Festival of Books Offers Themed Programs for Families, Educators
This year, the Tucson Festival of Books expanded the offerings for youth and their families.

By La Monica Everett-Haynes, University Communications
March 8, 2010

In addition to the hundreds of authors, illustrators and journalists who write for adult genres, the Tucson Festival of Books includes those whose work targets the younger population.

The festival, which will be held Saturday and Sunday on the University of Arizona campus, will feature booth, activity tents, an entertainment stage, a circus and more than 50 sessions geared specifically toward adolescents, families and educators. 

"You have the large presentations with a mixture of audiences, but then we always wanted a space where kids could have a more informal interaction with the authors," said Kathy Short, director of Worlds of Words, a resource center and children's library housed in the UA's College of Education.

At the center, children will be able to create "postcards for hope" for children in Haiti, Short said.

And in advance of the festival, the center is hosting a children's literature mini-conference, "Exploring a Sense of Belonging through Literature." The conference will be held Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m. with Ying Chang Compestine and Adam Rex.

During the conference, Chang Compestine will discuss her new book, " A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts," which will include a slide show. She also will talk about her novel, "Revolution is Not a Dinner Party," which includes personal stories of being raised in China during the country's Cultural Revolution.

Rex will discuss his work as an illustrator and talk about his picture book, "Frankstein Makes a Sandwich," formerly a New York Times bestseller. Rex and Chang Compestine also will sign books at the end of the conference.

The conference, which is free and open to the public, will be held in the Kiva Room of the UA's Education Building, 1430 E. Second St. Also during the festival, educators can earn professional development credit.

Youth and family-focused areas of the Tucson Festival of Books also include authors and illustrators of graphic novels, historical fiction books and those who have written about Muslim-American and Chinese-American culture.

"You're always looking for improvement from year to year and we've tried to focus on the workshops and youth activities," said Bill Viner, one of the festival founders. 

The festival also will feature a storytelling stage, workshops for adults who want to write for children and teenagers and also a number of sessions on ways to effectively read to children and to engage them in talks about books. 

"In today's world, there is a lot of competing media and a lot of places where children can get stories – through television, video and the Internet," Short said.

"One of the things for parents and educators is having a sense of how to engage kids with books and also in making sure they are getting a sense of a wide range of books," she said.

Events and presenters during the festival targeting youth and families include:

  • Jon Sciezska, who creats comical picture books, authored the "Trucktown" series, "Knucklehead" and "Robot Zot." Sciezska will present, "Guys Read: Inspiring Boys as Readers," Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Kiva Auditorium of the Education Building.
  • Mac Barnett has authored picture books and detective series including "Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem," "Guess Again," and "The Brixton Brothers #1: The Case of the Mistaken Identity" being among them. He will head up a writing workshop for children who are aged 9-12 at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday in Room 351 of the UA Education Building. He also will speak as a panelist Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Kiva Auditorium, also located in the Education Building.
  • Joy Harjo, a member of the Mvskoke Creek Nation and author of picture books based on the experience of American Indians, has authored "For a Girl Becoming" and "The Good Luck Cat," among other writings. Harjo will deliver her solo presentation, "Girls, Cats and Celebrations of Life Journeys," Saturday at 1 p.m. in Room 353 of the Education Building.
  • "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," which will be screened at 7 p.m. at Main Gate Square on North Tyndall Avenue just south of University Boulevard. John August, the screenwriter who adapted Roald Dahl's classic children's book, will also speak at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday at the UA Mall Tent.
  • Frank Beddor writes fiction novels for youth. His books include "The Looking Glass Wars," "Seeing Redd," and "Hatter M, Princess Alyss of Wonderland." Beddor will serve as a panelist speaking about graphic novels for children and teenagers on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. in Room 353 of the Education Building.
  • Matt de la Peña writes novels for teenagers, including "Mexican WhiteBoy" and "We Were Here." His novel, "Balls Don't Lie," is currently being developed into a full-feature film. He is giving two presentations: "Claiming My Space: The Gritty Reality of Living in Two Cultures" Sunday at 11:30 a.m. in the Kiva Auditorium and a talk about screenwriting for teens Sunday at 4 p.m., also in the Kiva Auditorium.
  • Patricia McKissack and Fred McKissack have written books about African-American culture and also historical people and events. Their books include" Goin' Someplace Special" and "Porch Lies." Patricia McKissack is giving a solo  presentation about African American stories in quilts Sunday at 1 p.m. in the Kiva Auditorium of the Education Building.
  • On Sunday, those who are 17 and younger can enter to win a Galileoscope at 10 and 11:30 a.m. or 1, 2:30 and 4 p.m. One of these high-quality telescopes will be given to 10 youth.

Another major feature will be the Ventana/Roche Science Pavilion, which is being presented by the UA's BIO5 Institute. There, adults and children will be able to extract their own DNA, learn about poison and test their brain power, among other things.

"There will be numerous children's and educational activities, so we're very happy to have this on board," said Viner, who also is chief executive officer of Pepper Viner Homes.

"We have more interactive children's entertainment and more exhibitors focused on children," Viner said. "From every point of view, it should be better."

Viner also mentioned that the BIO5 Institute is hosting the Science Stage, which will include workshops and discussions with writers. The Institute maintains a list of events on its Web site.

Overall, the events geared toward children, families and educators are meant to engage youth in reading and writing – during the festival and beyond, Short said. "We want to engage childrens' minds, rather than simply inform them." 

Extra info

The 2010 Tucson Festival of Books is a two-day event featuring internationally known authors, life-changing books and hundreds of literary-themed activities for the entire family. 


The Tucson Festival of Books needs volunteers to help with venues, entertainment, author transportation and set up and clean up March 12-14.


To fill out and submit a volunteer application, visit the festival Web site and click on "Volunteer Application." Completely fill out the form.


After registering, potential volunteers will be contacted by Festival of Books organizers with additional information. Volunteers will receive a free T-shirt. To learn more, contact Peggy DeWald at dewaldp@comcast.net or Cece Derickson at jdericks98@aol.com


Resources for the media

Kathy G. Short

College of Education