Featured Authors, Illustrators & Conference Leaders

The Plum Creek Children's Literacy Festival is proud to host authors, illustrators and literacy experts from around the nation.

Photo of Peter Brown

Peter Brown - Author and Illustrator

Peter Brown has always loved telling stories. While studying illustration at Art Center College of Design, Peter’s love of both words and pictures led him to take several courses on children’s books , and before long he knew he’d found his calling. Peter worked on animated TV shows before illustrating his first picture book, Flight of the Dodo. Since then, Peter has written and illustrated many books for children, and has earned numerous honors, including a Caldecott Honor for Creepy Carrots. Five of his titles have been New York Times bestsellers. He currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.

Photo of David Carter

David Carter - Author and Illustrator

David’s motto of “Have fun!” drives his work and passion writing and illustrating books for children. A native of Salt Lake City Utah, David worked many jobs as a graphic designer, including a job at Intervisual Communications Inc., where he learned the fine art of paper-engineering and pop-up bookmaking. It was there that he created his first pop-up book, How Many Bugs in a Box? He then left to start his own business, and has created more than 50 pop-up books since.

Photo of Matt de la Peña

Matt de la Peña - Author

An author of six New York Times bestselling young adult novels, Matt de la Peña is very familiar with the creative writing process. Matt, a Broooklyn, NY resident, teaches creative writing and visits high schools and colleges throughout the country. Matt graduated from the University of the Pacific, where he attended school on a full ride scholarship for basketball. Along with many young adult novels, Matt has also written picture books, most recently, Last Stop on Market Street, which was the winner of the 2016 Newbery medal award..

 Photo of Brian Floca

Brian Floca - Author and Illustrator

Brian Floca is a picture book author and illustrator born and raised in Temple, TX. He now lives in Brooklyn, NY where he spends his time writing and illustrating books. His book, Locomotive, won the Caldecott medal in 2014. In addition to the Caldecott medal, Brian’s books have received four Robert F. Sibert Honor awards. Brian has most recently illustrated a new novel by Avi, Old Wolf.

Photo of Loren Long

Loren Long - Author and Illustrator

Loren Long grew up in Lexington, Kentucky in the 1970’s. There were no artists in his family. We didn’t His mother read to him a lot. Loren also liked to draw. His parents encouraged him to keep drawing. He entered the University of Kentucky not having any idea of what he would do with his life. He had five different majors in five years of college. But he took every art class they offered, and at the end of his junior year, I decided to try to be a professional artist. Loren got his first job as an illustrator at a greeting card company, where he worked for nearly four years. After many years as a freelance illustrator, an editor called him to do his first picture book, I Dream of Trains by Angela Johnson. He loved it. Now, he is the author and illustrator of the New York Times bestselling Otis picture books. He is the #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator of President Barack Obama’s picture book Of Thee I Sing, the re-illustrated edition of The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper, and Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna. Loren's most recent work, Little Tree, is a picture book for all ages.

Photo of Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park – Author

Linda Sue Park was born in Urbana, Illinois on March 25, 1960, and grew up outside Chicago. The daughter of Korean immigrants, she has been writing poems and stories since she was four years old, and her favorite thing to do as a child was read. Linda Sue went to Stanford University, competed for the gymnastics team, and graduated with a degree in English. Then she took a job as a public-relations writer for a major oil company. This was not exactly the kind of writing she wanted to do, but it did teach her to present her work professionally and that an interested writer can make any subject fascinating (well, almost any subject ...).Linda Sue Park is the author of the Newbery Medal book A Single Shard, many other novels, several picture books, and books of poems. She lives in Rochester, New York, with her family, and is now a devoted fan of the New York Mets.

Photo of Trent Reedy

Trent Reedy – Author

Trent Reedy was born in a small town in Iowa. For as long as he can remember, he has loved telling stories. After high school, he went to the University of Iowa to major in English, determined that I would one day be a writer. To pay for college, he joined the Iowa Army National Guard, serving one weekend a month and two weeks a summer as a combat engineer. In the National Guard, Trent learned many things, the most important being: writing is difficult. After graduating from college, Trent received a phone call from the Army National Guard company. The first word of that call was the dreaded code word. Stampede. The message was real. Trent was going to war. When his time in the war was over and he returned to Iowa, Trent taught high school English and directed the school plays. Still, he wanted to improve his writing, and he had an important story to tell. That brought him to the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where he earned a master of fine arts degree in writing for children and young adults. He currently lives with his wife and his dog, Wiggles in the state of Washington, where he is hard at work writing more books.

Photo of Aaron Reynolds

Aaron Reynolds – Author

Aaron Reynolds is a New York Times Bestselling Author of many highly acclaimed books for kids, including Carnivores, Chicks and Salsa, Joey Fly, Private Eye, and the Caldecott Honor winning Creepy Carrots! However, Aaron wasn’t always an author. After graduating with a degree in Theatre from Illinois Wesleyan University, he held many interesting and exciting jobs, including actor, businessman, waiter, dancer, carpenter, and chef, before finally becoming an author. He lives in the Chicago area with his wife, two kids, four cats, and between three and ten fish, depending on the day.

Photo of Bob Shea

Bob Shea - Author and Illustrator

Along with being an author and illustrator, Bob She has made many animations for PBS Kids and helped them develop a national literacy campaign. He has met Al Roker and Fonzie. His stories, artwork and characters have also appeared on Nick Jr. and Noggin. He was even on Noggin, reading one of his books to Ryan, his little boy. Bob has written several award winning children’s books, including the most recent Ballet Cat series. He lives in Connecticut with his wife Colleen and his son, Ryan. He and Colleen own Perfectly Nice, a graphic design studio.

Photo of Salina Yoon

Salina Yoon - Author and Illustrator

Salina Yoon was born as Yoon, Ah in Busan, Korea in 1972. She came to the United States in 1976 at the age of 4, which was when she was given her current name, Salina. Today, she is an author, illustrator, and format designer of nearly two hundred innovative novelty books for young children. She loves creating books that have play-appeal and that make kids laugh and learn. Many of her books have flaps, tabs, die-cuts, and wheels. Some are spinny, sparkly, bumpy, and even pop-up! Some are soft and squishy, some are shaped and shiny, and some are simply square. She works out of her home studio and lives in San Diego, CA with her husband, artist Chris Polentz, and two sons.

Photo of Louis Sachar

Louis Sachar - Author

Louis will be speaking on Saturday at the adult conference only. Louis Sachar is the creator of the entertaining Marvin Redpost books as well as the much-loved There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom, winner of 17 child-voted state awards. Louis Sachar's book Holes, winner of the 1999 Newbery Medal, the National Book Award, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, is also an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, an ALA Quick Pick, an ALA Notable Book, and was made into a major motion picture. Louis writes one or two hours each day, calling them “small steps.” Louis says, “I have to go slow, and give things a chance to take form and grow.” Louis is a law school graduate, and passed the bar exam, all the while he worked on writing books. It wasn’t until 1989 that his books began selling well and he was able to stop practicing law and devote himself fully to writing. In his spare time, he likes to play bridge.

Photo of Sara Pennypacker

Sara Pennypacker - Author

Sara will be speaking on Saturday at the adult conference only. When Sara Pennypacker was young, she loved reading, gardening, going to the beach, riding horses, getting presents, and cake. And she still does. Even today, she is happiest reading, writing, and making art. Sara is the author of seventeen children’s books, including the New York Times best-selling Clementine series. Her books have won numerous awards, including a Golden Kite award and a Christopher’s Medal.

Photo of Harvey “Smokey” Daniels

Harvey “Smokey” Daniels - Literacy Expert

Harvey "Smokey" Daniels has been a city and suburban classroom teacher and a college professor, and now works as a national consultant and author on literacy education. In language arts, Smokey is known for his pioneering work on student book clubs, as recounted in Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups, and Minilessons for Literature Circles. Smokey works with elementary and secondary teachers throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe, offering demonstration lessons, workshops, and consulting, with a special focus on creating, sustaining, and renewing student-centered inquiries and discussions of all kinds. Smokey shows colleagues how to simultaneously build students' reading strategies, balance their reading diets, and strengthen the social skills they need to become genuine lifelong readers.

Photo of Donalyn Miller

Donalyn Miller - Literacy Expert

Donalyn Miller, a former Texas middle school teacher, now works for Scholastic as the manager for independent reading and outreach. Her work with Scholastic brings her to schools and conferences all over the country. In her popular books, The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild, Donalyn reflects on her journey to become a reading teacher and describes how she inspires and encourages her middle school students to read 40 or more books a year and develop lifelong reading habits.

Photo of Dr. Maria Walther

Dr. Maria Walther - Literacy Expert

As Maria tells her first-grade students, she went to school for a long time to learn as much as she could about teaching young children. As a result, she earned three degrees from Northern Illinois University including a doctorate in elementary education. All the while, she was busy teaching first grade. In fact, she has taught first grade since 1986 and currently teaches in Indian Prairie District 204. Committed to staying in the classroom, she earned National Board Certification and has served on numerous curriculum committees with other dedicated 204 teachers to improve literacy instruction in her school district. Along with teaching young learners, Maria inspires other professionals by sharing her latest thinking through customized professional development experiences. The ideas she shares are rooted in her continued commitment to teaching, researching, reading, reflecting, writing, and collaborating with her colleagues. Maria was honored in Illinois as Reading Educator of the Year and earned the ICARE for Reading Award for fostering the love of reading in children. In addition, she received both the Outstanding Research Award and the Outstanding Young Alumni Award from Northern Illinois University. Her greatest honor is that she has the enormous responsibility of giving her first graders the gift of literacy every day.

Other Adult Conference Sectional Leaders

Dr. Jake Hollatz

Dr. Jake Hollatz

Social Media in the Language Arts Classroom

Shanna Opfer

Shanna Opfer

Differentiated Instruction in the Literacy Classroom

Maurna Rome

Maurna Rome

The Literacy L.I.F.T. Club

Antero Garcia

Antero Garcia

Pose/Wobble/Flow: Culturally Proactive Teaching in Uncertain Times

Vicki Wood

Vicki Wood

Truth IS Stranger Than Fiction: Fantastic New Non-Fiction for Youth

Laurie Friedrich

Laurie Friedrich

Open Educational Resources Every Literacy Teacher Should Know About

Emily Arrow

Emily Arrow

Storytime Singalong