Keynote Speakers 2021
Matt de la Peña
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.
Sherri L. Smith
Author and Educator
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 www.sherrilsmith.com
Keynote Speakers 2020
Teacher, Speaker, and Writer
A native of San Francisco, Kevin Carroll moved to the South Bay to attend Santa Clara University and to work at Bellarmine College Preparatory. He has been blogging about gratitude for more than thirteen years. In October 2017, he published A Moment’s Pause for Gratitude (Balboa Press). Through his writing, Mr. Carroll hopes to inspire others to embrace an attitude of gratitude in their own lives and to express their gratitude more consciously and consistently.
Find out more on his website:
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.
Christina Appleberry is a school librarian in Palo Alto. Christina enjoys providing opportunities for creative self-expression through arts and crafts.
Illustrator and Author
Lisa Brown illustrates and writes picture books and comics for kids and adults. Some of her books include: The Airport Book, How to Be, Mummy Cat by Marcus Ewert, and Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket, to whom she is allegedly married. Her latest books include The Phantom Twin: a full length graphic novel for teens, and Long Story Short: a collection of comics. She lives in San Francisco, where she teaches in the illustration department of the California College of the Arts.
Find Lisa on her website: http://www.americanchickens.com, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @lisabrowndraws.
River Brown has taught for over a third of a century. She is presently an intervention coach at Mount Pleasant ES and an associate director for the San Jose Area Writing Project at SJSU. She loves to draw, take pictures and garden. In summers, she directs writing camps for kids.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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