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Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver on their new book and helping kids feel less alone

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Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver have done this Zoom thing before. That’s what it’s like, in the time of COVID, to promote a book — in this case their children’s book “Lights, Camera, Danger!,” the second in their “Alien Superstar” series, which they discussed Sunday at the Times Festival of Books. The Times spoke with them briefly, above, just before their panel, hosted by Michael Ordoña, got started.

The 25th Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is going virtual this year! The event kicks off Oct. 18 at 10 a.m. Here’s how to watch.

“Usually, Lin and I, we go into bookstores, we go into schools, we talk to the children, we’re there, we hold their faces,” says Winkler. “This has been so different. And yet, it has not slowed our rhythm.”

Though they are 35 books into their collaboration, Winkler and Oliver have a new mission now — to help kids adapt to a radically changed world by helping them escape.

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“One of the things that’s really important to us in our books is to make sure that they’re entertaining,” says Oliver. “If we can bring a little lightness and a little joy, that’s a nice thing. ... It motivates us more to get our work done because it really has an important place in kids’ lives.”

And what was the book that held the most important place in their young lives?

“I really loved series books,” Oliver says, “like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and the ‘Wizard of Oz’ books.” The duo’s Hank Zipzer series inspired that same love of serial books in the fans she and Winkler meet today. “It’s like their friends — their book friends.”

“I still have the Hardy Boys on the bookshelf in my hallway,” says Winkler. “I never read a page.” The actor has spoken about growing up with dyslexia, which he only realized later in life.

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Marlon James, Natalie Portman, Marilynne Robinson, Jerry Brown, Laila Lalami, Kevin Kwan, Roberto Lovato and so many more writers will take part.

“My brain and my eyes were never friends,” he says. “They would bully each other on the playground.”

It was an isolating experience; now, his books seem to reach out to kids who feel the same way.

“We write about the kid looking in,” says Winkler. “Wanting to be on the inside and always feeling like an outsider. A stranger in a strange land. So we did, we wrote about an alien in a very strange land: Hollywood.”

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Below is the full Festival of Books 2020 panel, which the duo participated in with Times writer Michael Ordoña.

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