• Children

Young Children and Middle Graders

Events for young children, middle graders and their parents

Young Children (Ages 0-7)

The festival offers great entertainment for young children on the ShowTime Stage, where storytelling from leading authors and illustrators is mixed in with performances that will get kids dancing.

We also offer indoor programs that can help you find great great books that both you and your children will enjoy, and also help you learn a bit more about children’s literature.

  • Dude! Making a Book Together (With Dan Santat and Aaron Reynolds) Dude! Aren’t friendships the best? Whether you and your best friend are setting off on a surfing adventure or writing a children’s book together, there are bound to be some twists and turns. Award-winning author Aaron Reynolds and Caldecott Medal winner Dan Santat will discuss the making of their new book, “Dude!” and what it’s like to work together to create something really cool. (Special free event—no wristbands or tickets needed!)
    Saturday, April 28, 4:00-5:00PM. FREE at Bay Area Chidren’s Theatre.
  • Let Me Tell You a Really Good Story! (Katherine Applegate, Arree Chung, Jonathan London, Michael Slack, Todd Parr) There’s nothing better than being told a really good story, right? These authors have some news for you: It’s even more fun to tell the story yourself! They’ve told quite a few tales—Arree Chung with his energetic “Ninja!” series, Jonathan London’s long-running “Froggy” escapades, Michael Slack’s alien field trippers and monkey trucks, Todd Parr’s books about family, and Katherine Applegate’s new picture book for kids, “Sometimes You Fly.” They’re here to tell you a few more stories (and maybe help you discover the one you’ve been itching to tell). A don’t-miss marathon story time! (Remember, anyone under age 18 is let in free—no wristbands necessary!)
    Sunday, April 29, 10:00-11:15AM. The Marsh Theater Get Tickets
  • What Makes A Family? (Nidhi Chanani, Chris Crutcher, Abdi Nazemian, Mitali Perkins) There are those with whom we share blood and childhoods, and those we choose as adults: These are the beautiful, sometimes ill-fitting puzzle pieces that make up a family. These panelists discuss what makes a family (and what makes a family difficult to write): Nidhi Chanani, graphic novelist who delves into the immigrant experience; Chris Crutcher, novelist and family therapist; Abdi Nazemian, whose newest novel raises the question of personal identity and unknown heritage; and Mitali Perkins, who tells multigenerational stories of family and the Indian-American identity. (Remember, anyone under age 18 is let in free—no wristbands necessary!)
    Sunday, April 29, 11:45AM-1:00PM. Hotel Shattuck Plaza, Boiler Room Get Tickets

For parents, teachers, librarians, and friends:

  • Books y Libros: A Talk with Spanish and Bilingual Children’s Books Writers, Illustrators and Publishers (Maya Christina Gonzalez, Robert Liu-Trujillo, Heather Robertson-Devine, Aida Salazar, Jennifer Torres, and Maceo Cabrera Estévez) As a generation of DREAMERS and dreamers faces a precarious future, these children need now more than ever to find hope — to find themselves — in the books they read. In the age of Trump and Time’s up, is the presence of characters of color enough? How can bilingual and Spanish language children’s books in the U.S. shape the experiences of their young readers? Can they help create a world where borders cannot be closed off? Children’s book writers, illustrators, and publishers discuss why and how they create for a Latinx audience.
    Sunday, April 29, 3:15-4:30PM FREE at the ShowTime Stage

Middle Graders (Ages 8-12)

  • Full Hearts and Clever Minds: Meet Some Unforgettable Characters (with Tae Keller and Esta Spalding) With heart and creativity, anything is possible! Come meet characters who are role models with a lot of moxie. Esta Spalding’s “Look Out for the Fitzgerald Trouts” tells of four plucky kids who live in a car on an island, fending for themselves while they search for a permanent home. Tae Keller brings readers another moving character in “The Science of Breakable Things,” which follows a young girl who goes to great lengths to help her mother through her depression. (Remember, anyone under age 18 is let in free—no wristbands necessary!)
    Saturday, April 28, 11:45AM-1:00PM. Hotel Shattuck Plaza, Boiler Room Get Tickets
  • Shakespeare Pops! (With Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor) For a man who said “brevity is the soul of wit,” Shakespeare sure had a lot to say. Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor create a bridge from this great playwright to younger readers—they’ve packaged his stories in bite-sized treats. And these treats pop! Join the duo at the helm of the Reduced Shakespeare Company as they discuss their eye-catching and whimsical book, “Pop Up Shakespeare.” (Remember, anyone under age 18 is let in free—no wristbands necessary!)
    Saturday, April 28, 11:45-1:00PM. The Marsh Theater Get Tickets
  • The Transformative Power of Art: Making The Dam Keeper (with Robert Kondo and Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi) In 2014, audiences had to guard their heart-strings against Pixar’s short film “The Dam Keeper,” which told the story of Pig, a young boy who lives in a windmill and must keep a menacing fog away from his town. The responsibility weighs even heavier because Pig has no friends. Not until a new kid shows up at school and introduces Pig to artistic expression does his loneliness begin to dissipate. Join the men behind the film to discuss art, friendship, and creative dreams. This graphic novel is masterful on both literary and artistic levels: Be prepared to be swept away! (Remember, anyone under age 18 is let in free—no wristbands necessary!)
    Saturday, April 28, 1:30-2:45PM. Hotel Shattuck Plaza, White Cotton Room Get Tickets
  • Tackling Issues: Katherine Applegate and Jen Petro-Roy on Hard-Hitting Middle Grade Fiction (Katherine Applegate, Jen Petro-Roy, moderated by Mary Ann Scheuer) Great books for young readers don’t shy away from tough issues. In her wildly successful books for kids, Katherine Applegate (“Crenshaw,” “The One and Only Ivan”) has brought to life narrators of many different kinds, including a captive gorilla and a friendly neighborhood tree. Her books are brimming with imagination, whimsy, empathy, and hope—one New York Times reviewer called her newest, “Wishtree,” “the most moving commentary I’ve read on the anti-immigration movement.” Jen Petro-Roy is a vital new voice for young readers; her “P.S. I Miss You” has garnered national attention for centering on young same-sex love. Come hear how fiction can empower kids and make them feel less alone, and how reading can start a conversation around difficult subjects that kids engage with every day. (Remember, anyone under age 18 is let in free—no wristbands necessary!)
    Saturday, April 28, 3:15-4:30PM. The Marsh Theater Get Tickets
  • Jabberwalking with Juan Felipe Herrera Can you walk and talk at the same time? How about Jabberwalk? Can you write and draw and walk and journal all at the same time? Festival favorite and marvelous speaker Juan Felipe Herrera, former Poet Laureate of the United States, will teach you everything he knows about being a real-life, bonafide, Jabberwalking poet! While his new book is technically for kids, anyone can learn to jabberwalk—parents, older siblings, and grandparents who have some pep in their step! Jabberwalkers write and speak for themselves and others no matter where their feet may take them—to Jabberwalk is to be a poet on the move. And there’s no stopping once you’re a Jabberwalker, writing fast, fast, fast, scribble-poem-burbles-on-the-run. It’s all out there—vámonos!
    Saturday, April 28, 4:15-5:30PM. FREE at the San Francisco Chronicle Stage in the Park
  • YES to Girls & Science! (with Emily Calandrelli) The “SpaceGal” delivers a most welcome new series about Ada Lace, a third-grade girl who has a knack for science and technology, and a nose for trouble. Emily says, “When you were a kid, what did you picture when you thought of a scientist or engineer?” You can bet the answer was “a socially awkward white dude with glasses.” Not anymore! Ada inspires young readers to ask questions and lean into their curiosity, showing them that scientists and engineers can look just like them! (Remember, anyone under age 18 is let in free—no wristbands necessary!)
    Sunday, April 29, 10:00-11:15AM. Hotel Shattuck Plaza, Boiler Room Get Tickets
  • Putting the FUN in Reading! (with LeUyen Pham, Megan McDonald, Travis Nichols) Have you ever been asked, “Why do you love reading so much?” We certainly have, and our answer is always the same: “Because it’s fun!” Join these three authors and artists as they discuss how they make reading fun for their younger audiences, from spicing a story up with pictures to having your characters (literally) fall from the sky. Free indoor event. (Remember, anyone under age 18 is let in free—no wristbands necessary!)
    Sunday, April 29, 11:45AM-1:00PM. The Marsh Theater Get Tickets
  • Judy Moody & Stink: Megan McDonald at Bay Area Children’s Theatre The Bay Area Children’s Theatre has two final performances of its “Judy Moody and Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt,” a play adapted from Megan McDonald’s widely-read books—and we’re all so lucky they’re on the festival weekend! Megan McDonald will appear in person for the final show on Sunday afternoon, talk with the audience, and sign books after the show. Festival passes (wristbands, priority tickets, or special passes) are not accepted at this program. Get tickets at BACT.
    Sunday, April 29, 1:30-3:30PM. Bay Area Children’s Theatre
  • Writing the Truth: Fiction and Non-Fiction (with Dashka Slater, Anne Nesbet, and Sara Saedi) Young readers have an intense curiosity about the world, and sophisticated books based on real-life events can help them navigate the complexities they find. The authors on this panel will discuss how they incorporate difficult real events into their books while keeping them enjoyable for young readers. Slater, who has written several children’s books, has a new nonfiction book geared toward young adults that deals with the burning of a cross-dressed teenager on an Oakland bus. Nesbet’s historical fiction follows an 11-year-old orphan in 1941 America. Saedi presents her true story of her family’s undocumented history. (Remember, anyone under age 18 is let in free—no wristbands necessary!)
    Sunday, April 28, 1:30-2:45PM. Hotel Shattuck Plaza, Boiler Room Get Tickets
  • Dave Eggers Conjures a Fantastical Story for Young Readers (Dave Eggers interviewed by Aniya Butler) There’s nothing as sure as the ground beneath your feet. That is, unless there’s a whole world down there you don’t know about. In critically acclaimed author Dave Eggers’ new book for middle graders, “The Lifters,” our heroes discover a complex underground system that gives way to something nefarious. What if it were up to just two kids to stop these dark forces? What would it feel like to have the fate of an entire town on your shoulders? Readers of any age will enjoy hearing literary magician Eggers conjure another timeless tale. Interviewing Dave is Aniya Butler, a sixth-grade poet activist from Downtown Charter Academy.
    Sunday, April 29, 3:15-4:30PM. Freight & Salvage. Get tickets.

For young readers, parents, teachers, librarians, and friends:

  • The Graton Writing Project As part of a comprehensive program to celebrate Native heritage and writing, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria and the Bay Area Book Festival launched the Graton Writing Project, an essay contest open to middle- and high-school Native students from Sonoma. Students were invited to answer the following prompt: “Every community has a problem to solve. While one may struggle with a culture of domestic violence, another may not have access to healthy foods. Identify a problem that you see in your community, and write an essay about how that problem could be addressed or solved.” Come hear this year’s participants read excerpts from their pieces, and get a first look at the published anthology of their work!
    Saturday, April 28, 3:00-4:15PM. FREE at the ShowTime Stage
  • Emerging Voices: Young Authors Writing Contest 2018 WinnersBay Area Youth participated in our fourth annual Young Authors Writing Contest with this year’s prompt, “Everyone sees the world through different eyes—both literally and figuratively. How is it possible that two people can look at the same thing, but see different things?” Come hear this year’s contest winners read their winning pieces and witness the rise of a new generation of writers. (Open seating; no tickets needed!)
    Sunday, April 29, 11:30AM-12:30PM. FREE at the ShowTime Stage
  • Books y Libros: A Talk with Spanish and Bilingual Children’s Books Writers, Illustrators and Publishers (Maya Christina Gonzalez, Robert Liu-Trujillo, Heather Robertson-Devine, Aida Salazar, Jennifer Torres, and Maceo Cabrera Estévez) As borders tighten and DREAMers await their future, there are children who need to find themselves in the books they read. Is having brown and black skinned characters in books enough? In the age of Trump and Time’s Up, how can bilingual and Spanish children’s books in the US make an impact in our society? Can they help create a world where borders cannot be closed off? Children’s book writers, illustrators, and publishers discuss why they create books that are geared towards a Latinx audience.
    Sunday, April 29, 3:15-4:30PM. FREE at the ShowTime Stage

Plus: THOUSANDS of FREE BOOKS donated by Half-Price Books in Berkeley.

For more detailed information, plus a grid of sessions with times and locations, pick up the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday, April 22. See Teens and Family Fun pages for even more to do with your kids.