Sunday, May 1, the second day of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, held on the campus of the University of Southern California, was all about the children. While the panels took place in comparatively dim lecture halls, the real action was outside in the sunshine, on the Target Stage for children and the YA Stage. Art for the festival, including drawings of Madeline on T-shirts, mugs and maps, was created by John Bemelmans Marciano, grandson of Ludwig Bemelmans and author of Madeline at the White House. Though Marciano never met his grandfather, he grew up with the six Madeline books and has continued the tradition. Little yellow hats with black ribbons could be seen throughout the crowd. Annabelle Burton-Boone, age five, said she likes the books because "Madeline has the same doll as I do, and because my Dad has all the books."
Mo Willems, author of Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, gave a riotous reading to a large crowd of children and parents in the grassy area in front of the stage. Pam Muñoz Ryan read Tony Baloney, the story of a macaroni penguin. "I was the bossy big sister in my family," she told the crowd. "Do any of you have a bossy big sister?" Dozens of little hands shot up. The weather was hot, hot, hot, but that didn't stop the readers from dancing in front of the stage, while Moona Luna and Pinata Party played. Ice cream was everywhere.
Things were a little more sober on the YA stage, where panelists Blake Nelson (Redemption Road), Ned Vizzini (It's Kind of a Funny Story) and Lauren Strasnick (Nothing Liked You) talked about addiction and madness and memoir and fiction. Fans stood up to say how much the authors had helped them. One shy girl asked her mother to ask Vizzini if he could give her a tidbit from his life that was not already on the Internet. Vizzini said she'd have to ask the question herself. ("Well, I have a cat named Barnabus," he told her.) Nelson said he thought kids today were a little straighter than they used to be: "I think we're in a princess, Twilight, chastity-belt era." Strasnick told a reader, "I don't censor myself at all, except when I think my father is going to read the book. Particularly the sex scenes." Vizzini's advice to would-be authors: "Take your life and add a love triangle."