Interested in discussing topics such as: Does the American economy have a future? Check out the panel discussions at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this weekend at UCLA. If you’re like me, with a seriously fried mommie brain, you can sample lighter fare like “Comic Books: Indie and Beyond” or two days worth of who-done-it authors sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America.

Although it’s very difficult to bring children to a panel discussion, (believe me, we’ve tried), the festival features seven open-air stages where noise and fidgeting are more acceptable. The Los Angeles Times stage features big name authors, and there are also stages devoted to cooking, poetry, health and wellness, and young adult literature.

An entire courtyard is dedicated to children’s books. Bookseller and community group booths ring the giant Target stage, which features popular entertainers and author readings. This year, watch the Fresh Beat Band and Hip Hop Harry shake their stuff. Grandparents may be interested in Peter Yarrow from Peter, Paul and Mary who will undoubtedly sing “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Notable authors this year include R.L. Steine of “Goosebumps” fame, and Joanna Cole and Bruce Degan, who will read from the latest installment of the “Magic School Bus” series about climate change. Anna Dewdney, one of our family’s favorites, will be sharing stories about little Llama, Llama. (The Rader llamas have thrown many a fit in the Shop-o-Rama.)

In the past, we have seen Clifford the Big Red Dog wandering the crowds, and grabbed him for a photo op. Don’t forget to pick up some T-shirts, bags, posters or pens with this year’s featured illustrator, David Shannon. Each year, an illustrator makes a design just for the festival. (I wrote a draft of this article with my Eric Carle caterpillar pen.) After readings, authors are usually available for book signings, but we’ve found that the lines are too long for the kids.

An entire campus full of green space is available for picnics, but there are usually kid-friendly food choices, including a healthy organic option. Dash and Zora usually burn off extra energy after lunch by running up and down the grassy knolls of UCLA.

In between presentations on the children’s stage, we wander the festival to browse the booths. We expect to see a wide variety of publishers, booksellers, radio stations and universities, but some of the exhibitors are a suprise. This year, look for The Consulate General of Israel, Atheists United, and Kerrygold Cheeses and Butters from Ireland.

The festival becomes increasingly crowded during the day. We usually aim to be there when it starts and leave early. On a sunny, hot day, the temperature can be unbearable with all the bodies crammed in between the booths, so don’t forget hats and water. We usually bring a stroller for tired kids, but our legs do get a workout navigating UCLA’s looping handicapped ramps. There are several parking structures and the festival runs a shuttle from the far-away lots to campus. Information booths throughout the grounds offer maps of the exhibitors and a schedule for the stages and panels. Panels require tickets for admission, which are available for a nominal fee from TicketMaster. Tickets went on sale Sunday, so many panels may be sold out. There are often tickets available at will call from folks who turn them in, and each panel has a waiting line for unclaimed seats.

The Festival of Books is a fun event to attend — 130,000 other Angelenos agree each year. See for more information.

Find a calendar with local events, helpful links, and more adventures of Addison, Zora, and Dash at

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