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  His other middle grade series, EngiNerds and his unpublished eBook Knights of the Kids’ Table round out his book family.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

Donuts, Pizza, and Fortune Cookies (oh, yum!)

I love being a school librarian for many reasons, but the most important one is that I get the opportunity to introduce my readers to interesting and talented authors and illustrators – and Mika Song is one of them! Donut Feed the Squirrels and Pizza My Heart are a popular choices in my elementary school library, and rarely stay on my bookshelf for long as they are in the hands of another enthusiastic reader. Norma and Belly’s next adventure, One Smart Cookie (August 2023) is going to be equally as loved!

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

I hope you enjoy my visit with Mika Song!

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

My father is a photographer and my mother is a magazine editor and they both encouraged me to draw and write. My grandmother was a writer and jewelry designer. As a kid I loved visiting her tiny bedroom where she worked with her many art supplies, typewriter and crafts books. I still remember her showing me how to put a watercolor wash around a figure to make a drawing look more cohesive. I realize I still use that trick all the time. I learned so many things that I am not even conscious of from her.

What is your writing space like?

My work space is a big desk in the corner of my bedroom next to the window with a good view of the street. I can hear the train and people walking by. I get many of my ideas this way. The plot of my early-reader graphic novel, DONUT FEED THE SQUIRRELS, came to me when I was working at home and I smelled something delicious outside my window. On the street below me was a donut truck, CARPE DONUTS. I imagined a hungry squirrel jumping into the chimney of the truck from a tree branch above.

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

The thing I love most about my Norma and Belly covers is that each title mentions a specific snack. Patrick Crotty, the designer at RHG, came up with a really fun way to design the cover so it looks like a pizza box but also still fits in with the template of the previous books in the series. I like that the squirrels are eating while running with the pizza because it is such a New York thing to eat your pizza while walking.

I think my art style for these books is approachable to a young reader. The characters are composed of a few expressive handmade lines and shapes that are not always perfect or regular but fun and lively.

Who is your favorite character in your book and why?

My favorite character is Belly the squirrel because she doesn’t let things get her down. She keeps her eyes on the donut, not the hole. She’s a breeze to draw and always cute. Most of the time I am actually like Norma, always thinking about some plan or worrying about the future.

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

Librarians have been helpful in getting my books to young readers. I remember during lockdown in 2020 watching a librarian do a read aloud of DONUT FEED THE SQUIRRELS which had come out very recently. Even though they are graphic novels for independent readers, I hope they get shared as read alouds too. One student told me it only takes 13 minutes to read all the chapters. 

I draw new Norma and Belly comic strips once a week on, a free comic newsletter by KidLit creators, that is another way to share the world with readers. I think it’s a good resource for librarians running comics clubs and makerspaces. I hope it shows the diversity of the comics format.

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

My reader is anyone who is having a long day or work at school and just wants to sit in the trees of Fort Greene park with Norma, Belly, Gramps and Little Bee and imagine a world where the only thing that matters is a donut guarded by a very uptight food truck seller.

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

One thing readers should know about me is that my next book in the Norma and Belly series is coming out on August 8, 2023. It is called ONE SMART COOKIE. It takes place partly in a fortune cookie factory and we learn something important about Little Bee. It was fun to make this book because I learned about the history of the fortune cookie and its significance in Asian American history. I also learned while working on the book that my grandmother’s first job as a young adult was typing up fortunes for fortune cookies.

Another thing readers should know about me is I enjoy getting letters from them.  Write to me at

Mika Song, PO Box 4594, Sunnyside, NY 11104.

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

One of the first honors Donut Feed the Squirrels received was from the Texas Library Association’s Children’s Round Table. They put it on the 2021 Little Maverick Graphic Novel Reading List. I didn’t know about the list at the time because graphic novels for kids were not as popular. It made me happy to see that librarians love comics for kids and that my book was one of their favorites.

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

The thing about the Gaithersburg Book Festival that I am most looking forward to is drawing with my friend Isabel Roxas (THE ADVENTURES OF TEAM POM) and the kids. I just never know what will happen when we draw together. And making up comics with kids on the spot always makes me see new things in my work.

What message do you have for your readers?

My message to readers is life is beautiful – stay curious about the world around you so you don’t miss anything fun.

Credit: Jae H. Song

Want to learn more about Mika?

Elena Reads and Reviews: With the Stroke of Her Brush, Mika Song Brings Diversity to Books

Get to Know … Mika Song!

Mika Song Draws author website

Mika Song Printables – fun for kids (and adults!)

Sunday Haha


Jump into Line with Susan Stockdale

Susan Stockdale is one of the kindest, joyful, and encouraging people I have met in children’s literature. I discovered her books several years ago, and in 2019, invited her to lead a workshop at the 10th Annual Gaithersburg Book Festival. Her workshop, “Let’s Create Fabulous Fishes!”, based on her nonfiction picture book Fabulous Fishes, was a popular one, and the young participants left as happy as their bright and beautiful fishes. I had also featured her on my blog and asked her to discuss her research and creative process – Exploring the Amazing Natural World with Susan Stockdale.

At the 14th Annual Gaithersburg Book Festival, Susan will be presenting her most recent title, Line Up! Animals in Remarkable Rows along with Jennifer O’Connell (Elephants Remember) at 10:15 am in the Jim Henson Pavilion.  She will also lead a children’s workshop, Let’s Create Animals at 12:25 pm in the Graphic Novels and Workshops Pavilion.

I hope you enjoy my interview with the talented author-illustrator Susan Stockdale!

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

My mother, a published poet and master of rhyme, inspired my love of language. Her profound influence is reflected in how I write my picture books: entirely in rhyme!  My mom also encouraged my interest in drawing pictures.

What is your writing space like?

I both write and paint in my home studio. It’s a cozy, cheerful space that’s flooded with natural light.

What do you love most about the cover art and illustrations in your current book?  I’m happy with the quirky hermit crabs on the cover, which support the book’s theme in a fun and surprising way. It was a joy to express my passion for color, pattern and design in depicting the book’s different animals and habitats.

Describe your art style and your art process.

I consider myself a stylized realist. Using photos as visual references for my subjects, I create many sketches for each image and select the one I like best. I revise that sketch into a detailed drawing and transfer it onto paper. Then I apply three or more layers of acrylic paint to create my final illustration.

What information surprised you most during your research?

I knew that hermit crabs use abandoned sea shells as their home, but I wasn’t aware that when an empty shell washes up on shore, some crabs line up according to size and swap shells. This is the kind of unusual behavior I was excited to share with kids.

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

I’d be thrilled to learn that librarians share Line Up! with children interested in learning about animals and nature. Teacher’s Guides are available on my website ( for all my books. The guides suggest dynamic activities that incorporate language arts, visual art, science, movement and more.

What do you hope your readers will learn from reading your book?

I hope the various line formations I depict in Line Up! spark children’s interest in animal behavior and science – and that my bold and graphic images fill them with a sense of wonder about our natural world.

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

Because animals are so different from people, children are naturally curious about them and benefit from developing an understanding of them. I create my books to open their eyes to the marvels of nature.

What is one (or more) thing(s) that you really want your readers to know about you?

 I spend a lot of time consulting with scientists to make sure I convey factually accurate information in my books. I make many mistakes in both my writing and illustrations before they correct my work. I’d like kids to know that creating anything worthwhile in life takes diligence, humility, and patience.

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

Though not a review or award, a mother wrote to me that her nine-year-old autistic daughter was so inspired by my picture book, Bird Show, that she created a fully illustrated, 32-page “humanized version” of it. She sent a copy of her daughter’s beautiful book to me. It was the most compelling affirmation of the positive influence of my picture books that I’ve ever received.

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

I’m very excited to attend other authors’ talks and run into author friends I haven’t seen in a long time.

What message do you have for your readers?

Play outdoors. Enjoy nature. Read a book and create one of your own! Kids often tell me that they want to become an author and illustrator when they grow up. I tell them they can be one now!

Additional resources:

Susan Stockdale’s Teacher Guides

TeachingBooks: Susan Stockdale


Bird Show: An Extended Metaphor for Integrated Science and Literacy Learning


Teaching Patterns to Infants and Toddlers

Understanding Difference

Susan Verde’s Celebration of Senses & Self

From the moment I first read I am Yoga many years ago, I fell in love with Susan Verde’s books, and have used many of them in my school library media lessons over the years.  The social emotional themes that flow through her books touch my readers, and me, in important ways. My students need to hear messages that affirm they are loved and celebrated just as they are – I am Me is a delightful, and much needed, book about authenticity.

When I teach a lesson based on a picture book, I teach from cover to cover, as described by Megan Dowd Lambert in the Reading Picture Books With Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking about What They See . Can You SEE It? is a perfect book with which to use this method – and my students were thoroughly engaged in my recent lesson about it. Discussing the difference between looking and seeing, discovering the hidden gems in the illustrations, and also pulling off the dust jacket to reveal a completely different hardcover were all part of the lesson.

Susan Verde will be a featured presenter at the Gaithersburg Book Festival at Bohrer Park on May 20, 2023.  She is presenting Can You SEE it? along with Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld (The Umbrella) at 12:15 pm in the Jim Henson Pavilion, and I am Me: A Book of Authenticity with Carole Lindstrom (My Powerful Hair) at 3:15 pm in the Jim Henson Pavilion.

Who encouraged or inspired you to become an author?

Source: Susan Verde’s Instagram

Before I was an author, I was a teacher, and as you can imagine, I read and used lots of picture books to help my kids manage feelings and see themselves and to start discussions about feelings and all kinds of topics. I think it was those authors and the kids I was teaching that really inspired me to want to write for young children. As I had more things written, but nothing published, there were two people who really encouraged my journey. One was Emma Walton Hamilton, who ran the Southampton Children’s literature conference and had me take her picture book writing class, wholeheartedly supporting my desire to write. The other was Peter H Reynolds.  It was in his picture book writing workshop that I got the chance to share my work with him. He saw potential and asked to illustrate our very first book The Museum (this librarian is so very glad he did – it is delightful!). Being seen that way was a gift and motivated me to keep going. Along the way, I am constantly inspired by other book creators by the kids and educators I get to visit and buy my own children and the child within myself. 

What is your writing space like? 

I have a little office space I made for myself in my home, where my animals and kids can come hang out with me while I write and where I feel most creative. It has framed artwork on the walls that my kids made when they were little and a big photo of water which is soothing. I also have shelves behind me on which I keep my books and that too keeps me going. 

Source: Susan Verde’s website

What was your inspiration for Can You SEE It? and for I am Me: A Book of Authenticity?

I am always looking to find ways to encourage readers to slow down and really savor the beauty and wonder around them. I feel like we all are moving so fast, and we forget to be in our experiences and connect with ourselves and the world. It felt like taking a deeper mindful dive into our senses might be a wonderful way to find this connection. Can You SEE It? Is the first in the Sensing Your World series and explores the many ways we can be present and tune into others and ourselves. It is something I am always practicing myself.  

Can you tell us about your essay collection, Say One Kind Thing? What was your inspiration for writing this nonfiction book for adults?

This book is really about my continuing journey to change my inner dialogue from negative and unkind to supportive and kind.  I realized as I was talking to students and educators and parents about mindfulness and caring for ourselves that it might be important to share my own process and how I try to care for myself. I wanted to openly share my experiences without telling anyone what to do but rather express what has helped me and what I am still working on, in the hopes the reader will feel seen and supported. 

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

I love the illustrators I get to work with. They are incredible and inspiring. The cover art from Can You SEE It? and that from I Am Me is quite different, but what it shares is magic. Juliana Perdomo’s cover art with a child and their big beautiful inquisitive eyes just brings me right into the moment and that sense of seeing. Peter H Reynolds’ covers always capture the essence of the story and make every child feel seen, and make me feel seen because our intentions are so aligned. Both of these covers fill me with joy! 

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

Librarians don’t need any guidance from me as they are brilliant and know best how to connect kids and books. That being said, I hope these books will be used to help students feel seen, feel connected and learn to embody empathy and compassion and a sense of wonder. They are great books to include in SEL curricula as well as mindfulness. 

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

I really am writing for everyone. I know these are picture books geared towards a younger audience, but the magic of picture books is that they take big concepts and break them down so everyone can understand and explore them. I am writing for the reader who is interested in considering their inner and outer worlds which again, to me, is everyone. 

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

All the things I talk about in my books are personal to me. I am practicing my own mindfulness; my own self-care and each book has a piece of my heart in it. Also, I was a kindergarten teacher for many years and feel very connected to educators and elementary students. 

Which book review or award has been most meaningful to you? Although being a New York Times bestselling author is huge and incredibly meaningful, more than any award is the feedback I get from students and educators about how the books have helped or inspired or supported them. To see a librarian or teacher share the books means the most. 

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

I am so excited to be under the same roof as so many brilliant book creators and librarians. Being around book lovers and those who understand the importance of books and representation and self-expression are the BEST people to be around. I can’t wait! 

What message do you have for your readers?

My message is to keep reading, whatever that looks like for you. Keep loving yourself and being and celebrating who you are. Know that your own story is important and that YOU are important. 

Please visit to learn more about Susan and her books, and visit to learn more about the 14th Annual Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Additional book resources:

*Abrams Books For Young Readers: “I Am Me” Activity Sheets

*Abrams Books For Young Readers “I Am” Teaching Guide

*Author-Illustrator Peter H. Reynolds’ TLC Books & Resources

*Illustrator Juliana Perdomo’s Website

*Mindful Teachers: Q&A with Susan Verde

*The TeachingBooks Blog: Finding Peace in Books by Susan Verde

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

Elephants Remember at Gaithersburg Book Festival

I met Jennifer O’Connell at the Amazing Animal Stories all-female author event I attended at the MCPL Connie Morella Library last January.  Since elephants are one of my favorite animals, I was drawn to the story of conservationist Lawrence Anthony and his elephants, Jennifer’s research process, and especially the expressive illustrations of Nana and the herd.

Jennifer will be presenting Elephants Remember with Susan Stockdale and her picture book, Line Up!: Animals in Remarkable Rows at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on Saturday, May 20, 2023, 10:15 am in the Jim Henson Pavilion at Bohrer Park. Click here for more information about Jennifer’s presentation.

She is the author of several children’s fiction picture books: Ten Timid Ghosts, Ten Timid Ghosts on a Christmas Night, Harvest Night, and It’s Halloween Night! The nonfiction picture book, A Garden of Whales, was beautifully illustrated by Jennifer as well.  The Eye of the Whale: A Rescue Story, is another triumphant story of human and animal connection, and both written and illustrated by Jennifer.  It won The Nature Generation 2014 Green Earth Book Award, which is announced annually on Earth Day.

Please enjoy my interview with Jennifer, and join her at the Gaithersburg Book Festival to learn more about her and her touching nonfiction narrative picture book, Elephants Remember.

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

Years ago, at Philadelphia College of Art, I attended a lecture by Maurice Sendak, explaining his process of designing Where the Wild Things Are. I fell in love with the art form of the picture book and began collecting and studying them with the hope of one day creating one myself. My mom (to whom Elephants Remember is dedicated) was always my biggest cheerleader!  

What is your writing space like?  

I write and paint in a bright, cluttered, studio space that we converted from our garage. It is my happy place! I have a large bulletin board in front of my art table with images and quotes that inspire me, an easel standing in the corner for painting, and a small rug by my table for our dog, Daphne. 

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

After painting several versions of the cover illustration, I finally succeeded in giving Nana’s elephant eye the contemplative feeling that I was striving for. I painted the South African landscape to show through her image to convey a feeling of mystery and to reinforce how elephants are a part of the land. The illustrations were created with acrylic paints and Prismacolor pencils on gesso-primed Strathmore Bristol paper. I also paint in oils and tried to incorporate a painterly style in these illustrations. 

What information surprised you most during your research? 

Several facts: That elephants are terrified of bees, and conservationists use this by placing beehives around land that they need to keep elephants out of, like plantations. That elephants communicate with each other up to six miles away with their low-frequency rumbles. That adult elephants can eat up to 400 pounds of plant matter each day! 

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

I hope that librarians will share the story of Elephants Remember with children and parents, and that it will excite and inspire readers to want to learn more. The three-page Afterword provides additional details, explanations and a list of resources – books and websites. I have created a “Classroom Ideas” guide (on my website) that features ideas and activities for Language Arts, Visual Arts, Natural Science & Math, History & Geography, Conservation, How Students Can Help, and Human Values of Kindness and Compassion. 

What do you hope your readers will learn from reading your book?

I hope that readers will learn how sensitive, emotional and intelligent elephants are. And how we can all strive to be like Lawrence, who had empathy and recognized the value and integrity of other species and cultures by being receptive to and listening to them. 

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

I view Elephants Remember being for all readers, ages 5 to 105. But let’s imagine someone – a fourth-grader living in Brooklyn, New York. This young person has never been outside the US and has only seen elephants at the zoo. An adventure awaits!

What else do you really want your readers to know about you?

1 – l love connecting with them – talking, answering questions, hearing their ideas (email me!) 2 – I usually never get the words or pictures right the first time – but each try gets better. 3 – I love animals, especially dogs!

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

I am proud that my picture book, The Eye of the Whale – A Rescue Story, received The Green Earth Book Award, which “honors books that inspire youth to grow a deeper understanding, respect, and responsibility for the natural environment.” 

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

Being with people who love books! I can’t wait to tell readers about Elephants Remember and how it became a book. I am also looking forward to seeing and hearing other authors and their stories. 

What message do you have for your readers?

Keep reading! The world opens up to you when you read all kinds of books. Start writing down your stories and never be afraid to try something new!

Follow Jennifer O’Connell:

Facebook | Instagram: @jenniferoconnellart | Twitter: @JenniferOCBooks

Want to learn more about Conservationist Lawrence Anthony? Check out these articles:

Lawrence Anthony, South African conservationist, dies at 61

Thula, Thula website 

UPDATE: Elephants Who Appeared To Mourn Their Human Friend Remain Protected

When the Elephants Came to Mourn the Elephant Whisperer

Gravity is a Tribute to Streetball

One look at Charly Palmer’s art and you know it makes bold statements. He has said, “I put all my focus, energy and love into us. I’m an extremist when it comes to the love of Black people,” and there is no doubt that is true. Visit his website here to view some of his magnificent fine art and picture book illustrations.

In his author-illustrator debut, this multi-award winning illustrator has created a book that is a loving tribute to streetball.  The Legend of Gravity: A Tall Basketball Tale is set in Milwaukee, where Palmer grew up, and the words and images show the fluid movement of the game throughout.

Charly will be  presenting his picture book at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on Saturday, May 21st, 2:15 – 3:05 pm in the Jim Henson Pavilion (a book signing immediately follows).  The festival will be at its new location – Gaithersburg’s Bohrer Park. 

How (or in what ways) do you hope librarians will promote your book? “My desire is to encourage children; to tell their story.  My message is teamwork and working together. “

What do you hope your readers will learn from reading your book? “Team work. Getting the message further from working together.

Who is the reader you are writing for?  Describe them. “Everyone! There is no age limit in learning.

What is one (or more) thing(s) that you really want your readers to know about you? “I do children’s books because I love children. I collected children’s books when I was a child. It a love for me.

This is your author/illustrator debut – what inspired you to try your hand at writing a picture book? “My conviction, is I believed I could do it; then I discovered I was good at telling a story. I’ve been inspired by all the great writers higher than myself.

What do you love most about your cover art and illustrations in your book?   Can you tell us about your creation process? “It’s hard to say. I’m critical of my own work. I’m proud to capture GRAVITY as an illustration. I think I did well with him.”

What has surprised you most about the characters in your book? “The children in my book represent everyone., and I relate to myself, as their narrator.”  It’s not about race or gender. It’s just about “being.

Which book review or award has been most meaningful to you? “I am happy that I am getting reviews. I don’t look to be confirmed or verified. That’s not my motivation. My motivation is children!

What are you most looking forward to at our book festival? “I’m looking forward to meeting new people, hearing their stories, sharing our stories; how my book may have inspired them. I am currently working on a follow-up to GRAVITY…stay tuned!

If you would like to learn more about Charly and his creative process, check out these two articles:

Charly Palmer’s picture book ‘The Legend of Gravity’ is a loving tribute to streetball (Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
 Meet the world-renowned artist from Milwaukee who’s pushing the way we read children’s books (WTJM-TV Milwaukee)

Charly Palmer is a graphic designer, illustrator and the Africana Book Award and Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe New Talent Award winner for “Mama Africa!” As a child, he was fascinated by Ezra Jack Keats’s illustrations for “The Snowy Day,” which inspired Charly’s own use of color and geometric shapes. He studied art and design at the American Academy of Art and the School of the Art Institute, both in Chicago. Charly will be presenting “The Legend of Gravity: A Tall Basketball Tale” at the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Kitty Sweet Tooth Makes Her Way to GBF

My students LOVE graphic novels.  Strong readers, reluctant readers, those with attention issues – nearly all my students read graphic novels. They also love dogs and cats, so you can imagine that Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man series, John Gallagher’s Max Meow series,  John Green’s InvestiGATOR series (yes, I know gators aren’t dogs or cats) books don’t stay on my library shelves for long – if at all.  I am excited to add Kitty Sweet Tooth to my ever-growing graphic novel collection!

Abby Denson will be part of an “animals and their antics” graphic novel panel, along with John Gallagher (Max Meow), John Patrick Green (InvestiGATORS), Dave Roman (Astronaut Academy series) at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 21 at our new location, Gaithersburg’s Bohrer Park, 506 S. Frederick Avenue, Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Abby’s Graphic Novel Author Presentation:  12:15-1:05 pm in the Willa Cather Pavilion. It will be immediately followed by a book signing.

I hope you enjoy my interview with the delightful Abby Denson!

What is your creative space/studio like?

Abby’s creative space – photo provided by the author.

It’s a large room with a couch and a lot of natural light that has two computer workstations and a drawing space. I have multicolor fairy lights hanging around the room and wall art that includes a black cat hanging rug and various Japanese furoshiki cloth hangings with patterns I like. I also have book shelves with lots of comics and graphic novels on them as well as my small collection of dolls and action figures. This includes a Kitty Sweet Tooth plush doll that my editor Robyn Chapman commissioned as a (very thoughtful) gift when the book launched! It was made by the talented Claire Sanders.  

Kitty Sweet Tooth plush doll created by Clare Sanders.

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

Mainly, I just want my books to be available to readers, but I love it when my books are part of a nice display, or if they get featured as a recommended read. That’s great! I also hope for my books to be included on ALA recommended reading lists and considered for awards. I love to do library events, and luckily have been able to do several virtual library talks over the past year.

What do you hope your readers will learn from reading your book?

Kitty Sweet Tooth is about friends creating something great for their community together, and it can teach kids about overcoming obstacles and unexpected mishaps through cooperation. It centers on a character who has an enthusiastic love for movies, and she is inspired to share that with her town at the movie theater. I hope it will encourage readers to share their enthusiasm and appreciation for the arts and encourage their own feelings of creativity.

Uniquely Japan is a non-fiction book covering different Japanese cultural topics. I hope that readers will learn a lot about Japan from it, or at least enjoy  looking at my comics, photos, and drawings!

Who is the reader you are writing for? 

Anyone who wants to have a fun and enjoyable read, but is also interested in learning something new. 

What is one (or more) thing(s) that you really want your readers to know about you?

I’m hoping that my books will make people smile, and I want readers to know that if they are inspired to do so, they can also create their own books and comics. Please go for it!

What do you love most about  your cover art and illustrations in your book?   

For Kitty Sweet Tooth, the entire book was illustrated by Utomaru, who is a brilliant artist! I’m so glad I get to work with her. Frankly, I love everything about her cover art! Though if I had to pick out details, I do especially love the cake that Kitty is holding and also the way the film reel wraps around to the back of the book. Also, there is a totally different (equally gorgeous) cover design under the dust jacket, so please look inside and check it out. Molly Johanson did the amazing design work!

For Uniquely Japan, the cover includes my own illustrations, and I am really happy with the compact hard cover design of the book – the Tuttle team did a great job! I especially like the way the sushi and bento illustrations came out.

[Melissa:  If you would like to read more about Uniquely Japan, here’s the link to an article in Stars and Stripes.]

What has surprised you most about the characters in your book?

 In Kitty Sweet Tooth, it can be surprising how resilient and tough Kitty is (you’ll see more of this in her next book Kitty Sweet Tooth Makes a Movie). Even when different mishaps occur, she and her friends can figure things out together. 

Publishes October 18, 2022.

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

Receiving an International Manga Award for my book Dolltopia was really special. Having my work recognized by a board of established manga creators was very meaningful to me. 

I also recently got a very insightful review for Uniquely Japan from UK Anime Network. I felt that they really understood what I was aiming for with the book. Read the UK Anime Network review here.

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

Meeting the readers and my fellow authors!

Please join Abby Denson at Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 21st!

Abby Denson is the author of “Uniquely Japan,” the “Kitty Sweet Tooth” series (illustrated by Utomaru), “Cool Tokyo Guide,” “Cool Japan Guide,” “Dolltopia” and “Tough Love: High School Confidential.” She has scripted comics for Amazing Spider-Man Family, Powerpuff Girls Comics, Simpsons Comics, Sabrina The Teenage Witch, Josie and the Pussycats, Disney Adventures, and many others. Her work has garnered the International Manga Award, Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, and IPPY Award. She has taught and lectured at various venues including the Eugene Lang College at The New School and Sophia University in Tokyo.

P is for Puffin: ABCs and GBF

Maryland author-illustrator Timothy Young is a long-time friend of the Gaithersburg Book Festival, and the creator of many wonderful children’s books, including his newest, P is for Puffin: The ABCs of Uncommon Animals, a delightful nonfiction board book for children of all ages.

Melissa with Timothy at 2017 GBF

Timothy seems to love the beautiful Atlantic Puffin which nests in the North Atlantic. In the summer, birdwatchers “flock” to Maine and eastern Canada to catch a glimpse of them.

Fans of Timothy’s picture books will remember that in 2014 he published the children’s book, The Angry Little Puffin, about a Penguin – er – Puffin with lots of feelings. Four years later, in 2018, he published If You Give the Puffin a Muffin, about the same grumpy Puffin who realizes that he’s the subject of another picture book and the target of a rhyming scheme gone wrong.

Timothy will be presenting P Is for Puffin: The ABCs of Uncommon Animals along with June Smalls (He Leads: Mountain Gorilla, The Gentle Giant 11:15-12:05 in the Jim Henson Pavilion (immediately followed by a book signing). 

He will also lead an illustration workshop for teens entitled Drawing Animals: Either Realistic or Funny 2:00-2:45 pm in the Children’s Village Workshop Tent.

I hope you enjoy my interview with author-illustrator Timothy Young.

What is your creative space like? 

I have a great workspace in my home. I moved into a larger room in the house in January 2021 so I could have room to set it up so that half of it is a presentation space for virtual visits. I have so many lights it’s like working in a TV studio! I also have lots of books and toys and other stuff, things I have worked on and things that I just like having around. I also have my drawing table on one end near the front window and a reclining chair by the back window where I can relax, think and read.

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

While it is a board book I would hope that the illustrations and animal facts would appeal to older children who are interested in animals.

Can you tell me about your research process for P is for Puffin?

I have been interested in animals since I was very young. I still have a set of animal cards that my mom signed me up for. I received a new set of cards each month for many years. Many of the animals in the book I already knew about. In picking specific animals for each letter I learned about some animals I had not heard of before like the Shekru and the Fairy Armadillo. I read everything I could find about each animal and picked some interesting facts about each.

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

As with most of my books my first audience is me. I write books that I would have liked reading as a child. I hope that there are kids out there who love to learn about new animals and it sparks their curiosity further. 

What is one (or more) thing(s) that you really want your readers to know about you?

This book began as another vehicle for my Angry Puffin but as I worked on it I realized I wanted to represent these animals differently. Most of my books are just funny stories. The more I worked on it the more I wanted to do something for these animals I cared about and that’s when I decided to donate my royalties to an animal charity. I friend of mine introduced me to the Wildlife Conservation Network and I was very happy when they accepted my donation. They help quite a few of the animals in my book like the Okapi and the Pangolin and give every penny they raise to organizations directly involved in protecting animals.

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

I created my illustrations in a different style than my other books. I wanted the focus to be on the animals and I illustrated them more realistically rather than in a cartoony style. They are still a bit stylized and look friendly and approachable. I spent a lot of time drawing fur. Even digitally it take some time and brush stroke to draw that much fur.

Can you tell us about your creative process? What medium did you use? Could you share images of your work in progress?

In the early stages, when it was more of a story, I drew some of the animals in my usual way. Since I had already written books with a puffin, a coatimundi and a capybara as characters I drew similar versions of those characters in more animal type poses. I then decided to change that and draw them with more detail. Once I have a pencil drawing I inked them and then scanned the ink drawings into Photoshop. I did all of my coloring, detailing and shading in that program. Originally the animals were on solid color backgrounds. At the suggestion of my publisher I added subtle backgrounds to my illustrations.

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

If I were in this for awards I would have stopped long ago. Being with a small publisher it’s easy to be overlooked. I toyed with the idea of putting a circle on the cover of “untitled” with the words PLACE CALDICOTT HERE but I liked the blankness of the final design.

The best awards come when you get a note from a parent, teacher or student about that one kid who loves your book so much that they read it over and over or it’s the first book they wanted to read in front of their class. 

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

I love the Gaithersburg Book Festival. This is the first one I’m doing in almost three years. I love meeting the readers, I love re-connecting with other authors who I only get to see at festivals and, of course, seeing all over, the volunteers who bring this all together.

Please come to the 13th annual Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 21st to meet Timothy Young, and lots of other talented children’s authors and illustrators!

As a child Timothy Young always wondered who made the toys he played with, who wrote and illustrated the books he read and who made the cartoons he watched. He grew up to be one of the people who got to do all of them.

His career has included being the head model-maker for the Penny cartoons on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, building Muppets for Jim Henson and sculpting the first Simpsons toys. He is the author/illustrator of 13 books including “I Hate Picture Books!,” “The Angry Little Puffin” and his newest, “P is for Puffin.”

Karthik Finds His Passion @ GBF

The School Library Journal review of Karthik Delivers shares that “Chari’s prose has a very conversational tone, which adds to the book’s authenticity and ease of reading . . . A wonderful realistic fiction title about a young Indian boy following his heart.”  I agree whole-heartedly. Karthik is a character that many can connect with on a variety of levels and is so very endearing. I found myself rooting for him the entire time I listened to the audio book. Simply trying to navigate one’s teenage years along with an annoying older sibling and nerdy parents is difficult enough, without taking a chance and doing the unexpected (like acting in a play.) But those who have been part of a theatrical performance know that it is a great place to be to find – or reinvent – yourself!

Author Sheela Chari will be presenting her newest middle grade novel, Karthik Delivers, on May 21st at the 13th Gaithersburg Book Festival at its new location, Gaithersburg’s Bohrer Park.

Sheela will be presenting Karthik Delivers along with Mariama J. Lockington (In the Key of Us) in the Willa Cather Pavilion 4:15-5:05, immediately followed by a book signing. The discussion will be moderated by MCPS School Librarian,Terri Perper.

I hope you enjoy my interview with author Sheela Chari.

What is your writing space like?  

Photo provided by the author.

My writing space is my attic office. It’s beautiful and quiet, and from up here, I can watch birds in the tree next to my window,

and the gorgeous, evening sunsets. I also have a bulletin board hanging over my desk, with pictures, postcards, and mementos that inspire me. 

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

I think Karthik Delivers is a funny book and a quick read, but it also gets to the heart of some important questions facing middle schoolers:

What am I passionate about? How do I fit in while still being myself? How am I going to be different from my family and their expectations of me? These are questions especially important in immigrant households like the one I grew up in, when our cultural backgrounds shape those expectations our parents have for us.

What do you hope your readers will learn from reading your book?

In this story, 14 year-old Karthik is working in his dad’s Indian grocery store when he gets unexpectedly cast as the lead in a play. This might sound like a miracle, but such miracles happen in life all the time. When an opportunity falls in your lap, grab it! You never know what will happen next.

Melissa – I loved the audio book narration by Varun Sathi, a Boston-based voice actor.

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

I’m writing for middle schoolers, parents, librarians, and anyone who is interested in the creative arts (drama, art, music), growing up in an immigrant household, or finding their passions!

Melissa – I continually encourage my students to get involved in the creative arts – especially theatre, as there is something for everyone, and it is so empowering.

What is one (or more) thing(s) that you really want your readers to know about you?

I grew up playing the violin, and so music is a very important part of my life. I’m always interested in finding ways to include art and music into my life. 

What do you love most about the cover art and illustrations in your book?    Who is your illustrator?

I love my cover! The illustrator is Kitt Thomas, and they did a fantastic job rendering Karthik riding his delivery bike in Boston, while looking upwards and dreaming!

If you look carefully at the cover, you will notice that Kitt incorporated orange, green, white, and blue — the colors of the Indian flag! 

What has surprised you most about the characters in your book?

One of my hopes was to show that kindness prevails nearly in every situation. All of my characters grow, either by learning to adopt more kindness towards others, or to accept it when shown to them. Karthik delivers groceries, the lines from his play, but most importantly, on kindness to his friends, family, and the customers at the store. But I’m most surprised to see how this kindness turns out to be the very basis of how all the characters relate to each other by the end of the story.

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

I was thrilled to receive the APALA Children’s Literature Honor Book award for my first novel, Vanished!  

I was also so excited to receive a starred review from Publishers Weekly for Karthik Delivers, who describes the book as “overflowing with love.” Wow! For me, writing the book was definitely an act of love.

Melissa:  Want to learn more about Sheela? Please read the We Need Diverse Books blog Q&A With Sheela Chari, Karthik Delivers – it is a wonderful interview!

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

Books are about readers and writers intersecting with each on the page. But book festivals are about people being together. I can’t wait to see readers of all ages and passions together in-person!

I hope you will join Sheela and me at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 21st!

Sheela Chari is the author of the Edgar Award finalist “Vanished” and “Finding Mighty,” a Children’s Choice Award finalist and Junior Library Guild selection. Sheela has an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University, and is a faculty member of Vermont College of  Arts’s MFA Program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She lives with her family in New York. She will be presenting “Karthik Delivers” at the Gaithersburg Book Festival.