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Plenty of fun in store for kids, teens at the virtual Tucson Festival of Books

Plenty of fun in store for kids, teens at the virtual Tucson Festival of Books

  • Updated
Tucson Festival of Books logo 2021

The 2021 Tucson Festival of Books is going virtual this year, so hands-on fun at Science City and high-fives with your favorite children’s books characters are off. But there’s no shortage of activities planned for young readers.

Links for the online events will be available during the festival at

TUSD Children/Teen Stage: Interactive Sessions and Workshops for Children

Saturday, March 6

  • 9 a.m., Rick Riordan presents “Action, Intrigue, and Myth” with Sarwat Chadda, Roshani Chokshi and Tehlor Kay Mejia — Three award-winning authors talk about writing adventure books filled with humor and action that draw on world mythologies. Roshani Chokshi writes the “Aru Shah” books, Tehlor Kay Mejia created “Paola Santiago and the River of Tears,” and Sarwat Chadda created “City of the Plague God,” all Rick Riordan Presents books.
  • 11 a.m., “Brick x Brick: A Workshop” with Lego Master Adam Ward — In this interactive session, Adam Ward will conduct a virtual tour of his Lego studio, share building tricks and tips from “Brick x Brick,” and do a basic building lesson that children can participate with their own Legos at home.
  • 1 p.m., “GraphixCon: A Celebration of Graphic Novels” with Tom Angleberger, Varian Johnson, Maria Scrivan and Tui Sutherland — Celebrate the fun of creating graphic novels with Tom Angleberger, creator of the “Geronimo Stilton” series, Varian Johnson, creator of “Twins,” Tui T. Sutherland, creator of the “Wings of Fire” series, and Maria Scrivan, creator of the “Nat” series.
  • 3 p.m., “Kate the Chemist: Everyone Is a Scientist” with Kate Bieberdorf. In the “Kate the Chemist” series, Kate and her friends design science projects and use chemistry to solve mysteries at their school. Kate Bieberdorf will do a live science experiment based on young Kate in her books.

The Tucson Festival of books will be a little different this year. You can attend in your pajamas. If you're not sure how that works, here's a little help.

Some links that will be helpful:

Sunday, March 7

  • 9 a.m., “Kids Love Comics”: “Max Meow” drawing workshop with John Gallagher — Max Meow, a secret superhero, and his best friend Mindy work hard to save the day in a new graphic novel series. John Gallagher will introduce his new series and teach kids how to create their own comics in a drawing workshop. You need a pencil and paper.
  • 11 a.m., “Doodle with Liz: Action and Laughter” with Liz Pichon — Liz Pichon will join us from London in an interactive drawing session around her new book, “Shoe Wars,” about the hilarious antics of the Foot family. Pichon is the best-selling author/illustrator of the Tom Gates books. You need a pencil and paper.
  • 1 p.m., “On Wings of Fire” with Tui T. Sutherland — Join Tui T. Sutherland for a conversation about her best-selling “Wings of Fire” series and her process of turning “Wings of Fire” books into graphic novels.
  • 3 p.m., “On Your Mark, Get Set Draw”: Illustrator Draw-off — Join Adam Rex for a fun draw-off as illustrators compete to create quick drawings based on suggestions from the audience.

Helios Educational Foundation Children/Teen Stage – Children’s Authors and Illustrators

Saturday, March 6

  • 9 a.m., “Imagination, Dreams and Wishes” with Kevin Henkes — Award-winning author/illustrator Kevin Henkes will talk about imagination and wishes and his decisions about format in his two new books for children, “Sun Flower Lion” and “Billy Miller Makes a Wish.”
  • 11 a.m., “Anything is Possible: Fantasy Journeys of Adventure and Conflict” with David Bowles, Van Hoang and Daniel José Older — Authors of three new middle-grade novels discuss their creation of fantasy journeys involving adventure and conflict with a Halfling King from Maya mythology, the Monkey King from Vietnamese legends, and a future flooded world facing destruction.
  • 1 p.m., “Taking Another Look: Story and Imagination” with the duos of Matthew Cordell and Philip Stead and Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson — Four award-winning creators of picture books talk about their process of collaborating with each other. Each superstar pair has just published their third book together around the power of imagination and story as perspective.
  • 3 p.m., “Navigating Multiple Cultures and Identities” with Livia Blackburne, Hena Khan and Mitali Perkins — Three authors of picture books and middle-grade novels talk about creating stories in which characters with hyphenated-identities navigate multiple cultures in their daily lives.

Sunday, March 7

  • 9 a.m., “Heartdrum: Native Voices and Visions” with Christine Day, Cynthia Leitich Smith and Brian Young — Three Indigenous authors talk about their new books within an initiative, Heartdrum, to publish books that reflect the heartbeat of Native communities. Their stories share their visions of the present and future viewed through their lived experiences as Native creators.
  • 11 a.m., “Dreaming Big and Working Hard: Celebrations of Latin America” with Monica Brown, Juana Martinez-Neal and Juliet Menéndez — Celebrate the people of Latin America through three new books about an Indigenous family in a Peruvian rainforest, the first Indigenous archaeologist in Peru, and a glimpse into the lives of 40 Latinitas throughout the Americás — all of whom dreamed big and worked hard.
  • 1 p.m., “Searching for Hope, Longing for Comfort” with Shawn Harris, Sarah Jacoby and LeUyen Pham — Three picture books invite us to consider the ways in which we search for hope and long for comfort in our lives through connections to people, animals, and nature, even when life is difficult.
  • 3 p.m., “Looking Back, Moving Forward” with Lesa Cline-Ransome, Kimberly Willis Holt and Jasmine Warga — Looking back can facilitate our ability to move ahead through the healing influence of relationships. Three best-selling middle-grade authors show how friendships affect a bully, the search to reconnect with the past, and the consequences of a school shooting. All three books are highly anticipated new books from award-winning authors.

Socker Foundation Children/Teen Stage – Young Adult Authors and Illustrators

Saturday, March 6

  • 9 a.m., “Tangled Webs of Magic and Intrigue” with Melissa de la Cruz, Adam Silvera and Crystal Smith — Three best-selling young adult fantasy authors tell stories of power and magic at war, including an alliance between an assassin and a queen, a search for an antidote to unwanted powers, and a life in chaos. These sequels focus on characters who face uncertainty about their real enemies.
  • 11 a.m., “Impostors in the ‘Uglies’ World: A Conversation” with Scott Westerfeld — Betrayal. Risk. Deception. Redemption. Join Westerfeld for a conversation about his “Impostors” series in which sisters are impostors for each other in a powerful family. “Impostors” is set within the futuristic world of Westerfeld’s “Uglies” books.
  • 1 p.m., “Heartbreak and Hope: Life in a Refugee Camp” with Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed — The National Book Award finalist “When Stars are Scattered” is graphic novel that tells the story of Mohamed’s childhood in a refugee camp in Kenya, revealing the resiliency of the human spirit to fight trauma, uncertainty and boredom. Both Jamieson and Mohamed have connections to Tucson through the University of Arizona.
  • 3 p.m., “Survival and Hope in an Unfair World” with Desmond Hall, Amra Sabic-El-Rayess and Alessandra Narvárez Varela — Three young adult authors talk about writing novels based on their lives, including gang life in Jamaica, depression struggles in Ciudad Juarez, and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. Their stories reflect the challenges of maintaining hope within a world that is often unfair.

Sunday, March 7

  • 9 a.m., “Play Ball: Risk, Equity, and Social Justice” with Andrew Maraniss, Neal Shusterman and Gene Luen Yang — Sports involves much more than playing ball as athletes face societal issues of equity and social justice. Three award-winning authors of memoir, biography, and fantasy provide unique perspectives on the risks and challenges that go far beyond the game.
  • 11 a.m., “Stand Up, Speak Up in the Face of Adversity” with Angeline Boulley, Sharon Flake and Liza Wiemer — Three young adult novels feature teens from marginalized communities who find themselves in difficult situations, requiring courage to challenge community corruption, discrimination in school contexts, and adults who take advantage of vulnerable teens.
  • 1 p.m., “Fantasy Worlds of Power and Deception” with Alexandra Bracken, Hafsah Faisal and Mark Oshiro — Three young adult authors build dark fantasy worlds in action-filled tales of power, betrayal, sacrifice, and love set in Greek mythology, ancient Arabia and treacherous deserts. These haunting tales grab hold of the reader and don’t let go.
  • 3 p.m., “Love, Secrets, and Laughter” with Elise Bryant, Loan Le, and Diana Ma — These rom-coms immerse readers into romances laced with humor along with family secrets, cultural expectations, and societal stereotypes. Their books mix star-crossed lovers with questions of identity.

Kathy G. Short serves on the Tucson Festival of Books’ children/teen author committee.

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