Thankfully, We’re All Works in Progress!

I caught up with Jarrett Lerner who is one of our many wonderful featured authors at the 14th Annual Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 20th.  He is a prolific children’s author, having published five books in the past eight months: The Hunger Heroes: Snack Cabinet Sabotage (October 2022),  Nat the Cat Takes a Nap (January 2023), Goes for Gold: Geeger the Robot (April 2023),  Nat the Cat Takes a Bath (May 2023), and A Work in Progress (May 2023).  His other middle grade series, EngiNerds and his unpublished eBook Knights of the Kids’ Table round out his book family.

 A Work in Progress is about a “boy who struggles with body image in this poignant middle grade journey to self-acceptance told through prose, verse, and illustration.”  I am so thankful that Jarrett wrote this book – there are too many kids who need to read it because they are struggling with their negative self-image and self-talk. Both the kids who say mean words to others, and the ones who are the recipient of those mean words – they need to read this book.  And discuss it. Together. He shared a powerful message in a very accessible way.

Jarrett will be presenting A Work in Progress in a panel discussion with Janae Marks (On Air with Zoe Washington), and John David Anderson (The Greatest Kid in the World)  in the Jim Henson Pavilion, beginning at 1:15 pm (yours truly will be moderating the conversation).

He will also present his graphic novel chapter book, The Hunger Heroes: Snack Cabinet Sabotage with Jonathan Roth (Rover & Speck: This Planet Rocks!) in the Graphic Novels and Workshops Pavilion beginning at 11:15 am.

I hope you enjoy my interview with the kind-hearted (and witty) Jarrett Lerner.

Who encouraged or inspired you to become an author/illustrator?

I was first inspired by becoming a reader, and finding books I loved and connected with. That’s still one of my greatest inspirations. And when I finally realized that I actually COULD attempt to become an author-illustrator — like, as a JOB — I had boatloads of encouragement from my family and friends. I couldn’t have done what I’ve done and continue to do without them.

What is your writing space like? Your art studio?  

I’ve got a space at home that I use. It’s full of natural look, great books, and my kids’ artwork. And while I love creating there, I also make sure not to get TOO attached to it or any of the conditions I can reliably create there. To have a job doing what I do, I need to be able to be productive and occasionally even creative on demand, and often that means when I’m AWAY from my studio space. That being said, I love it there.

What do you love most about the cover art and illustrations in your current books? 

The cover art for a book is the illustration that you usually spend the most time and energy and thought on — and that you usually discuss most extensively with your publishing team. I always tell kids that the advice “don’t judge a book by its cover” is great advice for everything BUT books. Because we put so, so, SO much time and energy into making those images just right, so you’ll get a very particular idea about what the book’s going to offer you. I’m pleased with all my covers, and think they do a good job letting readers know what’s in store for them if they actually pick up the book and give it a read.

Can you speak to your creative process?  Do you write the words first, or sketch out the panels or pages?

Regarding my process — no matter how the book looks in the end, it always begins in a notebook, and I both write and draw. My first drafts are a mess, a mix of words and pictures, usually only half-formed. It’s an “idea dump,” and once I’ve gotten everything out of my head related to the story, the characters, and the world they inhabit, I go back through the notebook and try to clean up the mess, tidy it into something that looks like a story — or even just scenes or moments. From there, I’ll try to put together a draft, and at that point I usually get a sense of how the story will best be told — mostly text and occasional illustrations, as a graphic novel, or as some kind of hybrid. For me, that’s how I make the decision: I choose the form that will tell the story in the best way for my intended readers.

Do you have a discussion guide for A Work in Progress, and if so, could you share with me?

The AWIP Educator Guide just became available, and was created by Carrie Friday, a library media specialist in Florida.

Your two books are very different – for each of them, who is the reader you are writing for?  Please describe them, and what you hope that the reader will learn.

They are different, but they have similarities for me, too. I try to make books that kids both want and need. My youngest readers, who are just learning how to read, are going to want and need something different than my older readers, who are in middle school or high school. But focusing on my readers, giving them what they want and also what I believe they need (even if they don’t realize it!), is what guides me and has yet to steer me wrong.

In the sketch of yourself on the author’s page and the dust jacket you look so serious or troubled – maybe even a little angry, but in every picture of you I see on social media, you have a big, happy smile.  Why did you sketch yourself that way? What message are you giving us?

A Work in Progress is largely autobiographical, and toward the end, Will talks about how he still has bad days, days when he isn’t doing all that great. I think that’s an important point to make (I explore it in my third Geeger the Robot book as well). There is a lot of intentionality behind my author portrait for the book, including that expression. I wanted my readers to know that while I’m usually happy and full of positive energy, I still have bad days, like everyone — days when, like Will, I just want to hide in a hoodie and stay in bed.

Do you think there will be a second book about Will?

I’m not sure! I’d like to revisit Will, a couple years down the road. Lately, I’ve actually been thinking about writing a story from one of the minor A Work in Progress character’s perspectives. We’ll see!

What is something that you really want your readers to know about you?

I have lots of hobbies and passions that have nothing to do with books or making them, and I think that’s hugely important if you want a career making books. I love skateboarding, I love cooking and going out to eat, and more recently, I’ve fallen in love with Formula 1 racing.

Which book review or award has been most meaningful to you?

The reading association of my home state, Massachusetts, once gave me an award for being a “champion of literacy” in our community and the country at large, and that was deeply meaningful and hugely rewarding to receive.

What are you most looking forward to at our book festival?

Meeting all the young readers!

Additional Resources

Team Pom: Fun, Adventure, and Mystery!

I met Isabel Roxas at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Washington, DC, in June 2022. I instantly became a fan of hers, in part because she was so warm and welcoming to this introvert, but also because of her artistic talent – I love that she’s illustrated both picture books and chapter books, as well as written and illustrated her own graphic novels. Whether you read, Let Me Finish! (Min ), Hello, Universe (Erin Entrada Kelly), or Team Dodo, Isabel and her art embody the phrase, “there is a book for everyone, and for everyone there is a book”.

Isabel Roxas is a featured presenter at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 20, 2023, and will be sharing (The Adventures of Team Pom: The Last Pom (Team Pom Book 2)). She and her friend,  Mika Song (Pizza My Heart (A Graphic Novel). will be presenting their books and leading a workshop together entitled, “Sticky Situations”, at 1:15 pm in the Graphic Novels and Workshops Pavilion.

Who encouraged or inspired you to become an author/illustrator?

I started collecting children’s books while I was a freshman in College. There was a specialty bookstore in the Philippines called Young Minds that had a wonderful collection of books for young children from all over the world. I was always there, browsing, reading, and buying books. I met some artists painting a mural on their wall one day, and it turned out that they were members of a newly formed Illustrator’s guild that made books for young readers. The organization Ang Ink–Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan or Illustrators for Children, helped guide me to this path of making books.

What is your writing space like?

 It is a bright and cozy studio full of plants, books, post-it notes (when I am writing) and art supplies. Right now, my drawing table is buried under fabric because I am making models of my characters to help me draw them from multiple angles.

What do you love most about the cover art and illustrations in your current book?   Describe your art style and your art process.

My team at Flying Eye are really great at making our covers eye-catching and dynamic. I think that the cover for The Last Dodo really communicates a sense of fun, adventure and mystery of the story inside.

Who is your favorite character in your book and why?

I am ALL of the characters in my books at some point or another. Agnes, Ruby and Roberta all have some aspect of myself—my enthusiasm for learning languages (Agnes), book addiction (Ruby), overzealous adventure planning (Roberta). 

How (or in what ways) do you hope librarians will promote your book?  

They can promote it as reading for pleasure, but there are also ways to use it in the classroom too: Squid Happens can jump-start conversations on hobbies, friendship or Cephalopods. The Last Dodo can be used to talk about extinction or start a debate about whether or not we should be bringing animals back from extinction.

Who is the reader you are writing for?  Please describe them.

The reader I am writing for is someone like my characters—smart, funny, quiet or extroverted (depends on which character you identify with) who is very curious about the world.

Which book review or award has been most meaningful to you?

The most rewarding review is one that I got from a teacher who gave Team Pom to one of her students and said that it got her through a lonely period when she felt abandoned and had to go looking for her “own Team Pom.” Books got me through a lot of tough moments in my life, and continue to do so today, so it means a whole lot to me for my own books to be there for young readers too.

What are you most looking forward to at our book festival?

Meeting your community of readers!

What message do you have for your readers?

Come to the Gaithersburg book festival and let’s find you something to read!! 

Want to learn more about Isabel Roxas?

Author Reading and Activity: Isabel Roxas | Brooklyn Public Library

Children’s Book Week: How Do You Draw? (handout)

Five Questions with Isabel Roxas and Minh Lê

Let’s Talk About Diversity with Isabel Roxas

Let’s Talk Picture Books

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2022


Rebekah Lowell’s Hope-Filled Books

Because I love sunflowers, the beautiful cover art of Rebekah Lowell’s poignant debut novel in verse, The Road to After, caught my attention, but I soon realized that the beauty of the book was also found within its pages. It is “a portrait of healing, as a young girl rediscovers life and the soothing power of nature after being freed from her abusive father.” When I discovered that she also had a debut picture book, Catching Flight: Soaring on the Wings of Birds,  I was thrilled not only because of the absolutely stunning nature artwork, but because of the healing poem within, which also speaks of hope.   

Rebekah will be a featured author at the 14th Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 20th, and will  present The Road to After with Amina Luqman-Dawson (Freewater) at 11:15 am in the Willa Cather Pavilion, and Catching Flight: Soaring on the Wings of Birds during her workshop, “Nature Journaling for Beginners”, at 2:25 pm in the Graphic Novels and Workshops Pavilion.

Having grown up in Maine, within an hour from where Rebekah lives, and a fellow nature lover,  I felt a kinship with her, and we have had a warm correspondence over the past several months. Below you will find a delightful interview with her.

Who encouraged or inspired you to become an author/illustrator?

From a young age, my parents were encouraging and supportive. I grew up homeschooled in the middle of a field of buttercups and Bobolinks. Whenever I was outside, which was most of every day, I would sketch plants and then look them up in field guides to find out what I saw. Both of my parents are also creative. My mother is a quilter and gardener, and her career was in hair. My father is a carpenter and made me a flower press, so I created flower art as a child as well. He also made me an easel when I was maybe 10 and built my first art display stand and drove me to exhibit at my first art festival when I was 14. My parents gave me canvases and oil paints and framed my early work. This fueled my fire to create.  

Later into homeschool co-ops, high school, college, grad school, all the teachers and mentors along the way took pages of thanks in the acknowledgments for THE ROAD TO AFTER. I think we are a culmination of the mentors before us, of those who support us, cheer us on, and offer pieces of themselves to our benefit.

I always wanted to create, but it was those who mentored me and nurtured me, and there are many, that made sure I knew it was okay (and celebrated) to pursue what I was passionate about. 

What is your writing space like? Your art studio?

It hasn’t always been this way, but I finally have a designated room as my studio. My studio used to be a tiny table in the corner of my daughters’ toy room, and now I work in a home studio with windows that see out on three sides. The other wall has the door to the rest of my house, so I’m very connected to my daughters throughout the day. As a homeschooling mom, I feel like I have one foot in the studio and one foot in the home. My studio walls are painted with a color called “moonlit beach” and it’s a very faint neutral peach that feels like white with a soft glow. The pale curtains let light in, but are enough to make me feel cozy. I have flat files, and benches with cubbies, a Homasote fiber board wall to pin ideas and projects on.  I have natural objects and original art made by dear friends. My studio is light, and airy, and full of books— and I wish I was better at keeping it tidy. I have one side as my work side, and the other as my “clean side” but it’s not very tidy. By clean I mean that I try not to have paint and art supplies going wild on that side. I have a paper cutter, wax seal supplies, shelving for completed works, shelves of books (mostly nature and kidlit).

 What was your inspiration for Catching Flight and for The Road to After?

For CATCHING FLIGHT, my inspiration was based on a painting. One day I posted a watercolor painting of a turkey feather with birds flying out of it for the Colour Collective challenge on Twitter and Frances Gilbert from Doubleday BFYR private messaged me asking if I had a book to go with it. I told her yes, that I would come up with one. I promptly wrote down a poem in my journal, sent her a photo, and she said yes, type that up and send it to me please. The poem was based on light and a feeling of hope and the willingness to go on. We were in the middle of the pandemic, and I had just parted ways with my first agent, but I was searching for hope, and found it in birds because even before the art, there was my family who loved birds and showed me how to love birds. My grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters and one brother— we all love birds. So even before the art, my family was the inspiration.

For THE ROAD TO AFTER, the inspiration was based on my experience of being abused and held captive for ten years. I’m mostly like the mom in the book. It’s hard to think back to what life was like then and what I survived, but I needed to so I could write this story. But I couldn’t include all the details. This wasn’t a memoir. I wanted to offer this story in a way that could be shared for young readers because I knew if my daughters had experienced this kind of childhood, other kids had too. But even though THE ROAD TO AFTER is about recovery from domestic abuse and trauma, it’s mostly about hope. I didn’t want the book to focus on the terror of abuse, but to celebrate the strength in leaving and starting life anew. My daughters were 4 and 6 when I left with them, but the characters in the book are each younger and older. The inspiration was real life, but it led to a work of fiction that can tell a story of its own and create something beautiful from something so awful. It gives what we went through a sense of purpose and renewal as well. 

What do you love most about the cover art and illustrations in your current books?  Can you speak to your creative process? For your picture book, did you write the words first, or sketch out the pages?

I love that I was able to create them to begin with. I feel so fortunate to be doing this work. I love that in a world that is going more and more digital, I could still create art for my books using the traditional media that I love. I’m also learning vector art, repeat patterns, and procreate, and I finish my illustrations in Photoshop, so I’m not against digital art, I just love to feel the materials I’m using, hold a paintbrush in my hand, make a bit of a mess, get into the flow, and just create. I love the tactile, tangible nature of traditional materials and I’m thrilled to be using them to make my books.

For my picture book, the process was art, then text written inspired by that art, then art made for that text. The first painting that inspired the book was never used in the book. It was the door to the book, but not the book itself. 

Once we finalized the text, I created a series of thumbnails, then a storyboard, then sketches and more finished sketches. Next, I used a light table to refine those sketches into final drawings, then I scan and print out those drawings on hot press watercolor paper. Then I soak the paper and staple it down to Homasote fiber board, then use water-based mixed media to complete the final art.  Once the final art is created, sometimes the text changes a little again as well. A line moved here, a different word there, maybe a comma is added or dropped. Tiny tweaks in response to the art.

Do you have discussion guides for either of your books, and if so, could you share?

I don’t yet, but I would love to know more about creating discussion guides. Being a new author, this world of kidlit is a mystery unfolding.

I do have a Nature Journaling Activity to accompany THE ROAD TO AFTER. 

How (or in what ways) do you hope librarians will promote your books?

I hope that librarians see the child who needs a glimmer of hope, or a story about freedom, finding your way, starting over, and being brave, and they offer one of my books for them. My books also follow a theme of nature, so anytime there are days like Earth Day, or Draw a Bird Day, I hope they find a place to share my books. May is also Mental Health Awareness Month and my books both fit on those lists well. The family in THE ROAD TO AFTER suffers from complex PTSD and anxiety, and CATCHING FLIGHT is uplifting, reminding us that bright skies are ahead. We are lifted up by the birds, catching their current of joy, hoping to be brought along for the journey.

Your two books are very different – for each of them, who is the reader you are writing for?  Please describe them, and what you hope that the reader will learn.

Recently, I received a note from a reader thanking me for writing CATCHING FLIGHT. She talked about a tough time that she was experiencing and telling me that this book was a bright spot for her in a hard time. This made me realize that even though my books are both different, I’m writing for the same person—the person who needs someone to come alongside them and say, “It’s going to be okay.”

I hope that the readers of my books will know they are not alone, that they can reach out and there is always a kind person there to help them up, and that they are braver and stronger than they think. Hope is just on the other side of the storm clouds. 

What is one thing that you really want your readers to know about you?

That I like to notice the little things that often go overlooked. I like to look for wonder in small places and find amazement in the everyday. I save caterpillars in the road and listen to birds talk to each other. That kind of wonder can’t be found in the loud. You have to explore the quiet.

Which book review or award has been most meaningful to you?

All of them because I realize that I may never have had this opportunity if I had stayed in abuse. I never would have had the chance to make art, to make books— to be published at all. I’m grateful to have the chance to make books for kids at all. I feel like I’ve been given a second chance. Anytime someone notices my books enough to share a thought, comment, or review or choose one of my books for a list— I’m brought back to that realization that I may never have been able to do this at all and I’m grateful for the chance to create, and for any kindness that results from it.

What are you most looking forward to at our book festival?

I’m looking forward to meeting readers and festival goers. This is the first time I’ve ever been to the festival and I’m so honored and thrilled about it!

What message do you have for your readers?

You are not alone. I may not know the exact situation you are facing, but I know you can get through it. You are brave, strong, and courageous. You are valuable. You are loved.

Learn more about Rebekah Lowell and her art by visiting her website

For more information about the Gaithersburg Book Festival, please visit

A Joyous Family Collaboration @ GBF

Sisters-in-law Sanyukta Mathur and Courtney Pippin-Mathur will be joining the stage together to present their book Happy Diwali! at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 21st.  Their presentation will be in the Willa Cather Pavilion beginning at 10:15am. The picture book Happy Diwali! is a joyous family collaboration about the Hindu festival of lights.

I hope you enjoy my interview with Sanyukta Mathur and Courtney Pippin-Mathur.

What prompted you to write this book together?  How did you get started?
Courtney – I drew an illustration of my daughter hiding behind some sarees and mailed it out on a postcard. An editor (not the one who acquired HD) approached me at a conference and said that I should write a book featuring our inter-racial and intercultural family celebrating holidays in the US. So, I ran back to my hotel room and called Sanyukta and asked her to list everything that she does to prepare for Diwali for our family. I added a few things and put it into a picture book format and created a rough dummy (like a sketch of the entire picture book) and it was sent off for submissions.

Original postcard
Final image in book

Sanyukta: When Courtney approached me with the idea I was really surprised, it’s not my field: But the more we discussed we felt this book reflecting our blended family, showing how we try to celebrate traditions in the US was maybe something that was needed. Ultimately this is the book I was always searching for when I was looking for simple books about Indian festivals to share with my kids & at their school. It’s been a joy to work on this with Courtney. 

Are you planning to write any future books together?  If so, could you tell us about it?
Courtney – Hopefully!  🙂 Two of our other favorite holidays are Holi (festival of Spring) and Raksha Bandhan (celebrating the love between brothers and sisters) so it would be lovely to be able to share those!

Sanyukta: We hope so! 😉

Do you have any resources about Diwali you would like to share with readers?   Do you have a discussion guide?  Or discussion questions?
Courtney -There is currently not a discussion guide, though I will work on something for this fall, when the book will be out before Diwali. (Shipping delays last year pushed the book to be released after Diwali.) There are a few books out about celebrating Diwali in India that we share on the holiday. I’ll let Sanyukta chime in with her favorites. 
Sanyukta: there are many lovely books about Diwali that explain the Hindu mythology behind the festival. One of our family favorites is Amma tell me about Diwali written by Bhakti Mathur (no relation). My kids also enjoy the books by Sanjay Patel (E.g., The Little Book of Hindu Deities). When I was growing up we loved reading the Indian graphic/comic books by Amar Chitra Katha that relayed Indian religious and historic stories.

Melissa – Additional resources that my readers may find helpful:
Celebrate Diwali With Books! | Parenting Tips… | PBS KIDS for Parents
21 Children’s Books about Diwali, the Festival of Lights –

What medium did you use to create your art, Courtney?  Can you tell us about your process?  Do you have any pictures of the various stages of creation?

Courtney – I combined watercolor and line drawing in photoshop. Here is a spread through a few of the stages:

Original line drawing that I scanned.
About 2/3 finished, with most of the colors blocked in.
Final image in the book.

What is your writing space/ art studio like? Courtney – My husband and I share a room. I call it my corner of chaos, because I have a lot crammed into a small space (including random things my kids throw on my desk). 

I hope you enjoy my interview with Happy Diwali! co-authors @SanyuktaMathur and @pippinmathur @MacmillanUSA @MacKidsBooks @GburgBookFest

Sanyukta – We worked on this book during the height of the Covid-19 lockdowns, so my writing and collaboration space was my basement office and zoom!

How (or in what ways) do you hope librarians will promote your book?
Courtney – I hope they will share it in storytimes to teach kids about Diwali and connect it with other important holidays that celebrate goodness and light and being with families. 
Sanyukta – I hope librarians can use our book to talk about Diwali (the Festival of Lights), about different festivals around the world, how festivals are celebrated by people of the Indian diaspora, and how food/special meals are often a key part of many family celebrations.

What do you hope your readers will learn from reading your book?
Courtney – I hope they will learn about Diwali and how we celebrate it in our mixed cultural family. 
Sanyukta – I hope young readers will see how some families in the US celebrate Diwali. I hope, too, that the vibrant illustrations will make them curious about the traditions, clothes and foods.  

Who is the reader you are writing for?  Please describe them.
Courtney – Children who are curious about other cultures and holidays.
Sanyukta – This book is for families who want to see their culture and traditions represented and families who are curious about other cultural celebrations.

What is one (or more) thing(s) that you really want your readers to know about you?
Courtney – I love being part of a multi-cultural family and believe diversity makes people more kind and caring and stronger as a community.  
Sanyukta – I loved working with my sister-in-law on this book and am excited to share how our diverse family continues the traditions of Diwali here in the US. 

What do you love most about the cover art and illustrations in your book?
Courtney – Being able to include most of the children in our family and the raised embossing and foil and the teal background 
Sanyukta – The illustrations by Courtney (my sister-in-law) really make the book and the festival come alive in all its vibrancy. 

What has surprised you most about the characters in your book?
Courtney – How happy all the nieces, nephews, and cousins are about being drawn in a book. I was so stressed about capturing cartoon versions of real people! 
Sanyukta – Not so much a surprise about the characters, but I was surprised by how my son (who is one of the kids in the book) was overjoyed to take this book to his 3rd grade class and share the book and Diwali with his friends.

What are you most looking forward to at our book festival?
Courtney – I love the vibe of being around book lovers, kids and adults! 
Sanyukta – I love the GBF and we usually make it an annual family event. I hope we get to meet lots of curious kids, teachers, librarians, and parents and share this book with them.

I hope you will join me and attend Sanyukta and Courtney’s presentation at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 21st.

Sanyukta Mathur

Sanyukta Mathur is a social scientist and studies how to improve the health and well-being of young people around the world. She is the author of various research publications. “Happy Diwali!” is her first children’s book. She lives in Maryland with her family.

Courtney Pippin-Mathur

Courtney Pippin-Mathur is an author/illustrator of picture books, such as “Maya was Grumpy” (2013), “Dragons Rule, Princesses Drool” (2017) and “Happy Diwali,” with her sister-in-law, Sanyukta Mathur (2021). She loves being part of a multicultural family and lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, three children and one very friendly dog.

2018 Gaithersburg Book Festival (in review)

Being a part of Gaithersburg Book Festival planning committee is magical for me, because it allows me to be on the ground level of creating this amazing event each and every year.  As I watch the list of featured authors and illustrators grow, and help to recruit authors, illustrators, poets and other creative sorts for our writers’ workshops, my anticipation grows as well.  I encourage my students and their families to attend, hoping they will be as excited as I am about the “big day”.  There is nothing quite like listening to an author talk about their writing, or watching an illustrator create magic on an easel!

In case you missed my earlier posts about GBF 2018:

And The Children’s Book Podcast by Matthew Winner

Pop-Up Interviews at the Gaithersburg Book Festival (The Children’s Book Podcast #447)

Spotlight on 4 Children’s Book Illustrators Coming to GBF 2017

Picture books are amazing works of literature, and spectacular works of art!  As a member of the Gaithersburg Book Festival committee, an elementary school librarian, and a mom of four kids, I love to read books. Love. Love. Books!  Lots. And lots. of. Books. I love the words, and I love the illustrations.  I love to hold the books in my hands and feel the pages when I turn them.  When I read picture books, my students and I analyze and discuss the artwork as much (and sometime, more than) the actual words on the pages. We discuss the cover art, the colors and art on the end pages, the title page, and all of the pages that follow.  My students and I experience the books using the Whole Book Approach described in detail by Megan Dowd Lambert in  Reading Picture Books with Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking about What They See.

In this blog post I am focusing on four talented author/ illustrators that are coming to the Gaithersburg Book Festival on the May 20th.  I hope you will take time to come see these four, and many other authors and illustrators and a variety of other activities and for all ages.

Brian Floca and Chris Van Dusen share thoughts about Friends Misbehaving in the Jim Henson Pavilion, 12:15-1:05 pm.

Brian Floca

Featured Children’s book illustrator

Presentation: Friends Misbehaving

12:15-1:05 pm in the Jim Henson Pavilion

princess coraFrom Candlewick Press: Princess Cora is sick of boring lessons. She’s sick of running in circles around the dungeon gym. She’s sick, sick, sick of taking three baths a day. And her parents won’t let her have a dog. But when she writes to her fairy godmother for help, she doesn’t expect that help to come in the form of a crocodile—a crocodile who does not behave properly. With perfectly paced dry comedy, children’s book luminaries Laura Amy Schlitz and Brian Floca send Princess Cora on a delightful outdoor adventure — climbing trees! getting dirty! having fun! — while her alter ego wreaks utter havoc inside the castle, obliging one pair of royal helicopter parents to reconsider their ways.

Brian Floca’s website:

All the Wonders Interview

Locomotive (2014 Caldecott Honor Book):

Locomotive Book Trailer:

Chris Van Dusen

Featured Children’s Book Author/Illustrator

Presentation: Friends Misbehaving

12:15-1:05pm in the Jim Henson Pavilion

hattie and hudson

From the publisher: Hattie McFadden is a born explorer. Every morning she grabs her life jacket and paddles out in her canoe to discover something new on the lake, singing a little song on her way. When her singing draws up from the depths a huge mysterious beast, everyone in town is terrified — except Hattie, who looks into the creature’s friendly, curious eyes and knows that this is no monster. So Hattie sneaks out at night to see the giant — whom she names Hudson — and the two become friends. But how can she make the frightened, hostile townspeople see that Hudson isn’t scary or dangerous at all? Chris Van Dusen brings his colorful, perspective-bending artwork to this satisfying new story about acceptance, friendship, and sticking up for those who are different.

Chris Van Dusen’s website:

Video Interview with Chris Van Dusen:
Joining forces on the How to Illustrate Humor in the Jim Henson Pavilion are Brian Biggs and Tom Lichtenheld.

Brian Biggs

Featured Children’s book Author/ Illustrator

Presentation How to Illustrate Humor

11:15am-12:05pm in the Jim Henson Pavilion


From the publisher: It’s a noisy night in this city building! The residents of each floor can hear their neighbors above them, and are wondering what’s going on above their heads. Climb floor by floor and page by page to find out whose singing, dancing, cheering, and cooing are keeping a grumpy old man awake.

With innovative split-level spreads that offer the feeling of climbing an apartment building floor by floor, this clever and colorful collaboration between New York Times–bestselling author Mac Barnett and gifted illustrator Brian Biggs offers an irresistible investigation of one noisy night.

Mac Barnett -TED Talk – Why a Good Book is a Secret Door

Noisy Night Book Trailer:

Tom Lichtenheld

Featured Children’s book Author/ Illustrator

Presentation How to Illustrate Humor

11:15am -12:05pm in the Jim Henson Pavilionmighty mighty construction site

From Chronicle Books:  At last—here from the team behind the beloved international bestseller comes a companion to Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site. Al
l of our favorite trucks are bac1k on the construction site—this time with a focus on team-building, friendship, and working together to make a big task seem small! Down in the big construction site, the crew faces their biggest job yet, and will need the help of new construction friends to get it done. Working as a team, there’s nothing they can’t do! The millions of fans of
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site are in for a mighty good time!

Library of Congress presentation

Mighty, Mighty Construction Site Book Trailer:

All the Wonders podcast Interview:

Good night, Good night, Construction Site:


Exclamation Mark!


About the Festival:

In its 8th year, the Gaithersburg Book Festival was originally conceived and introduced by (then City Council member and now Gaithersburg Mayor) Jud Ashman with the support of the mayor and City Council, and the Cultural Arts Advisory Committee. GBF is produced by a core committee comprised of city staff and a dedicated group of volunteers who donate their time and talent.  For more information about the Gaithersburg Book Festival, please visit

About Melissa:

Melissa A. McDonald, MLS, is a School Library Media Specialist with Montgomery County Public Schools and Children’s and Teen’s Workshops Coordinator for the Gaithersburg Book Festival.   Melissa writes the blog The Creative Librarian – Adventures in School Librarianship.  She is also a proud mom, animal lover, avid reader, and volunteer extraordinaire who lives in Maryland.


GBF – Literally, the Place to be on May 20, 2017


GBF logoThe Gaithersburg Book Festival, a celebration of books, writers, illustrators, and literary excellence, will hold its 8th annual festival on the grounds of Gaithersburg City Hall  (31 So. Summit Ave, Gaithersburg, Maryland) on Saturday, May 20, 2017.   Gaithersburg, Maryland, was named the most diverse city in the United States, and our festival honors and celebrates diversity in literature.

As a lifelong lover of literature, a mother of four children, and now as an elementary school librarian, I’ve been an avid reader of children’s books for many years, delighting in both the words and the illustrations.  Several years ago I was thrilled to discover the Gaithersburg Book Festival in its inaugural year.  I began volunteering in its second year and eventually was invited to join the core planning team two years ago. I am the coordinator of teen’s and children’s workshops, and am so pleased to share our wonderful festival with readers of all ages in Gaithersburg and beyond!

The Gaithersburg Book Festival (affectionately known by the committee as GBF) boasts:

Locally and nationally known featured authors in adult, young adult, and children’s literature

There is “literally” something for everyone at the Gaithersburg Book Festival!  As an elementary school librarian, I am pleased to share with our community of readers that Brian Biggs, Fred Bowen, Doreen Cronin, Jen Swann Downey, Brian Floca, Alexis Frederick-Frost, Maria Gianferrari, Debbie Levy,  Tom Lichtenheld, Juana Medina, Kate Messner, Dave Roman, Leila Sales, Chris Van Dusen, and Salina Yoon are among the KidLit authors and illustrators presenting at our festival.  Amalie Howard, Brigid Kemmerer, Christine Kendall, Michelle

Knudsen, Kimberly McCreight, Meg Medina, Erin Teagan, Booki Vivat, and Carol Weston are among the teen and YA authors presenting at our festival. There is a fantastic line up of adult featured authors, too!  Information about each featured author or illustrator, and a link to each presenter’s website is included on the GBF featured presenters’ pages, and I have also hyperlinked within this article outstanding interviews and book reviews from All the Wonders website and author commentaries and book reviews from Nerdy Book Club blog.   

Led by our author presenters (Fred Bowen, Dave Roman, Alexis Frederick-Frost), writing specialists, illustrators (Elise Gravel, Timothy Young), and other trained professionals, our writers workshops include topics such as creating characters and sketchbooks, sports journaling, comic stories, writing fiction, and writing college essays.  Encourage your children to stop into the workshops tent and let their creativity flow!

As you can see, GBF offers a wonderful world of family activities in the Children’s Village – we hope to see you strolling through the grounds of the Gaithersburg City Hall, peeking into each tent, and soaking up all of the wonderful experiences the festival has to offer book lovers of all ages!


About the Festival:

In its 8th year, the Gaithersburg Book Festival was originally conceived and introduced by (then City Council member and now Gaithersburg Mayor) Jud Ashman with the support of the mayor and City Council, and the Cultural Arts Advisory Committee. GBF is produced by a core committee comprised of city staff and a dedicated group of volunteers who donate their time and talent.  For more information about the Gaithersburg Book Festival, please visit

About Melissa:

Melissa A. McDonald, MLS, is a School Library Media Specialist with Montgomery County Public Schools and Children’s and Teen’s Workshops Coordinator for the Gaithersburg Book Festival.   Melissa writes the blog The Creative Librarian – Adventures in School Librarianship.  She is also a proud mom, animal lover, avid reader, and volunteer extraordinaire who lives in Maryland.  Follow her on Twitter @Cre8tiveLib !