Featured Authors, Illustrators & Conference Leaders

The Plum Creek Children's Literacy Festival is proud to host authors, illustrators and literacy experts from around the nation.

Photo of Joan Bauer

Joan Bauer - Author

Joan Bauer has won numerous awards for her thirteen novels for young readers, among them, the Newbery Honor Medal, the American Library Association’s Schneider Family Book Award, two Christopher Awards, the LA Times Book Prize, the Chicago Tribune Young adult Literary Prize, the Golden Kite Award of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and most recently, the St. Katherine Drexel Award of the Catholic Library Association. A NY Times Best-selling author, speaker, and songwriter, she has been a guest on local and national radio shows. During her radio tour, Is Winning all that Matters?, that highlighted her newest novel, Soar, Joan was heard on over 1,250 radio stations, including ESPN, SiriusXM, CBS Radio, and FOX News Radio, in addition to top stations in San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, San Diego, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, and more. She has been sent to both Croatia and Kazakhstan by the State Department as part of its Professional Speakers Program to speak at schools, universities, libraries, and writers’ groups. Joan is a member of the Writers Guild of America East, the Authors Guild, PEN, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is currently working on a musical adaptation of her first novel, Squashed. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband Evan and their intrepid wheaten terrier Max. She enjoys cooking, playing the piano, hiking, songwriting, and ice skating (as long as she has enough time for a slow stop).

Photo of Lauren Castillo

Lauren Castillo - Author and Illustrator

Lauren Castillo studied illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art and received the Master of Fine Arts degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She has written and illustrated more than 14 books for children, including the critically acclaimed “Melvin and the Boy,” “The Reader” by Amy Hest, “Happy Like Soccer” by Maribeth Boelts, “Buffalo Music” by Tracey Fern and “What Happens on Wednesdays” by Emily Jenkins. Castillo’s most recent book, “Nana in the City,” was awarded a 2015 Caldecott Honor. She currently lives in Los Angeles, California.

 Photo of Henry Cole

Henry Cole - Author and Illustrator

Henry Cole grew up on a dairy farm outside Purcellville, Virginia. Always interested in art and science, he studied forestry at Virginia Tech. He is a self-taught artist, although his mother was a professional illustrator and gave him many pointers along the way. His education required him to study nature closely, and his observation of such details helped him with his drawing. In addition to illustrating, Cole has written several children’s books including, “Jack’s Garden,” “On Meadowview Street,” “A Nest for Celeste,” and “On the Way to the Beach.” His book, “Brambleheart” was inspired by the heap of discarded treasures in the woods behind his childhood farm.

Photo of Matthew Cordell

Matthew Cordell - Author and Illustrator

Matthew Cordell has illustrated many books for children including works of poetry, novels, and picture books. He has written and illustrated several picture books himself including Another Brother, Hello! Hello!,Wolf in the Snow, and Wish. His books have been named Best of the Year selections by the New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. In 2015, Special Delivery—a picture book Matthew illustrated, written by Philip Stead—was awarded the prestigious Chen Bochui International Children’s Literature Award at the Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair. Matthew lives in suburban Chicago with his wife, author, Julie Halpern, and their two children. Visit him online at

Photo of Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Rebecca Kai Dotlich - Author

Rebecca Kai Dotlich grew up in the Midwest exploring trails by the creek, reading comic books, making paper dolls and building snow forts. Dotlich attended Indiana University where she studied creative writing, art history and anthropology while she worked in the student library typing index cards for the card catalog. After college she held many jobs; working in a department store, for a real estate firm, a state representative, and in public relations. After her children were born she decided that writing for children would be her life’s work, although that took many years to achieve. Dotlich is an award-winning children’s poet and picture book author of titles such as “What Can a Crane Pick Up?” “What is Science?” “Bella and Bean,” and “Grumbles from the Forest.” She lives in the Midwest with her husband and her four young grandchildren live nearby.

Photo of Sharon Draper

Sharon Draper - Author

Sharon M. Draper is a professional educator as well as an accomplished writer. She has been honored as the National Teacher of the Year, is a five-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Literary Awards, and is a New York Times best-selling author, with “Out of my Mind” staying on the list for almost two years. She was selected as Ohio’s Outstanding High School Language Arts Educator, Ohio Teacher of the Year, and was chosen as a NCNW Excellence in Teaching Award winner. She is a Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award winner, and was the Duncanson Artist-in-Residence for the Taft Museum. She is a YWCA Career Woman of Achievement, and is the recipient of the Dean’s Award from Howard University School of Education, the Pepperdine University Distinguished Alumnus Award, the Marva Collins Education Excellence Award, and the Governor’s Educational Leadership Award. She has been honored at the White House six times, and was chosen as one of only four authors in the country to speak at the National Book Festival Gala in Washington, D.C, and to represent the United States in Moscow at their Book Festival. Her book “Copper Sun” has been selected by the U.S. State Department and the International Reading Association as the United States novel for the international reading project called Reading Across Continents.
Note: Sharon Draper will be speaking to area high schools on Friday and at the adult conference only.

Photo of Tad Hills

Tad Hills - Author and Illustrator

Tad Hills grew up in Norwell, Massachusetts, with a love of wildlife and nature. Surrounding his childhood home were many acres of fields and forests where he and his brother and sister would explore, build forts out of sticks and hay, and pick blueberries and grapes. His mother taught fourth grade science for the Audubon society and often brought home animals. Raccoons, snakes, owls, and turtles were common guests in their house. Hills is a New York Times best-selling and award-winning children’s book author and illustrator. His “Duck and Goose” series contains nine titles and “Rocket” series includes “Rocket Writes a Story,” debuted at #1 on the New York Times Best-seller list.

Photo of Jennifer

Jennifer Holm - Author

Jennifer Holm is a New York Times Best-selling children’s author and the recipient of three Newbery Honors for her novels “Our Only May Amelia,” “Penny from Heaven,” and “Turtle in Paradise.” Jenni collaborates with her brother, Matthew Holm, on two graphic novel series, the Eisner Award-winning “Babymouse” series and the best-selling “Squish” series. Her new novel is “The Fourteenth Goldfish.” She lives in California with her husband and two children.

Photo of Matthew Holm

Matthew Holm - Author and Illustrator

Matthew Holm was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and has been drawing comics since he was in middle school. Growing up reading four older siblings’ comic books and comic strip collections (including Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, and Bloom County), Matthew hoped he might one day draw a daily newspaper comic strip. Today, he continues to collaborate with his sister, Jenni Holm, on several graphic novel series each year, the Eisner Award-winning “Babymouse” series and the best-selling “Squish” series. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and dog.

Photo of Patricia MacLachlan

Patricia MacLachlan - Author

Patricia MacLachlan is the celebrated author of many timeless books for young readers, including “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” winner of the Newbery Medal. Her novels for young readers include “Arthur, For the Very First Time,” “The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt”, “Skylark,” “Caleb’s Story,” “More Perfect than the Moon,” “Grandfather’s Dance,” “Word After Word After Word,” “Kindred Souls,” and “The Truth of Me.” Maclachlan is also the author of countless picture books, a number of which she co-wrote with her daughter, Emily.
Note: Patricia MacLachlan is speaking at the adult conference only and is delivering the luncheon keynote.

Photo of Brandon Mull

Brandon Mull - Author

Brandon Mull is the author of the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling “Beyonders,” “Fablehaven,” and “Five Kingdoms” series and “The Candy Shop War.” Mull spent two years living in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile where he learned Spanish and juggling. He currently resides in Utah in a happy little valley near the mouth of a canyon with his wife and four children.

Photo of Kadir Nelson

Kadir Nelson – Author and Illustrator

Kadir Nelson is an American artist who currently exhibits his artwork in galleries and museums nationwide and abroad. His paintings are in the private and public permanent collections of several notable institutions including the Muskegon Museum of Art, The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the International Olympic Committee, and the U.S. House of Representatives. Nelson has created artwork for a host of distinguished clients including Sports Illustrated, The Coca-Cola Company, The United States Postal Service, Major League Baseball, and Dreamworks SKG as the lead conceptual artist creating for Steven Spielberg's Oscar nominated feature film, “Amistad.” In December of 2014, Nelson’s painting of the late Nelson Mandela was featured on the cover of the New Yorker magazine. Within months, Nelson was asked by the magazine to create an updated painting of the magazine’s dandy, Eustace Tilley which was featured on the magazine’s 90th anniversary cover in February 2015. He created artwork for Michael Jackson’s posthumously released album, “Michael,” and recording artist Drake’s, “Nothing Was the Same.” Nelson has authored and illustrated several award-winning New York Times Best-Selling picture books.
Note: Kadir Nelson will be speaking at the adult conference only.

Photo of Christian Robinson

Christian Robinson - Illustrator and Animator

Christian Robinson is a 2016 Caldecott Honoree and also received a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor for his art in “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña. The book also won the 2016 Newbery Medal, awarded by the Association for Library Service to Children for the “most distinguished book for children.” “Leo: A Ghost Story” written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Robinson, was named a New York Times Best-Illustrated Children’s Book of the Year. Robinson is also an animator and has worked with The Sesame Street Workshop and Pixar Animation Studios. He is based in San Francisco.

Photo ofLaura Vaccaro Seeger

Laura Vaccaro Seeger – Author and Illustrator

Laura Vaccaro Seeger is a New York Times best-selling author and illustrator and a two-time winner of the Caldecott Honor Award, winner of the New York Times Best Illustrated Book Award, the Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Best Picture Book, and a two-time winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award. Laura lives in Rockville Centre, New York, with her husband, Chris, their two sons, Drew and Dylan, and their dog, Copper, the star of her “Dog and Bear” series.

Photo of Phil Stead

Phil Stead - Author and Illustrator

Philip C. Stead is the author of the Caldecott Medal winning book “A Sick Day for Amos McGee.” He was awarded the New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2010 and a Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of 2010, illustrated by his wife, Erin E. Stead. Together with Erin, Stead created “Bear Has a Story to Tell” an E.B. White Read-Aloud Award honor book. Philip is also an artist and has written and illustrated several of his own books including, “Hello, My Name is Ruby,” “Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat,” “A Home for Bird,” and his debut book, “Creamed Tuna Fish and Peas on Toast,” which was applauded by School Library Journal for “its wry humor and illustrations worthy of a Roald Dahl creation.” Philip and Erin live with their dog, Wednesday, in a 100 year-old barn in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Photo of Melissa Sweet

Melissa Sweet - Author and Illustrator

Melissa Sweet has illustrated nearly 100 children’s books from board books to picture books and nonfiction titles. Her collages and paintings have appeared in the New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Madison Park Greetings, Smilebox and for eeBoo Toys, which have garnered the Oppenheim and Parents Choice Awards. She has written and illustrated three books: “Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade” which garnered many awards including the 2012 Sibert Medal, the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award, an ALA Notable Book, the Flora Stieglitz Straus Award from Bank Street Books as well as the Cook Prize which honors a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) picture book; “Tupelo Rides the Rails,” and “Carmine: A Little More Red,” winning a New York Times Best-Illustrated award.

Photo of Dr. Mary Howard

Dr. Mary Howard - Literacy Expert

Dr. Mary Howard is known throughout North America as a leading expert in literacy, presenting seminars as an independent consultant and for the Bureau of Education and Research in all fifty states and across Canada. Mary has worked with countless educators to create a research-based literacy program grounded in the current brain research.

An educator for more than thirty years, she combines years of classroom experience as an elementary special educator, grade K-12 reading tutor, reading specialist and Reading Recovery teacher with a multitude of experiences as a reading consultant, university reading instructor, professional storyteller, author and nationwide lecturer. Her blend of research and practical application has led many to describe her as a teachers’ teacher, demonstrating a clear understanding of the realities of the classroom by translating research into practice.

Photo of Tari Lesesne

Teri Lesesne - Literacy Expert

Known for her unparalleled knowledge of young adult literature, Lesesne is respected by teachers across the country both for the passion she brings to connecting tweens and teens with excellent age and reading-level-appropriate literature and for her professional books “Making the Match” and “Naked Reading.” She takes her passion directly to teachers with in-person workshops and at her website, professornana.livejournal.com. In recognition of her significant contributions to the field, Teri received the 2007 ALAN Award. A former middle school teacher, she is professor in the Department of Library Science at Sam Houston State University, where she teaches classes in literature for children and young adults.

Photo of Donalyn Miller

Donalyn Miller - Literacy Expert

Donalyn Miller has taught fourth, fifth and six grade language arts and social studies in the Fort Worth, Texas area and was a finalist for 2010 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year. In her popular book, “The Book Whisperer,” Donalyn reflects on her journey to become a reading teacher and describes how she inspires and motivates her middle school students to read 40 or more books a year. In her latest book, “Reading in the Wild,” Donalyn collects responses from 900 adult readers and uses this information to teach lifelong reading habits to her students. Donalyn is the founder of the annual #bookaday event and co-hosts the monthly Twitter chat, #titletalk. Her articles about teaching and reading have appeared in publications such as “Education Week Teacher,” “The Reading Teacher,” “Educational Leadership” and The Washington Post.

Saturday Sectional Leaders

Photo of Emily Arrow

Emily Arrow

Photo of Gwelda Carlson

Gwelda Carlson

Photo of Dr. Laurie Friedrich

Dr. Laurie Friedrich

Photo of Sarah Heideman

Sarah Heideman

Photo of Dan Holtz

Dan Holtz

Photo of Dr. Mary Howard

Dr. Mary Howard

Photo of Dr. Shannon Leinen

Shannon Leinen

Photo of Teri Lesesne

Teri Lesesne

Photo of Donalyn Miller

Donalyn Miller

Photo of Michael Shaw

MIchael Shaw

Photo of Gwelda Carlson

Dr. Kathleen Wheeler

Photo of Donelle Wolters

Donelle Wolters

Children's Day

Friday, September 29

Bring your K-8 classroom to Concordia's Campus to learn from the world-renowned authors and illustrators and experience interactive exhibits!

Registration for this event is now on-site only.

Adult Conference

Saturday, September 30

A specialized conference designed for educators and literary enthusiasts. Lunch is available and qualifies for graduate credit and CEUs.

Registration for this event is now on-site only.

Downloadable forms

Saturday Conference
Concordia Student/St. John Faculty Registration
Visiting University Professor/Visiting Undergraduate Registration