The Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association held its annual trade show, FallCon, on October 8–10. While this year’s gathering took place on a digital platform instead of at a Denver hotel, organizers tried to replicate as much as possible the programming that member booksellers have come to expect—including the popular children’s and YA author speed-dating sessions with booksellers. Rather than 12 children’s book and 10 YA authors moving from table to table of booksellers to give their five-minute pitches, they took turns introducing their books via Zoom. While there were some technological glitches during the Young Readers Round Up, the hilarity that ensued more than made up for the digital hiccups. Below is a sampling of authors appearing at both speed-dating sessions.

Author-illustrator Gregory Barrington said that nothing ever happens on Humdrum Farm in his debut picture book, Cow Boy is NOT a Cowboy (HarperCollins, Oct.) –“until one day something does!”

According to Rio Cortez, The ABCs of Black History (Workman, Dec.) an illustrated alphabet book which he wrote and Lauren Semmer illustrated, “amplifies the Black diaspora, LGBTQ+ voices, artists, poets, and current events while projecting into a hopeful future.”

After introducing herself to booksellers by holding up her 2019 debut book for young readers, The Moon Within, Aida Salazar discussed her second book for young readers, Land of the Cranes (Scholastic Press, Dec.). It “communicates in verse a tale of prophecy, homeland, and the realities of detention centers at the Mexico border through metaphors of cages, birds, and freedom,” she said.

Unleashed (Sourcebooks Young Readers, Jan. 2021) by Amy McCulloch is the second volume in the middle grade Jinxed series, described by its publisher as a Golden Compass for the digital age. McCulloch described it as “a feminist commentary on coding, technology, and who controls our data.”

The Lost Wonderland Diaries (Shadow Mountain, Sept.) by J. Scott Savage is the middle grade adventure tale of a dyslexic girl, Celia, who with her book nerd friend, Tyrus, are pulled through a portal into the world of Alice in Wonderland, which still is “the amazing, magical place that we remember,” Savage said. “But it’s also now really dark and dangerous.”

A Thousand Questions (Quill Tree, Oct.) by Saadia Faruqi is, the author explained, “a love letter to Pakistan about two girls with impossible dreams” that they may both realize if they learn to work together to achieve their goals, in this middle grade novel set in Karachi.

Courtney Summers’ latest no-holds-barred novel, The Project (Wednesday Books, Feb. 2021) is a tale about two sisters “fractured by trauma,” one of whom joins a cult. “I hope it destroys you and ruins your day for just a little bit,” Summers told booksellers about her YA novel. “I’m not here to hold anyone’s hand.”

Disclosing that the day of the event was supposed to have been her wedding day but she was perfectly happy to spend it with booksellers instead, Darcie Little Badger described her novel Elatsoe (Levine Querido, Sept.) as a “YA mystery fantasy” with an Apache protagonist investigating the murder of her cousin. “It’s based in a world similar to ours, but there’s magic, fairy rings, and a lot of stories.”

“ ‘It’s bad luck to see a bookstore and not go in,’ says the five-year-old son of the protagonist, which I think is the theme for the whole book,” Shannon Hale said of Kind of a Big Deal (Roaring Brook, Sept.), her tale of a young woman who drops out of high school to become a Broadway star.

Lilliam Rivera described her latest YA novel Never Look Back (Bloomsbury, Sept.) as a “retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice set in the Bronx,” with contemporary teenagers named Eury and Pheus fighting a world trying to tear them apart.

Angeline Boulley, who is Native American and in real life the daughter of a Firestarter—one who makes sure protocols are followed during community fires—explained that to her people, “storytelling is how we show how to be Anishinaabe.” She describes the protagonist of her debut novel, Firekeeper’s Daughter (Holt, Mar. 2021) as an “Indigenous Nancy Drew” in a tale about “identity, loss, and justice.”

Set on the Greek island of Santorini, Love & Olives (Simon & Schuster, Nov.) is the third and final volume in Jenna Evans Welch’s “Love &” series, a mashup of romance and humor for YA readers. “I want these books to feel like you’re eating a cupcake, but there’s a lot of substance, like there’s some whole grain in there,” she told booksellers.