2017 Youth Literature Seminar Featured Speakers

Mitali Perkins


Mitali Perkins has written ten novels for young readers, including Rickshaw Girl (chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the top 100 books for children in the past 100 years) and Bamboo People (an American Library Association's Top Ten Novels for Young Adults). Her newest novel, Tiger Boy, won the Charlotte Huck Honor Award and the South Asia Book Award. She has been honored as a “Most Engaging Author” by independent booksellers across the country and selected as a “Literary Light for Children” by the Associates of the Boston Public Library.

Mitali was born in Kolkata, India before immigrating to the Bay Area with her family. She has lived in Bangladesh, India, England, Thailand, Mexico, Cameroon, and Ghana, studied at Stanford and U.C. Berkeley, and currently resides in the East Bay where she is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Saint Mary's College of California.

Gary D. Schmidt


Gary D. Schmidt is the author of more than fifteen books for children and young adults, including The Wednesday Wars, a 2008 Newbery Honor Award winner, and Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, which won a Newbery Honor award and a Michael L. Printz Honor award in 2005. His novel, Trouble, came out in spring 2008, and Okay for Now in 2012 - becoming a National Book Award Finalist. In God's Hands, a picture book co-authored with Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, was a runner-up for the 2005 National Jewish Book Award. His most recent picture book is The Rose in the Desert: The Story of Martin de Porres.

In addition to multiple “Best Book” lists, his work has been given a Horn Book Honor award and a Blue Ribbon award by the Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books. He has also authored or co-authored numerous textbooks, scholarly and academic books (including biographies of Katherine Paterson and Robert McCloskey), articles, and book reviews.

In 1985 he received his Ph.D. in medieval languages and literature from the University of Illinois. He is a professor in the English department at Calvin College and lives on a farm in Alto, Michigan. Gary recently published his first fantasy novel, What Came from the Stars. His newest YA novel, Orbiting Jupiter, was published in October of 2015, and has been listed to Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2015.

Javaka Steptoe


Javaka Steptoe is an eclectic young artist, designer, and illustrator, building a national reputation as an outstanding contributor to the genre of children’s literature. His debut work, In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers, earned him the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, a nomination for Outstanding Children’s Literature Work at the 1998 NAACP Image Awards, a finalist ranking for the Bluebonnet Award for Excellence in Children’s Books, and countless other honors. His books, Do You Know What I’ll Do? authored by Charlotte Zolotow and A Pocketful of Poems authored by Nikki Grimes, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and the ALA Booklist. Hot Day on Abbott Avenue, written by Karen English, received the 2005 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award. Steptoe is also the author/illustrator of The Jones Family Express. His most recent illustration projects include Rain Play by Cynthia Cotten, published in 2008, Amiri and Odette: A Love Story by multi award winning author Walter Dean Myers, the 2010 New York Times Bestseller, Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow (2011 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Honor Book), and Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (2017 Caldecott Award, 2017 NAACP Image Award Nomination for Outstanding Literary Work – Children, 2017 ALA Coretta Scott Award). 

Once a model and inspiration for his late father, award winning author/illustrator John Steptoe, Javaka Steptoe has established himself as an outstanding illustrator in his own right. Utilizing everyday objects, from aluminum plates to pocket lint, and sometimes illustrating with a jigsaw and paint, he delivers reflective and thoughtful collage creations filled with vitality, playful energy, and strength.

Having earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, Steptoe is very committed to children’s education, making appearances at various schools, libraries, museums, and conferences across the country, including the American Library Association, the International Reading Association, and Reading is Fundamental, Inc.

Matt Faulkner


Award winning children’s book author and illustrator Matt Faulkner grew up in a small town just outside of Boston, Ma. Upon graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1983, Matt took a job setting typography in NYC at an ad agency. Boy, was that the wrong job for Matt! Just as the studio manager was about to let him go, the owner of the agency saw the drawings Matt had done on his work table during lunch and hired him to draw storyboards for t.v. commercials! He got his own office and a pay raise! Woohoo!

Not long after, Matt created his first author/illustrated picture book - The Amazing Voyage of Jackie Grace with Scholastic. Since then he has created over 30 books for children. His work has won wide praise for its humor, exuberance and sensitivity. He delights in illuminating both historic stories and more fanciful tales and he works very hard not to get the two mixed up. His author/illustrated book A Taste of Colored Water received the Comstock Honor award by the Minnesota State University, was chosen as a finalist by the California Commonwealth Club for its 2009 Book award and was chosen as a winner in the pre-adolescent category by the National Storytelling Network. The NSNetwork also chose Independent Dames: What You Never Knew About the Women and Girls of the American Revolution (written by Laurie Halse Anderson) as the winner of its adolescent category in 2009.

In addition, he is a contributing illustrator to such national periodicals as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Forbes. Matt is married to author and children’s librarian, Kristen Remenar. They live with their 3 kids and 3 cats on the lower right corner of the Michigan mitten. He teaches illustration at the Art Academy University in San Francisco.

Ed Spicer


From graduate students to kindergarten students, Ed Spicer is an educator with a wide variety of experiences during the last two decades, including 17 years in a first grade classroom and as the adjunct graduate young adult literature professor for Grand Valley State University. Ed retired from teaching in 2016.

Spicer has served on the Caldecott award committee, the Printz award committee and many other committees with the American Library Association. He is one of Allegan’s “Outstanding People in Education” for 2016 and a Cool Teacher winner for GVSU’s television station. Spicer continues to write curriculum guides for Houghton Mifflin, Simon & Schuster, and other publishers and authors (over 50). Currently Ed is reviewing books for Horn Book Magazine. He is also a member of the Schneider Award committee.

Friend him on Facebook: spicyreads@facebook.com. Follow him on Twitter: @spicyreads or visit his website: www.spicyreads.org

Kathleen T. Horning


Kathleen T. Horning is the director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), a library of the School of Education, University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the author of From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children’s Books and teaches popular online courses for the Association for Library Service to Children’s (ALSC) on the Newbery, Caldecott, and Sibert medals.

Kathleen is the 2015 recipient of the ALSC Distinguished Service Award. This prestigious award honors an individual who has made significant contributions to library service to children and to ALSC. She has served ALSC on an organizational level as president, member of the Board of Directors, chair of the Caldecott 75th Anniversary Task Force and co-chair of the pre-conference celebrating 75 years of Caldecott books. As president, she forged strong ties with REFORMA (The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking), resulting in an annual (rather than biennial) Pura Belpré Award and strengthening the national El día de los ninos/El dia de los libros celebrations. She has also served on many media evaluation and award committees, including chairing the 1995 Newbery Committee and the 1997 Batchelder Committee. She is currently chairing the 2017 Ezra Jack Keats Award committee.


Cindy Dobrez & Lynn Rutan

Cindy Dobrez & Lynn Rutan have each chaired the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults committee and the Michael L. Printz Award committee. Cindy and Lynn co-author the Bookends Blog for Booklist Online from Holland, Michigan, reviewing and recommending books for preschoolers through teens.

They will reprise their popular talk about the latest and greatest books and what’s on the horizon for tweens and teens.