2015 Keynote Speaker Lineup

The Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival is THE place to meet nationally known authors, illustrators, and storytellers.



 Paul O. Zelinsky

Southern Miss Medallion recipient Paul O. Zelinsky

Paul Zelinsky was raised in Illinois and educated at Yale, where he was inspired by a course on the history of the picture book (co-taught by Maurice Sendak) to beginworking on children’s books. His first book (Emily Upham’s Revenge, text by Avi) was published in 1978, and since then many more have followed. Zelinsky has illustrated books by authors such as Beverly Cleary and E. Nesbit, as well as creating his own retelling of works such as Rumpelstiltskin and The Wheels on the Bus. He received the 1998 Caldecott Medal for his retelling of Rapunzel, and also has multiple Caldecott Honor Books. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

 Rita Auerbach

Coleen Salley Storytelling Award Winner

Rita Auerbach is retired after a long career working in both public and school libraries, but continues to be involved in storytelling. She chaired the 2010 Caldecott committee and has also served on both the Caldecott and Newbery committees, as well as being a former chair of the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award committee. She co-founded the American Library Association’s Storytelling Discussion Group, and has told stories at festivals, libraries, and the Hans Christian Andersen Statue. She grew up in and resides in New York.

 Pat Cummings

Ezra Jack Keats Lecturer

Pat Cummings is the author and/or illustrator of over 35 books for young readers.  She also edited the award-winning series, Talking With Artists, which profiles prominent children's book illustrators. Her Children’s Book classes at Parsons and Pratt list a growing number of notable illustrator/authors among their graduates.  Along with visiting schools, universities and organizations to speak about children’s books, she conducts a summer Children’s Book Boot Camp that brings writers and illustrators together with top editors and art directors from major publishing houses. Pat serves on the boards of The Authors Guild, The Authors League Fund, The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.  She is also a member of The Writers Guild of America, East. Her latest book, Beauty and the Beast (HarperCollins, 2014), was translated from the original French and retold by her husband Chuku Lee. 

 Peter Brown

Peter Brown wrote his first book, The Adventures of Me and My Dog Buffy, at the age of 6 in New Jersey. He continued both to write and illustrate, and was influenced to pursue children’s literature as a career while studying at the Art Center College of Design. Brown worked on animated TV shows before publishing his first book, Flight of the Dodo, in 2005. Since then, he has published several more books, and received multiple awards, including a Caldecott Honor for Creepy Carrots! and a Children’s Choice Illustrator of the Year Award. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

 Nikki Grimes

New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her distinguished works include ALA Notable book What is Goodbye?, Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade, and Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin's Notebook, Talkin' About Bessie, Dark Sons, The Road to Paris, and Words with Wings. Creator of the popular Meet Danitra Brown, Ms. Grimes lives in Corona, California.

David Levithan 

David Levithan was born in 1972 and published his first book, Boy Meets Boy, in 2003.   His other novels include The Realm of Possibility, Wide Awake and Every Day.  In addition to his many widely popular solo novels, he wrote Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, which was adapted into a film, with Rachel Cohn and Will Grayson, WIll Grayson with John Green.  In 2013, he published Two Boys Kissing, a Stonewall Honor book.  When he is not writing, David is an editorial director for Scholastic.  He has edited novels for writers such as Suzanne Collins, Deborah Wiles, Maggie Stiefvater, Natalie Standiford and M.T. Anderson.

 Steve Sheinkin

Although he might prefer it go unmentioned, Steve Sheinkin once was a textbook writer. Thankfully, he repented of what he now considers his crimes against school-children, and writes books telling interesting and action-packed stories from history. Bomb, the Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon was a Newbery honor book and a National Book Awards finalist. Sheinkin studied communications and international relations at Syracuse University, and worked on a documentary in Nicaragua before becoming a writer. He lives with his family in Saratoga Springs, NY.

 Deborah Wiles

Deborah Wiles is the author of picture books and novels for young readers including Each Little Bird That Sings, a National Book Award Finalist, and Countdown, book one of “The Sixties Trilogy: Three Novels of the 1960s for Young Readers.” She is a former writer-in-residence at Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio, and was the 2002 recipient of the Ezra Jack Keats New Author Award for her picture book Freedom Summer. She teaches and writes from Atlanta, Georgia. 

 Gene Luen Yang

Gene Luen Yang began writing comics in 1996, and is the creator of American Born Chinese, which was published in 2006 and became the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award. American Born Chinese also became the first graphic novel to win the Printz Award. He has won multiple Eisner Awards, one for American Born Chinese and the other for The Eternal Smile. He is one of three artists working on the continuation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. His latest work, the two-volume Boxers and Saints, was published in 2013 and was a National Book Award finalist. In addition to his writing, he teaches in the MFA program at Hamline University.


New in 2015- Two panel sessions!  One panel will feature Chris Barton, Kathleen Merz and Don Tate as well as one featuring 2015 Keynotes David Levithan and Deborah Wiles.



We are pleased to welcome back Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival's 2011 keynote Chris Barton and 2013 Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor winner Don Tate as they discuss The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, a picture book biography of the Mississippi-slave-turned-Congressman.  The Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival will begin 150 years to the day after the Civil War ended.  Barton and Tate will be joined by their editor, Kathleen Merz, of W.M. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.  Don't miss this exciting and timely panel to kick of the festival!

 2015 keynotes David Levithan and Deborah Wiles will discuss the author-editor relationship and creating the documentary novel. Countdown and Revolution are books one and two of a trilogy of novels about the 1960s for young readers that feature scrapbook sections of primary source documents: photographs, song lyrics, documents, and newspaper accounts, as well as "opinionated biographies" of the day, nestled inside a standard narrative structure. David and Deborah will talk about their working relationship -- its ups and downs -- as well as the actual creation of a new genre.
 Chris BartonChris Barton is the author of the picture books Shark Vs. Train, a New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller,  and The Day-Glo Brothers, an ALA Sibert Honor book, as well as the young adult nonfiction thriller Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities. Chris lives in Austin, Texas, with his family.
 Don TateDon Tate is an award-winning author and the illustrator of numerous critically acclaimed books for children, including The Cart That Carried Martin, Hope’s Gift, Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite and It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started To Draw, a 2013 Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor winner. Don lives in Austin, Texas, with his family.