Following the success of the TeenBookCon it sponsored in Houston in April, Blue Willow Bookshop helped launch a similar event in conjunction with school librarians for area tweens. Last Saturday 13 children’s authors, including keynote speaker Richard Peck (Secrets at Sea, Dial), participated in panels for kids in grades 5 through 8 for the inaugural Tweens Read Book Festival at the Bobby Shaw Middle School. “It was a great day,” said Blue Willow children’s/YA specialist and events coordinator Cathy Berner, who estimated that at least 350 young people, many bused in from other schools, showed up for the event. “Any time you get to hear Richard Peck talk is a great day.”

In a blog post earlier this week, writer/panelist Alan Sitomer (The Downside of Being Up, Putnam) called it “an amazing event.... Lifelong readers aren’t built through bludgeoning kids with 6 pound textbooks in core academic classrooms; lifelong readers are built by exposing young readers to the excitement, passion, energy, magic, power and beauty of real books.” That passion was so evident at the Tweens Read event that Sitomer’s Tweets on the subject encouraged the City of Orlando to contact him about doing something similar.