2016 Youth Literature Festival Authors and Illustrators
Sarah Aronson began writing for kids and teens when someone in an exercise class dared her to try. Since then, she has earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and published three novels: Head Case, Beyond Lucky, and Believe. Titles forthcoming include her first nonfiction picture book, Just Like Rube Goldberg (Beach Lane Books, TBD), and a chapter book series, The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever (Scholastic, 2017). When Sarah is not writing or reading, she loves working with other writers in one of her classes at Writers on the Net (www.writers.com) or one of the annual Highlights Foundation whole novel workshops. She is also the cofounder and organizer of the Writing Novels for Young People Retreat at VCFA, now in its thirteenth year. She is beyond thrilled to be named the second mentor for SCBWI Illinois’ Laura Crawford Mentorship. Like tips or talking about the creative process? Sign up for her weekly newsletter, Monday Motivation, on her website.
Kathe combines humor and wit in her performances. Children and adults love her riddles and multicultural folktales. Her performances include the Belleville Festival of Stories, the Spurlock Museum Ghost Stories, the Homer Lake Bird Migration Festival, and the Champaign Park District “Taste of Champaign,” as well as numerous school and library programs. She is a member of the Champaign-Urbana Storytelling Guild, Illinois Storytelling, Inc., and the National Storytelling Network. Her new book with co-author Dan Keding, entitled The Gift of the Unicorn and Other Animal Helper Tales for Storytellers, Educators, and Librarians, will be published by ABC-CLIO in 2016.
Crystal Chan grew up as a mixed-race kid in the middle of the Wisconsin cornfields and has been trying to find her place in the world ever since. Over time, she found that her heart lies in public speaking, performing, and, ultimately, writing. She has given talks and workshops across the country, facilitated discussion groups at national conferences, is a professional storyteller for children and adults alike, and is a regular contributor to Wisconsin Public Radio. In Chicago, where Crystal now lives, you will find her biking along the city streets and talking to her pet turtle.
Bird is Crystal’s first novel and has been published in ten countries around the world. Bird’s audiobook is narrated by Amandla Stenberg, who played Rue in The Hunger Games.
Crystal Chan is sponsored by the Confucius Instititute at the University of Illinois
Born in Canada, Zetta Elliott moved to the US in 1994 to pursue her PhD in American Studies at NYU. Her poetry has been published in several anthologies, and her plays have been staged in New York, Chicago, and Cleveland. Her essays have appeared in The Huffington Post, School Library Journal, and Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures. She is the author of eighteen books for young readers, including the award-winning picture book Bird. Her urban fantasy novel, Ship of Souls, was named a Booklist Top Ten Sci-fi/Fantasy Title for Youth and was a finalist for the Phillis Wheatley Book Award. Her own imprint, Rosetta Press, generates culturally relevant stories that center children who have been marginalized, misrepresented, and/or rendered invisible in traditional children’s literature. Elliott is an advocate for greater diversity and equity in publishing. She currently lives in Brooklyn.
Sharon G. Flake is an award-winning author with numerous books under her belt, including the highly acclaimed novel The Skin I'm In. Flake has won multiple Coretta Scott King Awards, the YWCA's Racial Justice Award, and many, many other notable recognitions from organizations such as the American Library Association and Bank Street College of Education. With millions of her books in print, Flake's work is celebrated and taught in middle and high schools, as well as college classrooms in the US and abroad.
Her novels have been published in multiple languages including French, Portuguese, and Korean. Her background includes contemporary fiction, historical fiction, and picture books.
Sharon Flake is sponsored by Busey Bank.
Xavier Garza was born in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. He is an enthusiastic author, artist, teacher, and storyteller whose work is a lively documentation of life, dreams, superstitions, and heroes in the bigger-than-life world of South Texas. Garza has exhibited his art and performed his stories in venues throughout Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. He is the author of numerous books, including Creepy Creatures and other Cucuys, Juan and the Chupacabras, Lucha Libre, and Maximilian and the Mystery of the Guardian Angel. He has received such prestigious awards as The Tejas Star Book Award, Pura Belpre Honor Book Award, Libros de las Americas Honor Book Award, and the Texas Institute of Letters Jean Flynn Children’s Book Award.
Janice N. Harrington writes poetry and children’s books. She grew up in Alabama and Nebraska, and both those settings, especially rural Alabama, figure largely in her writing. Her first book of poetry, Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone (2007), won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize from BOA Editions and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Her second book of poetry, The Hands of Strangers: Poems from the Nursing Home, came out in 2011. She is also the winner of a 2007 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship for Poetry and a 2009 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award for emerging women writers. Her children’s books, The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County (2007) and Going North (2004), both from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, have won many awards and citations, including a listing among TIME Magazine’s top 10 children’s books of 2007 and the Ezra Jack Keats Award from the New York Public Library in 2005. Harrington’s poetry appears regularly in American literary magazines. She has worked as a public librarian and as a professional storyteller, telling stories at festivals around the country, including the National Storytelling Festival. She now teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Illinois.
Dan Keding grew up with his Croatian grandmother filling him with the stories of the old country. He has pursued this passion for over forty years, telling at some of the most prestigious venues in storytelling, including The National Storytelling Festival in Tennessee, The Festival at the Edge in England, The Cape Clear Storytelling Festival in Ireland, and The Winnipeg International Storytelling Festival in Canada. He has won numerous awards, including the ALA Notable Recording for Children, nine Storytelling World Awards, two Anne Izard Storytelling Choice Awards, and The Circle of Excellence Award from the National Storytelling Network. Dan has been an adjunct at the University of Illinois in the Graduate School of Information and Library Science. He has over a dozen recordings and five published books and travels worldwide telling stories. He lives in Urbana, Illinois with his wife Tandy Lacy and their Australian Shepherd Mac.
Marianne is an artist, a former art teacher, and co-founder of Campus Middle School for Girls in Urbana, Illinois, where she has lived for over 30 years. A native of Chicago, she grew up loving the Art Institute’s Thorne Rooms, which provide the setting for her Middle Grade fiction series. The first installment, The Sixty-Eight Rooms, was named a Chicago Public Library Best of the Best, a Parents Choice Recommended Winner, a Children’s Book of the Month Club Main Selection, and a Junior Library Guild Selection, and was an E.B. White Read Aloud finalist. Book two, Stealing Magic, and book three, The Pirate’s Coin, have now been joined by the final book in the series, The Secret of the Key, all from Random House. She and her husband, Jonathan Fineberg, have three grown children and share an empty nest that looks out on the Illinois Prairie.
Alice B. McGinty is the award-winning author of over 40 books for children. Her most recent picture book, Rabbi Benjamin’s Buttons, was selected as a Sydney Taylor Notable Book. Gandhi: A March to the Sea (Two Lions Press, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez), her 2013 picture book biography, was selected as an honor book for the 2014 South Asia Book Award. Her biography Darwin (2009, Houghton Mifflin, illustrated by Mary Azarian) was named a 2010 Orbis Pictus Honor Book and was included on Booklist's 2009 Top Ten Biographies for Youth. Other publications include Eliza’s Kindergarten Pet (2010, Two Lions Press, illustrated by Nancy Speir), Eliza’s Kindergarten Surprise (2007, Two Lions Press), Thank You, World (2007, Dial Books, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin), and nonfiction books on subjects ranging from nutrition to tarantulas. Alice looks forward to the 2017 release of the picture book, Bathe the Cat (Chronicle Books).
In addition to enjoying her role as co-Regional Adviser of Illinois SCBWI, Alice is a frequent presenter at schools, a manuscript coach, a freelance educational writer, and in the summer, she runs a writing camp for teens. Hobbies include dancing, hiking, reading, and gardening.
Alice McGinty is sponsored by Professor Barak Rosenshine.
Dr. Asma Mobin-Uddin is a pediatrician who decided to write about the Muslim-American experience because she had difficulty finding good books in this area to read to her children. She was born and raised in the United States and is of Pakistani descent. Asma has served in many leadership and volunteer positions in the interfaith and Muslim community advocating for education, understanding, and peace between faith traditions.
Asma received her undergraduate and medical school degrees from The Ohio State University and The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, Ohio. She did her internship and residency training in Pediatrics at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. She completed a fellowship in Clinical Bioethics at The Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (OSUWMC). She currently works part-time both as a clinical ethics consultant at the OSUWMC and as a pediatrician.
Asma’s first children’s book, My Name is Bilal, was published in August of 2005 by Boyds Mills Press and won the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People, Grades 4-6. Bank Street College of Education rated this book one of the Best Children’s Books of the Year in 2006. Her second book, The Best Eid Ever, won the 2008 Skipping Stones Honor Award and the 2008 Middle East Outreach Council Book Award Honorable Mention and was also recognized as one of the Best Children’s Books of the Year by Bank Street College of Education in 2008. Her third book, Party in Ramadan, was published in April 2009, also by Boyds Mills Press, won a 2009 Parents' Choice Award, and was listed in the Cooperative Children's Book Center’s annual best-of-the-year list in 2010.
Asma is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and she lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and three children.
G. Neri is the Coretta Scott King honor-winning author of Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty and the recipient of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award for his free-verse novella, Chess Rumble. His novels include Knockout Games, Surf Mules, and the Horace Mann Upstander Award-winning, Ghetto Cowboy. He also wrote the free-verse picture book bio, Hello, I'm Johnny Cash, winner of the Jefferson Cup and Florida Book Award. His latest is a middle grade novel about the childhood friendship between Harper Lee and Truman Capote, called Tru & Nelle. Prior to becoming a writer, Neri was a filmmaker, an animator/illustrator, a digital media producer, and a founding members of The Truth anti-smoking campaign. Neri currently writes full-time and lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida with his wife and daughter.
Sponsored by Sherman Wells Sylvester & Stamelman LLP.
Nnedi Okorafor’s novels include Who Fears Death (winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel), Akata Witch (an Amazon.com Best Book of the Year), Zahrah the Windseeker (winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature), and The Shadow Speaker (winner of the CBS Parallax Award). Her short story collection Kabu Kabu was released in October and her science fiction novel Lagoon was released in April, 2014. Her young adult novel Akata Witch 2: Breaking Kola was released in 2015. Nnedi is a creative writing professor at the University of Buffalo.
Patricia Hruby Powell danced throughout the Americas and Europe with her dance company, One Plus One, before becoming a writer of children’s books. She has marveled at the spirit, courage, and beauty of Josephine Baker for a long time. While visiting schools as a storyteller/author and working as a librarian, she realized what a great role model Josephine Baker could be to young people. Her picture book Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker has garnered various Honors, including the Sibert, Coretta Scott King for illustration, Boston Globe Horn Book for Nonfiction, Bologna Ragazzi, and Parent’s Choice Gold for Poetry. Her other picture books are Blossom Tales, Zinnia, and Frog Brings Rain. Her documentary novel Loving vs. Virginia (Chronicle 2017) for young adults and middle grade nonfiction Struttin’ With Some Barbecue (Charlesbridge 2017) are forthcoming.
Christian Robinson likes to tell stories with pictures, making a living as an illustrator and animator in San Francisco. He has worked with Pixar Animation Studios and The Sesame Street Workshop and has illustrated a number of award-winning books. Leo: A Ghost Story, illustrated by Robinson and written by Mac Barnett (Chronicle, 2015), was named a 2015 New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book of the Year. His Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, written by Patricia Hruby Powell (Chronicle, 2014), received numerous awards including a Sibert Informational Book Award Honor, Coretta Scott King Award Illustration Honor and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Honor. His newest book, Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña (Putnam, 2015), has received starred reviews in Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and Horn Book.
Christian Robinson is sponsored by Professor Katherine Ryan.
Deborah Ruddell is the award-winning author of four books for children: Today at the Bluebird Cafe (Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best), A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk (International Reading Association Teachers’ Choice, ALA Notable Book, NCTE Notable Book, Bank Street Best Books, Junior Library Guild Selection), Who Said Coo? (Texas Library Association 2X2 Reading List, Indie Next Selection), and The Popcorn Astronauts. Before writing children’s books, Deborah was an art teacher and a graphic designer. She lives in Peoria, IL.
Ted Sanders is the author of The Keepers, a middle grade fantasy series from HarperCollins Children’s Books. The second novel in the series, The Harp and the Ravenvine, debuts in March 2016. His first book was the short story collection No Animals We Could Name (Graywolf 2012), winner of the 2011 Bakeless Prize for Fiction. His stories and essays have appeared in many publications, including The Southern Review, Georgia Review, Gettysburg Review, and the O. Henry Prize Stories anthology. A recipient of a 2012 National Endowment for the Arts literature fellowship, he lives with his family in Urbana, Illinois, and teaches at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
David Schwartz has been chasing numbers since early childhood when he looked up at the stars and asked, “How many? How big? How far? How long would it take me to get there on my bicycle?” He has turned his childhood curiosity into more than 50 acclaimed children’s math and science books which are used from pre-school through middle school to support the math and science curriculum.
David’s first book, How Much is a Million?, a classic of children’s mathematical literature, was followed by If You Made a Million (about the mathematics of money) and Millions to Measure (about measurement). Two alphabet books, G is for Googol and Q Is for Quark, are loved by older readers for their breadth and humor, while If You Hopped Like a Frog and If Dogs Were Dinosaurs teach the concepts of ratio and proportion. David’s book on animal camouflage, Where In the Wild?, won the SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Literature.
A popular speaker for both children and educators, David inspires and informs audiences all over the world with the same kind of humor found in his books, employing his trademark ability to explain complex concepts in an entertaining way.
Tim Tingle is an Oklahoma Choctaw and an award-winning author and storyteller. His great-great grandfather, John Carnes, walked the Trail of Tears in 1835, and his paternal grandmother attended a series of rigorous Indian boarding schools in the early 1900’s. In 1993, Tingle retraced the Trail of Tears to Choctaw homelands in Mississippi and began recording stories of tribal elders. His family experiences and these interviews with fellow Choctaws are the basis of his most important writings.
Tingle received his Masters Degree in English Literature at the University of Oklahoma in 2003, with a focus on American Indian studies. While teaching freshmen writing courses Tingle wrote his first book, Walking the Choctaw Road. His first children’s book, Crossing Bok Chitto, garnered over twenty state and national awards, including Best Children’s Book from the American Indian Library Association, and was an Editor’s Choice in the New York Times Book Review. In 2010, two books were released: Saltypie, a children’s illustrated story of his childhood, and More Spooky Texas Tales, co-authored with Doc Moore. For 3rd-5th graders, this book is a follow-up to Spooky Texas Tales. Saltypie was selected as a 2011 American Library Association Notable Book.
Tingle was a featured author and speaker at the 2014 National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., based on the critical acclaim for How I Became a Ghost, which won the 2014 American Indian Library Association Youth Literature Award. The second book in the series, When A Ghost Talks, Listen, is expected to be released in the Spring of 2016.
As a visiting author and performer, Tingle reaches audiences numbering over 200,000 annually. He has completed eleven speaking tours for the U.S. Department of Defense, performing stories to children of military personnel stationed in Germany.
Duncan Tonatiuh is the author and illustrator of five picture books: Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin, Diego Rivera: His World and Ours, Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant's Tale, Separate Is Never Equal, and Funny Bones. He has received multiple awards and honorable mentions for his books, among them the Pura Belpré medal, a 2015 Sibert Medal, the Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award, the Américas Award, and the Jane Addams Children's Book Award.
Duncan grew up in San Miguel de Allende, a small city in central Mexico. He attended high school in the US and he graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York City. His work is inspired by the ancient art of Mexico, particularly that of the Mixtec codex. His aim is to create images and stories that honor the past, but that are relevant to children nowadays.
Sally M. Walker is the author of more than 50 award-winning nonfiction books for children, including Secrets of a Civil War Submarine, which won the Robert F. Sibert Medal in 2006, and Written in Bone, a finalist for the 2010 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award. Blizzard of Glass was a 2012 ALA Notable Book and is on the 2014 Rebecca Caudill Master List. Sally was the recipient of the 2008 Prairie State Award. Her newest book is WINNIE, a picture book that tells the true story of the Canadian bear who inspired A.A. Milne to write Winnie-the-Pooh.
Sally Walker is sponsored by Bound to Stay Bound Books.
Acclaimed picture book author and naturalist Jennifer Ward published her first picture book, Way Out in the Desert, in 1998. Since then, she has published over twenty books for children and parents - stories that tickle the funny bone, rollick with rhythm and rhyme, and beg to be read again and again. Her books often serve as a springboard for inquiry to the natural world and include such favorites as Mama Built a Little Nest, illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Steve Jenkins, and There Was an Old Mummy Who Swallowed a Spider, illustrated by Steve Gray. Her books have been translated into many languages and have been featured on national television, NPR, and in many publications, including Martha Stewart Living and Parenting Magazine.
Jennifer grew up in Southern Illinois, spent her adult life in Southern Arizona, and now resides once again in Southern IL where she writes full-time from her home on several acres of old growth oak forest.
Forthcoming books by Jennifer include Feathers and Hair, What Animals Wear, illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong, (Simon & Schuster), What Will Grow? Seeds!, illustrated by Susie Ghahremani, (Bloomsbury), What Will Hatch? Eggs! – board book, illustrated by Susie Ghahremani,(Bloomsbury), How to Find a Bird (Simon & Schuster), and Wild About Birds! 52 Art, Science & Journaling Activities for Families Who Love Feathered Friends.
Eugene Yelchin is a Russian-born author and illustrator of children’s books. Breaking Stalin’s Nose, a middle grade novel he had written and illustrated, received a Newbery Honor and was translated into many languages. His latest novel Arcady’s Goal is the New York Times Notable Book for Children. In 2011, the picture book he illustrated, Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told In Haiku, received over forty awards. In 2010, the picture book Rooster Prince of Breslov he illustrated received the National Jewish Book Award. In 2006, he received a Tomie de Paola award. His other picture books received starred reviews and were included on many Best Books of the Year lists.
Eugene Yelchin is sponsored by the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.