The fifth annual Maine Festival of the Book will take place Friday through Sunday, April 1 through 3, including a full day of programs Saturday, at the University of Southern Maine’s Abromson Center. Programs are free and unticketed with the exception of Friday’s opening night.

The festival, presented by the nonprofit Maine Reads in collaboration with organizations statewide, is designed to appeal to readers with a range of interests and gives the public the chance to learn what goes on behind the scenes when producing a book. More than 6,000 people have attended since the festival’s start in 2007 and there have been more than 300 presenting authors and performers.

Among the participating authors this year is Islesboro food historian Sandra Oliver who will open Saturday’s events with a talk titled “Coot Stew and Other Tales of Maine Cooking,” one of two concurrent explorations of Maine’s food and Franco-American heritage at 9:30 a.m. The same day’s children’s/youth programs will include an 11 a.m. visit with Camden author and illustrator Chris Van Dusen, who will offer a “Meet Mr. Magee and His Friends” audio visual presentation and reading.

Also on Saturday, more than 20 authors will gather for a Book Signing Bonanza presented by Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance from noon to 2 p.m. They will include Midcoast authors Paul Doiron of Camden and Kate Braestrup of Lincolnville.

The festival’s goal is to encourage a dialogue between authors and readers through programs. Most of the programs feature two authors or more engaged in a discussion that captures an aspect of their writing. Program subjects this year include memoir, gardening, mystery, fly fishing, Franco-American history, poetry and writing and publishing. Question and answer periods, as well as book signings, follow.

The festival will kick off with An Evening with Stewart O’Nan and Julia Glass Opening Night Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Abromson Center’s Hannaford Hall. Tickets are $10 and may be purchased online at mainereads.org or by calling 871-9100. Seats are general admission and limited; doors will open at 7 p.m.

Concurrent free programs will run from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Abromson Center. Thematic discussions, some with Powerpoint illustrations, readings, book signings and performances will be held, as will programs for children and teens. The Book Signing Bonanza presented by Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance will run from noon to 2 p.m. Free events continue Saturday evening in downtown Portland with the annual Poetry Party at 7 p.m. offering libations, music and slams at Local Sprouts, 649 Congress St.

On Sunday, in conjunction with the Maine Festival of the Book, the Kate Cheney Chappell ’83 Center for Book Arts at USM will present a Book Arts Bazaar, a free event featuring artists and designers of handcrafted books from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at USM’s Wishcamper Center. On Sunday evening at 7 pm, Portland Stage Company at 25A Forest Ave. will present “Longfellow’s Shorts” featuring a dramatic reading of selections from “Everything Matters!”, a new novel by Ron Currie, Jr.

Dedicated to the fight for a more literate Maine, Maine Reads provides meaningful programs that celebrate Maine’s rich literacy heritage and encourage literacy and collaboration. In addition to the Maine Festival of the Book, Maine Reads presents Read With ME., which distributes books to kindergartners statewide; and the Maine Reads Community Literacy Project, which supports libraries statewide. Maine Reads is a 501c3 nonprofit. For more information, visit mainereads.org or call 871-9100.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email to dernest@villagesoup.com.