Keynote Speakers 2021

Matt de la Peña


Closing Keynote

Matt de la Peña is the #1 New York Times Bestselling, Newbery Medal-winning author of seven young adult novels (including Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here, and Superman: Dawnbreaker) and five picture books (including Love and Last Stop on Market Street). In 2016 he was awarded the NCTE Intellectual Freedom Award. Matt received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific where he attended school on a full basketball scholarship. In 2019 Matt was awarded an honorary doctorate from UOP.

Hamline Smith.png

Sherri L. Smith

Author and Educator

Opening Keynote

Sherri L. Smith is the author of several award-winning young adult novels, including the 2009 California Book Awards Gold Medalist, Flygirl, and the Southern California Independent Bookseller Award winning novels, Pasadena and The Toymaker's Apprentice.  Her books appear on multiple state lists and have been named Amelia Bloomer and American Library Association Best Books for Young People selections.  Sherri has worked in comics, animation, monster making, and construction.  Currently, she teaches in the MFA Writing program at Goddard College and for Hamline University's Children’s Writing MFA.  She returns to World War II with her latest novel, The Blossom and the Firefly.  Learn more at


River Brown.jpg

River Brown


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

Ho, Joanna Headshot.png

Joanna Ho


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!

Naomi Kinsman

Author/Educational Consultant

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.

Naomi Kinsman

Jaime Koo

Educational Consultant

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.

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. 

Thien Pham

Graphic Novelist

Thien Pham is a Graphic novelist, comic artist, and educator based in Oakland, California. 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, and an on-going comic strip  "I Like Eating"  which appears in the East Bay Express. Currently Pham is working on his newest Graphic novel, Pho Dac Biet, teaching, and eating. A lot.


Follow Thien on Twitter at @CobraTalon, and Instagram at @thiendog

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.

Past Guest Speakers

To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.

press to zoom
press to zoom
press to zoom
press to zoom
press to zoom
press to zoom
press to zoom
press to zoom
press to zoom
press to zoom
press to zoom
press to zoom
press to zoom
press to zoom
press to zoom
press to zoom
press to zoom
press to zoom

Past Presenters

Christina Appleberry

Children's Librarian

Christina Appleberry is a school librarian in Palo Alto. Christina enjoys providing opportunities for creative self-expression through arts and crafts. 

Melissa Datu

Library Clerk

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.

Melissa Datu.jpg
Shih Fa Kao.png

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.

Hannah Kuo

Student Author

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 and on Instagram at @hannahjkuo.

Hannah Kuo.JPG
Ian Lendler

Ian Lendler


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


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


Tim McCanna is the author of Jack B. Ninja, In a Garden,  Barnyard Boogie, So Many Sounds, Boing!  A Very Noisy ABC, Bitty Bot, Bitty Bot's Big Beach Getaway, an ALA/LITA 2019 Golden Duck Notable Picture Book, and Watersong, a 2017 New York Public Library Best Book for Kids and 2017 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. Tim lives in San Jose with his wife and two kids.


Find him online at and on Twitter at @timmccanna.

Kathryn Otoshi


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.

Kathryn Otoshi

Carla Ryan

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.”

Carla Bio Pic.jpg

Michael Ryther


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

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.