Please join ITEM and MLA’s CYP for a virtual author panel at 7 pm on October 22. You will have a chance to hear from sixteen local authors including Kao Kalia Yang, Bao Phi and David LaRochelle. Select authors will be available to answer questions via chat or live following the pre-corded program. Recordings of the authors will be available to view following the program at

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Meeting ID: 886 1784 7155

Authors Featured

V.T. Bidania was born in Laos and grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. When she was five years old, she wrote her first story using only three lines of paper and a crayon. She has been writing ever since. She has an MFA in creative writing from The New School and is a Loft Mirrors and Windows Fellow. She is the author of ASTRID AND APOLLO, a chapter book series starring Hmong American twins Astrid and Apollo Lee (Capstone 2020). In addition to chapter books, she writes middle grade fiction and picture books. She lives outside of the Twin Cities with her family.

Astrid and Apollo and the Starry Campout, 6-8 years old, Picture Window Books (Capstone), ISBN-10: 1515861317

Astrid and Apollo and the Fishing Flop, 6-8 years old, Picture Window Books (Capstone), ISBN-10: 1515861279

Astrid and Apollo and the Soccer Celebration, 6-8 years old, Picture Window Books (Capstone), ISBN-10: 1515861333

Astrid and Apollo and the Happy New Year, 6-8 years old, Picture Window Books (Capstone), ISBN-10: 1515861295

Twitter @vtbidania

Growing up, RICK CHRUSTOWSKI drew all the time. He drew on the floor of his room. He drew in front of the TV. He drew at the kitchen table.  In second grade, his parent’s gave him a drawing table. He has drawn at it ever since. When Rick learned how to write stories in third grade, he realized that putting words and pictures together was his favorite art form. Rick likes to explore new art materials. He has illustrated books using colored pencils, cut-paper collage, and watercolor paints. He has written and illustrated 7 picture books, and illustrated 4 books by other authors including April Pulley Sayre, and Barb Joosse. When Rick is not making books, he visits elementary schools across the country teaching kids how to write and illustrate their own books.


BEE DANCE pub'd by Henry Holt,  ISBN: 978-0-8050-9919-5

MY LITTLE FOX pub'd by Beach Lane Books, ISBN: 978-1-4814-6961-6

Twitter @rickchrustowski

Abby Cooper lives in Minneapolis with her husband, her miniature poodle, Louis, and a whole bunch of books. A former teacher and school librarian, her favorite things in the world (besides writing) are getting and giving book recommendations and sharing her love of reading with others. In her spare time, she likes eating cupcakes, running along the Mississippi River, and watching a lot of bad reality TV.


STICKS & STONES: Macmillan, 978-1250115263

BUBBLES: Macmillan, 978-1250158574

FRIEND OR FICTION: Charlesbridge, 978-1623541088

Twitter @_ACoops_

Anika Fajardo was born in Colombia and raised in Minnesota. She is the author of a book about that experience, Magical Realism for Non-Believers: A Memoir of Finding Family (University of Minnesota Press, 2019), which was a 2020 finalist for the Minnesota Book Awards and awarded Best Book (Nonfiction) of 2020 from City Pages. Her debut novel for young readers is What If a Fish (Simon & Schuster, 2020). A writer, editor, and teacher, she lives with her family in the very literary city of Minneapolis.


WHAT IF A FISH Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, middle-grade novel, 9781534449831 

MAGICAL REALISM FOR NON-BELIEVERS U of MN Press, adult memoir (rec for high school and above), 9781517906863

Twitter @anikawriter 

Sean Jensen was born in South Korea, but he was raised in California, Massachusetts and Virginia, mostly on or near military bases. Given his unique background, he's always been drawn to storytelling, a skill he developed at Northwestern University and crafted for the last 16 years, almost exclusively covering the NFL. 

During his career, he's fostered strong relationships with athletes in multiple sports, and penned profiles on Jared Allen, Jason Brown, Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Randy Moss, Derrick Rose and Adrian Peterson, among others. He's earned distinctions from the Illinois Associated Press, Minnesota Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists, Pro Football Writers of America and Associated Press Sports Editors. In 2006, he received a special achievement award from the St. Paul Pioneer Press. 

He is also an inspirational speaker, creator of the Model Student Athlete video series and the host of the Winning Is Not Everything podcast.


Middle School Rules of Thomas Morstead, ISBN-10 : 1424549795 ISBN-13 : 978-1424549795

Middle School Rules of Vontae Davis, ISBN-10 : 1424555876, ISBN-13 : 978-1424555871

Middle School Rules of Jamaal Charles, ISBN-10 : 1424553008, ISBN-13 : 978-1424553006

Middle School Rules of Skylar Diggins, ISBN-10 : 1424552443, ISBN-13 : 978-1424552443

Middle School Rules of Charles “Peanut” Tillman, ISBN-10 : 1424552443, ISBN-13 : 978-1424552443

Middle School Rules of Brian Urlacher, ISBN-10 : 1424549795 ISBN-13 : 978-1424549795

Twitter @seankjensen

David LaRochelle has been creating books for young people for over thirty years. His most recent book is the beginning reader See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog, a Junior Library Guild selection illustrated by fellow Minnesotan, Mike Wohnoutka. A three-time winner of the Minnesota Book Award and a former elementary school teacher, David loves visiting classrooms, whether virtually or in person, talking with students about books, writing, and illustrating. When he is not creating new books he loves playing board games (his current favorite is Dominion), geocaching, and carving jack-o’-lanterns, which you can view at his website.


See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, Candlewick Press, 2020, ISBN 978-1-5362-0427-8, Ages 4-8

I was an Outer-Space Chicken, Alien Math Book #1, Sterling Children’s Books, 2019, paperback

ISBN 978-1-4549-2921-5, Ages 8-12

Planet of the Penguins, Alien Math Book #2, Sterling Children’s Books, 2019, paperback ISBN 978-1-4549-2922-2, Ages 8-12

Isle of You, illustrated by Jaime Kim, Candlewick Press, 2018, ISBN 978-0-7636-9116-5, Ages 4-8

This is NOT a Cat! illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, Sterling Children’s Books, 2016, ISBN 978-1-4549-1574-4, Ages 4-8

Moo! illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, Bloomsbury, 2013 ISBN 978-0802734099, Ages 4-8

How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans, illustrated by Mark Fearing, Dial Books, 2013, ISBN 978-8037-3766-2, Ages 4-9

It’s a Tiger! illustrated by Jeremy Tankard, Chronicle Books, 2012, ISBN 978-0-8118-6925-6, Ages 4-8

Minnesota’s Hidden Alphabet, photographs by Joe Rossi, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-87351-808-6, All ages

The Best Pet of All, illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama, Puffin/Dutton Books, 2004, paperback ISBN 978-0142412725, Ages 4-8

Karen Latchanna Kenney: I love to write books about animals, and I look for them wherever I go—from leafcutter ants trailing through the Amazon rain forest in Guyana, where I was born, to puffins in cliff-side burrows on the Irish island of Skellig Michael. I especially enjoy creating books about nature, biodiversity, conservation, and groundbreaking scientific discoveries—but also write about civil rights, astronomy, historical moments, and many other topics. My award-winning and star-reviewed books have been named a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, a 2015 Book of Note from the TriState Review Committee, a 2011 Editor’s Choice for School Library Connection, and Junior Library Guild selections. I live in Minnesota with my husband and son, and bike, hike, and gaze at the night sky in northern Minnesota any moment I can.


Folding Tech: Using Origami and Nature to Revolutionize Technology, YA nonfiction, Lerner Publishing, ISBN 978-1-5415-3304-2

Calm Monsters, Kind Monsters, preK-2, Lerner Publishing, ISBN 978-1-5415-9000-7

Extreme Longevity, YA nonfiction, Lerner Publishing, ISBN 978-1-5124-8372-7

Twitter @KLatchanaKenney

Cori Nakamura Lin is a Japanese/Taiwanese American illustrator and graphic designer based in Minneapolis and Chicago. Through art she amplifies stories from underrepresented people and cultures.


When Everything Was Everything written by Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay, illustrated by Cori Nakamura Lin, published by Full Circle Publishing, ISBN: 978-1-63489-159-2, Appropriate for 3-4 grade reading levels

Who’s excited to participate in ITEM 2020? Tracy Nelson Maurer, that’s who! Her first picture-book biography, Noah Webster’s Fighting Words, launched in 2017. That project ignited an ongoing interest in telling the stories of interesting and history-shaping people. John Deere, That's Who! and Samuel Morse, That’s Who! followed; Lady Bird Johnson, That’s Who! comes out in 2021. Tracy has also written more than 100 other nonfiction and fiction books for young readers. She loves talking about the writing process and visiting schools and libraries. She’s also a fan of baseball, chocolate, and lattes.


Samuel Morse, That’s Who!, Ages 4 to 7, Illustrated by el primo Ramón, Published by Henry

Holt and Co. (BYR), Holt Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9781627791304

John Deere, That’s Who!, Ages 4 to 7, Illustrated by Tim Zeltner, Published by Henry Holt and Company Books For Young Readers, ISBN: 9781627791298 

Noah Webster’s Fighting Words, Illustrated by Mircea Catusanu, Ages 6-12, Published by Millbrook Press, ISBN: 9781467794107

Storm Codes, Illustrated by Christina Rodriguez, Ages 6 to 12, Published by Windward Publishing, ISBN 978-0-89317-063-9 (hardcover), ISBN 978-0-89317-064-6 (paperback)

Twitter @ReadTracyMaurer 

Siman Nuurali is the Somali-American author of the Sadiq Series by Capstone. She was born and raised in Kenya and now lives in Minnesota with her family. Siman also does school visits, virtually during the pandemic and in-person at some point in the future.

2019 Series:

Sadiq and the Desert Star

Sadiq and the Pet Club

Sadiq and the Green Thumbs 

Sadiq and the Fun Run

2020 Series:

Sadiq and the Ramadan Gift

Sadiq and the Perfect Play 

Sadiq and the Bridge Builders

Sadiq and the Explorers 

All the books in the series are for ages 6-8 and published by Capstone. 

Twitter @SimanNuurali 

Cristina Oxtra is a Filipino-American author. She writes fiction and nonfiction, including picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, and graphic novels. She earned a BA in journalism and an MFA in creative writing for children and young adults. She is a 2019-2020 recipient of the Mirrors & Windows Fellowship for indigenous writers and writers of color at the Loft Literary Center. She also oversees a program that supports underrepresented students. 


Stephen Hawking: Get to Know the Man Behind the Theory = Grade: 3-6, Capstone, ISBN-10: 1543574688, ISBN-13: 978-1543574685

Stan Lee: Get to Know the Comics Creator = Grade: 3-5, Capstone, ISBN-10: 1496665821, ISBN-13: 978-1496665829

Tae Kwon Do Test = Grade: K-2, Capstone, ISBN-10: 1515858782, ISBN-13: 978-1515858782

Tara & the Towering Wave: An Indian Ocean Tsunami Survival Story = Grade: 3-6, Capstone, ISBN-10: 149659911X, ISBN-13: 978-1496599117

Red Riding Hood (a Manga-inspired graphic novel) = Grade: K-2, Capstone, ISBN-10: 1515872750, ISBN-13: 978-1515872757

Keep Dancing = Grade K-2, Capstone, to be released Jan. 1, 2021

Twitter @Cristinawriteon

Bao Phi has been a spoken word poet for over two decades. He has two collections of poems, both published by Coffeehouse Press, Sông I Sing and Thousand Star Hotel, the latter of which was nominated for the Minnesota Book Award and was chosen as 2017’s best poetry book of the year by San Francisco State’s Poetry Center. His first children’s book, A Different Pond, received six starred reviews and won multiple awards including a Caldecott Honor, an Ezra Jack Keats Honor, Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association award for best picture book, the Minnesota Book Award for picture books, and the Charlotte Zolotow Award for excellence in children’s book writing. It made several best books of the year lists, including Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and Shelf Awareness. His second children’s book, My Footprints, was release by Capstone in 2019 and was named a Best Fiction Book for Young Readers by the Chicago Public Library. He is the Director of Events and Awards at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, where he lives with his ten year old daughter.


A DIfferent Pond, ill. Thi Bui, written by Bao Phi, Capstone Young Readers, Ages 6-8, ISBN-10 : 1623708036 ISBN-13 : 978-1623708030

My Footprints, ill. Basia Tran, written by Bao Phi, Capstone, Ages 5-8, ISBN-13: 978-1474762434 ISBN-10: 1474762433 

Stephen Shaskan is the author and illustrator of several picture books including: Big Choo, Toad on the Road, Max Speed, The Three Triceratops Tuff, A Dog Is a Dog, and the graphic novel series Pizza and Taco. He also illustrated the picture book Punk Skunks and the graphic novel series Q and Ray, both written by his wife Trisha Speed Shaskan. Stephen and Trisha live in Minneapolis, Minnesota and love visiting schools and libraries: reading their stories and inspiring young authors/illustrators.


PIZZA AND TACO: WHO’S THE BEST? ISBN-10 : 0593123301 ISBN-13 : 978-0593123300, Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

TOAD ON THE ROAD: A CAUTIONARY TALE, ISBN-10: 0062393472 ISBN-13: 978-0062393470, Publisher: HarperCollins

THE THREE TRICERATOPS TUFF, ISBN (Hardcover ): 978-1-4424-4397-6 ISBN (e-book ): 978-1-4424-4398-3, Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

MAX SPEED, ISBN-10: 1481445901 ISBN-13: 978-1481445900, Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers 

TOAD ON THE ROAD: MAMA AND ME, ISBN-10: 0062393499 ISBN-13: 978-0062393494, Publisher: HarperCollins

BIG CHOO, ISBN-10: 0545708575 ISBN-13: 978-0545708579, Publisher: Scholastic Press


PUNK SKUNKS, ISBN-13: 978-0062363961, ISBN-10: 0062363964, Publisher: HarperCollins

Q & RAY: CASE #1 THE MISSING MOLA LISA, ISBN-10: 1512454141 ISBN-13: 978-1512454147, Publisher: Graphic Universe ™

Q & RAY: CASE #2 METEORITE OR METEOR-WRONG? ISBN-10: 154151047X ISBN-13: 978-1541510470, Publisher: Graphic Universe ™

Q & RAY: CASE #3 FOUL PLAY AT ELM TREE PARK, ISBN-10: 1541526449 ISBN-13: 978-1541526440, Publishert: Graphic Universe ™

Twitter @SShaskan 

Trisha Speed Shaskan has written over forty books for children, including her latest picture book The Itty-Bitty Witch illustrated by Xindi Yan. Trisha has also written the picture book Punk Skunks and the Q & Ray graphic novel series for young readers, which are illustrated by her husband Stephen Shaskan. Trisha enjoys visiting schools and libraries with Stephen to discuss what she loves best: writing picture books and graphic novels. Trisha also teaches a variety of creative writing classes, such as how to write mysteries and fractured fairy tales. Trisha and Stephen live in Minneapolis, Minnesota with their dog Beatrix. 

Picture Books:

The Itty-Bitty Witch written by Trisha Speed Shaskan and illustrated by Xindi Yan, Publisher: Amazon/Two Lions, ISBN: 978-1542041232

Punk Skunks written by Trisha Speed Shaskan and illustrated by Stephen Shaskan, Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books, ISBN: 978-0062363961

Honestly, Little Red Riding Hood was Rotten!  The Story of Little Red Riding Hood as Told by the Wolf written by Trisha Speed Shaskan and illustrated by Gerald Guerlais, Publisher: Capstone Press/Picture Window Books, ISBN: Library Bound/Hardcover 978-1-4048-6673-7  Paperback 9781404870468

Graphic novels for ages 7 - 11

Q & Ray Case #1: The Missing Mola Lisa, Publisher: Lerner Publishing/Graphic Universe

Library Bound/Hardcover 978-1-5124-1147-8 Paperback 978-1-5124-5414-7

Q & Ray Case #2: Meteorite or Meteor-wrong?, Publisher: Lerner Publishing/Graphic Universe

Library Bound/Hardcover 978-1-5124-1148-5 Paperback 978-1-5415-1047-0

Q & Ray: Case #3: Foul Play at Elm Tree Park, Publisher: Lerner Publishing/Graphic Universe

Library Bound/Hardcover 978-1-5124-1149-2 Paperback 978-1-5415-2644-0

Twitter @TrishaSShaskan

Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay is an ethnic Lao poet, playwright, and public artist who was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. She is currently the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence at Theater Mu where she writes plays about the Laotian experience with a sci-fi aesthetic. 


When Everything Was Everything written by Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay, illustrated by Cori Nakamura Lin, published by Full Circle Publishing, ISBN: 978-1-63489-159-2, Appropriate for 3-4 grade reading levels

Twitter @refugenius 

Sarah Warren is a teacher and a writer. Her picture books include Beyoncé: Shine Your Light, Everything a Drum (2021),and A Spectacular Birdie. Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers was picked for the 2013 Amelia Bloomer Top Ten Book List and awarded a Jane Addams Peace Association Children’s Book Award honor. Sarah’s family lives in Minneapolis with their dog, Bruce Valentine. 


Beyoncé: Shine Your Light, preschool-3, ISBN-10 : 1328585166, ISBN-13 : 978-1328585165; Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers, grades 1-4, ISBN-10 : 0761461078, ISBN-13 : 978-0761461074

A Spectacular Birdie (self-published), preschool-3, ISBN-13: 978-0692131770, ISBN-10: 0692131779

Twitter @sarahelizwarren

Kao Kalia Yang is an award-winning Hmong American author. She has written for adults for the last decade. She's new in the realm of children's literature. Across both, Kalia is interested in finding the underrepresented stories and putting them into the hands of readers who are looking to learn and grow and become in a world full of differences and possibilities.


The Most Beautiful Thing out on October 6, 2020 from Carolrhoda Books. ISBN: 978-1541561915, K-3

The Shared Room published in June of 2020 from the University of MN Press, ISBN: 978-1517907945, K-5

A Map Into the World published in October 2019 from Carolrhoda Books, ISBN: 978-1541538368, K-3

Twitter @kaokaliayang

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