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.
Sarah Albee writes nonfiction books for kids in grades K-9. Recent and forthcoming titles include Dog Days of History, POISON: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines, George Washington: First President, Alexander Hamilton: A Plan for America, Why'd They Wear That? Bugged: How Insects Changed History, and Poop Happened: A History of the World from the Bottom Up. She spent nine years as an editor at Children's Television Workshop, working primarily for Sesame Street. Sarah has also been a newspaper cartoonist, fashion model, and semi-professional basketball player. These days she lives in Connecticut with her husband, who is a high-school history teacher and administrator, and their three children. Visit www.sarahalbeebooks.com to learn more.
Ben Clanton is the author and illustrator of the award-winning Narwhal and Jelly early graphic novel series. Some of his other books include It Came in the Mail, Rot: The Cutest in the World!, and Mo's Mustache. Ben is also an editor-at-large for the Little Bigfoot imprint of Sasquatch Books. Ben lives in Seattle, WA with his wife, children, and puppy. Visit www.benclanton.com to learn more.
Kate DiCamillo’s writing journey has been a truly remarkable one. She grew up in Florida and moved to Minnesota in her twenties, when homesickness and a bitter winter led her to write Because of Winn-Dixie — her first published novel, which became a runaway bestseller and snapped up a Newbery Honor. The Tiger Rising, her second novel, was also set in Florida and went on to become a National Book Award finalist. Since then, the best-selling author has explored settings as varied as a medieval castle and a magician’s theater while continuing to enjoy great success, winning two Newbery Medals and being named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. She now has almost 30 million books in print worldwide. Now, for the first time ever, Kate DiCamillo is returning to the world of a previous novel to tell us more about a character whom her fans already know and love. In Louisiana’s Way Home, set two years after the events of National Book Award finalist Raymie Nightingale, she picks up the story of Raymie’s friend Louisiana Elefante, who uncovers difficult truths about her past — and makes choices that will determine her future.
Kate DiCamillo’s books’ themes of hope and belief amid impossible circumstances and their messages of shared humanity and connectedness have resonated with readers of all ages around the world. In her instant #1 New York Times bestseller The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, a haughty china rabbit undergoes a profound transformation after finding himself facedown on the ocean floor — lost and waiting to be found. The Tale of Despereaux — the Newbery Medal–winning novel that later inspired an animated adventure from Universal Pictures — stars a tiny mouse with exceptionally large ears who is driven by love to become an unlikely hero. The Magician’s Elephant, an acclaimed and exquisitely paced fable, dares to ask the question What if? And Kate DiCamillo’s second Newbery Medal winner, Flora & Ulysses, was released in 2013 to great acclaim, garnering five starred reviews and an instant spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Born in Philadelphia but raised in the South, Kate DiCamillo now lives in Minneapolis, where she faithfully writes two pages a day, five days a week. Visit Kate on the web at www.katedicamillo.com.
Note: Kate will be delivering the luncheon keynote ONLY. She will autograph books on Saturday of the festival.
Rita Williams Garcia
Rita Williams-Garcia is the celebrated author of ten novels for young adults and middle grade readers. Her most recent novel, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground won the 2018 NAACP Image Award for Literature for Young People and was a 2017 National Book Award Finalist. She is most known for her Coretta Scott King Author Award winning Gaither Sisters trilogy that begins with One Crazy Summer. Visit Rita on the web at rita-williamsgarcia.squarespace.com.
Lita Judge is the author/illustrator of twenty-five fiction and nonfiction books, including Mary’s Monster, a YA novel about Mary Shelley and the creation of Frankenstein. Her picture books include Flight School, Born in the Wild, Red Sled, Hoot and Peep, and One Thousand Tracings. Lita worked as a geologist and paleontologist before turning to a life of creating art. A childhood spent with eagles, owls, and other animals also inspires her work. When not painting or writing, Lita loves riding her electric bike to far off places, or backpacking through Europe with sketchbook in hand. She lives in Peterborough, NH. Visit Lita on the web at www.litajudge.net.
Alan Katz is the author of many highly acclaimed children’s books, including Take Me Out of the Bathtub and Other Silly Dilly Songs, Don’t Say That Word! OOPS!, Poems I Wrote When No One Was Looking, The Day the Mustache Took Over, and The Day the Mustache Came Back.
The first two books in his upcoming series, Awesome Achievers in Technology and Awesome Achievers in Science, will be available from Running Press in August 2019. Each book features 12 non-fiction profiles of unsung men and women responsible for items we use every day (Velcro, seat belts, etc.), followed by humorous pages about how their inventions/discoveries impact his life and the lives of his family members.
Alan is also a six-time Emmy-nominated writer for TV series including The Rosie O’Donnell Show, animated series Pinkalicious, Taz-Mania, Disney’s Raw Toonage and Goof Troop, the Grammy Awards and Tony Awards, and a ton of network specials and game shows. He was an XM Kids radio host, and he has also created comic books, trading card sets, web videos, TV commercials and hundreds of other special projects for kids and parents.
Alan and his journalist wife Rose are the proud parents of four incredible kids: Simone, Andrew, Nathan and David. The family lives in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Visit Alan on the web at www.alankatzbooks.com.
Kate Messner is passionately curious and writes books for kids who wonder, too. Her titles include award-winning picture books like Over and Under the Snow, Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, The Brilliant Deep, and How to Read a Story; novels like Breakout, All the Answers, The Seventh Wish, and Capture the Flag; the Fergus and Zeke easy reader series with Candlewick, and Scholastic’s popular Ranger in Time chapter book series about a time-traveling search and rescue dog. Kate lives on Lake Champlain with her family and is trying to summit all 46 Adirondack High Peaks in between book deadlines. Follow her on Twitter @KateMessner and check out her website, www.katemessner.com.
Florence and her husband Wendell Minor have worked together since moving to Connecticut from New York, where she left her film editing career behind. Although handling the business end of their studio was, and still is, a full time job, Florence’s childhood interest in writing re-surfaced, and with Wendell’s encouragement, she eventually found time to collaborate with him on their first picture book, Christmas Tree! That book was followed by If You Were a Penguin, which was chosen by Pennsylvania for their “One Book” Literacy Program and If You Were a Panda Bear, a Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the Year. She and Wendell have been honored with the New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA) President’s Award for lifetime achievement in arts and letters, and were Honorees of the Boston Public Library’s 27th annual Literary Light, which recognizes outstanding writers from the Northeast for their inspiring work.
A lifelong reader, Florence feels strongly about the importance of creating books that not only entertain, but teach and inspire children. Coming from a family of animal lovers, Florence has always been drawn to books about animals of all species, but also found stories about all kinds of people very inspiring. She knows how one book can change the way a child sees the world, or can literally change a life. In her case, the book HEIDI inspired this formerly shy child to travel to Switzerland and throughout Europe as a young adult, opening her eyes to a new world of experiences.
In Florence’s most recent book with Wendell, How To Be a Bigger Bunny, a Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the Year, children see that reading is fun, and shows them that “when you never give up, you can do amazing things.”
Florence and Wendell believe that the enjoyment of reading is key to the future of every child. It is their hope that through the books they create, children will become lifelong readers and delight in the places books can take them. Making that their life’s work is very gratifying. You can visit Florence at www.minorart.com and on Facebook and Instagram.
Wendell Minor knew that he wanted to be an artist from the time he was in fourth grade. He wasn’t sure how he would do it, but he was determined. And that determination paid off. He has illustrated, written and collaborated with many authors, including the renowned Jean Craighead George, moon-walker Buzz Aldrin, Robert Burleigh, and his wife Florence Minor, among others, on over 60 children’s books, and loves every minute of it.
Wendell’s most recent books include WILD ORCA: The Oldest Wisest Whale in the World; NIGHT TRAIN, NIGHT TRAIN; and THE MAGIC OF LETTERS. His newest book, which will be published on October 1st is HI, I’M NORMAN – a picture book biography of one of Wendell’s inspirations – Norman Rockwell. Sharing his love of nature, history and art with new generations of children is what energizes Wendell and brings him great pleasure on a daily basis.
His books have garnered numerous awards including the Cook Prize, Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the Year, Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young Children, Kirkus Best Books of the Year, NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library selection, Pennsylvania One Book Every Young Child selection, Boston Globe Best Books of the Year, ALA Notable Book, John Burroughs List of Nature Books for Young Readers, Smithsonian’s Notable Books for Children. Wendell’s books are frequently used in classrooms and have been featured on the PBS-TV program “The Reading Rainbow.”
Wendell was named Artist Laureate of the Norman Rockwell Museum in 2018. He and Florence have been honored with the New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA) President’s Award for lifetime achievement in arts and letters, and were Honorees of the Boston Public Library’s 27th annual Literary Light, which recognizes outstanding writers from the Northeast for their inspiring work.
“Wendell Minor’s America” featuring 25 years of his children’s book art was exhibited at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 2013 and has been traveling around the country since then. Visit Wendell at www.minorart.com and on Facebook.
Barbara O’Connor was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. “I have fond and vivid memories of lazy childhood summers, eating the boiled peanuts my grandmother made from the peanuts in her garden, picnicking in the Smoky Mountains, and catching crawfish and minnows in the creeks near my house.”
After graduating from the University of South Carolina, Barbara headed west to Southern California. After taking a class in writing for children at UCLA, she was hooked. A few years and more than a few rejections later, she sold her first children’s book and has been writing ever since.
Barbara left sunny California for snowy New England, where she spent 26 years before returning to the South. She currently lives with her husband and two dogs in Asheville, North Carolina, surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. She spends her days drawing on her childhood memories to create her stories, settings and characters.
“Sometimes my characters eat boiled peanuts,” Barbara says. “Sometimes they go to the Smoky Mountains. Maybe they see kudzu vines covering up barns or listen to church music on the radio inside their trailers. They might catch crawfish in an icy cold stream or eat pickled okra from a jar. My stories have pieces of me in them—all mixed in with the made-up parts. That’s what writers do—mix in the real stuff with the made-up stuff.”
Barbara’s award-winning novels for children, include Wish, How to Steal a Dog, The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, and The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester. In addition to seven Parents Choice Awards, Barbara’s distinctions include School Library Journal Best Books, Kirkus Best Books, Bank Street College Best Books, and ALA Notables. She has had books nominated for children’s choice awards in 38 states. Barbara is a popular visiting author at schools and a frequent speaker at conferences around the country. Visit Barbara on the web at www.barbaraoconnor.com.
Lin Oliver is a prolific children’s book author and children’s television producer . With Henry Winkler, she writes the New York Times best-selling book series, Hank Zipzer: World’s Best Underachiever, which has sold over 4 million copies. Their twelve volume chapter book series, Here’s Hank, is also a New York Times best-seller. Her two collections of poetry, both illustrated by Tomie de Paola, are the highly praised Little Poems for Tiny Ears, and its companion Steppin’Out: Jaunty Rhymes for Playful Times. Her chapter book series, The Fantastic Frame, five illustrated adventures set in the world’s great paintings, is now complete in hardback and the paperbacks will debut this year. A brand new series, Alien Superstar: A Buddy Burger Novel, also written with Henry Winkler, will debut in Fall of 2019. Lin is the co-founder and Executive Director of SCBWI, a world-wide organization of over 25,000 writers and illustrators of children’s books. She is a recipient of the prestigious Christopher Award and the Eric Carle Mentor Award. Learn more at www.linoliver.com or follow Lin on Twitter @linoliver or on Instagram @linoliver22.
Jason Reynolds is a New York Times bestselling author, a Newbery Award Honoree, a Printz Award Honoree, National Book Award Honoree, a Kirkus Award winner, a two time Walter Dean Myers Award winner, an NAACP Image Award Winner, and the recipient of multiple Coretta Scott King honors. Reynolds was named the American Booksellers Association’s 2017 and 2018 spokesperson for Indies First, and served as the national spokesperson for the 2018 celebration of School Library Month in April 2018, sponsored by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). Jason’s many works of fiction include When I Was the Greatest, Boy in the Black Suit, All American Boys (cowritten with Brendan Kiely), As Brave As You, For Every One, Miles Morales: Spider Man, the Track series (Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu), and Long Way Down, which received both a Newbery Honor and a Printz Honor. He is on faculty at Lesley University, for the Writing for Young People MFA Program and lives in Washington, DC. You can find his ramblings at JasonWritesBooks.com.
NOTE: Jason will be speaking at area high schools on Friday and at the adult conference only.
Lori Richmond is a corporate creative director turned picture book maker. She is the author-illustrator of Pax and Blue (Simon & Schuster), which was called a "sprightly debut" by The New York Times and selected for exhibition in the Society of Illustrators 'Original Art' show. She is also the author-illustrator of Bunny's Staycation (Mama's Business Trip), and the illustrator of several other picture books.
Before her career in children's publishing, Lori was a sought-after expert on all things baby and parenting as a contributing editor to leading pregnancy and parenting brand, The Bump. She has appeared on Today, Good Morning America, CNN, and more.
Lori lives and creates in Brooklyn, NY with her design-y husband and two sons, both of whom are named after typefaces. Visit Lori on the web at www.loridraws.com.
Stephen Savage is an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator whose accolades include a New York Times Best Illustrated Book (Polar Bear Night), a Geisel Honor (Supertruck), and a Sendak Fellowship. His picture book Polar Bear Night was a New York Times bestseller. In addition to children's books, he illustrates for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, and Entertainment Weekly. He teaches at the School of Visual Arts and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit Stephen on the web at www.stephensavage.net.
Matt Tavares created his first picture book as his senior thesis project at Bates College. It eventually became Zachary’s Ball (Candlewick, 2000), which received a Massachusetts Book Award Honor, and was named one of Yankee Magazine’s 40 Classic New England Children’s Books. Since then, he has illustrated nineteen more books, nine of which he also wrote. Three titles received Parents’ Choice Gold Awards, two were named ALA Notable Books, and one was an Orbis Pictus Honor Book. His artwork has been exhibited at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, the Brandywine River Museum, and the Mazza Museum.
When Matt's not working in his studio on his latest book project, he travels the country speaking and drawing at schools, libraries, conferences, and bookstores. He has presented at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Eric Carle Museum, the White House Easter Egg Roll, and he's even done a few book signings at Fenway Park.
Matt lives in Maine with his wife, Sarah, and their two daughters. His website is matttavares.com.
Duncan Tonatiuh (toh-nah-tee-YOU) is an award-winning author and illustrator. He is both Mexican and American. He grew up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York City. His artwork is inspired by Pre-Columbian art, particularly that of the Mixtec codex. His aim is to create images and stories that honor the past, but that are relevant to people, especially children, nowadays. Visit Duncan on the web at www.duncantonatiuh.com.
Jacqueline Woodson received the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and the 2018 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, and on January 9, 2018, she was appointed the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, a position which she will hold through 2019. She is the 2014 National Book Award Winner for her New York Times bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, which was also a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor, the NAACP Image Award and a Sibert Honor. In 2015, Woodson was named the Young People's Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. Her recent adult book, Another Brooklyn, was a National Book Award finalist. She is the author of more than thirty award-winning books for young adults, middle graders and children; among her many accolades, she is a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a four-time National Book Award finalist, and a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner. Her books include The Other Side, Each Kindness, Caldecott Honor book Coming On Home Soon; Newbery Honor winners Feathers, Show Way, and After Tupac and D Foster; and Miracle's Boys, which received the LA Times Book Prize and the Coretta Scott King Award. Jacqueline is also the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement for her contributions to young adult literature, the winner of the Jane Addams Children's Book Award, and was the 2013 United States nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award. In March 2018, Penguin Young Readers celebrated the 20th anniversary of Woodson’s If You Come Softly with a special edition of the beloved story of star-crossed love between a Black teenage boy and his Jewish classmate. Harbor Me, a middle grade novel, and The Day You Begin, a picture book illustrated by Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Rafael López, published in August 2018. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.
Visit Jacqueline on the web at www.jacquelinewoodson.com.
NOTE: Jacqueline will be delivering the adult conference afternoon keynote ONLY. She will autograph books on Saturday of the festival.
Matt Glover - Literacy Expert
Matt Glover is a full time educational consultant and coauthor with Kathy Collins of I Am Reading. He is the author of the Heinemann title Engaging Young Writers, coauthor with Mary Alice Berry of Projecting Possibilities for Writers, and coauthor with Katie Wood Ray of Already Ready and Watch Katie and Matt…Sit Down and Teach Up, a video enhanced ebook that combines video and text to examine conferring with young writers. A nationally known literacy consultant, Matt is a frequent presenter at conferences and in school districts on topics related to nurturing writers and supporting children’s intellectual growth and development. Matt has been an educator for over 20 years, including 12 years as the principal and instruc¬tional leader of Creekside Early Childhood School. Matt lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with his wife and four children.
Penny Kittle - Literacy Expert
Penny Kittle teaches freshman composition at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. She was a teacher and literacy coach in public schools for 34 years, 21 of those spent at Kennett High School in North Conway. She is the co-author of 180 Days with Kelly Gallagher, and is the author of Book Love, and Write Beside Them, which won the James Britton award. She also co-authored two books with her mentor, Don Graves, and co-edited (with Tom Newkirk) a collection of Graves’ work, Children Want to Write. She is the president of the Book Love Foundation and was given the Exemplary Leader Award from NCTE’s Conference on English Leadership. In the summer Penny teaches graduate students at the University of New Hampshire Literacy Institutes. Throughout the year, she travels across the U.S. and Canada (and once in a while quite a bit farther) speaking to teachers about empowering students through independence in literacy. She believes in curiosity, engagement, and deep thinking in schools for both students and their teachers. Penny stands on the shoulders of her mentors, the Dons (Murray & Graves), and the Toms (Newkirk & Romano), in her belief that intentional teaching in a reading and writing workshop brings the greatest student investment and learning in a classroom.
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.
Dr. Molly Ness - Literacy Expert
Molly Ness began her teaching career as a Teach For America corps member and 6th grade teacher in Oakland, California. She earned a doctorate in Reading Education from the University of Virginia. Since 2006, she has been a teacher educator and associate professor at Fordham University. She is the author of three books and multiple articles in peer-reviewed journals. Her research focuses on reading comprehension, teachers’ instructional decisions and beliefs, word study, and matching books to readers. She is active on social media (Twitter @drmollyness) and can be reached through www.drmollyness.com.
Additional Sectional Leaders
Dr. Amy Forss
How to Write a Non-Fiction Children's Book
Dr. Joan Jacobs
Using Picture Books in Secondary English Classes
Dr. Kim Marxhausen
Playing to Read
Strategies for Teaching Argument Writing