Summary: Grobblechops opens with a little boy named Amir and his dad getting ready to go to bed. Amir is pretty worried that a monster might be hanging around, and Amir’s dad doe this bets to settle Amir’s fears by explaining all the reasons that a monster wouldn’t be interested in eating any member of their family. Some potential solutions involve shaking a frying pan, flapping an umbrella, and sitting around talking (because adults are too tired to fight, especially in the evenings).
Overall, the story is very humorous and will resonate with anyone who has tried to quell the fears of a tiny human in an attempt to make them go to sleep. The book also ends with a lovely message to get to know someone (or something!) before deciding that it’s scary or a threat. Grobblechops is a very sweet story, and we love how much movement is conveyed within the illustrations!
This book was sent to us by Tiny Owl for consideration in the Best Books of 2019 List, but all opinions and decision to review are our own.
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Elizabeth Laird “was born in New Zealand in 1943. My father was a ship’s surgeon from Scotland, and my mother’s forbears were all Scots too. They met after a great earthquake in 1933. I was the fourth of their five children. We all returned to live in Britain in 1945, and I grew up in South London.
My first big adventure was teaching in a school in Malaysia when I was eighteen. I went trekking in the jungle, and decided that an adventurous life was for me, even though I went down with typhoid and was bitten by a sea snake.
After I’d been to University (in Bristol) I got a job in Ethiopia, teaching English in Addis Ababa, the capital. I had too many adventures to recount. In the vacations, a friend and I would go off into the remote areas, hiring mules when there were no roads to travel on. I loved Ethiopia, its beautiful countryside and brave, stoical people.
After a spell at Edinburgh university, I worked for a summer in India. I had to travel by air from Mumbhai to Bhopal, and was horribly airsick. The man in the next seat was extremely kind to me. His name was David McDowall. I liked him at once, and we got married soon after. It was the best thing I ever did in my life.
David had been working in India, but was transferred to Iraq, so that’s where we began our married life. We visited the Marshes, and the Kurdish region. Some time later, after our first son, Angus, was born, we moved to Beirut, in Lebanon. A civil war was raging at the time. The fighting became so bad that eventually we were evacuated to Vienna, where William, our second son, was born.
We finally decided to take a great risk and see if we could earn our living as writers. We had luckily bought a house in London while we had been working abroad. We came home, settled down, and wrote. Being rather hard up, we took in bed and breakfast, and did various kinds of jobs to make ends meet, but our books began to sell well, and we have never looked back.
I went back to Ethiopia thirty years after I’d left, in 1996, and fell under that lovely country’s spell again. I set up a project with the British Council collecting folk stories from traditional story tellers, and made many journeys to the farthest corners of Ethiopia. I travelled extensively in Kenya too, in order to write the Wild Things series. Other projects have taken me to Palestine, Khazakhstan, Iran and Russia. These days, I tell myself that I’m too old for big adventures. I should spend my time sitting in my London study, snoozing by the fire, or pottering around in Edinburgh, where we spend part of our time. But if an invitation should flutter through the door, or an idea, or a mad, mad inspiration, I know I’ll be off again, just as soon as I’ve packed my bag.”
Jenny Lucander is a freelance illustrator based in Helsinki, Finland. From her website:
“Making art, making illustrations, is a way of communicating with the world. Depending on how I decide to portray our environment, the characters, their reactions and feelings in my children’s books, I communicate messages that either cement or shake the existing norms and stereotypes of our society. Having this kind of power thrills me, but at the same time I’m aware that the privilege this enables is accompanied by great responsibility. I am confronted with big questions every day. I feel that we have the obligation to stay critical and constantly work towards a better and more humane society. This is the most exiting part of being an artist.
I enjoy exploring the big questions we struggle with during childhood. Difficult feelings of identity and belonging, as well as joyful feelings of happiness, freedom and play. In creating my illustrations I try not to be too rigid, and instead to be more free and wild. A thin sensitive line characterizes my illustrations, and I tend to use many different materials in my collages. I seldom have a clear plan of what the outcome should look like. It feels like solving crosswords without definite answers, like trial and error. Sometimes the mistakes are the most beautiful part of the picture. Serendipity gives me wonderful kicks.”
Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Black Culture & Identity, The Great Migration, Family, History, Community, Growing Up, Own Voices, Historical Events.
Summary: This story of family legacy is framed using a rope, and all of its different uses throughout its time with the family, and told in first person. The narrators grandmother found the rope under a tree and used it as a jump rope. Later on, she used it to tie luggage to the top of her car when she moved to the city. The rope sees both the beautiful and the mundane, assisting the family in daily tasks as well as being a relic that ties memories together (sometimes figuratively and sometimes literally!).
The book centers the experiences families during the Great Migration that left the South and moved North in a quest for better treatment and a better life. While the book is about a specific family, it is the history of many families. The rope is also a metaphor for being able to hold onto family history while embracing the future and changes that come with growing up. This book is fabulous for the representation that Black students often lack within classrooms, and can lend itself to a larger unit about history in general. An awesome book for any time of the year, not just during February! Lived experiences and representation need to be worked into all aspects of school, not brought out once a year as a “diversity” requirement or for a holiday!
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Jacqueline Woodson “wrote on everything and everywhere. I remember my uncle catching me writing my name in graffiti on the side of a building. (It was not pretty for me when my mother found out.) I wrote on paper bags and my shoes and denim binders. I chalked stories across sidewalks and penciled tiny tales in notebook margins. I loved and still love watching words flower into sentences and sentences blossom into stories.
I also told a lot of stories as a child. Not “Once upon a time” stories but basically, outright lies. I loved lying and getting away with it! There was something about telling the lie-story and seeing your friends’ eyes grow wide with wonder. Of course I got in trouble for lying but I didn’t stop until fifth grade.
That year, I wrote a story and my teacher said “This is really good.” Before that I had written a poem about Martin Luther King that was, I guess, so good no one believed I wrote it. After lots of brouhaha, it was believed finally that I had indeed penned the poem which went on to win me a Scrabble game and local acclaim. So by the time the story rolled around and the words “This is really good” came out of the otherwise down-turned lips of my fifth grade teacher, I was well on my way to understanding that a lie on the page was a whole different animal — one that won you prizes and got surly teachers to smile. A lie on the page meant lots of independent time to create your stories and the freedom to sit hunched over the pages of your notebook without people thinking you were strange.
Lots and lots of books later, I am still surprised when I walk into a bookstore and see my name on a book or when the phone rings and someone on the other end is telling me I’ve just won an award. Sometimes, when I’m sitting at my desk for long hours and nothing’s coming to me, I remember my fifth grade teacher, the way her eyes lit up when she said “This is really good.” The way, I — the skinny girl in the back of the classroom who was always getting into trouble for talking or missed homework assignments — sat up a little straighter, folded my hands on the desks, smiled and began to believe in me.”
The Children’s Book Council named James E. Ransome as one of seventy-five authors and illustrators everyone should know. Currently a member of the Society of Illustrators, Ransome has received both the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration and the IBBY Honor Award for his book, The Creation. He has also received a Coretta Scott King Honor Award for Illustration for Uncle Jed’s Barbershop which was selected as an ALA Notable Book and is currently being shown as a feature on Reading Rainbow. How Many Stars in the Sky?and Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt were also Reading Rainbow selections. PBS’s Storytime featured his book, The Old Dog. Ransome has exhibited works in group and solo shows throughout the country and received The Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance award for his book, The Wagon. In 1999 Let My People Go received the NAACP Image Award for Illustration and Satchel Paige was reviewed in Bank Street College of Education’s “The Best Children’s Books of the Year.” In 2001, James received the Rip Van Winkle Award from the School Library Media Specialists of Southeast New York for the body of his work. How Animals Saved the People received the SEBA (Southeastern Book Association) Best Book of the Year Award in 2002 and the Vermont Center for the Book chose Visiting Day as one of the top ten diversity books of 2002. In 2004 James was recognized by the local art association when he received the Dutchess County Executive Arts Award for an Individual Artist. He has completed several commissioned murals for the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis, The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Hemphill Branch Library in Greensboro, NC. He created a historical painting commissioned by a jury for the Paterson, NJ Library and a poster for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Brown vs the Board of Education. His traveling Exhibit, Visual Stories has been touring the United States since 2003. His work is part of both private and public children’s book art collections.
Summary: This book is a beautiful conversation between trailblazing ballerina Misty Copeland and a young hopeful. Lyrical text and flowing illustrations help capture the long road to becoming a professional dancer. Copeland is encouraging as she talks about the thousands of repetitions she’s done, perfecting each move and stance before even taking the stage to perform.
Copeland writes to inspire and ensure young dancers of color that they can accomplish their dreams, despite them seeming far off. She ends the book with a personal letter talking about how she didn’t see herself reflected in ballet books, and hopes that by continuing to dance and publish books, she can help inspire future generations of dancers and be the mirror she needed when she was their age.
Like so many other areas, diversity in professional dance has a long way to go. Misty Copeland is only the second African American soloist at the American Ballet Theatre. She strives to be the person she needed when younger, and this message resonates with us. While we are white, we are LGBTQ and want to be the people we needed to see when we were younger: happy, successful, and making the world a better place. With stunning illustrations, Myers brings Copeland’s message to life in the most beautiful way possible.
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Born in Kansas City, Missouri and raised in San Pedro, California, Misty Copeland began her ballet studies at the late age of thirteen. At fifteen, she won first place in the Music Center Spotlight Awards. She studied at the San Francisco Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive on full scholarship and was declared ABT’s National Coca-Cola Scholar in 2000. Misty joined ABT’s Studio Company in September 2000, joined American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet in April 2001, and in August 2007 became the company’s second African American female Soloist and the first in two decades. In June 2015, Misty was promoted to principal dancer, making her the first African American woman to ever be promoted to the position in the company’s 75-year history.
In 2008, Misty was honored with the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Arts, a two-year fellowship awarded to young artists who exhibit extraordinary talent providing them additional resources in order to attain their full potential. Performing a variety of classical and contemporary roles, one of Misty’s most important roles was performing the title role in Firebird, created on her in 2012 with new choreography by much sought after choreographer Alexei Ratmansky. In December 2014, Misty performed the lead role of “Clara” in American Ballet Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker, also choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky. In the fall of 2014, she made history as the first black woman to perform the lead role of “Odette/Odile” in American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake during the company’s inaugural tour to Australia. Misty reprised the role during ABT’s Metropolitan Opera House spring season in June 2015, as well as debuted as “Juliet” in Romeo & Juliet.
Misty’s passion is giving back. She has worked with many charitable organizations and is dedicated to giving of her time to work with and mentor young girls and boys. In 2014, President Obama appointed Misty to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.
Misty is the author of the New York Times Bestselling memoir, Life in Motion, co-written with award-winning journalist and author Charisse Jones, published March 2014. She has a picture book titled Firebird in collaboration with award-winning illustrator and author Christopher Myers, published September 2014. She received an honorary doctorate from the University of Hartford in November 2014 for her contributions to classical ballet and helping to diversify the art form.
Charisse Jones works for USA Today, is a journalist, and assisted in the writing of Firebird.
Christopher Myers is a multimedia artist, author, and playwright from New York City born in 1974. Myers earned his B.A. in Art-Semiotics and American Civilization with focus on race and culture from Brown University in 1995. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally at venues including MoMA PS1, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Mistake Room at Paos GDL, Akron Art Museum, Contrast Gallery Shanghai, Goethe-Institut Ghana, Kigali Genocide Memorial Center Rwanda, San Art Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam, and The Studio Museum Harlem. Myers won a Caldecott Honor in 1998 for his illustrations in the book Harlem and a Coretta Scott King Award in 2016 for illustrating Firebird with Misty Copeland. Myers currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Summary: This book is AMAZING. The short story anthology focuses on LGBTQ and/or interracial relationships, and truly there is nothing like it that I’ve read ever. These underrepresented voices are compiled into one beautiful book that spans both genres and time itself.
All of the stories in the book are great, but there were a few that were enjoyed most of all. Death and the Maiden is a breathtaking tale, retelling the story of Hades and Persephone but with a twist. It’s one of the longer stories (which is still only about 20 pages) and I was hooked from beginning to end! Giving Up the Ghost was another story that fascinated me. In the story, people are matched up with a ghostly ancestor from their family at the age of 9. This is such a creative concept for world-building, and it left me wanting both more to the story and my own family ghost!
This is a book that amplifies marginalized voices in a powerful way. It makes differences in humanity front and center, and honestly it’s very emotional to open a book knowing that so many lived experiences that are often oppressed or ignored will be written on the pages. We highly recommend this book!
About the Authors & the Editor:
Sangu Mandanna was four years old when an elephant chased her down a forest road and she decided to write her first story about it. Seventeen years and many, many manuscripts later, she signed her first book deal. Sangu now lives in Norwich, a city in the east of England, with her husband and kids.
These images with author information were taken from the back of the book:
Summary: Adam and his parents go to the outdoor market one day, and he sees a bright blue jay. Following it, Adam doesn’t realize he’s left his parents behind until he tugs on what he thinks is his mother’s tunic but it turns out to be a nun’s dress. Adam tries to identify his parents clothes in the crowd, only to realize that many different types of people dress in similar ways! The individuals that Adam mistakes for his parents work together to bring them back together, and connect to each other in the process.
This book has few words, and the rich illustrations do the majority of the plot development. Adam and his parents live in a diverse community that is wonderfully represented by the similarities in clothing that Adam mistakes for his parents. The emphasis on community in this story is timely, some people live in fear of differences or the unknown. In the beginning as well as the end of the book are statements about the power of community and diversity, and how we are stronger together. This is a really beautiful book that can teach fantastic cultural vocabulary about garments along with the other messaging it promotes.
This book was sent to us by Sleeping Bear Press as an entry in the Best Books of 2019 List, but all opinions and decision to review were our own!
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Huda Essa has been a teacher since she was a child. Her first students were her stuffed animals. When she became a teacher as a grown up, she loved finally having human children as her students! Now, as a speaker and author, Huda is a teacher to adult humans, too. Huda’s debut book, Teach Us Your Name, and her TEDx Talk, “Your Name is the Key!” teach us to use our names to learn more about ourselves and to embrace our wonderful human diversity. Huda teaches all over the world, but lives in Michigan. You can visit her LinkedIn here!
Mercè Tous lives and works “in Barcelona, my place of birth. I love being near the sea and make the most of the wide range of cultural activities and opportunities for social networking this cosmopolitan city offers. However, whenever I can, I return to nature, my main source of inspiration.
Since I was a child I have always liked drawing, painting and immersing myself in pictures and illustrated books. My grandfather was my first art teacher, who passed on to me the passion for art, instilled in me the curiosity, the value of hard working and the satisfaction of doing a good job. I like all the art disciplines, and I have discovered with illustration a means to search beauty, to tell stories and to express my particular perspective of what surrounds me. I think that having an artistic profession is a chance to make a journey to discover the depth of oneself and, at the same time, to open to the world.
I graduated in Fine Arts from the University of Barcelona in 2008. Then I obtained the Art Teacher Certification in the same university. I carried on my education pursuing a postgraduate course specializing in children’s and youth’s book illustration at “Escola Eina” (Autonomous University of Barcelona) as well as three annual courses of illustration at “Escola de la Dona” lead by Ignasi Blanch and other great illustrators such as Cristina Losantos and Roger Olmos. I’ve also participated in several illustration workshops in Barcelona and Italy leaded by illustrators that I admire such as Octavia Monaco, Rebecca Lucciani, Mariona Cabassa and Joanna Concejo. Nowadays I work as a freelance illustrator.”
Summary: Since it’s Corrie’s birthday, she wanted to post a book that she’s currently loving and can’t stop talking about. This book is SO cute, we’re a bit obsessed with it. It tackles several issues all at once, and each is incredibly well-done and easy for young readers to understand. This is a book that belongs in every classroom as soon as possible, and we are so grateful to the author and incredibly talented illustrator for bringing this story to life.
Everyone thought that Aidan was a girl when he was born, and when he was young it was frustrating to be so misunderstood. Eventually, he figured out a way to express himself and his parents helped make the adjustments he wanted so he could feel more comfortable in what he wore and what his bedroom looked like. Now that Aidan’s mother is pregnant again, Aidan wants to make sure he’s the best big brother possible and this includes making sure that the new baby isn’t misunderstood like he was. The book goes through a lot of the preparations a family makes when getting ready for a new addition, with special care taken not to gender the new baby or put any stereotypes in place in terms of a name or room color. A particularly adorable illustration shows Aidan researching names in a baby name book, but he has changed the title from “boys and girls” to “babies and babies”, specifically wanting a neutral name.
The care that Aidan takes shows an immense amount of empathy for his new sibling, wanting them to feel wholly loved and cared for without any of the pressures that gender stereotyping places on a new life. In the back of the story is an author’s note about Kyle Lukoff’s own journey to being his authentic self, and it adds another level of tenderness to the story itself.
This book was sent to us by the Lee & Low for review, but all opinions are our own!
I’m also a school librarian. When I’m not helping my students finds books I review professionally, assist in sensitivity readings and consultations, and present on the importance of children’s and youth literature all across the country.
I was born outside of Chicago, and moved to Washington State when I was five. I moved to New York City for college in 2002 and never left, except for an extremely brief attempt at law school. I got hired at Barnes and Noble when I was sixteen, and have been working at the intersection of books and people for over half my life. I write about transgender kids, collective nouns, poetry, and queer lives.”
Kaylani Juanita is an illustrator based in Fairfield, CA who illustrates inclusive picture books, editorial art, and afros. Some of her clients include Chronicle Books, Cicada Magazine, and DEFY. Her work has been recognized by Society of Illustrators, The Huffington Post, as well as BBC. California grown and raised, she’s studied at Cal Arts and CCA for a BFA in Illustration. Her mission as an artist is to support the stories of the under represented and create new ways for people to imagine themselves. You can find her lurking in public secretly drawing strangers or writing nonsensical stories about who knows what.
Summary: This book is awesome! Each story takes a unique viewpoint and has a hero in it, but an unexpected one. There are stories about adoption, ghosts, sports, brilliant robot engineer twin sisters, and even one with an autistic main character who loves aikido!
This book is special because everyone can find something to connect with in these stories. They are diverse in viewpoint, in interests, and storylines. In one story, the hero is a camp counselor that buys something for a town zombie. In another, the hero is a young girl who realizes she must use fairy magic to stop a war between worlds. It’s hard to describe all of these stories without giving away everything! Trust us, this book is fantastic and the author list stellar. It’s a great introduction to a huge array of talented authors, and a jumping off point into their works. Highly recommend you check this book out and have at least a few copies for you classroom!
About the Authors & the Cover Artist:
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovichis the author of the8th Grade Superzero,which was named a Notable Book for a Global Society and a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. She also writes nonfiction, includingAbove and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow,andSomeday is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-Ins.She is the coauthor of the middle grade novelTwo Naomis,which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award and is a Junior Library Guild selection, and its sequel,Naomis Too.She is a member of the Brown Bookshelf and the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. She has contributed to numerous anthologies for children, teens, and educators, holds an MA in education, and writes frequently on literacy-related topics for Brightly. Visit her online at olugbemisolabooks.com!
Rita Williams-Garcia is the New York Times bestselling author of nine novels for young adults and middle grade readers. Her most recent novel, Gone Crazy in Alabama ends the saga of the Gaither Sisters, who appear in One Crazy Summer and PS Be Eleven. Her novels have been recipients of numerous awards, including the Coretta Scott King Award, National Book Award Finalists, Newbery Honor Book, Junior Library Guild, and the Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction. She served on faculty at the Vermont College of Fine Arts Writing for Children MFA Program and she resides in Queens, New York.
Ronald L. Smith is the award-winning author of the middle grade novel,Black Panther: The Young PrinceandThe Mesmerist, a supernatural Victorian fantasy. His first novel,Hoodoo, won the 2016 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award. His latest isThe Owls Have Come to Take Us Away, a Junior Library Guild Selection. Ronald grew up on Air Force Bases and has lived in Japan, Maine, Alabama, Michigan, South Carolina, and a bunch of other places he doesn’t remember. As a boy, he loved to read, especially fantasy and science fiction, and this inspired his lifelong passion of the fantastical. The book that inspired him to write more than any other wasThe Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planetby Eleanor Cameron.
Linda Sue Park was born in Urbana, Illinois on March 25, 1960, and grew up outside Chicago. The daughter of Korean immigrants, she has been writing poems and stories since she was four years old, and her favorite thing to do as a child was read.In 1997, she started writing her first book,Seesaw Girl. It was accepted that same year and published in 1999.Since then, Linda Sue has published many other books for young people, includingA Single Shard, which was awarded the 2002 Newbery Medal. She now lives in western New York with the same Irishman; their son lives nearby, and their daughter lives in Brooklyn. Besides reading and writing, Linda Sue likes to cook, travel, watch movies, and do the New York Times crossword puzzle. She also loves dogs, watching sports on television and playing board and video games. When she grows up, she would like to be an elephant scientist.
Anna Dobbin is a writer, copy editor, and proofreader. She owns an adorable Italian greyhound named Pintxo. In middle school she played soccer three hundred days a year and also loved singing, reading and making art. Anna is Linda Sue Park’s daughter, and this story is just one of their second professional collaboration after they contributed to the collection Totally Middle School, edited by Betsy Groban.
Hena Khanis a Pakistani-American Muslim who was born and raised in Maryland, and enjoys sharing and writing about her culture and religion. She has also written about a bunch of other topics, from spies to space travel, that take her out of her reality and on adventures. While not quite as thrilling, she’s had a few adventures of her own, managed to get to some pretty fantastic places on our planet, and met incredible people. She’s slightly obsessed with Spain, ceramic tiles and pottery, food, flamenco, and good coffee. When she’s not cooking up a story, she’s often actually cooking food or baking treats. She also spends time writing and editing for international organizations that work to improve the health and lives of people around the world.
Suma Subramaniam works with children globally to promote education and is a WNDB volunteer. After a successful corporate career for many years, now, instead of chasing technical talent in the hi-tech industry, she chases characters in her fictional work for the most part of her time. Suma has an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, a Certificate in Popular Fiction from the University of Washington, and advanced degrees in computer science and management.
For over forty years Joseph Bruchac has been creating literature and music that reflect his indigenous heritage and traditions. He is a proud Nulhegan Abenaki citizen and respected elder among his people. He is the author of more than 120 books for children and adults. His best selling Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children series, with its remarkable integration of science and folklore, continue to receive critical acclaim and to be used in classrooms throughout the country.
Juana Medina was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. She is the author and illustrator of the Pura Belpré Award-winning chapter book Juana & Lucas. Juana is also the author and illustrator for Juana & Lucas: Big Problemas, 1 Big Salad, ABC Pasta, and Sweet Shapes. She illustrated Smick! By Doreen Cronin, Lena’s Shoes Are Nervous by Keith Calabrese, and I’m a Baked Potato! by Elise Primavera. She has participated in two recent anthologies: We Are The Change (Chronicle, 2019) and The Hero Next Door (Crown Books, 2019). Juana has been lucky to earn recognitions from the Colombian Presidency, the National Cartoonists Society, the National Headliner Award, International Latino Book Awards, and Ridgway Award honors, among others — which is quite impressive for someone who was a less-than-stellar student and who often got in trouble for drawing cartoons of her teachers. Despite all trouble caused, Juana studied and taught at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and the Corcoran College of Art + Design (where students had plenty of chances to draw cartoons of her). She lives in the DC area, with her wife, twin sons, and their dear dog, Rosita.
Mike Jung is the author of Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities and Unidentified Suburban Object. He is a library professional by day, a writer (and ukulele player) by night and was a founding member of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks team. He lives in Oakland, California, with his wife and two children.
Cynthia Leitich Smith (“Leitich” is pronounced Lie-tick. First a long “i,” then a short “i,” followed by a hard “k.”) is best known as an award-winning, bestselling author of fantastical and realistic fiction for young readers. She is the New York Times best-selling YA author of Hearts Unbroken and both the Feral trilogy and Tantalize series. These novels were released by Candlewick Press in the U.S., Walker Books in the U.K. and Australia/New Zealand, and additional publishers around the globe. She also is the author of several award-winning children’s books, including: Jingle Dancer, Rain Is Not My Indian Name, and Indian Shoes, all published by HarperCollins. In addition, she has published short stories, nonfiction essays, and poetry for young readers. She is based in Austin, Texas, and a citizen of Muscogee Nation /ma(:)skó:k-î/. She holds both a bachelor of science degree (with majors in news/editorial and public relations) from the William Allen White School of Journalism at The University of Kansas and a J.D. from The University of Michigan Law School, where she was president of the Native Law Students Association and co-founded The Michigan Journal of Gender and Law. She also serves on the core faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She is both a member of the Advisory Board of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and a member of the Honorary Advisory Board of We Need Diverse Books.Order booksby Cynthia Leitich Smith.
Ellen Oh is a former adjunct college instructor and lawyer with an insatiable curiosity for ancient Asian history. She loves martial arts films, K-pop, K-dramas, and cooking shows, and is a rabid fan of the Last Airbender and the Legend of Korra series. Ellen is the co-founder ofWe Need Diverse Books(WNDB), a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing diversity in children’s literature. She is the author of the middle grade novel The Spirit Hunters, Book 1, and Book 2, Island of the Monsters, and the YA fantasy trilogy The Prophecy Series. She is the editor of WNDB’s middle grade anthology Flying Lessons and Other Stories, and the YA anthology A Thousand Beginnings and Endings out in June 2018. Originally from New York City, Ellen lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with her husband and three children and has yet to satisfy her quest for a decent bagel.
R. J. Palaciolives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, two sons and two dogs (Bear and Beau). Her debut novel,Wonder, has been on theNew York Timesbestseller list since March, 2012, and has sold over 5 million copies worldwide. The book’s message of kindness has inspired the Choose Kind movement, and has been embraced by readers, young and old, around the world. A first generation American (her parents were Colombian immigrants), Palacio was born on July 13, 1963 in New York City. Her birth name is Raquel Jaramillo (Palacio was her mother’s maiden name). Palacio attended The High School of Art & Design in Manhattan, and then majored in illustration at the Parsons School of Design. She spent her junior year at The American University in Paris, where she traveled extensively before returning to NYC with an eye toward making her career in illustration. Her early works appeared inThe Village VoiceandThe New York Times Book Review, which eventually segued into her storied career as the art director of several major book publishing companies. In addition to designing book covers, Palacio illustrated several of her own children’s books that were published under her birth name, includingPeter Pan:The Original Tale of Neverland; Ride Baby Ride; Look Baby Look; The Night Before Christmas; The Handiest Things in the world;andLast Summer.Palacio also invented a baby toy called The Bobo Glove, a portable, wearable, washable activity toy for infants.
William Alexander writes fantasy, science fiction, and other unrealisms for young readers. Honors include the National Book Award, the Eleanor Cameron Award, two Junior Library Guild Selections, a Mythopoetic Award finalist, an International Latino Book Award finalist, a Cybils Award finalist, and the Earphones Award for audiobook narration. Will is Cuban-American. He studied theater and folklore atOberlin College, English at theUniversity of Vermont, and creative writing atClarion. He currently serves as the faculty chair of theVCFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults and is represented by Marietta B. Zacker of theGallt & Zacker Literary Agency.
Cover Art Designed by Michelle Cunningham. She is a designer at Penguin Random House working on the Middle Grade team. When she’s not playing around with book cover layouts, she’s also a freelance illustrator.