Books We Use, Love, Showcase and Teach

1 pm Cohen room, first floor

The best books can teach a lesson without moralizing and make us think without feeling like homework. In this session, authors will talk about how to explain, educate and enlighten without alienating young readers. 

Moderated by: Melissa Kamyab, Ed.D., Assistant Professor, Director of Graduate Education Department, Cedar Crest College


Donna Gephart, Go Be Wonderful Donna Gephart's is an award-winning middle-grade novelist. Awards include Sid Fleischman Humor Award, Children's Choice awards, New York Public Library Best Books for Kids, YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, ALA Rainbow Book List-GLBTQ Books for Children & Teens, Indie Next Pick, Junior Library Guild Selection, Goodreads Choice Awards Best Middle Grade & Children's, Nerdy Book Club Award,  Rainbow Awards Best Transgender Book Her novels include In Your Shoes (2018), Lily and Dunkin (2016), Death by Toilet Paper (2014), How to Survive Middle School (2010), The Paris Project (2019), and others.

Katey Howes, Rissy No Kissies Katey is thrilled to be making books for children. Author of Be A Maker (2019) - recently selected as an all new Reading Rainbow selection, as well as Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher (2018), and Grandmother Thorn (2017). A former physical therapist, Katey now divides her time between writing award-winning stories, raising kids with a love of books, and contributing to parenting, literacy and STEM websites. Katey is a member of SCBWI and is very active in the kidlit community. Find her online at, on Twitter @kateywrites, and on Instagram @kidlitlove.

Tara Lazar, Absurd Words (Sourcebooks 1/22) Tara is an award-winning author of children's books, her titles include Bloop (2021), Your first Day of Circus School (2019), 7 Ate 9: The Untold Story (2018), The Monstore  (2013), I Thought This Was a Bear Book  (2015), Little Red Gliding Hood (2015), Normal Norman  (2016), and Way Past Bedtime  (2017). She’s a co-chair of the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature conference and a former picture book mentor for We Need Diverse Books. She's founder of Storystorm (formerly called Picture Book Idea Month), a popular writing challenge. Tara lives in New Jersey. 

Gina Loveless, Puberty is Gross But Also Really Awesome (Random House 3/21) Gina remembers going through puberty with reverence and joy. Oh, wait…puberty? Scratch that. Puberty was totally awful, awkward, and full of embarrassing moments. (And frankly, adulthood hasn’t been much different.) She used her background as a fact checker for Men’s Health and Women’s Health magazines, her MFA in creative writing from California Institute of the Arts, and her memory of how much puberty was gross, but also really awesome, to put together this book and help kids realize that puberty may be weird, but at least it’s weird for everyone. Gina is also the author of the Diary of a 5th Grade Outlaw series and pens profiles and pieces on mental health for Men’s Health.

 Deborah C. Mortimer, Zorah and the Very Big Question (Leap Forward Publishing 6/21) Deborah is a lawyer, blogger, and former homeschool parent with a passion for writing.  Inspired by her son and young nieces and nephews, Deborah decided to turn her passion for writing short stories and poems into crafting children's books. Understanding the importance of representation in children's literature, she wanted the children in her life to have stories that featured relatable and inspiring characters who looked like them. Zorah and the Very Big Question is the first book in a series intended to follow Zorah on her journey to understand the world around her. The second book, Zorah, The Brave Ballerina, releases May 2022.  

Jess Rinker, Send a Girl!:The True Story of How Women Joined the FDNY (Bloomsbury 3/21)  Jess Rinker is the author of several books for young readers including picture book biographies and middle grade fiction. Titles include Gloria Takes a Stand, a biography of feminist icon Gloria Steinem, Send a Girl! and middle grade novels The Dare Sisters and The Dare Sister: Shipwrecked! She’s also the author of Out of Time: Lost on the Titanic and the forthcoming middle grade novel The Fellowship of the Castle, due out summer 2022. Jess has a BA in Social Welfare and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She also teaches in Sierra Nevada University’s MFA program in the Writing for Children and Young Adults track, and adjuncts at her local community college. She lives in the gorgeous mountains of West Virginia with her husband, Joe McGee, who is also a children’s author.