Best of the Festival 2022: Kid Lit

This post was written by Sasha Dowdy, a program specialist in the Literary Initiatives Office. It was originally published in the National Book Festival blog.

A woman and man sit on a stage in front of a backdrop that makes them look like they're sitting between the pages of a giant book

Kwame Alexander (right) speaking with fellow author Nic Stone at the KidLit stage at the 2022 National Book Festival, Sept. 3. Photo by Elaina Finkelstein

The National Book Festival has always welcomed families and children, and this year was no exception. On the KidLit stage, the stage devoted to middle-grade writers and their latest books. 18 writers and illustrators shared their works with thousands of kids and their families, with some reveling in the fun of reading while others shared profound stories about being human. This year, we featured moderated conversations, a graphic novel panel, and even an author traveling to NBF from abroad. Below is a list of events that celebrated the love for reading with kids of all ages, accessible on our site and our YouTube channel.

  • We opened the stage with a one-of-a-kind read-aloud of the graphic novel “The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza” by author Mac Barnett and illustrator Shawn Harris. Both creators brought lots of energy, funny voices, and unforgettable catchphrases to get the morning started on the best possible note. Oh, my big wrinkly toe!
  • Young activist, Tybre Faw, still in his teens, shared his experience meeting his hero as he discussed “Because of You, John Lewis” with the award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney.
  • Erin Entrada Kelly talked about her chapter book series starring a young but mighty Marisol Rainey with local News4 anchor Eun Yang.
  • For those who enjoy real stories about real people, Julie Menendez’s session with her book “Latinitas” was the perfect chance to meet 40 incredible dreamers who share Hispanic heritage.
  • Nothing is more relatable than being a kid whose life is not their own to control. Graphic novelists Johnnie Christmas and Kat Fajardo shared the stage with the Library’s comics expert Megan Halsband as they discussed visual approaches to storytelling.
  • This year marks an NBA anniversary, so we celebrated during the “Hardcourt: 75 Years of Basketball” panel with author Fred Bowen and illustrator James E. Ransome with moderator Tajay Ashmeade, a professional basketball player.
  • Buckle in because our program with Gordon Korman was all about his 100th book, “The Fort”! That’s one impressive milestone—maybe he will come back with his 200th?
  • NBF is a great time to introduce readers to a new book, and Kwame Alexander delivered. His talk was about his newest title “The Door of No Return,” a novel that hadn’t even come out yet. He gave an inspiring talk about the power of perseverance in his 11-year-old protagonist.
  • Middle school is a universally rough time, and the memory of struggling through those years doesn’t fade even when kids grow up. Authors David Bowles and Jennifer Zeigler discussed their tough protagonists in “They Call Her Fregona” and “The Worser,” respectively, as those characters navigate moments that are both relatable and heartbreaking.
  • Soman Chainani shared the origins of his hit series “A School for Good and Evil” with his fans and new readers.
  • Adventure stories collided in the panel “How Many Times Do Kids Have to Save the World?” with bestselling author Lev Grossman and newcomer Julian Randall. Our writers talked about feeling stuck, lost, and making lots of mistakes–while also trying to save the world!
  • The stage finale caused a wave of enthusiasm as Tui T. Sutherland, author of the “Wings of Fire” series, discussed the 10 years of writing tales of the dragonkind with local elementary school librarian Catherine Fravel.

Enjoy these events from this year’s KidLit authors!

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