Every year, the folks programming the children’s and young adult (YA) events at the AJC Decatur Book Festival seem to up the ante, but this year will be hard to beat. After all, how do you top a sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justice?
Justice Sonia Sotomayor will present her new children’s book “Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You” on Sunday afternoon at Agnes Scott College. Colorfully illustrated by Rafael López, the book encourages children to engage with people who have different physical or medical conditions or disorders.
Sotomayor’s appearance speaks to how far the festival has come since its debut in 2006.
Diane Capriola, co-owner of the Decatur bookstore Little Shop of Stories and the festival’s manager of programming for children and teens, has been there since the beginning, witnessing and contributing to its evolution.
“Our first year we had a small children’s stage and seating for 50. The next year we bumped up seating to 250,” she said. “The idea that the children’s program was going to be a very big part of the festival, that happened really very quickly. And the same for YA.”
This year, both the Children’s Stage and the YA Stage are located in the Decatur Recreation Center, and each seats about 250 people.
Unfortunately, those who don’t already have seats reserved for Sotomayor are probably out of luck because all 600 free tickets were snapped up within five minutes of being released, said Capriola.
But there are plenty of other kid-centric events on the schedule. The kidnote on Friday evening, called Graphix Con, is a nod to the growing popularity of graphic books for children and teens.
“Graphic novels are really a big part of the children’s book market right now. The teen graphic novel market has really grown, too,” said Capriola. “It’s a great option for kids who might not want to read a typical novel. There’s something for everybody. If you like history there are some really great graphic series that are based in history. There are some great graphic memoirs. There’s funny stuff. There’s scary stuff.”
The panel includes Kristen Gudsnuk (“Making Friends”), Matthew Holm (“Swing It, Sunny”), Tui T. Sutherland (“Wings of Fire”) and Ru Xu (“EndGames”). But that’s not all.
“We wanted to do something that was a little more interactive and engaging for kids,” said Capriola. “Prior to the presentation, there are going to be activity stations for kids so they can create their own comics or learn to draw a popular graphic novel character. Kids can get a photo taken with Dog Man, the biggest graphic novel series right now done by Dav Pilkey, who does Captain Underpants. It should be fun.”
Other festival highlights include:
“Yes She Can.” Four women staffers from former President Barack Obama’s administration talk about their book of collected essays. “It’s a book to get young people, especially young women, excited about public service,” said Capriola. The panel will be moderated by teen activist India Sayers, a Decatur High School graduate. 1:45 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31. YA Stage.
“My Jasper June.” Long-listed for the National Book Award for her 2017 book “Orphan Island,” Atlanta author Laurel Snyder launches her latest middle-grade book, about keeping secrets from parents. 3:15 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31. Children’s Stage.
“I’m Not Dying with You Tonight.” Local authors Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal make their YA debut with a novel told in alternating voices about a fight that breaks out at a football game and winds up becoming a city-wide race riot. “These two kids, one’s black and one’s white, they end up together trying to navigate this night,” said Capriola. 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1. YA Stage.
“Just South of Home.” Georgia author Karen Strong makes her middle-grade debut with her novel about four young people who try to solve a murder mystery that happened years ago in their small Southern town. 1:45 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31. Children’s Stage.
Saturday parade. It wouldn’t be the AJC Decatur Book Festival without a children’s parade. Ryan T. Higgins, author and illustrator of the Mother Bruce series about a grumpy bear who reluctantly raises a gaggle of goslings, leads the first parade. It begins at the bandstand on the square and ends at the Children’s Stage. Children of all ages are encouraged to participate, and they’re invited to bring their teddy bears. 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 31.
Sunday parade. James Dean, author and illustrator of the Pete the Cat series, leads the Sunday parade, which also starts at the bandstand on the square and ends at the Children’s Stage. 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 1
AJC Decatur Book Festival. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31. 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1. Free. Various stages downtown Decatur. www.decaturbookfestival.com
Kidnote: GraphixCon. 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30. Free, ticket required. Children’s Stage, Decatur Recreation Center, 231 Sycamore St., Decatur. Tickets available at Little Shop of Stories, 133 E. Court Square, Decatur. 404-373-6300, littleshopofstories.com
Sonia Sotomayor. 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1. Free, ticket required (sold out). Agnes Scott College, Presser Hall, 141 E. College Ave., Decatur.