Grace Lin grew up in Upstate New York with her parents and two sisters. While the other sisters became scientists, Grace became an artist. Surprisingly enough, being an artist was not Grace’s first choice. She first dreamed of being a champion ice skater, and drew many pictures of herself twirling and dancing on the ice. Unfortunately, Grace had neither the talent nor coordination to make it to skating stardom. However, the pictures she drew of herself held much promise and quickly became Grace’s career focus.
Speaking with Krista Tippet, poet, activist, teacher and humanitarian Naomi Shihab Nye said this of writing: “Very rarely do you hear anyone say they write things down and feel worse. It’s an act that helps you, preserves you, energizes you, in the very doing of it.” As readers, we are fortunate that Nye is energized by writing, because her writing is a gift. It is a gift that inspires us, in large part by not shying away from topics that challenge us.
Sheila Hamanaka has been illustrating children’s books since 1987. She is best known for her books on peace and multiculturalism. Her award-winning book “The Journey” is based on a five-panel mural she painted about the history of the Japanese in America, focusing on the concentration camps in which her parents were jailed during World War II. Her popular “All the Colors of the Earth” celebrates the diversity of children and parents. Hamanaka’s work with the Animal Welfare Institute reflects her deep concern for all sentient beings and for our home, earth.
Living and working in his family home at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains, acclaimed author Joseph Bruchac (b. 1942) has devoted forty years to celebrating his Abenaki heritage through prose, verse, story, and song. As the author of more than 120 books, a professional musician, and a skilled teller of traditional tales, Bruchac has worked to share traditional and contemporary Native American culture through many genres and for audiences of all ages.
Andrea and Brian Pinkney were the featured authors of the School of Education’s 2014 Words Take Wing: Honoring Diversity in Children’s Literature annual presentation and lecture. Brian is an award-winning illustrator. Andrea has authored over 20 books for children, including Alvin Ailey, Dear Benjamin Banneker, and Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters, which won a Coretta Scott King Honor Award in 2001. Her latest award-winning book is Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America.
Margarita Engle is a Cuban-American and winner of the first Newbery Honor ever awarded to a Latino. She writes award-winning young adult novels in verse including The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor book and winner of the Jane Addams Book Award.
Award-winning author, dynamic public speaker and world traveler, Ying Chang Compestine is the author of numerous books, including picture books, young adult novels, and cookbooks for adults that promote healthy eating.
African American poet, playwright and children’s author, Joyce Carole Thomas celebrates the folk traditions and history of African American women, children and families in America. She is celebrated for her young adult novels, poetry, and picture books, as well as fiction and plays for adults. She won the American Book Award for her first novel, Marked by Fire, and the Coretta Scott King Award for her second, Bright Shadow. She died on August 13, 2016, in Stanford, California.
Belle Yang’s writing celebrates the immigration journey of her family from China to Japan and the United States. Her work is beautifully illustrated with her paintings, which have been compared to Gauguin’s. Her book Always Come Home to Me is the 2008 winner of the Best Children’s Book award by the Chinese American Librarians Association. In 2010, she released a graphic memoir, Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale. To learn more about Belle Yang, visit her website.
On January 28, 2009, the series featured Francisco Alarcón, Chicano poet, children’s author and professor at UC Davis, and Maya Christina Gonzalez, a children’s book illustrator who has collaborated frequently with Alarcón.
Robert San Souci’s books – many of them retellings of traditional folk tales – celebrate cultures from around the world. He has written over 80 books and has collaborated with his brother, Daniel, on nine of his books. Daniel is an illustrator. Some titles include The Reluctant Dragon, Little Pierre, and The Well at the End of the World. For more information about San Souci, visit his website.
Patricia McKissack delighted more than 1,000 children, teachers and community members with two lectures, focusing on storytelling and her personal journey as a children’s literature author. McKissack told her audience that she began her career as a writer to tell stories that hadn’t been written for children, from the ghost stories and tall tales of her youth to stories about the many contributions made by African Americans that have been previously overlooked.
Pam Muñoz Ryan, has written over 30 books for young people in many genres, including the novel, Esperanza Rising, winner of the Pura Belpre Medal, the Jane Addams Peace Award, an American Library Association (ALA) Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults, the Americas Award Honor and other accolades. When Marian Sang is the recipient of the National Council of Teachers of English Orbis Pictus Award for excellence in non-fiction. Becoming Naomi Leon received the ALA Schneider Family Award, the Tomás Rivera Award, and an ALA Notable. She is twice the recipient of the Willa Cather Literary Award for Writing and a four-time nominee for the California Young Reader Medal, receiving the medal for Riding Freedom in 2000. To learn more about Ryan, visit her website.
Laurence Yep served as the inaugural speaker of our children’s lecture series. Yep’s interest in intersecting cultures, differing perspectives and the links between generations of people all illustrate the rich diversity of ideas found in children’s literature. His stories excite children and teens by placing them in unfamiliar worlds with protagonists who share their sense of wonder and discovery. To read more about Yep, visit Scholastic.