Author & Illustrator
Ben Hatke is the author and illustrator of the #1 New York Times bestselling Zita the Spacegirl trilogy, the Eisner award winning Little Robot, and the picture books Julia’s House for Lost Creatures and Nobody Likes a Goblin. His next graphic novel, Things in the Basement, will be out this Halloween. Ben lives and works in Virginia’s Shanandoah Valley and he is very happy in a canoe.
You can find him at benhatke.com, IG @heybenhatke, and on Patreon @BenHatke.
Author & Illustrator
Called "a master storyteller" by Kirkus Reviews, Chantel Acevedo is the author of the novels Love and Ghost Letters, A Falling Star, The Distant Marvels, which was a finalist for the 2016 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and, The Living Infinite, hailed by Booklist as a "vivid and enthralling tale of love and redemption." Muse Squad: The Cassandra Curse and Muse Squad: The Mystery of the Tenth, Acevedo's new middle grade duology (called "Riveting and suspenseful" by School Library Journal) was published by Balzer + Bray. Her latest middle grade novel, The Curse on Spectacle Key, is a lightly spooky story set in the Florida Keys. She is Professor of English at the University of Miami, where she directs the MFA program.
Find her on Instagram--@chantelacevedo_author; Twitter--@chantelacevedo; and Tik-Tok--@chantelacevedo_author.
Kazu Kibuishi is the writer and artist of the New York Times Bestselling AMULET graphic novel series, published by Scholastic Graphix. He is also the editor/art director/cover artist of the EXPLORER and FLIGHT Comic Anthologies, and the creator of the webcomic Copper. His debut graphic novel, Daisy Kutter: The Last Train, won a YALSA Best Books for Young Adults Award in 2005. In 2012, he illustrated the covers for the Harry Potter 15th Anniversary Edition paperbacks.
You can follow him on Twitter: @boltcity and Instagram: @boltcity
Author & Illustrator
Mirelle Ortega is a Mexican illustrator and writer for kidlit and Animation based in Los Angeles, California. She's created covers for award winning middle grade series such as From the Desk of Zoe Washington, Cece Rios, and Love Sugar Magic, artwork for acclaimed chapter books series such as The Mythics, Vote for Effie and Mermaids Rock, and vibrant illustrations for picture books like Small Room, Big Dreams, Pepe and the Parade and her author/illustrator debut Magic: Once Upon a Faraway Land.
You can find her on Instagram: @msmirelle; Twitter: @moxvi_; Pinterest: @msmirelle.
Thien Pham is a graphic novelist, comic artist, and educator based in Oakland, CA. He is the author and illustrator of the graphic novel Sumo and did the art for the middle-grade graphic novel Level Up, written by Gene Luen Yang. His Latest Book Family Style, a memoir about his family's immigration to America told through the lens of food, will be out in June. Currently, Pham is working on his next graphic novel, teaching, and eating. A lot. Follow Thien on Instagram at @thiendog.
Author & Illustrator
Dan Santat is a graduate of the Art Center College of Design and has published over one hundred books for children. His most notable titles include The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, which won the Randolph Caldecott Medal in 2015, the #1 New York Times best-selling road trip/time travel adventure Are We There Yet?, and the New York Times best-selling book After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again), which was named best book of the year on numerous publications including NPR and The New York Public Library. His artwork is also featured in numerous picture books, chapter books, and middle-grade novels, including Dav Pilkey’s Ricky Ricotta series.
Dan lives in Southern California with his wife, two kids, and many, many pets.
Gene Luen Yang
Graphic Novelist, Teacher
Gene Yang writes, and sometimes draws, comic books and graphic novels. As the Library of Congress’ fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, he advocates for the importance of reading, especially reading diversely. American Born Chinese, his first graphic novel from First Second Books, was a National Book Award finalist, as well as the winner of the Printz Award and an Eisner Award. His two-volume graphic novel Boxers & Saints won the L.A. Times Book Prize and was a National Book Award Finalist. His other works include Secret Coders (with Mike Holmes), The Shadow Hero (with Sonny Liew), New Super-Man from DC Comics (with various artists), and the Avatar: The Last Airbender series from Dark Horse Comics (with Gurihiru). He was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in 2016. In his latest graphic novel, Dragon Hoops, Mr. Yang turns the spotlight on his life, his family, and the high school where he taught.
Past Guest Speakers
Christina Appleberry is a school librarian in Palo Alto. Christina enjoys providing opportunities for creative self-expression through arts and crafts.
River Brown is a retired teacher turned illustrator and writer. For 16 years as a teacher consultant with the San Jose Area Writing Project, River has led numerous writing workshops for students and teachers. Presently, she is working on new illustrations and imagining a story about self-compassion. During the pandemic she wrote her first picture book, about a ten year old girl's space travel.
River lives with two adorable cats and her sweet 92 year old Mom in the historic Naglee Park neighborhood, where she loves gardening and walking. She adores picture books and kids' art. You can see some of her work at https://riverbrown.blog/
Melissa Datu is a clerk for San Jose Public Library's Biblioteca Latinoamericana Branch as well as a MSLIS candidate at Drexel University. Since 2011, Melissa has worked part-time as the Team Photographer Assistant for the San Francisco 49ers. She is passionate about community engagement and collaboration, information literacy, and digital creative content.
Joanna Ho is the New York Times bestselling author of Eyes that Kiss in the Corners. Her upcoming picture books include Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma (Fall 2021), and One Day (2023); her debut YA novel, The Silence that Binds Us will be released in 2022. She is a writer and educator with a passion for anti-bias, anti-racism and equity work. She holds a BA in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, and a master’s from the Principal Leadership Institute at Berkeley. She has been an English teacher, a dean, the designer of an alternative-to-prison program, and a professional development mastermind. She is currently the vice principal of a high school in the Bay Area, where she survives on homemade chocolate chip cookies, outdoor adventures, and dance parties with her kids. Keep your eyes open for more books to come!
Deborah Hopkinson is the award-winning author of more than sixty books for young readers including picture books, middle grade historical fiction, and nonfiction. She won an Oregon book award for her middle grade novel, How I Became a Spy: A Mystery of World War II London and the Green Earth Environmental Award for Follow the Moon Home and Butterflies Belong Here, and a Sibert Honor for Titanic: Voices of the Disaster. Her 2022 titles include a picture book entitled Only One and two books in a new nonfiction series, the Deadliest. Deborah lives in Oregon.
Follow her on Twitter @deborahopkinson or visit her on the web at www.deborahhopkinson.com.
Shih Fa Kao
Shih Fa is a former journalist and teacher who has been with the San Jose Public Library since 2016. As a librarian, he focuses on creating DIY and interactive programs.
Naomi Kinsman is the Executive Director and Founder of Society of Young Inklings. Author of the From Sadie’s Sketchbook Series and Spilled Ink, the award winning Inklings Writers’ Notebook, Naomi is passionate about sharing her love of writing and creativity with young writers. Naomi’s background in improvisational and story theatre as well as her arts education work in Chicago, Portland and the Bay Area has convinced her that creative play is a doorway through which learners can find inspiration and transformative learning experiences.
You can follow her @naomikinsman on Instagram and Twitter and @societyofyounginklings on Instagram.
A Silicon Valley Bay Area native, Jaime Koo attended local San Jose schools and received her B.A. and Teaching Credential from Santa Clara University. Jaime is currently an education consultant who presents literacy workshops with Encouraging Literacy. Jaime is also a teacher consultant with the San Jose Area Writing Project and a Parent Engagement Specialist with the Santa Clara County Office of Education. Jaime's mission - to share effective reading and writing strategies with families to encourage literacy.
Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Jarrett J. Krosoczka is the New York Times bestselling author/illustrator behind more than forty books for young readers, including his wildly popular Lunch Lady graphic novels, select volumes of the Star Wars™: Jedi Academy series, and Hey, Kiddo, which was a National Book Award Finalist.
Realizing that his books can inspire young readers beyond the page, Krosoczka founded School Lunch Hero Day, a national campaign celebrating school lunch staff. A consummate advocate for arts education, Krosoczka also established the Joseph and Shirley Krosoczka Memorial Youth Scholarships, which fund art classes for underprivileged children in his hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts.
Krosoczka lives in western Massachusetts with his spouse, their three children, pugs Ralph and Frank, and a French bulldog named Bella Carmella.
Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter @studiojjk, https://www.studiojjk.com/
Hannah Kuo is a high school junior in San Jose who loves to read and write. She has written the Wildfire's Twin series and the children's book Bibi the Bumblebee. During her free time, she enjoys drawing her favorite characters (sometimes her own) and spending time with her family. She is also an active member of her church who enjoys serving on her worship team and being a small group leader. She hopes her stories will be an inspiration to other youth in her area.
You can follow her at www.candlelightwritings.home.blog and on Instagram at @hannahjkuo.
Edie Lau, with Gabriel and Nathan Lau
Edie Lau currently spends her days teaching in the Palo Alto Unified School District and zooming with friends and family. Gabriel and Nathan Lau attend Hope Technology School, play basketball and serve each week as youth group leaders at church in break out rooms.
In Clementine’s Great Big UH OHs, Gabriel, Nathan and Edie share their journey with UH OHs through a small mouse named Clementine. UH OHs used to overtake them all, quite often, but they began to explore their anxious moments and made surprising discoveries which they share in their book.
Ian Lendler is an award-winning author of picture books, non-fiction, and graphic novels. His last three books have been Junior Library Guild Selections. His last two picture books, The Fabled Life of Aesop and One Day a Dot, were described by School Library Journal as “remarkable.” And his most recent middle grade non-fiction, The First Dinosaur, was voted Kirkus Best of 2019, an NSTA Best of 2019, an Orbus Pictus Recommended Title, a Crystal Kite Honor, and Cybil Award winner. His graphic novel series, The Stratford Zoo Presents..., was voted Best of 2015 by a number of state library societies as well as being a Junior Library Guild Selection.
Emily Lowell is branch manager of San Jose Public Library’s West Valley and Calabazas branches. As a member of the SJPL Blog Team, Emily writes about television, books and their film adaptations for the library. Sharing great eResources is Emily’s favorite way to foster lifelong learning to all young members of the community.
Tim McCanna is the author and illustrator of the Peach and Plum early graphic novel series. He has also written several picture books including Bitty Bot’s Big Beach Getaway, an ALA Golden Duck Notable Picture Book, In a Garden, a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, and Watersong, a New York Public Library Best Book for Kids and NCTE Notable Poetry Book. Tim served five years as Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI’s San Francisco/South chapter, and he is a picture book specialist for Storyteller Academy. He lives with his family in San Jose, California.
Find him online at www.timmccanna.com, on Twitter at @timmccanna, and on Instagram at tmccanna.
Kathryn Otoshi is a multi-award winning author/illustrator and national/international speaker best known for her character-building book series, Zero, One, and Two. She goes to schools across the country to encourage kids to develop strong character assets, and helps teachers find customized, creative methods to engage students through art, reading and the power of literature. Her latest books, Beautiful Hands and Draw the Line (Roaring Brook) ask key questions about connecting, reaching out and how we build community with each other.
Find her on Instagram and Facebook @kokidsbooks.
Author and Illustrator
LeUyen Pham is the award-winning and critically acclaimed illustrator of more than one hundred books for children. LeUyen (pronounced Lay-Win) is the New York Times bestselling illustrator of the Julianne Moore’s picture book series, Freckleface Strawberry, Kelly DiPucchio’s picture book Grace for President, God’s Dream by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Alvin Ho series by Lenore Look, the Vampirina Ballerina picture book series by Anne Marie Pace (now a Disney Junior series), and The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman. She is also the co-creator, along with Shannon Hale, of the groundbreaking bestselling graphic memoirs Real Friends, Best Friends, and Friends Forever. Her latest self-authored endeavor, Outside, Inside, a chronicle of life in a Covid-bound world, was released in Winter of 2021. These days, LeUyen lives in Los Angeles with her husband Alex (who is also an artist), and their two adorable sons, Adrien and Leo.
Find her @uyenloseordraw (Instagram), How Do You Pronounce LeUyen Pham?!? (Facebook), and www.leuyenpham.com.
School Library Media Specialist
Carla Ryan, born and raised in California, grew up in a colorful house with a vast array of picture books. The colored spots and the creative rhyming of Put Me in the Zoo gave her such joy as a youngster. It is no wonder working in a K-5 school library is her sanctuary. Reading picture books and sharing different methods to fully engage her students into the storybook experience is her goal. By using art, reader’s theater, digital storytelling, and activities each student becomes engaged in the story, author, and illustrator. She has been at her school library for 8 years. Her B.A. in English was received from SJSU back when children were reading Roald Dahl’s Matilda and teens were listening to Bon Jovi belt out “Bad Medicine.”
Michael Ryther is a singer / songwriter and educator who believes “the creative process is at the heart of all learning.” The teaching artist has been integrating the arts and other curricular areas for the past 17 years with LAUSD and SFUSD students.
Michael’s most recent album Kids of the Earth – Songs for the Green
Generation was written for his students to enhance an ecology unit they were exploring. The album has been featured on Pure Pop Radio, Apple Music’s Earth’s Favorite Songs and Songs for Teaching.
To learn more, please visit www.michaelrythermusic.com/blog
Janice Lobo Sapigao
Santa Clara County Poet Laureate
Janice Lobo Sapigao is a daughter of immigrants from the Philippines. She is the author of two books of poetry: microchips for millions (Philippine American Writers and Artists, Inc., 2016) and like a solid to a shadow (Timeless, Infinite Light, 2017 by way of Nightboat Books). She was named one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s Women to Watch in 2017 by KQED Arts. She is a VONA/Voices and Kundiman Poetry Fellow. She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Ethnic Studies with Honors and a minor in Urban Studies & Planning from the University of California, San Diego. She is currently an Assistant Professor of English at Skyline College in San Bruno, CA, the 2020-2021 Santa Clara County Poet Laureate, and a Poet Laureate Fellow with the Academy of American Poets.
Gary D. Schmidt
Gary D. Schmidt has been on the faculty of Calvin University for a bezillion years, where he teaches creative writing, children's literature, and medieval literature. He has received two Newbery Honors (for The Wednesday Wars and Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy) and a Printz Honor (for Lizzie Bright) and is a National Book Award Finalist (for Okay for Now). He lives in rural Michigan doing chores around his two-hundred year old farmhouse, writing and being herded by Border collies.
Shelley Valdez is a Filipino-American writer, artist, editor, and performer from California's Bay Area. She attended Santa Clara University and worked as the poetry editor of the Santa Clara Review for several years. Since graduation, she has worked for small presses, literary agencies, and larger tech companies. Her writing has won multiple prizes and has been published by poets.org, The Best Emerging Poets of California, Quiet Lightning, The New River Press, and elsewhere. Mostly, she wants to tell good stories, give good love, and make good art.