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2018 Youth Literature Seminar Featured Speakers

Get Graphic

Kid-friendly comics are making a huge comeback in libraries and schools. Jennifer will discuss how she and her brother, Matt, create their critically-acclaimed graphic novel series Babymouse, and their new pond scum-green series, Squish—and how COMICS can inspire kids to read.

Jennifer L. Holm


Three-time Newbery Honor winning and New York Times bestselling Jennifer L. Holm is a beloved and well-known name in the world of children’s literature. Widely embraced by educators, librarians, and children across the country, Jenni’s novels have struck a chord with all who read her heartwarming and poignant stories, many of which are based on her own life and family. A frequent guest at schools, conferences, bookstores, and libraries across the country, Jenni enjoys meeting her readers, and speaking about her novels, writing, and the inspiration behind her award-winning books.

In addition to her novels, Jenni and her brother Matt are the creators of two graphic novel series for children, Babymouse and Squish, which have garnered much critical-attention and favorable reviews. Jenni’s books have appeared on The New York Times bestseller list, been the recipients of numerous awards and starred reviews, and have sold a combined total of over 1.9 million copies in print, digital, and audio formats.

Born in California, Jenni spent much of her life in Pennsylvania, where she grew up following her four brothers and enjoying the athletic and boy friendly activities they were into. After college, Jenni moved to New York, where she became a television producer before deciding to become a full-time writer. Her first novel Our Only May Amelia was the recipient of a Newbery Honor Award, and Holm was catapulted onto the children’s literature scene. She would go on to win another two Newbery Honors for her novels Penny from Heaven and Turtle in Paradise. Her recent novel, The Fourteenth Goldfish was a New York Times bestseller, and her newest book, Full of Beans, won the 2017 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction and was a New York Public Library Best Book for Kids.

Jenni currently resides back in California, where she lives with her husband and two children.

This Is Babymouse!

Matthew Holm talks about how he became a children’s book creator, how he and his sister, Jennifer, developed the award-winning graphic novel series, Babymouse, and how they work on a book from start to finish.

Matthew Holm


Matthew Holm is the New York Times-bestselling author and illustrator of more than 35 books for children. Together with his sister, author Jennifer L. Holm, he co-created the graphic novel series Babymouse and Squish, and raised the profile of the graphic novel in children’s literature. With a combined total of 2.8 million copies sold in all formats, both Babymouse and Squish have become staples on classroom and library shelves across the country, and have enticed even the most reluctant readers into reading for pleasure. The Holms have also collaborated on the My First Comics board books for beginning readers and the New York Times bestseller Sunny Side Up. Matthew recently released his first middle-grade novel, Marvin and the Moths, co-written with Jonathan Follett.

Matthew enjoys speaking at schools, libraries, and conferences across the country and around the world, and has been doing this both solo, and jointly with his sister. His enthusiasm for his profession and the books he has created acts as a wonderful catalyst for discussion about the literary world and the role that graphic novels play in it, as well as entertains and encourages children to become lovers of reading.

Matthew currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and dog.

Dr. Ernest Morrell

Dr. Ernest Morrell will speak on diversity, equity and choice for teachers and children in reading.


Ernest Morrell is the Coyle Professor of Literacy Education and Director of the Center for Literacy Education at the University of Notre Dame. He was formerly the Macy Professor of English Education and Director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME) at Teachers College, Columbia University. He is also an elected member of the AERA Council, elected Fellow of the American Educational Research Association, a past-president of the National Council of Teachers of English, an appointed member of the International Literacy Association’s Research Panel, and convener of the African Diaspora International Research Network. His areas of interest include: The Teaching of English, the African Diaspora, Postcolonial Studies, Media and Popular Culture, and Literature for Children. In 2015, 2016, and 2017, Ernest was ranked among the top 100 university-based education scholars in the Annual EdWeek RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings. Ernest is also the recipient of the 2017 Divergent Award for Excellence in 21st Century Literacies.

Ernest has written more than 80 articles and book chapters that have appeared in publications such as Research in the Teaching of English, Teachers College Record, the Journal of Teacher Education, Reading Research Quarterly, English Education, the English Journal, the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, and Learning, Media, and Technology. He has authored eight books including New Directions in Teaching English, Doing Youth Participatory Research, The Art of Critical Pedagogy, Critical Literacy and Urban Youth, and Critical Media Pedagogy: Teaching for Achievement in City Schools, which was awarded Outstanding Academic Title for 2014 by Choice Magazine of the American Library Association. Ernest has earned numerous commendations for his university teaching including UCLA’s Department of Education’s Distinguished Teaching Award. He received his BA in English Literature from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and his teaching credential, his MA and his PhD in Language, Literacy, and Culture from the University of California, Berkeley where he was the recipient of the Outstanding Dissertation award in 2001. Ernest is chair of the Planning and Advisory Committee for the African Diaspora Consortium and he sits on the Executive Boards of LitWorld and the Education for Democracy Institute.

Colby Sharp

Colby Sharp will talk about the importance of children finding books they love so that they will love reading. Colby will also share his favorite book titles of the year. 


Author, educator and creator Colby Sharp is a fifth grade teacher in Parma, Michigan. Colby says helping kids find the books that help them fall in love with reading brings his tremendous joy. He has been a classroom teacher since 2006. In 2011, Colby started the Nerdy Book Club blog with his friend Donalyn Miller. He co-hosts The Yarn podcast with teacher librarian Travis Jonker. Colby also serves on the Nerd Camp Michigan team, a free literacy event that takes place in Parma, Michigan each summer. Colby’s first book, The Creativity Project, hit the shelves in April 2018.

Colby lives in Parma with his wife and five children (Breslin, Dharia, Adelai, Hobbes, and Harvey).