School Library Journal Day of Dialog Spring 2024

Join us May 23rd for our School Library Journal Day of Dialog virtual event! Our day-long program of author panels, in-depth conversations, and keynote talks will leave you informed, inspired, and entertained.  

Come hear about the hottest forthcoming titles for children, tweens, and teens, from nonfiction and romance to picture books and graphic novels. You can also visit the virtual exhibit hall to network with leading publishers, enjoy intimate author chats, and download digital galleys and other free resources.


Follow the conversation on X! #SLJDOD 

EVENT HOURS: 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM ET



All live sessions will be on Zoom. Make sure to log in to your work or personal Zoom account before the day starts to avoid having to log in for each session. 

The Virtual Environment is optimized for 1024 X 768 screen resolution. Joining the environment with a cell phone is not recommended. Please make sure your computer and browser are up to date. Chrome tends to work best. The event platform does not support IE11 + Windows 7 or older versions. 

CE certificates are available in the event environment for all keynotes and panels, whether you view them live or on-demand. Certificates are not provided for sponsored content. 

If you are unable to join us on the live day, know that all sessions will be available for on-demand viewing within 24 hours, and the entire event will be accessible for three months from the event date.  

By registering for this event or webcast, you are agreeing to School Library Journal Privacy Policy and Code of Conduct Policy and agreeing that School Library Journal may share your registration information with current and future sponsors of this event.  

If you have any questions, contact the Event Manager

9:00 – 9:30 AM ET | The Exhibit Hall Opens / Visit the Booths

9:30 – 10:00 AM ET | A Conversation with Kyle Lukoff  
A look at the work of this prolific and versatile author and a peek at the first titles in his new SEL series, I'm Sorry You Got Mad & Just What to Do (Penguin Young Readers). 
Moderator: Jonah Dragan, Reviewer, School Library Journal


10:05 – 10:40 AM ET | Caught In Between
Caught between cultures, parents, or friends, these middle grade boys are just trying to figure it out.  

Rob Harrell, Popcorn (Penguin Young Readers)
Lawrence Lindell, Buckle Up (Random House Children’s Books)
Shifa Saltagi Safadi, Kareem Between (Penguin Young Readers) 

Moderator: Brandi Grant, Librarian, Frisco ISD (TX)


10:05 – 10:40 AM ET | Comic Deliveries
A trio of humor-infused graphic titles for middle grade readers.

Jorge Cham, Oliver's Great Big Universe: Volcanoes Are Hot! Book 2 (Abrams) 
Matthew Erman, Heebie Jeebies (Mad Cave Studios/Papercutz)
Kirk Scroggs, Pet Wizards (Union Square) 
Moderator: Alea Perez, Youth Services Manager, Roselle Public Library (IL)

10:05 – 10:40 AM ET | Make Mine Music
The power of music to heal, to inspire, and to make us get up and dance has inspired many. Here’s a look at a few individuals who have moved us. 

Deidre Havelock, The Heartbeat Drum: The Story of Carol Powder, Cree Drummer and Activist (Abrams)
Robin Stevenson, Kid Musicians: True Tales of Childhood from Entertainers, Songwriters, and Stars (Penguin Young Readers)
Traci Todd, Make a Pretty Sound: The Music of Ella Jenkins (Chronicle) 

Moderator: Monisha Blair, Head Librarian, Key Middle School, Fairfax County (VA)


10:45 – 11:35 AM ET | Dazzling Debuts
These new YA authors, writing in a range of genres, have caught our attention.

Anna Adams, A French Girl in New York (Wattpad WEBTOON Book Group) 
Chatham Greenfield, Time and Time Again (Bloomsbury) 
Candice Jalili, Finding Famous: A Mashad Family Novel (Disney) 
Suja Sukumar, When Mimi Went Missing (SOHO Press)      
Emily Varga, For She Is Wrath (Macmillan Publishers/Wednesday Books) 
Moderator: Emmy Neal, Teen Librarian, Lake Forest Library (IL)


10:45 – 11:35 AM ET | Picture Book Nonfiction
A selection of titles introduces readers to the many places nonfiction books can take them. 

Lena Anlauf & Vitali Konstantinov, Genius Ears: A Curious Animal Compendium (NorthSouth) 
Sally Denmead, A Song for August: The Inspiring Life of Playwright August Wilson (Levine Querido)
Andrew Larsen, Gifts from the Garbage Truck (Sourcebooks) 

Carlos Pintado, HaiCuba/HaiKuba (NorthSouth) 
Leslie Stall Widener, Kindred Spirits: Shilombish Ittibachvffa (Charlesbridge) 
Moderator: Dr. Amina Chaudhri, College of Education, Northeastern Illinois University

10:45 – 11:35 AM ET | Play Like a Girl
Beyond the benefits of exercise, sports participation can offer lessons about teamwork, foster camaraderie, and lead to self-discovery. 

Hadley Davis, Not Yet: The Story of an Unstoppable Skater (Scholastic)
Hena Khan, We Are Big Time (Random House Children’s Books) 
Zahra Lari, Not Yet: The Story of an Unstoppable Skater (Scholastic)

Yamile Saied Mendez, The Beautiful Game (Hachette) 
Donna Tapellini, It’s Her Story: Billie Jean King: A Graphic Novel (Sunbird Books)  
Moderator: Heather Lassley, Librarian, Frisco ISD/ Trent Middle School (TX)

11:35 AM – 12:05 PM ET | Break / Visit the Exhibit Hall

Lunchtime Interludes
Sit back and enjoy these mid-day conversations offering a look into two artists' inspiration and work.

12:05 – 12:30 PM ET | We Got Work To Do
Carole Boston Weatherford in conversation with Mavis Staples, the subject of Weatherford’s forthcoming Bridges Instead of Walls: The Story of Mavis Staples (Penguin Young Readers)
Moderator: Shelley Diaz, SLJ Reviews Editor


12:35 – 1:00 PM ET | So Much Depends on a Yellow School Bus
Author and illustrator of the beloved “Otis the Tractor" series, Loren Long, will share an introductory video about the creation of his soon-to-be published The Yellow Bus (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group/Roaring Brook Press), followed by a Q & A.
Moderator: Karen Grenke, Library Co-Director, Ecology Lab Co-Director, The Town School (NY)


1:05 – 1:55 PM ET | A Strange Thing Happened…
New novels for middle grade and up invoke alien objects, ghosts, and mystery. 

Flora Ahn, A Brush with Magic (Quirk Books) 
Louise Hung, Hungry Bones (Scholastic) 
Wendy Orr, Out of the Valley of the Horses (Pajama Press) 
Karen Strong, The Secret Dead Club (Simon & Schuster) 
Jasmine Warga, A Strange Thing Happened in Cherry Hall (HarperCollins Children’s) 
Moderator: Melissa Thom, Teacher Librarian, Bristow Middle School, West Hartford (CT)

1:05 – 1:55 PM ET | Books for Young Readers
Give early readers stories and characters that spark their interest, and you’ll create readers for life.  

Annie Barrows, Stella & Marigold (Chronicle) 
Sarah Davidson, Jackson's Wilder Adventures (Mad Cave/Papercutz) 
Rajani LaRocca, The Kids in Mrs. Z’s Class: Rohan Murthy Has a Plan (Hachette) 
Zandile Ndhlovu, Zandi’s Song (Amazon Publishing) 
Jolie Taylor, The Totally Not Boring Book of Feelings (Shadow Mountain Publishing) 
Moderator: Florence Simmons, Associate Editor, Generalist, SLJ

1:05 – 1:55 PM ET | New & Noteworthy Nonfiction 
Listen in, hone your booktalking skills, and watch the word spread about these fascinating—and informative—titles.

Gail Jarrow, Spirit Sleuths: How Magicians and Detectives Exposed the Ghost Hoaxes (Astra Books for Young Readers)
Lin King, translator, The Boy from Clearwater (Levine Querido) 
Hazel Mead, Why Aren’t We Talking About This?!: An Inclusive Illustrated Guide to Life in 100+ Questions (Interlink Publishing Group) 
Sam Nakahira, Ruth Asawa: An Artist Takes Shape (Getty Publications)  
David Dorado Romo, Borderlands and the Mexican American Story (Random House Children’s Books) 
Moderator: Justin Shannin, Digital Media Coordinator, Chicago Public Library (IL)

Afternoon Spotlights

2:00 – 2:25 PM ET | Lawyer, politician, voting rights advocate, and author Stacey Abrams (Stacey Speaks Up, HarperCollins Children’s) will discuss her NAACP Image Award-winning, empowering “Stacey Stories” picture books and more.
Moderator: Ashley Leffel, Librarian, Frisco (TX)


2:30 – 2:55 PM ET | Nathalie Alonso and Rudy Gutierrez, author and illustrator, chat about Call Me Roberto!: Roberto Clemente Goes to Bat for Latinos (Astra Books for Young Readers), a picture book celebrating the Latin-American baseball hero.
Moderator: Dr. Sujei Lugo, Children's Librarian, Boston Public Library, Connolly Branch (MA)

3:00 – 3:25 PM ET | Join acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in conversation with her editor, Kendra Levin, discussing her middle grade title, The Leadership Journey (Simon & Schuster), which examines the character and paths of four presidents who led the country through turbulent eras. 

3:25 – 3:55 PM ET | Break / Visit the Exhibit Hall


3:55 – 4:45 PM ET | Cryptic Clues and a Few Dead Ends 
Delve into the action with tweens and teens who team up to solve mysteries. 

Alison Gervais, A Game Most Foul (Blink) 
Preston Norton, The House on Yeet Street (Union Square Kids) 
Mark Oshiro, Jasmine Is Haunted (Macmillan Children’s)
James Ponti, The Sherlock Society (Simon & Schuster)
Samantha San Miguel, Fathomless (Union Square) 
Moderator: Margaret Tice, retired school librarian, retired professor, GSLIS, Queens College (NY)

3:55 – 4:45 PM ET | It’s Love and War
Get swept into these YA fantasies and supernatural thrillers rife with conflict…and generous measures of romance.

Dana Claire, Hunterlore (CamCat Books) 
Sarah Dass, It Waits in the Forest (Disney) 
Hayley Dennings, This Ravenous Fate (Sourcebooks) 
Markelle Grabo, Call Forth a Fox (Page Street Publishing) 
Jordan Ifueko, The Maid and the Crocodile (Abrams) 
Moderator: Clair Quaintance, Regis High School, (NY)

3:55 – 4:45 PM ET | Spreading Wings 
Whether it’s participating in a neighborhood event, reaching out to a classmate, or joining a team, these new picture books explore some of children’s first friendships and experiences as members of a community.

Annemarie Riley Guertin, 123, Counting on Community (Familius) 
Rob Sanders, We Are a Class (Beaming Books) 
Traci Sorell, Clack, Clack! SMACK! A Cherokee Stickball Story (Charlesbridge) 
Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, Sister Friend (Abrams) 
Stacy Wells, Tana Cooks with Care (Capstone) 
Moderator: Amalia E. Butler, Librarian, Park Avenue School (NJ)


4:50 – 5:25 PM ET | Super Powers
Hair-raising danger and mystery lie at the center of new middle grade novels by celebrated authors. 

Tracey Baptiste, Boy 2.0 (Hachette) 
Garth Nix, We Do Not Welcome Our Ten-Year-Old Overlord (Scholastic) 
Cynthia Leitich Smith, On a Wing and a Tear (HarperCollins Children’s) 
Moderator: Monica de los Reyes, Editorial Assistant, The Horn Book


4:50 – 5:25 PM ET | They’re Complicated
Relationships, that is, especially when there’s way more to the story as these teens discover.

Alexis Castellanos, Guava and Grudges (Bloomsbury)
Alexene Farol Follmuth, Twelfth Knight (Macmillan Publishers/Tor Teen)
Kristi McManus, How to Get Over Your Best Friend’s Ex (CamCat Books) 
Moderator: Alicia Abdul, School Librarian, Albany High School (NY)

5:30 – 6:00 PM ET | Dangerous and Deadly  
A new book by Karen M. McManus, the author of the “One of Us Is Lying” titles (now a TV series), is cause for celebration. Join the author and her editor, Krista Marino, in a conversation about McManus’s forthcoming thriller, Such Charming Liars (Random House Children’s Books), featuring a pair of mother-daughter grifters.



Kyle Lukoff is the author of many books for young readers. His debut middle-grade novel, Too Bright To See, received a Newbery honor, the Stonewall award, and was a National Book Award finalist. His picture book, When Aidan Became A Brother, also won the Stonewall. He has forthcoming books about mermaids, babies, apologies, and lots of other topics. While becoming a writer he worked as a bookseller for ten years, and then nine additional years as a school librarian.

Karen M. McManus is a #1 New York Times and international bestselling author of young adult thrillers. Her books include the One of Us Is Lying series, which has been turned into a television show on Peacock, as well as the standalone novels Two Can Keep a Secret, The Cousins, You’ll Be the Death of Me, Nothing More to Tell, and Such Charming Liars. Karen's critically acclaimed, award-winning work has been translated into more than forty languages.



Stacey Abrams is the author of the NAACP Image Award winners Stacey’s Extraordinary Words and Stacey’s Remarkable Books. A tax attorney by training, she served eleven years in the Georgia House of Representatives, seven as Minority Leader. She has launched multiple organizations devoted to voting rights, training and hiring young people of color, and tackling social issues at the state, national, and international levels. Committed to the pursuit of equity, she works to break barriers for young people, people of color, and the marginalized through her work in politics, nonprofit, and corporate sectors.

Anna Adams is a French-American lawyer-turned-author. Born in France, raised partly in the United States and in France, she currently lives in Paris. A French Girl in New York is her first novel.

Flora Ahn is an attorney by day and an author and illustrator by night. Her work includes A Spoonful of Time (Quirk 2023), a children's chapter book series, Pug Pals and an Audible Original, The Golden Orchard. Raised in California by her Korean immigrant parents, Ahn lives in Virginia with her two pugs.

Nathalie Alonso is a Cuban American bilingual writer and journalist based in New York City. A seasoned baseball reporter, her writing has appeared in National Geographic, Outside, and Refinery29, among other outlets. She is currently a reporter and producer at’s Spanish-language sister site, Visit

Lena Anlauf was born in the Ruhr region of Germany. Growing up, the Taschen-Brockhaus Tiere quickly became one of her favorite books, and she set up snail conservation areas in her backyard. Later on, she studied book studies and philosophy in Mainz and Leiden and completed a further education course on pedagogy of literacy and literature, as well as, a remote course on children’s and young adult literature at the STUBE in Vienna. Today she lives in Marburg, works as editorial director and editor at the kunstanstifter verlag, researches historical picture books, and writes and designs her own book projects.

Tracey Baptiste is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty-one books and several short stories for children. She writes fiction and nonfiction picture books, middle-grade, young adult, and graphic novels. She is best known for the horror-adventure Jumbies series and Minecraft: The Crash. Tracey lives in New Jersey and can be found online at .

Annie Barrows is a bestselling author of many books for both children and adults, including the beloved Ivy + Bean series, which can also be seen on Netflix, the Iggy series, the young adult novel Nothing, and the bestselling novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. She lives in Northern California.

Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow is a Philadelphia-based educator and award-winning children’s book author. Her books, which center young Black Muslims, have been recognized as the best in children’s literature by Time Magazine, Read Across America, and NPR. These works include Mommy’s Khimar, Once Upon an Eid (anthology contributor), and Your Name is a Song, an Irma Black Award Honor book.

Alexis Castellanos was born and raised in Florida where she enjoyed sunny days, dramatic thunderstorms, and delicious Cuban food. After graduating from college, she moved to New York City and worked as a scenic artist, bringing theatrical sets to life with a little bit of paint and a whole lot of ingenuity. She currently works as a graphic designer by day and spends her nights dreaming up stories. She is the author of the graphic novel Isla to Island. Guava and Grudges is her debut YA. She lives in Los Angeles with her partner and two cats.

Jorge Cham is the Daytime Emmy-nominated and best-selling cartoonist creator of the comic strip “Piled Higher and Deeper.” He is the co-creator/Executive Producer/Creative Director of “Elinor Wonders Why” and the co-author of two popular science books. Jorge is also the co-host/co-creator of “Daniel and Jorge Explain the Universe” an ongoing popular podcast/radio show. Originally from Panama, he obtained his Ph.D. in robotics from Stanford and was an Instructor/Research Associate at Caltech.

Dana Claire is an award-winning author whose stories explore identity, fate, and destiny at the crossroads of romance and adventure. Her love of romantic tension and the supernatural effortlessly translates into spine-tingling action and unforgettable characters. Dana is also sharing her stories through speaking events and book signings. She lives in Los Angeles with her adoring husband, living her dreams: writing books, telling stories, and changing the world, one reader at a time.

Sarah Dass was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago. A graduate of the University of the West Indies and University College London, she works as an Office Administrator by day and writes stories about growing up in the Caribbean by night. When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about writing, or taking walks with her dachshund. The only thing she loves more than a lazy day at home is exploring new countries. Find her online at and on Instagram @SarahDassWrites and Twitter @SarahDassAuthor.

Sarah Davidson is a comic book illustrator and colorist from Savannah, GA currently working on her MFA in Sequential Art. Currently, she’s working on her first OGN through Papercutz/Mad Cave Studios, and recently colored graphic novels for Nidhi Chanani ("Super Boba Cafe," Abrams books) and Audrey Meeker ("SWING," Feiwel and Friends). As a freelance comic illustrator and colorist, her clients include Level Ground Comics, Comics Experience, High Noon Films LTD, Adorable Abominations LLC, Real Buzz Studios, Hamilton: The Exhibition, Day 6 Entertainment, WEBTOON, and Wattpad.

Hadley Davis is an author, essayist, and screenwriter with many writing credits, including the skating classic, Disney’s Ice Princess. 

Sally Denmead is an opera singer, director, and actor who moved from Brooklyn to Pittsburgh, where she fell in love with the plays of August Wilson. A Song for August: The Inspiring Life of Playwright August Wilson is her first book. She lives with her husband in Pittsburgh, PA.

Hayley Dennings loves stories centered on queer female characters. A recent graduate from Loyola Marymount University, she discusses books and writing on her Pages of Hayley YouTube channel. Seeing people like her represented in books encouraged her to write her own books and pursue publishing. She currently resides in the Bay Area, working as an editorial and marketing associate. When Hayley is not working, she is spending time with her dogs, reading, painting, and baking.

Matthew Erman is a writer from Columbus, Ohio creator of the critically acclaimed series Long Lost (Scout Comics) and Witchblood (Vault Comics). Since then, he's been the creator of the sci-fi emotional apocalypse series Good Luck (BOOM!), Terminal Punks (Mad Cave Studios), and the hillbilly cosmic horror GOLGOTHA MOTOR MOUNTAIN (IDW) the original graphic novels BONDING (Vault Comics) and Mariko Between Worlds (Mad Cave Studios). Matthew makes his Dark Horse Comics debut with LOVING, OHIO in Summer of 2024. HEEBIE JEEBIES is Matthew’s third book for younger readers.

Alexene Farol Follmuth is the author of the young adult rom-coms Twelfth Knight and My Mechanical Romance. As Olivie Blake, she is the New York Times bestselling author of The Atlas Six, Alone with You in the Ether, One for My Enemy, and Masters of Death. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, goblin prince/toddler, and rescue pit bull.

Alison Gervais is the author of In 27 Days and The Silence Between Us, for which she received the 2020 Schneider Family Honor Book Award. Alison works at a nonprofit organization that provides services to people with disabilities and writes as often as she can. Currently she lives in Colorado with her husband and their two daughters. 

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s work for President Johnson inspired her career as a presidential historian. Her first book was Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. She followed up with the Pulitzer Prize–winning No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Homefront in World War II. She earned the Lincoln Prize for Team of Rivals, in part the basis for Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln, and the Carnegie Medal for The Bully Pulpit. Her most recent book, An Unfinished Love Story: A Personal History of the 1960s, provides a front-row seat to the pivotal people and events of this momentous decade. 

Markelle Grabo retells the fairy tales that frustrate her, which, based on that guideline, could include nearly all of them. She earned her master's degree in creative writing for children and young adults from Hamline University and lives in Illinois with her partner and their two cats, Matcha and Kava. Call Forth a Fox is her debut novel. 

Chatham Greenfield is a young adult author and an enthusiast of gay disabled love stories. They’re a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and a fellow in the inaugural class of LitUp by Reese’s Book Club. Born and raised in Florida, their stories often take place in far too humid seaside towns. You can find them wherever there’s air conditioning, wrapped up in a blanket, reading a voice driven novel. 

Annemarie Riley Guertin is the author of several books for children. Her titles include How the Finch Got His Colors, Why Evergreens Keep Their Leaves, The Monsters on the Broom, and ABC, Rise Up and Be! Annemarie works as a high school early education CTE teacher in Methuen, Massachusetts. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Michael, and their two children. 

Rudy Gutierrez is an artist and children’s book illustrator. He received the Pura Belpre Honor for Illustration for his work on Papa and Me by Arthur Dorros, a Caldecott Honor for Double Bass Blues by Andrea J. Loney, and the Américas Book Award for Pelé, King of Soccer by Monica Brown, among many other honors. Rudy teaches illustration at the Pratt Institute School of Design in New York City. 

Rob Harrell is the author/illustrator of Wink and the Batpig series, created the Life of Zarf series, the graphic novel Monster on the Hill, and writes and draws the long-running daily comic strip Adam@Home, which appears in more than 140 papers worldwide. He created and drew the internationally syndicated comic strip Big Top until 2007. He lives with his wife in Indiana. 

Deidre Havrelock is a member of Saddle Lake Cree Nation. She grew up in Edmonton, AB, Canada with a ghost in her house, a feminist for a grandma, and wishing she had a buffalo for a pet! Over the years, she has lived in various wonderful places both in Canada and the USA. Currently, she resides in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan—Treaty 6 Territory and Homeland of the Métis. Deidre is the author of Buffalo Wild! and Indigenous Ingenuity which was co-authored with Edward Kay. 

Louise Hung is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. She is the writer/producer of hundreds of videos for the YouTube channel Ask a Mortician and wrote the "Creepy Corner" column for xoJane (RIP). You can find more of Louise's work at HuffPost, The Order of the Good Death, Time, and the podcast Death in the Afternoon. Louise spends her days with four black cats, her husband, and an immortal cactus. 

Jordan Ifueko grew up eating fried plantain while reading comic books under a blanket fort. Eventually, she switched the comics for a notebook and started writing about empresses. She now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their collection of Black Panther Funko Pops. 

Candice Jalili is an Iranian American writer based in New York City. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, The Cut, Rolling Stone, Elite Daily, and more. Finding Famous: A Mashad Family Story is her first novel. She grew up in the Bay Area and spends hours of her days FaceTiming her parents there. You can find her on Instagram at @CandiceJalili and online at

Gail Jarrow is the author of nonfiction books and novels for readers ages 8–18. Her nonfiction books have earned the Sibert Honor, the Orbis Pictus Honor, the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, YALSA Finalist, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book, Outstanding Science Trade Book, a NSTA Best STEM book, the Jefferson Cup Award, the Eureka! Gold Award, as well as Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and School Library Journal Best Books and VOYA Honor Book distinctions. Visit  

Hena Khan is a Pakistani American writer. She is the author of the middle-grade novel Amina’s Voice, which was selected as a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus, NPR, Washington Post, and Chicago Public Library. Her other titles include Amina’s Song, More to the Story, and the Zara’s Rules series and picture books Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, Under My Hijab, and It’s Ramadan, Curious George, among others. Hena lives in her hometown of Rockville, Maryland, with her family. 

Lin King is a writer and translator from Taipei, Taiwan. Her work has appeared in publications including Boston Review, Joyland, Asymptote, and Columbia Journal, and has won the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers. She translates from Mandarin Chinese and Japanese to English, and her translation of Yang Shuang-zi's Taiwan Travelogue is forthcoming from Graywolf Press. 

Vitali Konstantinov was born in Ukraine. As a child he saw the desman at the natural history museum and was fascinated. Vitali studied architecture, graphic art, painting, and art history, and has taught illustration courses at universities in several countries as well as numerous workshops for children. His work has been exhibited extensively, has received many prizes, and has been published in forty different countries. Most recently he was nominated for the Deutsche Jugendliteraturpreis. Today Vitali works as a freelance illustrator and author and lives in Marburg. 

Zahra Lari is the first figure skater to compete at the international level in a hijab and was featured on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list last year. She lives in the United Arab Emirates. 

Rajani LaRocca was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now lives in the Boston area, where she practices medicine and writes award-winning books for young readers, including the Newbery Honor-winning middle-grade novel in verse, Red, White, and Whole. She’s always been an omnivorous reader, and now she is an omnivorous writer of fiction and nonfiction, novels and picture books, prose and poetry. She also co-hosts the STEM Women in KidLit Podcast. Learn more about Rajani and her books at

Andrew Larsen has written more than twenty books for children, including The Man Who Loved Libraries: The Story of Andrew Carnegie, The Bagel King and A Squiggly Story. His books have been nominated for awards in both Canada and the United States. He began writing for children when he became a stay-at-home dad. His kids are all grown up now, but Andrew continues to write. Andrew lives in Toronto, Canada with his wife and his dog, Sally. 

Lawrence Lindell is an artist, musician and educator from California who works in many artistic disciplines, including comics, music, illustration, and mixed media. He is the co-founder of Laneha House. Lindell’s work focuses on Mental Health, Blackness and Queerness. 

Loren Long is the author and illustrator of the New York Times bestselling Otis picture book series, now an animated television series on Apple+. He’s also the illustrator of the #1 New York Times bestsellers Of Thee I Sing by Barack Obama, Love by Matt de la Peña, and Change Sings by Presidential Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman. He lives near Cincinnati, Ohio, with his wife and rescue dog, Charlie. 

Kristi McManus is a registered nurse by trade but has been an avid reader and enthusiastic book lover all her life. Her debut novel, Our Vengeful Souls, was released in summer 2023 by CamCat Books. When she’s not writing, she enjoys photography and art and counts napping as cardio. She lives in Toronto with her husband. 

After studying Fine art and Illustration at Coventry University Hazel Mead pursued her childhood dream of becoming an illustrator. She loves combining beautiful imagery and diverse characters with meaning and story, and often creates social commentary images that tackle taboos. As an idea generator, Hazel finds joy in the process of using illustration to solve clients' communication needs. 

Yamile Saied Méndez is the author of many books for young readers, including Furia, a Reese's YA Book Club selection and the 2021 Inaugural Pura Belpré Young Adult Gold Medalist. She was born and raised in Rosario, Argentina and currently lives in Utah. She is an Inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant recipient and graduated from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She’s a founding member of Las Musas, a marketing collective of Latine authors. You can find her online at  

Garth Nix is the New York Times bestselling author of the Old Kingdom series, a modern classic of fantasy literature that includes the novels Sabriel, Lireal, Abhorsen, and Clariel. He is also the author of The Keys to the Kingdom series, Shade's Children, A Confusion of Princes, Newt's Emerald, and (with Sean Williams) the Troubletwisters series, among other novels. You can find out a whole lot more about him at 

Sam Nakahira is a comic artist and cultural worker from Los Angeles. She makes comics about overlooked histories, the natural world, dreams, and more. 

Zandile Ndhlovu is South Africa’s first Black female free diving instructor. After looking beneath the surface of the ocean for the first time in her life at age twenty-eight, she decided she needed to help make the seas more accessible and diverse. Realizing it needed to start with young people, Ndhlovu set up the Black Mermaid Foundation, which works to create diverse representation in ocean spaces—in sports, in careers, and recreationally. In 2022 she was named one of the Global Top 100 Most Influential People of African Descent. Follow the author on TikTok/ Instagram @ZanditheMermaid. 

Preston Norton teaches environmental science to fifth graders. He is the author of Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe, Where I End & You Begin, and Hopepunk. He is married with three cats.

Award-winning author Wendy Orr was born in Edmonton, Alberta and has since lived around the world, including several years in Colorado, France, and England, and currently Melbourne, Australia. Wendy’s many books for children have been published in 27 countries. Prominent among them is Nim’s Island, which was made into the 2008 film of the same name; a 2013 sequel, Return to Nim’s Island, was loosely based on Orr’s book Nim at Sea

Mark Oshiro is the #1 New York Times bestselling, award-winning Latinx queer author of Anger Is a Gift, Each of Us a Desert, and Into the Light, as well as their middle grade books The Insiders, You Only Live Once, David Bravo, and Star Wars Hunters: Battle for the Arena. They are the coauthor (with Rick Riordan) of The Sun and the Star: A Nico Di Angelo Adventure. When not writing, they are trying to pet every dog in the world.

Carlos Pintado is a poet, playwright, essayist, and fiction writer born in Cuba, who now lives in Miami. He won the Paz Prize from the National Poetry Series for his book Nine Coins/Nueve monedas, the Sant Jordi International Poetry Prize for his collection Habitación a oscuras, and the Sundial House Book Translation Prize for Music for Bamboo Strings. He has been published in the New York Times, World Literature Today, and Vogue, and numerous composers/classical music groups have set music to/sung his poems. HaiCuba/HaiKuba is his debut work for younger readers. 


James Ponti is the New York Times bestselling author of four middle grade book series: The Sherlock Society following a group of young detectives; City Spies; the Edgar Award–winning Framed! series; and the Dead City trilogy. His books have appeared on more than fifteen different state award lists, and he is the founder of a writers' group known as the Renegades of Middle Grade. James is also an Emmy–nominated television writer and producer who has worked for many networks including Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, PBS, History, Spike TV, and NBC Sports. He lives with his family in Orlando, Florida. 


David Dorado Romo is a writer, translator, musician, and historian from the American southwest. He is a "fronterizo," a person who grew up and lived on the border between the United States and Mexico. Steeped in the fronterizo spirit that strongly defines the attitudes of the U.S.-Mexico border region, Romo conducted a four-year search to document the important history of the area, resulting in his book, Ringside Seat to a Revolution: An Underground Cultural History of ElPaso and Juarez, 1893-1923.

Shifa Saltagi Safadi is the author of Kareem Between (Fall 2024), the AMINA BANANA chapter book series (coming 2025), the picture book The Gift of Eid (coming 2025), Spell It Like Samar (2019), Heaven at Mama’s Feet (2021) and Pepperoni, Pitches, and Other Problems (2021). Shifa shares her favorite Muslim books on her online bookstagram @muslimmommyblog and is an ELA middle school teacher, so books are basically her whole life! Shifa was born in Syria and immigrated to the US with her parents as a young girl. She lives near Chicago (GO BEARS!) with her husband and four children.

Rob Sanders is a teacher who writes and a writer who teaches. He is the author of dozens of picture books, including Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights, and Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution. Blood Brothers, his first middle-grade novel, was selected as a 2023 NCTE Notable Novel in Verse. A native of Springfield, Missouri, Rob has lived and worked in Texas, Alabama, and Tennessee. He now lives in Florida and writes books full-time.

Samantha San Miguel grew up on the Treasure Coast of Florida. Living sandwiched between ocean and estuary gave her a wholehearted respect for wildlife, especially the kind that can eat you. She’s spent countless hours scanning for sea monsters, but the only ones she’s seen so far have been in her imagination. Samantha dreams of one day seeing with her own eyes the landscapes from her abuelito’s stories of Cuba. She currently lives in Texas, and she can be found online at

Kirk Scroggs is the author and illustrator of The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid and We Found a Monster. He has been publishing illustrated middle-grade novels for over fifteen years. Kirk lives in Los Angeles with his husband, Steve, and an ungrateful cat. He invites you to visit him online at . 


Cynthia Leitich Smith is the bestselling, acclaimed author of Rain Is Not My Indian Name, Indian Shoes, Jingle Dancer, and Hearts Unbroken, which won the American Indian Youth Literature Award; she is also the anthologist of Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids. Cynthia is the author-curator of Heartdrum, and serves as the Katherine Paterson Inaugural Endowed Chair on the faculty of the MFA program in writing for children and young adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is a citizen of the Muscogee Nation and lives in Austin, Texas. You can visit Cynthia online at 


Traci Sorell writes fiction and nonfiction in a variety of formats for young people. She is the best-selling author of Powwow Day; We Are Still Here!; We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga; Contenders; and At the Mountain’s Base and is coauthor of Mascot. She is an enrolled Cherokee Nation citizen and lives within her tribe’s reservation in northeastern Oklahoma.

Born in 1939 and still performing in her 80s, Mavis Staples is one of the most admired musicians in the country. She holds multiple Grammy Awards including a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, is a Kennedy Center Honoree, and can be found in the Blues, Gospel, and Rock & Roll Halls of Fame. She and her family, The Staple Singers, were also known for their dedication to Civil Rights activism. 


Robin Stevenson is an award-winning author of thirty books for young readers. Her writing has been translated into numerous languages, published in more than a dozen countries, and nominated for many awards. Her books include the middle grade nonfiction book, Pride, which won a Stonewall Honor; the YA nonfiction book My Body My Choice, which won the Sheila A. Egoff Award and was an International Youth Library White Raven selection; and many novels and picture books for teens and kids of all ages. She lives with her family on the west coast of Canada.

Karen Strong is the critically acclaimed author of middle grade novels Just South of Home, Eden’s Everdark, and The Secret Dead Club. She is also a Star Wars contributor featured in Stories of Jedi and Sith, and the editor of the young adult anthology Cool.Awkward. Black. Her work has been praised by Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and School Library Journal and has also received recognition as a Cybils Award Finalist, Ignyte Award Finalist, BCCB Blue Ribbon selection, and Junior Library Guild Gold selection. 


Suja Sukumar loves hanging out in coffee shops and Indian restaurants, drawing inspiration from naan and malai kofta, masala chai and lassi. She is a senior staff physician at a health system in suburban Detroit, where she lives with her husband, two wonderful, beautiful kids, and an elderly cat. She is also a member of SCBWI and an alum of Author Mentor Match.

Donna Tapellini is a writer and attorney who lives in New Jersey with her wife, their goldendoodle, and their three cats. She’s not much of a tennis player, but she loves pickleball. She also enjoys kayaking, reading, working in her garden, and birdwatching. She’s always up for an adventure, but sometimes the perfect day involves a simple game of catch on the beach with her dog.

Jolie Taylor is a booktoker and bookstagrammer @endlessfairytales, where she connects with readers and writers through humorous bibliophile videos. She received a bachelor’s degree in secondary education with an emphasis in English and has been married for fifteen years. She is a mom to two girls and two boys.

Traci N. Todd is the award-winning author of several books for children, including Nina: A Story of Nina Simone, illustrated by Christian Robinson, and Holding Her Own: The Exceptional Life of Jackie Ormes, illustrated by Shannon Wright. She still remembers jumping on her childhood bed (don’t tell Mom!) and listening to Ella Jenkins records on her little orange-and-white record player. A Chicago native, she now writes and edits in Queens, New York.

Emily Varga is a YA Fantasy author with a fondness for getting lost in bookstores and watching a lot of terrible reality tv. She has lived all over the world, but calls the Rocky Mountains of western Canada home, where she lives with her family and their menagerie of pets. When she’s not weaving fantastical tales, Emily works as a lawyer, where she learned more about storytelling than she ever expected.

Jasmine Warga is the New York Times bestselling author of Other Words for Home, a Newbery Honor Book and a Walter Honor Book for Younger Readers; The Shape of Thunder; and A Rover’s Story. Her teen books, Here We Are Now and My Heart and Other Black Holes, have been translated into over twenty-five languages. She lives in the Chicago area with her family. You can visit Jasmine online at

Carole Boston Weatherford is a two-time NAACP Image Award winner and the author of Unspeakable, which won the Coretta Scott King Award, a Sibert Honor and was a National Book Award Finalist; the Newbery Honor book Box; and the New York Times Bestseller Moses. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, she now teaches at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina.

As a young child, Stacey Wells loved sweets of all kinds. As an adult her love of food expanded to tacos with spicy salsa and cheese. She, however, does not like raisins. Stacy is a member of the Choctaw Nation and lives in Texas with her family, which includes a red dog named Blu and two very mischievous ferrets.  


Leslie Stall Widener is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. She has illustrated six Choctaw-related picture books: Chukfi Rabbit’s Big, Bad Bellyache; The Turkey Who Liked to Show Off; Why the Turtle Has Cracks on His Back; The Story of Tanchi; Why the Possum Has No Hair on His Tail; and Why Rabbit Has a Short Tail. Leslie lives in McKinney, Texas. 




Alicia Abdul is a high school librarian in Albany, NY. She shares her reading (and dresses) on Instagram @ReadersBeAdvised and blogs at She's served or chaired on several YALSA book committees, presents at local, state, and national conferences on books, programs, and graphic novels, and recently became an adjunct for two graduate programs on young adult literature.

Monisha Blair is the Head Librarian at Key Middle School in Springfield, VA. She also reviews graphic novels, middle grade fiction, picture books, and young adult fiction for School Library Journal. She served on the SLJ Best Books Committee for Middle Grade Fiction from 2020-2023. You can find her on all social media platforms as @monishablair.

Amalia E. Butler is a public school librarian (P-7) with experience in public libraries and special collections. She is an active ALSC member, most recently serving on the 2023 (John) Newbery Award Selection Committee and the ALSC Children & Libraries Editorial Advisory Committee (2020-23).

Dr. Amina Chaudhri is a Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, where she teaches courses in children’s literature, literacy, and social studies in the department of Teacher Education.

Monica de los Reyes is editorial assistant of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA in American Studies from University of Massachusetts Boston and a BA in English from Harvard College. 

Shelley Diaz, Reviews Editor, School Library Journal

Jonah Dragan reviews for School Library Journal and serves on their year-end Best Books Committees. He holds a Master's degree in Education from Bank Street College and is also a member of the Bank Street Children's Book Committee. His many other hats include preschool teacher, author, professional storyteller, rare book collector, and parent. He can often be found exploring the dusty shelves of used bookstores, curling up with a mug of tea and a good ghost story, or diving into worlds of imagination with his husband and child.

Brandi Grant has 12 years experience as a school librarian and currently is a middle school librarian at Pearson Middle School in Frisco ISD. The mission statement that guides her professionally is to strive to educate, prepare, and inspire all students to achieve their highest potential with various resources, a contagious love of reading and a positive and fun environment. What she holds tight is to provide a safe, inclusive, and flexible learning environment where whoever enters through the doors feels that they are free to COLLABORATE, INNOVATE, and ESCAPE.

Karen Grenke is the Library Co-Director at The Town School (NYC) and the Resident Librarian at the Onteora Club. She is a second generation librarian, hailing from Canada by way of Taiwan. Her book-related projects have been published in SLJ and she’s twice been a panelist at Book Expo. Karen is a company member of Nerve Tank Media and a recipient of an Audio Verse Award for Best Storyteller. She is the current co-chair of the Education and Information Technology committee for the New York State Association of Independent Schools.

After 7 years of being a teacher, Heather Lassley felt a calling to another area in the school, the library. Heather has worked in Frisco ISD as a librarian for 13 years in the middle school area. Her passions are collection development, teaching research, and building a library for all students. 

Ashley Leffel is the librarian in Frisco, TX.  Before becoming a librarian, she taught music for many years. She loves reading all types of books and fangirling for her favorite authors. When not reading, she enjoys Broadway musicals and can quote just about every episode of Bob’s Burgers.


Dr. Sujei Lugo is a children's librarian at the Boston Public Library, Connolly Branch. She holds an MLIS from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus and a Ph.D. LIS from Simmons University. She is an independent scholar and book reviewer and active member of REFORMA (National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking), ALSC (Association for Library Services to Children) and the We Are Kid Lit Collective. She is the co-writer of Islas Lectoras: bibliografía crítica de literatura infantil puertorriqueña (2000-2020).


Emmy Neal is the teen librarian in Lake Forest, IL, where she lives with her dogs, plants, and more than a thousand books. Always an eclectic bookworm, she is passionate about collection development and getting the good books to the right readers. When she isn't reading, she can be found knitting, playing Dungeons & Dragons, or watching Korean and Chinese dramas. 


Alea Perez has been a Youth and Young Adult Services manager in the Chicago suburbs since June 2015. She aims to help children, teens, and their caregivers discover the many services libraries provide. Alea is dedicated to advocacy for youth and teen services, youth and teen services management, graphic novels for youth and teens, and equity and inclusion in the field at large.

Clair Quaintance has been working with tweens and teens in school libraries since 2010 and loving every minute of it.

As digital media coordinator, Justin Shannin oversees teen makerspace technology (including recording studios, sewing stations, and 3D printers) across Chicago Public Library's 81 branches. He has also served multiple terms on the library's "Best of the Best" committee, helping to select and publicize the library's annual top 50 list of new teen books. Before becoming a librarian, Justin worked in theatre and education. He has a B.A. in theatre from Northwestern University and an MLIS degree from UNC Greensboro.

Florence Simmons is an associate editor for SLJ. She hails from sunny Florida, where she has held several editorial positions—from reviews editor at Taylor & Francis Group to reviewing children’s books at Booklist. She is also the founder of children's and YA reviews blog “Book Nerds Across America,” which has been running strong since 2010.

Melissa Thom, MA, (she/her) is a teacher librarian at Bristow Middle School in West Hartford, CT. She has been an educator for 21 years and is the immediate past President of the Connecticut Association of School Librarians (CASL). She was a 2019 AASL Social Media Superstar Reader Leader finalist and a Library Journal Mover and Shaker in 2022. In her free time, she sews #LiteracyInspiredCrafts for her Joyful Making Etsy Shop. Find Melissa on X/Instagram @MsThomBookitis and Facebook at

Margaret Tice is a retired school librarian (Prek-8) with many years of experience in public libraries. She most recently served on the 2023 (John) Newbery Award Selection Committee and is currently a member of the Schneider Family Book Award Committee as well as the Bank Street Children's Book Committee.


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