How Austin proves that Harry Potter still has power

Harry Potter & the Cursed Child Midnight Release Party on Saturday, July 30 2016.  Erika Rich for American-Statesman
Harry Potter & the Cursed Child Midnight Release Party on Saturday, July 30 2016.
Erika Rich for American-Statesman

Now that we’ve had a few days to recover from the shock of actually receiving a new “Harry Potter” book – and to finish reading it and digest that wondrous plot – we can conclude that, after all these years, the Harry Potter series is still beloved.

At the midnight release party BookPeople threw Saturday for “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” about 2,000 people showed up to celebrate the bespectacled wizard and his new adventure. That’s a considerable turnout given that we all thought we’d officially hung up our wizards’ robes for such a party many years ago.

» See more photos from BookPeople’s midnight release party for “The Cursed Child”

BookPeople’s marketing director, Abby Fennewald, said Tuesday evening that the response to the book “was probably higher than we originally anticipated.” The Austin bookstore sold about 75 percent as many copies of “The Cursed Child” at this party as compared to previous midnight release parties, she said; “We’ve already sold over 1,000 copies.”

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is a book in script form about Harry and his troubled son, Albus. (The play is currently in production at London’s West End.) Despite the different format from the previous novels, anxiously waiting Muggles appeared in droves at BookPeople and at Barnes & Noble as well for the release. BookPeople dusted off its old Diagon Alley set and had a variety of magical activities for attendees, including a costume contest, a House Cup Tournament, trivia and wizard dueling.

Harry Potter & the Cursed Child Midnight Release Party on Saturday, July 30 2016.  Erika Rich for American-Statesman
Harry Potter & the Cursed Child Midnight Release Party on Saturday, July 30 2016.
Erika Rich for American-Statesman

And the food trucks joining the fun in the parking lot also didn’t miss out on the theme: Amy’s Ice Creams, for one, was serving up three wizard-worthy flavors, including butterbeer, Gryffindor’s Tower with red velvet and Dementor’s Cloud with dark chocolate. The line to get butterbeer in drink form at another trailer was also long.

Chatter all around BookPeople’s “Harry Potter” party reflected how happy everyone was to be back together, costumed in their finest Hogwarts’ wizard robes. Kids were there, sure, but the majority of the crowd congregating from 10 p.m. to midnight were the original “Harry Potter” fans, now in their 20s, 30s and beyond.

And for BookPeople, all those enthusiastic fans meant the party was a rousing success.

Has “Cursed Child” turned out to be a worthy follow-up to the original story? Let us know in the comments. And don’t forget to check out our photo gallery chronicling the “Harry Potter” party at BookPeople.

Sharon G. Flake to be keynoter at Austin’s African American Book Festival

Author Sharon G. Flake, who'll be the keynote speaker at Austin's African American Book Festival for 2016. (Photo courtesy of Sharon G. Flake)
Author Sharon G. Flake, who’ll be the keynote speaker at Austin’s African American Book Festival for 2016. (Photo courtesy of Sharon G. Flake)

Noted young adult author Sharon G. Flake will be the keynote speaker at the African American Book Festival of Austin, to be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 25 at the Carver Museum and Library.

Flake is the author of such books as “The Skin I’m In,” “Bang!” and “Pinned.” “The Skin I’m In,” which deals with a girl who is teased about her skin color and her clothing, won the John Steptoe Award for New Talent in 1999.

Flake, who was born in Philadelphia and lives in Pittsburgh, will help put the focus on young adult literature at the Austin festival, which will include music and prizes. The festival is also celebrating a decade of promoting books. Past speakers have included Leonard Pitts, Annette Gordon, Terry McMillan, Arnold Rampersad and Peniel Joseph.

ReShonda Tate Billingsley, an author and the CEO of Brown Girl Books, will lead a workshop on perfecting your pitch. The festival will also include discussions of “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates and the impact of Beyonce’s visual album “Lemonade.”

The festival is free and open to the public. The museum is located at 1165 Angelina St. For more information about the festival, visit http://www.aabookfest.com.

Texas Teen Book Festival announces lineup

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The Texas Teen Book Festival announced its lineup Tuesday for the Oct. 1 event at St. Edward’s University, and participants include Renee Ahdieh, Sabaa Tahir, Ally Carter, Jeffery Self, Traci Chee and John Corey Whaley.

Ahdieh is the best-selling author of “The Wrath and the Dawn” and the upcoming sequel, “The Rose and the Dagger. Tahir is the author of “An Ember in the Ashes.”

Carter is known for the “Embassy Row” and “Gallagher Girls” series, while Whaley is author of “Highly Illogical Behavior” and “Noggin.” Self is the writer of “Drag Teen,” and Chee is the writer of “The Reader.”

Austin author Katherine Catmull (“The Radiant Road”) will also join the lineup.

The authors complement the previously announced keynote speakers, Laini Taylor (“Strange the Dreamer”) and Leigh Bardugo (“Six of Crows”).

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The one-day event will feature author sessions and panels, book signings, workshops and vendor displays. It will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 pm. at St. Edward’s, 3001 S. Congress Ave.

The festival is one of the nation’s largest teen book events and is free and open to the public. It’s presented in collaboration with the Texas Book Festival, BookPeople, librarians and St. Edward’s. The program is made possible in part by a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For more information, visit http://www.texasteenbookfestival.org.

New imprint from Simon & Schuster for books with Muslim characters, stories

The new Salaam Reads imprint logo.
The new Salaam Reads imprint logo.

This morning, Simon & Schuster announced it will start a new imprint: Salaam Reads. It will have focus on stories that have Muslim characters or stories with Muslim cultures.

Some of the first books and authors will be:

“Salam Alaikum,” a picture book celebrating peace, community, and love based on the popular song of the same name by global social media sensation and Awakening Worldwide recording artist Harris J.

“Musa, Moises, Mo and Kevin,” a picture book introducing four kindergarten best friends who share their favorite family holiday traditions for Eid, Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, and Pi Day, written by H. A. Raz, a pseudonym for husband-and-wife writing team Huda Abdul-Razzak and Azhar Sheraze.

“The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand,” by Karuna Riazi, a middle–grade adventure about 12-year-old Bangladeshi American Farah Mirza from Queens, New York, and her quest to save her brother from a supernatural board game.

“Yo Soy Muslim,” a lyrical picture book in which a parent shares with their child the joy and pride in having a multicultural heritage, written by Mark Gonzales, HBO Def Jam poet and TEDxRamallah speaker.

Salaam Reads plans to release its first book in 2017 and at least nine a year.

Of course, there are Muslim-based independent publishers like Happy Books and Kube Publishing, but this is the first major publisher to create such a line.

We’ve written a lot about the lack of diversity in books offered to children before. My hope is that this new imprint allows children who aren’t Muslim to also read about Muslim children, and not just at “World Cultures Day” or around Christmas time, when teachers also throw in Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

After all, isn’t this one way we can bring peace in our time: when kids are exposed to a lot of different people who are different than themselves, but then realize that their stories aren’t really all that different.