies are than round pies. She was challenged to make a cookbook with rectangular pies, so she did. She made 193 pies while trying out this method.

I liked Barrow's talk so much that I bought the book.

Sarah Bird

Texas author Sarah Bird came to talk about her new book, Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen. One of my friends from my book club just read this book and was raving about it to all of us, so I was eager to hear Bird talk. The historical fiction novel is based on the real-life story of Cathey Williams, who disguised herself as a man and served for two years in the Buffalo Soldiers. My book club friend thinks this book would make a good selection for the next Gulf Coast Reads.

Susan Orlean

You might expect a huge crowd for Susan Orlean's new book, The Library Book, with this group of teachers and librarians who make up a large part of the Texas Book Festival. It was another packed house. Orlean told us the library "may have been the first place I was given autonomy." It was such a thrill for her, Orlean said, to leave a place with things you hadn't paid for. Libraries are our memories, she said. The Library Book has four distinct themes: (1) a history of the Los Angeles Public Library, (2) day-to-day life at a library, (3) the largest library fire in history which occurred at the LA Public Library in 1986 and left the library closed for seven years, and (4) her personal memories of libraries. 

I'm on the list to get this one at my public library.

Mary Pope Osborne

The last stop of the day was for Magic Treehouse author Mary Pope Osborne and her sister, the author of the sister series, Fact Finders, Naomi Pope Boyce. The sisters told us about their latest books, Hurricane Heroes in Texas, the Magic Treehouse story, and the nonfiction Fact Finders book, Texas. Boyce told us she had never read a state history as exciting as that of Texas. Both sisters told us they'd ben touring Texas for a while, and they were pleased to tell us, "There is so much energy in Texas." They also commended the children of Texas for their politeness; they said they'd never seen anything like that in the North. 

The sisters also shared the themes of their next five pairs of books: the Roman Army, Ben Franklin, the Galapagos Islands, narwhals, and llamas. 

What a day! I can't wait for next year.


  1. That looked like quite a festival to attend

  2. Glad you got to go, even it was for only one day.

    1. Me, too. It's a three-hour drive, so I almost bailed on the whole thing. I'm glad I didn't.

  3. You did all that in ONE day? Remarkable.

    best... mae at

  4. Wow! What a busy day. I'm interested in Sarah Bird's new book and might recommend it to my book club. I read The Yokota Officers Club many, many years ago, but haven't read anything else by her.

    Square pies? I may have to try making one of those!

    1. I want to read it, and my copy came in at the library, but I think I'm going to wait until after Nonfiction November.

  5. So exciting! Glad you got to go, and Happy Birthday!

  6. Glad you got to go again this year, Deb! Bet it was wall-to-wall people. Ha! You know, I've never been. I'm not a big fan of large crowds in downtown Austin. I do my book convention stuff outside of town when I can stay at a hotel. Ha! I love Sarah Bird's books.

    1. Since it was outdoors, it was not wall-to-wall people. The weather was Texas in its fall-gloriousness.

  7. This looks like a wonderful event! Glad you got to spend your birthday the way you wanted!

    Thanks for sharing it with.

    - Lisa

    1. It's a great event. I hope one day to go to its sister event, the National Book Festival in Washington D.C.

  8. What a fantastic day you had in Austin! You're so lucky to get to hear those authors in person


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