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Arts & Culture

Lehigh Valley Book Festival to feature regional authors

Let’s Play Books!
Let’s Play Books
Let’s Play Books! will host its third book festival March 24 - March 26 in Allentown and Bethlehem.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Whether you enjoy reading crime, mystery or nonfiction, the Lehigh Valley Book Festival returns with a host of authors representing all literary genres.

The events, which run from Friday, March 24 to Sunday, March 26 will feature free lectures, children's activities, a movie night and a jazz brunch.

  • The Lehigh Valley Book Festival runs through Friday, March 24 and Sunday, March 26 in Bethlehem and Allentown
  • The festival was founded by Let's Play Books! in Emmaus, an independent bookstore that's opening a second location in Allentown's West End in April
  • The festival includes free story readings, discussions, movie night and a jazz brunch

Opening night

The festival, organized by Let's Play Books!, kicks off with a free children's story hour at 4 p.m. Friday at the Lower Macungie Library, 3450 Brookside Road, Macungie.

Also that evening: For a slightly more swanky scene, check out the opening reception with special guest Maria Rodale from 6 to 8 p.m. at the bookstore's new location in the West End of Allentown.

Rodale, of the Rodale Institute, is the author of "Love Nature Magic: Shamanic Journeys Into the Heart of My Garden" and an advocate for organic farming.

Tickets are $30.

Family fun on Saturday

Rupert Holmes
Rupert Holmes
Author Rupert Holmes will appear at the Lehigh Valley Book Festival at Bethlehem Public Library on March 25.

The second day of the festival kicks off at 10:15 am. Saturday at the Bethlehem Area Public Library with keynote speaker and Edgar Award winner Rupert Holmes.

Holmes wrote the best-selling book "How to Murder Your Employer" and “Escape" (The Piña Colada Song). Christine Dempsey, senior vice president of radio at WLVR, an affiliate of LehighValleyNews.com, will be host.

The festivities continue Saturday with children's authors Victoria Jamieson, Alison Green Myers, Greg Pizzoli and Alexandra Villasante and illustrators Lauren Castillo, Katherine Locke and Matt Phelan.

At 3:45 p.m. Shonda Moralis, author of "Breathe, Mama, Breathe" will lead a discussion on the importance of mindfulness.

At 4 p.m. authors Ethan Joella, Amelia Kahaney, Jason Rekulak and Victoria Schade discuss the themes in their crime-focused and rom-com books.

For the kids: There will be activities for children 1-4 p.m. including a story hour and book signing with Marie and Baldev Lamba, Lisa Papp, Courtney Pippin-Mathur, Laura Renauld and Nancy Viau Colleen Rowan Kosinski, Zach Manbeck, Deborah C. Mortimer, Jennifer Raudenbush and Debra Kempf Shumaker.

Special guest Bluey will make an appearance 1-2:15 p.m.

Let’s Play Books!
The Lehigh Valley Book Festival will take place Friday, March 24 - Sunday, March 26 in Allentown and Bethlehem.

Movie night with an author

On Saturday, check out the romantic comedy movie event at Shankweiler's Drive In-Theater's double feature of "Sleepless in Seattle" and "When Harry Met Sally" with author Timothy Janovsky.

Janovsky, who defines himself as a queer, multidisciplinary storyteller, is the author of "Never Been Kissed," his new LGBTQ-themed novel.

Bring a new, unused book to donate to Lehigh Valley Reads and receive a small popcorn.

Tickets are $12

Books and brunch

The festival wraps up with a brunch on 9 a.m. Sunday at ArtsQuestwith Aiden Levy, author of "Dirty Blvd: The Life and Music of Lou Reed," and jazz music by Emma Bockrath Trio.

The documentary film, "Hello, Bookstore," follows next door at 10 a.m. inside the Frank Banko Alehouse Cinema.

Entry to the the jazz brunch and screening of the film are included with the purchase of any featured book from the festival on Friday evening or Saturday. There will be a sign-up at checkout for the events.

Customers may also pre-order a copy of Levy's book online, for pick up at the brunch.

New digs

Let's Play Books! first opened its doors at 244 Main St. in Emmaus in 2013, at a time when many national bookstores had closed or were struggling.

The community's support has kept the quirky and independent store afloat, according to Maddie Hess, daughter of owner, Kristen Hess.

The new location in Allentown's West End will offer four times the space, and will include reading rooms and sitting areas for all ages.

It will also be ADA compliant with a ramp — something they were not able to construct at their flagship shop.

The mother-daughter duo plans on working with the school district to host more reading and author-led activities.

"We did multiple surveys to see who buys on our websites and majority of our clientele are from Allentown," Hess said. "The location is perfect. It's close to several schools and the Jewish Community Center."

They also plan to offer more diverse content.

"As of right now we have books in Spanish, French, Italian and Chinese," Hess said. "It's a growing section that is mostly geared for children, but we're focusing on expanding it to YA and adult readers."

Let’s Play Books cats
Let's Play Books!
Garfield and Bernie are he unofficial mascots of Let's Play Books! in Emmaus.

The store's unofficial mascots, shop-cats Bernie and Garfield, will stay put at the store in Emmaus.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Lehigh Valley Reads is affiliated with Lehigh Valley Public Media, which includes PBS39, WLVR 91.3 FM and LehighvalleyNews.com.