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Best bets for kids, teens at Baltimore Book Festival

For The Baltimore Sun
Bringing the family to the Baltimore Book Festival this weekend? Here are the kids' authors not to miss.

There's so much happening at the annual Baltimore Book Festival, it can be hard to keep up — especially if you have a bunch of little ones in tow. To make things easier, here are some highlights of the festival's offerings for kids and teens:

Between the Pages, Behind the Scenes: The Art and Words of Lesa Cline-Ransome and James Ransome

This husband-and-wife team has written and illustrated several acclaimed picture book biographies for young readers. Their most recent, "Just a Lucky So and So: The Story of Louis Armstrong," captures the upbeat spirit of the jazz trumpeter, who grew up terribly poor and yet always considered himself "lucky."

Friday, 2 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library Children's Stage

Susan Stockdale, "Fabulous Fishes" and "Bring on the Birds"

Who flies? Who swims? The vibrant illustrations in these rhyming picture books introduce little kids to the kinds of animals they might meet on a visit to the National Aquarium. Stockdale's books may look simple, but the research and art techniques that go into them are anything but.

Saturday, 1 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library Children's Stage

Whose Book is it Anyway?

This all-star panel of authors who specialize in books for middle-grade readers (grades 4-7) includes Laura Shovan, author of the verse novel "The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary," and Bridget Hodder, whose novel "The Rat Prince" offers a fresh take on the Cinderella story. "The Last Fifth Grade" is told from the point of view of 18 diverse kids, exploring their struggles and triumphs during the course of one school year, while "The Rat Prince" will appeal to kids who like fractured fairy tales and animal stories such as "Redwall."

Saturday, 2 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library Children's Stage

Games with YA Authors

Fans of complicated female heroines are given a lot of choices with the authors on this panel. Jan Gangsei's "Zero Day" stars the president's daughter, who may or may not be a brainwashed sleeper agent; the heroine of "Sword and Verse" by Kathy MacMillan aids the resistance while in love with the king; and the main character of the realistic contemporary novel "Frannie and Tru" wrestles with secrets and truths during one summer in her Baltimore rowhouse. (Full disclosure: I am the moderator of this panel.)

Saturday, 3 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library Children's Stage

Beyond "The Hunger Games": YA SF & Fantasy

If you read one young adult novel with a memory-altered main character this year — why not read two! Fan favorite Lois Metzger's new novel "Change Places With Me" is a quick, mind-bending ride that combines high school politics with brain-altering medical shenanigans. Kristen Lipper-Martin's debut novel, "Tabula Rasa," also features memory rejiggering, but places its memory-challenged heroine in a remote medical facility under siege by mercenaries determined to do her harm. Both are compulsively readable and lots of fun.

Sunday, noon, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America tent. (Both of these authors will also appear on separate panels at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Teens with a taste for far-out fiction will want to keep an eye on the schedule for that tent.)

Maryland Humanities Presents Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely, "All American Boys"

This award-winning novel is quickly becoming required reading at many middle and high schools. Told in alternating chapters by Rashad and Quinn, members of the same basketball team, it is the story of Rashad's beating by a white police officer, and what both boys learn about who they are and who they want to be. A must-read.

Sunday, 1 p.m., Literary Salon

Monica Hesse, "Girl in the Blue Coat"

Here's one for the kids who prefer real events to fantasy: Fierce Hanneke, a small-scale black marketeer in World War II Amsterdam, becomes involved in the Dutch resistance when one of her clients asks her to help find a Jewish teenager the woman had been hiding in a secret room. Powerful and heartbreaking, this is a book that readers will remember for a long time.

Sunday, 2 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library Children's Stage

Paula Willey is a librarian at the Parkville branch of the Baltimore County Public Library. She writes about children's and teen literature for various national publications and online at unadulterated.us. She can be reached at pinkme@gmx.com.

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