Posted in Author Meet Up, Meet the authors

Brooks Benjamin

Online presence (website/social media)
Twitter: @brooksbenjamin
Instagram: @thebrooksbenjamin

  1. When you were my age (10), did you have a book inspire or impact you?
    Yes! Bridge to Terabithia had a huge impact on me. I grew up on a little farm in the middle of nowhere and I really connected with Jess. But then I got to the end of the book and got so mad at Katherine Paterson for what she did to Leslie. I vowed to never read the book again and maybe even form an anti-Terabithia club or something. But I couldn’t stay away from that story for some reason. It had rooted itself in my heart and it wasn’t going anywhere.

2. Have you read anything recently that inspired or impacted you? Recently, I can’t get enough of Ronald L. Smith’s books. He writes the most wonderfully creepy stories and his latest, The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away, has quickly become one of my most favorite books of all time. And it’s the one that inspired me to begin working on a spooky story of my own.

3. Can you share what your usual day as an author looks like?
It’s positively glamorous. I’m talking fluffy fleecy robes, cereal in diamond-studded bowls with milk that has the little gold flakes in it, imported coffee, you name it.
wakes up
Oh, sorry, what was the question? My typical day? Got it. Well, I’m also a full-time teacher, so most of my day looks like me running around, making weird jokes and goofy faces, trying to make kids laugh while I teach them stuff. Which is odd because that’s also how I look when I write. I do that for one hour before I go to work. I have my cereal (normal bowl, normal milk), my coffee (it’s from Kroger), and a head full of ideas freshly plucked from dreamland.

4. Is there a newer or less known author you think kids should know about?
Absolutely. Greg Howard should be on everyone’s to-read list. His first MG book, The Whispers, is positively phenomenal and he’s got a new MG coming out next year that is going to be so much fun!

5. What is a cool thing about being an author?
Connecting with young readers will always be my absolute favorite thing about being an author. Emails, letters, drawings, all of it. And when I’m lucky enough to meet readers in real life? My smile practically wraps the whole way around my head. Which is scary. It scares people. Especially me.

6. Is there anything hard about being an author? I know it is not rainbows, cupcakes, pens and a pot of gold.
Well, there are cupcakes. But that’s because I like cupcakes and I buy them sometimes. Mainly because being an author is hard. One thing every author faces is rejection. For every book we have out there, there are probably two or three (or more!) that never made it. Rejection stings. And when you’ve got anxiety like I have, sometimes that sting carries a bit of poison that soaks into your brain, infecting every thought you have about your writing. Sometimes it can feel like you’re sinking. But luckily I have the most amazing wife who is a pro at helping me stay afloat. And my agent is so relentlessly supportive. I’m very grateful to have them on my side.

7. Book access and diversity in books is a big topic. As an author what do you think your role is in this topic?
You know those cheerleaders who toss the other cheerleaders into the air so they can do some amazing flip kick twist move? I think that’s my role. Not doing the flip kick twist move, but heaving others into the air so they can do it. I want to find those books my students need and show them off. I want to lift up those voices because, unfortunately, a lot of times they don’t get the attention they deserve.

8. If you could portal into any book which would it be?
This is such a tough question! There are so many books I want to live inside. But if I had to pick just one, I guess I’d go with the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series by Sayantani DasGupta. There’s so much magic and action and adventure. There are also plenty of monsters, but I know I’d be safe because Kiranmala is exceptionally good at kicking evil’s butt.

Posted in Meet the authors

Erica S. Perl

Online presence (website/social media)

  1. When you were my age (10), did you have a book inspire or impact you?

    I love realistic fiction, so I read a lot of books by Judy Blume, Norma Klein, Paula Danziger, Beverly Cleary, Louise Fitzhugh, and E.L. Konigsberg. I also loved Daniel Pinkwater’s THE HOBOKEN CHICKEN EMERGENCY, Sydney Taylor’s ALL OF A KIND FAMILY books, and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A LITTLE PRINCESS. But my favorite book was then – and is still – E. B. White’s CHARLOTTE’S WEB.

2. Have you read anything recently that inspired or impacted you? I am currently reading Laurie Halse Anderson’s SHOUT, which is a very powerful book. I also recently read two very funny picture books: HORSE MEETS DOG, by Elliott Kalan, illustrated by Tim Miller and THE GREAT INDOORS, by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Ruth Chan. Both definitely fall in the category of “books I wish I wrote”! And I recently finished Donna Gephart’s THE PARIS PROJECT, which comes out in the fall. I highly recommend it. Great characters, terrific voice, funny, and moving – you’ll love it.

(Bridget note: Super jealous! I can’t wait to read The Paris Project!)

3. Can you share what your usual day as an author looks like? I have two dogs so most days I run or walk with my dogs first thing, because it helps me focus (and helps them conk out so I can write). Then I hit my desk and write. I break for lunch and often I cook or read or daydream for a while before coming back to my desk to do some more writing or some editing of stuff that I’ve written. And on Friday afternoons, I go to Improv class!

4. Is there a newer or less know author you think kids should know about? I think kids should know about Alan Silberberg, who is my co-author on a top-secret book project. He is also the author of books including MILO, STICKY NOTES AND BRAIN FREEZE and MEET THE LATKES, both of which you should check out. He is a very good writer (and illustrator) and he is VERY funny.

5. What is a cool thing about being an author? I love doing school visits. It is fun to spend the day talking with kids about books and writing. And librarians are the best (and not just because they treat authors like rock stars!), so it is always cool for me to have the chance to pick their brains about books they love and books they wish existed.

6. Is there anything hard about being an author? I know it is not rainbows, cupcakes, pens and a pot of gold.It’s NOT??!!! (Just kidding – I know it’s not). I find it hard when I get stuck. You know, when you’re writing and everything is going great and then you hit a wall. I usually try to take a break and work on something else, then come back when my brain is fresh. Often, the answer will come to me when I stop trying to force it. But I am an impatient person, so waiting is not easy for me

7. Book access and diversity in books is a big topic. As an author what do you think your role is in this topic? I am very excited to see so much diversity these days in books – in terms of characters, authors, topics, settings, and more (and to see all kinds of diversity – race/ethnicity/religion/gender/size/ability and much, much, more). It’s so important to hear from people whose experiences are different from yours, yet who might be more like you than you would imagine. Book access is also hugely important. For many years, I worked for First Book (, which is a national non-profit organization that has provided millions of books to kids. I’ve seen firsthand how book access can change lives.

8. If you could portal into any book which would it be? Harry Potter! Book One, specifically. My favorite Harry Potter is Book Four, but I wouldn’t want to be there for all the stressful parts. But, I’ll take the Hogwarts Express and a chocolate frog any day


Posted in Meet the authors

Donna Gephart

Online presence (website/social media)
Twitter: Dgephartwrites

1. When you were my age (10), did you have a book inspire or impact you?

When I was 10 I decided to become a writer. My favorite books were Mr. Popper’s Penguins and The Hundred Dresses.

2. Have you read anything recently that inspired or impacted you?

I love Dusti Bowling’s books!

3. Can you share what your usual day as an author looks like?

I try to wake early, walk my dog and write for several hours. I love taking long walks in the woods to let my mind work on story problems.

4. Is there a newer or less know author you think kids should know about?

Linda Urban is a great writer, especially her book A Crooked Kind of Perfect.

5. What is a cool thing about being an author?

So many cool things. I love getting to meet young people and sharing my passion for reading and writing with them.

6. Is there anything hard about being an author? I know it is not rainbows, cupcakes, pens and a pot of gold.

Oh, if only it were rainbows, cupcakes, pens, pots of gold and unicorns. Writing means a lot of time alone, working hard to express the ideas in your head in a way that young readers will connect with.

7. Book access and diversity in books is a big topic. As an author what do you think your role is in this topic?

I work to get books into the hands of young people who need them most through donations and organizations that provide books for young people. I personally diversify my own reading lists and recommend diverse books and authors.

8. If you could portal into any book which would it be?

It would be fun to join my character Olivia Bean on the set of Jeopardy!

Thanks so much!

My new book coming in October is The Paris Project:

Posted in Meet the authors

Padma Venkatraman

Credit: Connecticut head shots

Author website/social media:


Twitter: @padmatv

Instagram and facebook: Venkatraman.padma

1. When you were my age (10), did you like to read?

I didn’t like to read, I loved to read! I had a tough childhood, in which books were a saving grace.

2. What is a book that made an impact on you?

Several books had an impact on me… and here are a few that come to mind. THE SECRET GARDEN, for example, was wonderful in some ways (I loved the magical element, the garden and the robin) and awful in others (many aspects of the story drip with racism and ableism). I liked a book called THE SPRIG OF BROOM because it was one of the few that wasn’t overtly racist (except in that it was populated entirely with white characters). I also enjoyed a book called 31 BROTHERS AND SISTERS – because it was the ONLY book I had as a kid that featured a dark skinned girl who defied gender norms in her society; as a child, I assumed the book had been written by an African author; as an adult, though, I discovered the book wasn’t and that it had limitations I hadn’t been sensitive too as a child…despite all that, it was the one example – the only example I had – of the kind of book I wanted to write in that it was the only one I came across that actually had a protagonist with dark skin who was in some ways like me, a girl who rebelled, a girl who had a burning desire to forge her own way in the world, a girl who fought to express her independence.

3. Is it hard to come up with book ideas?

Nope. I wish I could live long enough to finish writing all my book ideas, but as it turns out, even if I managed to write a book a year until the day I drop dead (and I plan to drop dead at the age of 101 with a pen in my hands), I won’t be done with all my book ideas…

4. The Bridge Home talks about a less nice side of India. A lot of the books I have read about life in India are not so nice life. Do you have book suggestions that show the nice side? (I hear it is really pretty, colorful,busy)

I like to think THE BRIDGE HOME show both sides of life in India – after all, the characters manage to find laughter and courage in the toughest situations – which is pretty wonderful, no? Anyway, here are suggestions for the nice side – I think my novel A TIME TO DANCE explores a nice side, for the most part, as it looks at Indian dance and a mostly functional family and solid friendships. There are also many lovely books that show the nice side of Indian culture – I just read a charming little book that’s coming out this fall called COUNT ME IN by Varsha Bajaj which shows a totally nice South Asian Indian American family; as for books set on the Indian subcontinent, one of my favorites is RICKSHAW GIRL by Mitali Perkins which is about a very lovely Bangladeshi family; THE GRAND PLAN TO FIX EVERYTHING is a joyful romp by Uma Krishnaswami that’s set partly in India; Deepa Agarwal is an Indian author who’s been writing fantasy inspired by Indian tales for decades, such as the book BLESSED, but I’m not sure how easy it is to get her books in the United States…

5. What author or book have read recently that impacted you

Margarita Engle is an author whom I admire and someone I care for deeply; she is so generous. I read SOARING EARTH – a companion to her acclaimed and award-winning memoir in verse ENCHANTED AIR.. and it’s one of the few sequels I’ve read that is just as wonderful as the first book. It came out this spring, I think, around the same time as THE BRIDGE HOME.

6.Is there a new or lesser known author you think kids should be aware of?

In this day and age of twitter, I’d like to mention a few authors who aren’t on social media (because I hope and think kids should be aware of them and I’d like to make sure we don’t forget their marvelous work just because they aren’t on the internet): Donna Jo-Napoli is a prolific author, who, among other things, has written books that relate to Greek Mythology that are really interesting – such as the young adult novel THE GREAT GOD PAN. An Indian-American author who comes to mind as I write this note is KASHMIRA SHETH; she’s pretty well known, but I think it’s important for us to celebrate people like her, even as we welcome new authors into the field. Mildred Taylor’s ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY is a classic, in my opinion, and a book I hope kids are aware of – and again, an author who isn’t on the internet I don’t think. CAROLYN COMAN is a superb author, whom I think kids should be aware of; her novel WHAT JAMIE SAW is pretty incredible and an absolute gem of a book. To me, Coman is one of the immortal names in kidlit. As for authors who are on all things twitter and whom I do think are pretty well known, but here’s a shout out to them, just to be sure – Dan Gemeinhart, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Phil Bildner, Ann Braden, Brian Lies, Kristy Dempsey, and the incredible Kathi Appelt, author of THE UNDERNEATH which is a superb book.

7 What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?

Read, read, read. Don’t worry about whether adults around you think a book deserves acclaim or awards – have the strength to form your own opinions. Most important of all, don’t be in a hurry to see your name in print – it’s not publication that makes an author and author, it’s love of the written word, love of the process that makes a person an author. Material success isn’t always a reflection of a book or an author’s true worth – there’s a lot of luck in this field. I became an author because of my desire to communicate and to increase compassion in the world because to me, a book isn’t merely something that entertains, a book is a magical key that unlocks empathy…that’s not to say everyone who is an author needs to feel this way, but it’s just to say this is where I come from.

8 As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?

The most wonderful thing in the whole world is to hear from readers who’ve been touched or moved by your work. In a way, I feel like my books aren’t really mine. THE BRIDGE HOME belongs to Rukku, Muthu, Arul and Viji, to the real people who inspired the story and to the characters in my head and heart who are very real to me – every honor I receive is an honor for them, too. When I was in India, a boy broke down when he delivered the vote of thanks after my talk – and I heard later that he rarely ever expressed himself so seriously; so many children have been spurred to action because of THE BRIDGE HOME and that means a lot. Finally, I know of at least six children and two adults who drew enough strength from the book that they were able to move from tough situations in their lives to places of greater safety – and that is humbling and honoring in the most immense way possible. It is a priceless gift to that the book was one small positive step in their lives, one tiny element of change for the better in our world.

9 If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be?

THE LORD OF THE RINGS – despite all the violence – and I’d change it, so there were a bunch of heroines of color! It’s such a wonderful read, in so many ways, but there are a lot of problems in it, too – and I think it would be sort of boring to enter a book world in which everything was pretty much fine already … it’s more fun to think of a book world that needs change, a book world in which I would need to challenge gender-norms and racism and able-ism, especially a book world in which I’d have to ride horses and use magic while I did all of that! And after that, for rest and entertainment, I’d like to enter the world of THE JUMBIES by Tracey Baptiste, because that’s a world which is filled with magic and doesn’t need to be fixed!

Posted in Meet the authors

Laura Thomae Young


Instagram: lltyoung

Facebook: Laura Thomae Young

Twitter: @Laura_Youngmex

When you were my age (10), did you have a book inspire or impact you?

When I was 10 I read all the time! My all-time favorite books which inspired me as a child, and that I still re-read every few years, are the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, with my favorite being Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I also loved Beverly Cleary’s books: Henry Huggins and Fifteen (she remains one of my favorite authors). These were about ordinary kids who encountered extraordinary circumstances.

Have you read anything recently that inspired or impacted you?

I have been reading The Miracle Equation by Hal Elrod, which is a sequel to The Miracle Morning. It’s about tapping into both faith and effort to reach your full potential. His books have helped me turn into a “morning person,” which is super helpful for getting up early to work on my book projects!

Can you share what your usual day as an author looks like?

I have an office job Monday – Friday, so my writing takes place over the weekends, and in early mornings. When I was writing my first book, Adulting Like a Boss, I got up early and wrote before I had to leave for the office. But for the children’s books, Serena the Sailboat, and the upcoming sequel, Serena Gets Rescued, dedicating the weekends to writing has worked best. My husband also writes, and we actually went away to a cabin in the mountains to work on books! That’s kind of cliché but we actually did it!

Is there a newer or lesser known author you think kids should know about?

I’m in a Facebook group with other new children’s picture book authors who are just getting started like I am, and it’s been fun to be on the same journey with them. We like to see each other’s books and compare notes. My favorite book from the group has been Where Do You Want to Sleep? by Stacey Rayz. It’s a hilarious book about a little kid who didn’t want to sleep in his bed, and explores where and how animals sleep.

What is a cool thing about being an author?

When I was growing up, I wasn’t the most popular kid, but I told my classmates to watch, because one day I would be writing books and speaking! There are lots of cool things about being an author – people are generally impressed when you say you write books – but seeing my name on a book – and knowing that I fulfilled a lifelong dream – that’s the coolest!

Is there anything hard about being an author? I know it is not rainbows, cupcakes, pens and a pot of gold.

Writing is the easy part. Marketing is hard. You have to say, “Hey look at me! Read my wonderful book! Write a review! Yea ME!!!” and that’s kind of embarrassing, because even though I’m very proud of my books, it seems strange to give myself shout-outs and ask people to buy something you created.

Book access and diversity in books is a big topic. As an author what do you think your role is in this topic?

I spent 12 years living in Latin America, and wrote my first book when we moved back to the USA. Living as a foreigner in another country influenced me to be aware of diversity in culture and language. Adulting Like a Boss features several young ladies who are learning to “adult.” These ladies come from different ethnicities, backgrounds, and religions because I wanted to expand beyond those who are “just like me.” In Serena the Sailboat, my characters are a sailboat and her animal friends, however, I hope that the diversity of their backgrounds is apparent. I am also very excited to support other children’s authors who are producing books for diverse audiences, such as a new author I’ve been following, Audrey Hinds, who has written about her own daughter in Hair with Flair.

If you could portal into any book which would it be?

No question about it!!! Absolutely I would portal into The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and meet Reepicheep the Mouse and Aslan the Lion!

Posted in Meet the authors

Rebecca Donnelly

Online presence (website/social media) Rebecca Donnelly

Twitter: @_becca_donnelly
When you were my age (10) what book impacted you?  I was a huge fan of the Babysitters Club series when I was your age! (And I got to meet Ann M. Martin last year, which my ten-year-old self never would have imagined possible.) I had about six of them, I think, and I re-read them over and over. I loved re-reading, because it was so comforting to come across my favorite parts.

How long have you been a librarian?  I got my first library job in 2006, and I became a children’s librarian in 2007. 

What kind of Librarian are you? I’m a children’s librarian in a small public library in a rural college town. I’ve also been a children’s librarian in a larger suburban library and the director of a tiny rural library. 

-How do you match a kid to a book? I always try to find out what other books a kid has read and loved, because that gives me an idea of where they are with reading skills and what grabs their interest. Sometimes it’s as simple as handing a kid the next great fantasy book, but I’ve met plenty of kids who haven’t spent much time around books. In that case, I might start with nonfiction, because usually everyone knows what subjects they’re interested in, or I’ll go to graphic novels, because kids can see what they’re about really easily. 

-Book access is a big topic right now. What does the term mean to you and why is it important? Book access means that a kid has books in their life. Books at home, books at school, books in libraries and bookstores in your community. It also means access to things like magazines, audiobooks, and the internet, because there are many ways to build literacy skills. When kids have access to those things, it shows you what the adults in that community value.

You are also an author. How did you become one? I’ve wanted to be an author since I was six years old. I had a series of books called the Garden Gang by Jayne Fisher–this was in the UK, where I was born–and the author/illustrator bio said that Jayne was nine years old. To a six-year-old, that’s very grown-up! I remember thinking that I had three years to launch my own career (although it took a little longer than that). I started seriously trying to get published when I first began working as a children’s librarian. I wrote a book that got me a wonderful agent, Molly Ker Hawn, and although that book wasn’t published, we’ve been together for six years and six more book deals. (Most of those books haven’t been published yet.)

– Is it hard to come up with book ideas? No! It’s almost too easy to come up with ideas. I have a page-long list just for picture book ideas, and it keeps getting longer! The tricky part is knowing how to turn that idea into a story. What’s the best way to do it? How can you recognize when something’s not working, and should you rewrite, or put it aside and work on something else for a while? Those are the questions I find myself struggling with.

– Have you heard from readers. What do you like about that? It’s lovely to hear from readers. As a librarian, I like hearing from readers of all kinds, even if they haven’t read my books! But I hope that a kid who reads one of my books will find something creative and funny, and maybe they’ll find a part they want to read over and over. I did have one mom tell me that her son kept my first book in his bed to read again and again, along with his other favorites–that’s a real honor! 

– What newer or lesser known author do you think people should be reading? I recently listened to the audiobook of Anna Meriano’s first book in the Love, Sugar, Magic series, A Dash of Trouble. Any reader who likes stories about family, sibling relationships, food, and a little magic will love this series, and the second book, A Sprinkle of Spirits, is out now!

– What is something you have read recently that impacted you? I read a lot of history when I’m not reading middle grade novels or researching other things. I just finished reading A Few Drops of Red, a YA nonfiction book about the Chicago race riots of 1919. There’s a lot of history that never gets taught in school, and it’s important to learn it so we can recognize what’s happening in the world around us.

– If you could portal into any book which would it be? I’m not an incredibly adventurous person, so I can’t see myself portaling into a mystery or a fantasy world. I do love stories that show the real world plus something a little magical, so I’ll choose a classic English picture book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr. It’s about a little girl who opens the door and invites a large, friendly, hungry tiger into her house, where it eats and drinks everything, and then just goes away. That’s as much excitement as I could handle, plus Sophie wears really great tights.

Posted in Ask the Librarian

Susan Polos

How long have you been a librarian:

I have been a librarian for 21 years.
What kind of librarian are you?
I am a school librarian.
Why did you become a librarian?
I first thought I would be an English teacher, but I had the chance to work in libraries, and I realized that that was the work I wanted to do. I like the idea that there is something for everyone just waiting in the library.
What is one of your favorite thing about being a librarian?
My favorite thing about being a school librarian has been to know students for many years, from the time that some learned to read to the time they graduated from high school. I love facilitating book clubs in school and public libraries, too.
Book access is a big discussion right now. It can also be a challenge for librarians. As a librarian how do you get books to those who need them?
I think that it is more important to advocate for school librarians than to advocate for book access. I have seen book drives accumulate bushels of books that sit in buckets and boxes unread. It is more important to have librarians who cultivate readers and connect young people to books that will make them feel like readers. I think access to school librarians, not access to books, is the real game changer.
Many schools have libraries but no librarian. A library without a librarian is a room full of books without the professional who knows the books and the readers!!
What book have you read recently that impacted you?
I loved Front Desk by Kelly Yang and The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman
Was there a book that impacted you when you were my age (10)?
My favorite book when I was ten was The Children on the Top Floor by Noel Streatfield. I don’t know how much it impacted me, but I checked it out of the library over and over. I also loved The Boxcar Children.
Are there any new or lesser known authors/illustrators you think more people should know about?
I am serving on the Coretta Scott King Book Awards jury and I am reading lots of new authors, but I can’t talk about them now!
If you could portal into any book, which would it be?
Alice in Wonderland – because who doesn’t want to believe six impossible things before breakfast?!