A Recap of KidLitCon Hershey 2017

A Recap of KidLitCon Hershey 2017

It was wonderful to be with my children’s book blogging tribe at KidLitCon Hershey 2017. Pam Margolis of An Unconventional Librarian organized the event with assistance from Charlotte Taylor (Program Chair), Sarah Stevenson and Tanita DavisSheila RuthMelissa FoxPaula Willey, and Jen Robinson.

Pam was fabulous and funny and warm and friendly as were all the organizers! KidLitCon was also a wonderful and intimate way to meet authors and illustrators (list who participated at the bottom).

Pamela Tuck at KidLitCon Hershey

The second day keynote was by Pamela Tuck, winner of the 2007 New Voices Award from LEE & LOW BOOKS.  Tuck’s picture book As Fast As Words Could Fly was released Spring 2013. Pamela is a native of Greenville, NC. She spoke about her writing journey which included juggling raising and homeschooling her 11 children!! 

I blogged on her book here years ago and she remembered the post! It was thrilling to meet her!

My big takeaway from Pamela Tuck: study mentor texts. She studied Paula Yoo’s Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story both to see what Lee and Low published and to find how Yoo created a story arc anchored in emotion. I’m working on a picture book biography as well, so I am going to do the same.


Next, I sat in on Seriously Funny—books that take on “serious” topics with humor with authors:

KidLitCon Hershey

Jen Swann Downey (author- Ninja Librarians series) [Jen Swann Downey guest posted for me here.]

Dana Alison Levy (author- Family Fletcher series, This Would Make a Good Story Someday)

Jordan Sonnenblick (author- The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade, and more) [I sat near Jordan at lunch. After fangirling about Ever After Ever, a book that I loved, he handed me a copy of his middle grade book and accepted my invitation to guest post for me. Stay tuned for a playlist of songs that inspired Jordan as he wrote this book!]

Dana is from the Boston area too, and I had the pleasure of meeting her a month ago at a book event at Trident Booksellers and Cafe. We pulled a group for dinner that night that included Tracey Baptiste (author- The Jumbies series), Charlotte of Charlotte’s Library, and First Book’s Alison Morris.

My big takeaway: humor comes naturally to these authors. This is the easy part for them. Humor is also the hook to get readers engaged, especially in other more serious topics.


My next session was to learn how to write better book reviews as a blogger: Views on Reviews—a look at book reviews from the perspectives of authors, bloggers, and librarians.

Cathleen Davitt Bell (author- WereGirl-Chimera, and I Remember You)
Marcia Lerner (The Diamond in the Window)
Jen Nails (librarian and author- One Hundred Spaghetti Strings)

My big takeaway: it’s OK to write something negative about a book. It really doesn’t hurt the author’s feelings because they value this kind of feedback.


Refugees and Immigrants in Children’s and YA Books

Lyn Miller-Lachmann (author- Gringolandia, translator-Three Balls of Wool, and more)

Three Balls of Wool

Join an author and teacher/librarian in a discussion of representation and authenticity in books about immigrants and refugees. Lyn Miller-Lachmann is the author of the award-winning YA historical novel, Gringolandia, that portrays a refugee family from the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, and the translator of Three Balls of Wool, a picture book from Portugal of a family fleeing that country’s dictatorship in the 1960s.

My big takeaway: There was a dictator in Portugal, António de Oliveira Salazar, which lasted from 1926 through 1968. During this time, he did not allow most children to attend school because he thought it was easier to control the people if they lacked education.


Middle Grade: who are the villains?

Tracey Baptiste KidLitCon Hershey

Moderated by Cheryl Dishon (Librarian, Baltimore County Public Libraries)
Laurie McKay (author- Villain Keeper series)
Tracey Baptiste (author- Rise of the Jumbies)
Alison Morris (Senior Director of Collection Development & Merchandising for First Book)
Mike Rubens (author- Emily and the Spellstone and more)
David Neilsen (author – Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom, and Beyond the Doors)

My big takeaway: to develop fully realized villains, find the nugget why they are who they are. The protagonist might have more in common with the villain as well. Perhaps the villain mirrors he/her inner fears.


Illustration in conversation:  looking at art from start to finish 

Moderated by Pam Margolis (blogger at An Unconventional Librarian)
Marc Drumwright (Enchanted Lion Books)
Susan Kusel (Librarian, Temple Rodef Shalom)
Eric Wight (Frankie Pickle series and more)

My big takeaway: the power of use of white space in picture books.


Celeste Lim at KidLitCon HersheyI’m excited to read Celeste Lim’s book The Crystal Ribbon. It was sold out when I tried to buy it at KidLitCon.

I missed this session but found these YA book lists covering a range of topics. The book list will also be available at KidLitosphere website.

My KidLitCon Hershey purchases

My KidLitCon Hershey purchases!

Authors and Illustrators at KidLitCon Hershey 2017:

Laura Atkins Fred Korematsu Speaks Up (Heyday 2017)

Tracey Baptiste The Jumbies (Algonquin Young Readers, 2015) and Rise of the Jumbies (2017)

Cathleen Davitt Bell  WereGirl – Chimera (Chooseco 2017) and I Remember You (Knopf 2015) 

Phil Bildner  Martina & Chrissie (Candlewick 2017), Rip and Red series (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Caroline Carlson The World’s Greatest Detective (2017 HarperCollins),  The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates (HarperCollins)

Floyd Cooper (illustrator) Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History, by Walter Dean Myers (Harper 2017), Ira’s Shakespeare Dream (Lee and Low 2015)

Jen Swann Downey Ninja Librarians series (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)

Rebecca E. Hirsch De-Extinction (Twenty-First Century Books 2017), Thousand-Mile Flyers and Other Amazing Migrators (Lerner 2017)

David Kelly Ballpark Mystery series (Random House)

Alexandria LaFaye Walking Home to Rosie Lee (Cinco Puntos 2011), Worth (Simon and Schuster 2004)

Dana Alison Levy Family Fletcher series, This Would Make a Good Story Someday (2017 Random House Children’s Books)

Celeste Lim The Crystal Ribbon (Scholastic, 2017)

Holly M. McGhee Matylda, Bright & Tender (Candlewick 2017) Come with Me (Putnam 2017)

Jon McGoran Spliced (Holiday House 2017)

Laurie McKay Villain Keeper series (HarperCollins)

Sue Macy Motor Girls (National Geographic Society, 2017), Trudy’s Big Swim (Holiday House 2017)

Lyn Miller-Lachmann Gringolandia (Curbstone 2009), translator-Three Balls of Wool, by Henriqueta Cristina (Enchanted Lion 2017)

Jen Nails One Hundred Spaghetti Strings (HarperCollins 2017)

David Neilsen Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom (Crown Books 2016) and Beyond the Doors (Crown Books 2017)

Eucabeth Odhiambo Auma’s Long Run (Lerner 2017) 

Mike Rubens Emily and the Spellstone (Clarion 2017) and The Bad Decisions Playlist (Clarion 2016)

Rachel Renée Russell Dork Diaries series, and The Misadventures of Max Crumbly series (Simon and Schuster)

Jordan Sonnenblick The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade (Scholastic 2017), Falling Over Sideways (Scholastic 2017)

Michael Spradlin Prisoner of War (Scholastic 2017), Young Templar series (Putnam)

Linda Stanek Once Upon an Elephant (Arbordale 2016)

Pamela Tuck As Fast As Words Could Fly (Lee and Low 2003)

Sandra Uwiringiyimana How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child (Katherine Tegen Books 2017)

Sara Beth Videtto Turtle’s First Winter (Hill House Press 2017) 

Rich Wallace Winning Season series (Puffin), Kickers series (Knopf), Bound by Ice, with Sandra Neill Wallace (Calkins Creek Books 2017)

Sandra Neil Wallace Muckers (Knopf 2013), Babe Conquers the World, with Rich Wallace (Calkins Creek 2014)

Eric Wight Frankie Pickle series (Simon and Schuster)


The next KidLitCon 2018 will be held in Las Vegas in the fall. Charlotte Taylor  and I plan to bring KidLitCon 2020 to Providence, Rhode Island. Because there are many children’s book conferences in Boston in the fall, we are thinking of holding in late March of 2020. What do you think? Authors and illustrators in the area, can you contact us? We want you!


To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

A Recap of KidLitCon Hershey 2017

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Beth T.

    Thanks so much for this summary. I see some favorites here (Family Fletcher!) and am making a list of books and authors to check out.

  2. Oh wow, so many new books to read after reading this post!
    maryanne recently posted…Teaching Kids Vocabulary: Mrs Wordsmith ReviewMy Profile

  3. Great list for me to look at.

    This will take some reading, thank you.

    Cheers Sharon…
    Sharon recently posted…Best Beach Bags, Totes and Backpacks – Perfect bags for Summer 2018My Profile

  4. This is great! Is this held annually? I don’t live far from Hershey and would love to check it out.

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