Although Children’s Institute always offers a multitude of opportunities for bookseller networking with one another, when it comes down to it, no matter whether the annual gathering is in-person or virtual, booksellers are most excited about meeting the authors and hearing about their books. Through the magic of technology, Ci9 booksellers were able to interact with authors and listen to brief presentations throughout last week’s conference, beginning with Monday’s Indies Introduce session featuring a dozen children’s and YA authors, to a parade of 30 authors on Tuesday and another on Wednesday. Ci9 concluded with a closing reception on Kumospace for booksellers with authors in attendance. See our collection of photos from the event. Screenshots by Claire Kirch except where indicated.

Blume was one of two surprise readers who thrilled Ci9 booksellers on Tuesday afternoon by reading to them from chapter eight of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona the Brave, “Ramona Says a Bad Word,” in tribute to the beloved author, who died in March at age 104.

Alda Dobbs presented her debut novel, The Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna (Sourcebooks Young Readers), during Ci9’s Indies Introduce session. She noted that she was inspired to write this middle grade historical fiction by her great-grandmother’s experiences during the 1913 Mexican Revolution.

American Booksellers Association executive director Allison Hill welcomed Ci9 booksellers to the virtual gathering on Wednesday morning and thanked them for their expertise in handselling to children. Holding up the Macmillan Dictionary for Children, Hill explained that it was the first book that a children’s bookseller ever handsold to her, saying, “I don’t think when I was five years old that I knew I wanted a dictionary, but somehow this bookseller knew.”

Tommy Soulati Shepherd (l.) and Kaitlin McGaw, two musicians whose music emphasizes social justice, are now bringing their activism to picture books. The first in their series, You Are Not Alone (Sourcebooks Young Readers, 2022), was inspired by their Grammy-nominated song, “Not Alone,” and the duo concluded their presentation by bursting into song.

Amber McBride presented her YA debut novel in verse, Me, Moth (Feiwel and Friends), during Tuesday’s Indies Introduce session. She noted that the novel was inspired by her high school experience and is about “two marginalized people who find comfort in each other.” McBride recited a poem from the book, “Transverse Orientation,” about a life lesson that the protagonist’s grandfather taught her.

Candace Buford joined the Parade of Authors at Ci9 from a hotel room during her honeymoon to tell them that she wrote Kneel (Inkyard Press) about a young Black football player confronting racial injustices in the sport and in life, she said, because she was inspired by the Black football players who condemn racism and social injustice so prevalent in American society by kneeling before games.

Scholastic editorial director and author David Levithan was one of two surprise readers who joined Ci9 booksellers on Tuesday afternoon by reading selections from Beverly Cleary’s classic Ramona series of books in a tribute. Levithan read an excerpt from The Mouse and the Motorcycle.

Donna Washington is a professional storyteller who didn’t just read from her picture book, Boo Stew (Peachtree)—she performed it with gusto during a Wednesday storytime break between sessions. “I want any book I read and any book I write to be read aloud,” she told booksellers, adding that “no matter what you look like, someone who looks like you is going to be in this book.” Boo Stew is about “knowing who you are and following your heart.”

Speaking from his studio in a wooden shed in his garden, Jonny Lambert told booksellers that his latest picture book, Bear and Bird: Learn to Share (DK), is based upon him (Bear) and his wife (Bird). Check out the lizard in the background of the screenshot!

Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa is Julian Randall’s debut novel for children. Inspired by his and his family’s experiences as well as by Dominican history and mythology, Randall said that the middle grade fantasy novel is a story about “finding your history, your power, and your way home.”

Kate DiCamillo entertained booksellers during a storytime break between sessions on Thursday by reading from the first chapter of her new middle grade novel, The Beatryce Prophecy (Candlewick).

Vespertine (McElderry Books) is darker than her previous novels, author Margaret Rogerson admitted, although there’s “lots of humor.” She told booksellers that the action moves between “cathedrals, graveyards, and catacombs.” It’s “Joan of Arc meets Wednesday Addams,” she said, with a protagonist training to be a nun who suffers from social anxiety attacks.

Actor Max Greenfield, now debuting as an author, wrote I Don’t Want to Read This Book for his two young children, whom he homeschools. “Our kids don’t like to read books so I wrote one about not wanting to read, in the hopes that they would then read this book,” he told booksellers.

Natasha Bowen presented during the Indies Introduce session Skin of the Sea (Random House), a fantasy novel featuring “mermaids, magic, and courage,” explaining that she wanted to showcase African history and culture in a way that she had not seen before in books. She also wanted to write a story with a Black mermaid protagonist because when she was a child, she wanted to be a mermaid when she grew up.

The first title in Ralph Lazar’s Total Mayhem chapter book series (Scholastic), he told booksellers, “is not a normal book” and neither is the series, in which the world-building is cumulative from book to book. The goal in writing this series, Lazar noted, is to “get people into researching stuff.”

A group of entrepreneurs operating mobile and popup bookstores traded tips and ideas during a Wednesday roundtable on nontraditional bookselling, moderated by Zsamé Morgan of Babycake’s Bookstacks in St. Paul, Minn. (middle row, l.).

During her presentation, Schele Williams read from the first page of Your Legacy: A Bold Reclaiming of Our Enslaved History (Abrams), informing Black readers that their story began in Africa before moving to North America in the 17th century.

During one of the storytime breaks, musician Ziggy Marley and his wife/business manager, Orly Marley, took turns reading from Little John Crow (Akashic Books), which is not your typical picture book. It’s a tale about a bird whose winged friends abandon him when they realize that he is a baby vulture. Warning: this is not a tale for the squeamish, especially when read aloud by Ziggy.

There were two virtual receptions during Ci9: one the first night and the other at the end of the conference on Thursday afternoon. Attendees’ personalized icons could enter various rooms via the Kumospace portal, where they were met with virtual seating areas and virtual tables laden with virtual refreshments. Attendees could then mix and mingle with others by navigating their icons around the room. Voice chat was enabled when people’s icons were in close proximity.

Bright Star (Holiday House/Neal Porter Books), the new picture book from Yuyi Morales, is a tale of growth, empowerment, and finding one’s own voice. Her stories, Morales told booksellers, always begin with her searching for the answer to a question. Bright Star was inspired by the question: how does a person repair something that feels irreparable?

In a scene that played out in bookseller homes and bookstores across the country, Chicagoland booksellers Lorie Barber (l.) and Carolyn Roys (r.) took time off from working in the retail area at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville to virtually attend Ci9. Photo: Kathleen March.

The title of Ziggy and Orly Marley's picture book has been corrected.