When it comes to this year’s Texas Book Festival — which is this weekend (October 23-24, 2011) in and around the Austin state capitol building — few words can do justice to the heroic work that the non-profit’s tiny staff (which you can count on one hand and still have fingers left over) put in to bringing you this year’s awe-inspiring lineup of 250 authors, celebrity guests and entertainers. You’ll get a far better sense of what the weekend has in store by simply reading the author list and looking over the schedule.

As volunteer chair of children’s entertainment this year, I’d like to selfishly point out that particular schedule, which boasts the greatest lineup, by far, that I’ve seen in years (thanks again to Clay Smith, Heidi Smith, Roger Polson, and Hannah Norman for doing much of the booking, coordinating, and long hours of legwork to bring it all together).

The children’s entertainment schedule for both Saturday and Sunday will likely pose irresistible challenges for kids, parents and tag-alongs who want to see a little bit of everything at the festival… because there’ll be something big and wonderful for every little set of eyes in the entertainment tent during every hour of the day.

And here’s the best part: The Texas Book Festival is FREE and open to the public.

I don’t know of any other event in Texas, or perhaps the country, in which you can see so many incredible authors, musicians, demonstrations, lectures and performers, all day, for two days, for FREE.

Having said that, I encourage you to visit the Barnes & Noble tent and consider buying a book or two (early Christmas shopping!)…that you can have the authors sign at the Festival. You’ll go home with some nifty gifts (or selfish finds) and the knowledge that you’ve done a good deed to support an important cause: Texas public libraries.

The Texas Book Festival is a non-profit organization whose sole reason for being is to raise money, through this one annual event, for Texas Public Libraries. The money is distributed through grants, which libraries will use to build their collections. And that’s more important than ever, because tough economic times often lead to drastic cuts in public funding for libraries.

Here’s the children’s entertainment lineup for Saturday, October 22:

And for Sunday, October 23:

Check back here this weekend and in the days that follow for more information, ideas, and images from the 2011 Texas Book Festival.