SOUTH ORANGE AND MAPLEWOOD, NJ - The Maplewood-South Orange Book Festival began on Friday night, June 9, with "An Evening with Mary Roach," the best-selling science writer, and closed on Saturday, June 10, with a keynote from 2017 Caldecott Medal Winner Javaka Steptoe.

All together, the festival had more than 80 authors participating, representing poetry, children's and young-adult literature, fiction and non-fiction. Organizers estimate that over 1,000 people attended the various programming, all of which was free, throughout the day on Saturday.

On Saturday, visitors to the festival could enjoy live performances in The Great Hall at The Woodland and  meet and have books signed by more than 20 children's authors. Directly outside The Woodland were tents with books available from a variety of independent publishers and local food vendors as well.

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Around the corner at the Burgdorff Center, 20 panel discussions took place throughout the day on subjects ranging from "Nurturing the Writer in Your Child or Teenager" to "Gentrification, Race, and the Future of the Urban Community."

Tracey West, author of the popular "Dragon Masters" series for children, said she was thrilled to be part of the first Maplewood-South Orange Book Festival, and mentioned not only the great venue but also how much she enjoyed being part of seeing "kids really excited about books." 

Robert Lasner, the founder and director of the Maplewood-South Orange Book Festival, described the festival as bringing together "authors, readers and book lovers from all over New Jersey, as well as New York City."

Lasner also expressed his gratitude to those who helped with the festival, sharing "thank you to everyone, from our amazing volunteers to our sponsors and vendors, Andrew and his staff at the Woodland -- you rock, Larry and Stephan -- to the incredible Kings in Maplewood, for keeping everyone well-fed and hydrated. And of course, everyone who came out to support us in our first year."

Based on the reactions from this year's inaugural festival, many are eagerly awaiting the sequel. Luckily, Lasner plans for the festival to return.

"Glad its over--I actually got some sleep last night--after a few particularly enjoyable beers, am already looking forward to next year," said Lasner, adding "save the dates, June 8 and 9, 2018."

TAPinto SOMA is a media sponsor of the Maplewood-South Orange Book Festival.