Children’s books were well represented at this year’s Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance’s 40th anniversary Discovery Show, held at the Hilton Raleigh North Midtown in Raleigh, N.C., from September 18–20.

Alan Gratz (Code of Honor, Scholastic Press) sat on a Middle Grade Great Reads panel Friday with Trevor Pryce (Amphibian’s End, Abrams/Amulet), Jodi Lynn Anderson (My Diary from the Edge of the World, S&S/Aladdin), Constance Lombardo (Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat to the Stars, HarperCollins/Tegen), and Carrie Ryan and J.P. Davis (City of Thirst, Little, Brown), and also signed copies of his books on the show floor. “I love events like this and I love working with booksellers,” he said, noting that he’s always looking for unique ways to promote his work. Last year, he teamed up with Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, N.C. when the first book in his series The League of Seven came out. He gave away a free chapbook specially created for the event to everyone who preordered his book. “It’s important to find different ways to promote,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tampa author Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever, Sourcebooks Fire) called his participation in SIBA’s First 180 Days event, a meet-and-greet with writers who have new books landing in the first half of 2016, “glorious chaos” – in a good way. “Not that it was disorganized; it was, in fact, perfectly planned,” he said. “But it was packed with authors giving out free advance reading copies of their forthcoming books – up to six months before they're available to the public – so it was a high-energy, high-enthusiasm event. These things make it hard to go back to traditional book signings.”

The YA’ll Reads panel on Friday featured authors Renee Collins (Until We Meet Again, Sourcebooks Fire), Erin Bow (The Scorpion Rules, S&S/McElderry), J.J. Johnson, Believarexic, Peachtree), and Cassie Beasley (Circus Mirandus, Dial). The four discussed the inspiration for their books and the need for diverse voices in YA literature. Speaking about her own title, Bow said, “I know there are people who will look for this kind of book. The main character is bisexual and she will fall for her female best friend, not the new bad boy who rocks her world. There are people who want to read this kind of book.”

Loren Long (Little Tree, Philomel) and Walter Wick (Hey Seymour!, Scholastic Press) were speakers at the near-capacity kick-off lunch on Friday. Long relayed the evolution of Little Tree, which was inspired by his son. He showed photos of his son on his first day of kindergarten and from the day he left for college. “This is not unique to me. This is an experience that so many of us go through,” he said. “This, along with a lot of other personal life things, is where Little Tree came from. Little Tree is a very simple story with a very large complex life theme. Little Tree was the first time I’ve written anything.”

SIBA also offered its first consumer day, Triangle Reads, Sunday, with the help of online book club She Reads. The day featured 25 authors – a number of them children’s book authors – connecting them with readers through a variety of events, including the Moveable Feast luncheon, panels and a cocktail hour.

As part of the day, authors Joan Holub (The Knights Before Christmas, Holt/Ottaviano) and Susan Verde (I Am Yoga, Abrams) spoke on a panel about picture books called Picture This: Two Authors on Writing for Children. Another panel featuring middle grade authors – In the Middle: the Art and Science of Middle Grade Fiction – included Robert Beatty (Serafina and the Black Cloak, Disney-Hyperion) and Margi Preus (The Bamboo Sword, Abrams).

She Reads cofounder Marybeth Whalen said she was thrilled by the reception to Triangle Reads. “What ultimately became our wish was that every single person, whether they were a bookseller, an author, or a reader, walk away and say, ‘I’m really glad I did that,’” she said. “And that’s what happened. I kept hearing from people that it enriched their life in some way. Booksellers said it. Readers said it. Authors said it. You can’t ask for more from a first event.”