Hena Khan didn’t believe her perspective mattered. As a Pakistani-American Muslim, she grew up not seeing her or her family reflected in the media she was consuming. As any kid might do, she concluded that it was simply because her experience was not important, a realization that became clearer in hindsight. Recalling her childhood writing, she discovered she had unintentionally whitewashed her homemade family newspaper.
Doing is a gift, the purpose of doing is an obligation. As a writer, Daniel Nayeri is well aware of the impact he has on readers. There is perhaps no more intimate power than becoming the dialogue in one’s head, and he feels strongly about using that power to have a positive impact on those who read his words. Part of his purpose, or obligation, he believes, is to “re-mystify the world.” Just wait until we talk about why cherries grow in pairs!
The media and stories around us around us are more than just entertainment, they provide a common space, a piece of the world around us that connects us to others. We learn from these stories, shape our own views and ideas, and listen to and share these ideas with others. They provide a purpose often overlooked, which Dan Santat, as the son of Thai immigrants in rural SoCal, relied upon to connect with a foreign world.
Just as books provide readers with a space to learn, see themselves, reflect, and cope with their inner thoughts, writing has served as a means for Kacen Callender to process and heal from their trauma. Throughout their writing journey, Kacen has traversed the various stages and ages of their life, opening wounds and finding ways to heal them through fiction.
Kwame is best known "The Crossover," "Booked," "The Door of No Return," and numerous other novels and poetry collections. He also recently authored his memoir "Why Fathers Cry at Night." He has received a Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Book Award among many other awards, and this year "The Crossover" was adapted into a Disney Plus original TV series.
Neal Shusterman is best known for his "Unwind Dystology" series, his Prinz winning "Scythe" trilogy, and "Challenger Deep," which won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature in 2015. In this episode, he shares how getting immersed in his favorite fictional worlds inspired him to create some of his own, he’ll talk about how and why he prioritizes characters to enhance immersion, and how seriously he takes sticking to the rules of his world.
Jon is a Caldecott Medal winner author and illustrator known for his distinctive minimalistic art style and quirky but profound writing. His work includes his Hat Trilogy, starting with "I Want My Hat Back", along with newer works such as "The Rock from the Sky," "The Skull: A Tyrolean Folktale" and many collaborations with his longtime friend and author Mac Barnett.
Jacqueline Woodson recognizes that our stories are part of an enduring legacy that stretches far beyond our lifetimes. Embracing the concept of a continuum, she draws inspiration from preceding generations and carries their narratives forward in her writing. Woodson's impactful voice has left an indelible mark on the literary landscape, inspiring millions and advocating for progress and inclusivity.
Matt de la Peña
Hailing from a working-class border town in Southern California, Matt de la Peña (Last Stop on Market Street, Mexican WhiteBoy, Milo Imagines the World) grew up in an environment that deeply valued strength and stoicism. Instilled with a strong work ethic and the pursuit of opportunities, he followed in the footsteps of the men in his family and community. But still, there was a deeper truth to life within a buried emotional side that he felt compelled to explore.
Sabaa Tahir’s (“All My Rage,” “An Ember in the Ashes” quartet) upbringing in the Mojave desert, isolated nearly 100 miles from the nearest city, exposed her to an unforgiving landscape and many unforgiving truths of humanity. Within this backdrop, one place held significant importance in shaping her worldview: The Motel, a small business operated by her immigrant parents. As she notes, “The good is what helps you survive, but the bad is what makes you wary and careful and makes you lonely at times.” Sabaa ventured into the realm of academia and later pursued a career in journalism, where her understanding of the world's imperfections deepened. The essence of Sabaa’s stories lies in the raw exploration of sorrow and frustration…and taking action.
Angeline Boulley was born into story-telling people. As a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians was first introduced to the art through generational oral tradition. Yet during her childhood, Angeline struggled with her biracial indigenous identity. In searching for representation through the stories in books she was reading, she realized that the examples she found lacked depth and true experience.
In this episode, Yuyi explores her experience as an immigrant to the United States and her “constant immigrant journey” now that she is living and creating in Mexico. She opens up about everything from how her stories helped quell her homesickness to the inspiration for her more recent picture books. She shares an incredible story about how one book completely changed her perspective on reading and made her a reader. We discuss magical realism, and Yuyi’s secret to finding joy in every crevice of life, no matter the starting point.
In this episode, M.T. takes us on his own journey to embracing these genres as a writer, he talks about the growing relevance of their ability to offer societal critiques and representation in the increasingly hostile censorship movements, and he tells us about his new story where he uses a new perspective to learn about the world (his dog’s).
In this episode, author-illustrator Shadra Strickland takes us through the important artistic influences and moments in her life that led her to this debut solo picture book. She shares the elements of art that stand out to her and how she applies them to her work, and we also discuss the rise and ethics of AI art.
Author-illustrator Victoria Jamieson ("When Stars Are Scattered," "All's Faire in Middle School," "Roller Girl") talks to us about why she loves illustrations in literature, authors that inspired her, and how a dream job rejection inspired her first book.
Erin Entrada Kelly
Newbery Award-winning author Erin Entrada Kelly (“Blackbird Fly,” “Hello, Universe,” “We Dream of Space”) discusses her favorite books growing up, her path to youth literature, and why she believes kids are not ‘incomplete vessels.’
Author of the popular series "City of Spies" and "Framed!", James Ponti shares the movies that influenced him, how locations inspire his work, and his transition from movies and television to kidlit.
Author of the “Prophecy” and “Spirit Hunters” series and the founder of We Need Diverse Books, Ellen Oh is equal parts no-nonsense and hilarious truth-teller.
Nic Stone (Dear Martin, Clean Getaway) talks about her passion for speaking out and giving a voice to the stories less told.
Grace Lin (The Year of the Dog, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon) shares her thoughts on the value art provides to those who experience it and those who create it, and how it contributes to getting us in touch with our humanity.
Adam Gidwitz (A Tale Dark and Grimm, The Inquisitor's Tale) talks about his journey to finding truth through literature and how he found his voice to tell the truths he's learned.
Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tiger Rising) talks about leaning into the dark parts of life to show kids there is always hope.
Renée Watson (Piecing Me Together, Ryan Hart series) teaches us about the power of poetry in children's literature, and how the medium gives kids an outlet to find their voice and speak up.
Zetta Elliott (Dragons in a Bag series) shares how her experience growing up Black in suburban Canada impacted her reading, and ultimately her writing voice. She'll tell us about discovering her heritage, finding her voice, and disrupting the world of children's literature.
In our Halloween Special, Lamar Giles (Fake I.D, The Last Last Day of Summer) talks about how horror helps him cope with his anxieties, and why he believes in the power of the genre for young readers.
Varian Johnson (Playing The Cards You're Dealt, The Parker Inheritance) talks about the importance of diversity extending beyond the pages of children's literature and the significance of the reader-author relationship.
Karina Yan Glaser
Karina Yan Glaser (The Vanderbeekers series) shares how and why empathy plays such an integral role in her writing. She tells us about her own reading experiences and how they shaped her, along with why she believes in emotional honesty when writing for children.
Meg Medina (Merci Suárez series) talks about the role storytelling plays in her life, from writing to passing on her culture to the fight against book bans.
The Reading Culture Trailer
In our new podcast, The Reading Culture, host Jordan Lloyd Bookey will bring you along as we connect with diverse authors about their own journeys as readers and storytellers, as well as what experiences along the way motivated them to read more. Authors will share their perspectives on the cultural climate in children’s and young adult literature. And get excited for each guest's unique, themed reading challenge for students and readers of all ages. Coming this fall.