Featured Authors at 2021 Young Readers Festival Give Youth Head Start on Reading, Important Themes

Lauren Tarshis is a featured author at the 2021 Young Readers Festival of Books.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 South Dakota Festival of Books is switching from an in-person format to an all-virtual format. Visit sdbookfestival.com for more information.

2021 Young Readers Event Features Lauren Tarshis, Kevin Noble Maillard, South Dakota History, Native American Culture

The Young Readers Festival of Books sparks enthusiasm for reading among South Dakota youth by introducing stories that grab their attention and engage their imagination. It is also an opportunity to educate youth on important themes such as South Dakota history and Native American culture, which are explored by adults during the concurrent South Dakota Festival of Books.

For older elementary students who might not be ready for Melanie Benjamin's historical novel (2021 One Book South Dakota The Children's Blizzard), Lauren Tarshis has created a youth-friendly, but still gripping, narrative of the devastating 1888 Dakota Territory blizzard. A recent entry in her wildly popular "I Survived" series, I Survived the Children's Blizzard presents a first-person account from an 11-year old's perspective. Meanwhile,  Kevin Noble Maillard shares a lively story of family traditions and Native American culture with Fry Bread: A Native American Story. Maillard brings important youth perspectives to the Tribal Track of the 2021 Festival, which includes notable authors like Joseph Marshall III.

Tarshis and Hale are part of a talented roster of young readers authors and illustrators that also includes Juan Felipe Herrera and Lauren Castillo, whose Imagine/Imagina is the 2021 Young Readers One Book South Dakota.

"Even though their reading skills are still developing, we believe youth deserve to meet engaging authors who write about important topics, just as our adult Festivalgoers do," said Festival of Books Director Jennifer Widman.

"As part of our mission of 'telling the stories that define our state,' the South Dakota Humanities Council is dedicated to educating readers of all ages about the important events and Indigenous cultures of South Dakota and beyond."

Youth Perspective of a Devastating Weather Event: 'I Survived'

Tarshis, an executive at Scholastic, knows about both publishing and writing children's literature. As Senior Vice President Editor-in-Chief & Publisher, Classroom Magazine Division at Scholastic, Inc., Tarshis oversees 21 classroom magazines, reaching one in three American students. Her New York Times bestselling "I Survived" series retells historical disasters from the perspective of a boy or girl who lived to tell the tale. She is also the author of Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree, a Golden Kite Honor Book and Oprah Book Club pick.

Students will learn what it was like to be stuck in the 1888 Dakota Territory storm as Tarshis discusses I Survived the Children's Blizzard at the 2021 Young Readers Festival.

"The storm of 1888 was a monster, a frozen hurricane that slammed into America's Midwest without warning. Within hours, hundreds would be dead, thousands terrified, lost, and freezing," per the book's abstract.

"John's inner strength is seriously tested when he finds himself trapped in the blinding snow, the wind like a giant crushing hammer pounding him over and over again. Will John ever find his way home?

Kevin Noble Maillard is a featured author at the 2021 Young Readers Festival of Books.

Kevin Noble Maillard is a featured author at the 2021 Young Readers Festival of Books.

Professor, Journalist Brings Real Stories of Native Culture to Youth

Maillard, a professor and journalist who lives with his family on the 13th floor of a 115-year-old bank in Manhattan, is a regular writer for the New York Times. He has interviewed politicians, writers, tribal leaders, and movie stars. Fry Bread, which he will discuss with South Dakota youth at the 2021 event, won the 2020 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal and was a 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor Winner. Originally from Oklahoma, Maillard is a member of the Seminole Nation, Mekusukey Band.

Juanita Giles, the founder and executive director of the Virginia Children's Book Festival, said Maillard's book reached her daughter in a profound way.

"For my little girl, Maillard hasn't written a book to expand the diversity of her bookshelf or explain a culture about which she may know little to nothing — Maillard has written a book about HER life and HER family, not to mention a book about one of her all-time favorite foods," she wrote in a review on NPR.org.

"My kids are often told they don't look 'Indian enough,' but illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal doesn't brook any such nonsense. The Native American family in Fry Bread is just like our own family (OK, a tad more well-behaved): There is blond hair, cornrows, red hair and yes, straight, black hair (such is the legacy of First Contact). My kids love seeing themselves included, and I love sharing that moment with them."

Other Authors in the Young Readers Track

  • Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, publisher, and New York Times Bestselling author of 35 books, including Newbery Honor-winning picture book The Undefeated and Newbery Medal-winning middle grade novel The Crossover. A regular contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, Alexander is the writer and executive producer of The Crossover TV series on Disney+.

  • Jeanne Bowman has illustrated The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde and Charlie Russell and the Gnomes of Bull Head Lodge by Emily Crawford Wilson. She studied painting, earning a bachelor’s in art from Rocky Mountain College in 2010. Primarily a watercolor artist, Bowman is branching out into cut paper, digital, and cyanotype art. Her work has been exhibited at galleries, libraries, and cultural centers in Montana and New Mexico, among others.

  • Lauren Castillo has illustrated many books for children, including Happy Like Soccer by Maribeth Boelts, Yard Sale by Eve Bunting, and the 2021 Young Readers One Book, Imagine/Imagina by Juan Felipe Herrera. She is also the author-illustrator of the Caldecott Honor-winning book Nana in the City. Castillo studied illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art and received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She lives in Harrisburg, PA.

  • Juan Felipe Herrera (virtual presenter) is a poet, performance artist, and activist. The son of migrant farmworkers, he was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2015-2017. He has published more than a dozen collections of poetry and is the author-illustrator of Jabberwalking and the author of the 2021 Young Readers One Book, Imagine/Imagina. He lives in Fresno, CA.

  • Daphne Kalmar is the author of Stealing Mt. Rushmore, a 2020 Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection, and A Stitch in Time, chosen by Bookpage and NPR as a best book of 2018. As an elementary and middle-school teacher for over 20 years, exploring the natural world with kids was her passion — she owned 75 pairs of rubber boots so she could outfit each student for expeditions to local creeks and ponds.

  • Denise K. Lajimodiere is an enrolled citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. She spent 44 years as an educator, retiring as Associate Professor from the School of Education at North Dakota State University in Fargo. Lajimodiere co-founded the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition and has published poetry, academic work, and a children’s book, Josie Dances. A traditional jingle dress dancer and Ojibwe birch bark biting artist, she lives on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation.

  • S.D. Nelson is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who also has Norse ancestors. He has written and illustrated many children’s and YA books, including Crazy Horse and Custer - Born EnemiesBlack Elk’s Vision, and Buffalo Bird Girl. He has received the American Indian Library Association Honor Book Award and the Western Writers of America Spur Award, among others. Nelson brushes, sponges, splatters, and sprays acrylic paint for a contemporary interpretation of traditional Lakota imagery.

  • James Solheim has written books that explore the wackiest foods on Earth and explain Santa’s sleigh technology. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library gave away nearly half a million of his books free to preschoolers, and The Wall Street Journal and PBS included his first book in their lists of best books for getting boys to read. Solheim’s latest book, Grandmas Are Greater Than Great, explores a family’s history through 10 generations of grandmotherly love.

  • Diane Wilson is a writer, speaker, and educator who has published two award-winning non-fiction books, numerous essays, the children’s book Ella Cara Deloria: Dakota Language Protector, and, most recently, the novel The Seed Keeper. She has received a Bush Foundation Fellowship and honors from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Jerome Foundation, and the East Central Regional Arts Council. A Mdewakanton descendent enrolled on the Rosebud Reservation, Wilson is executive director of the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance.

  • Emily Crawford Wilson is the curator of art at the Briscoe Western Art Museum in San Antonio, TX, and the former senior curator at the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, MT. She holds a master’s degree in art history from Indiana University. Wilson has curated exhibitions and contributed essays to catalogues on the art of the American West. She lives in Texas with her daughter and enjoys being outdoors and hiking in National Parks.

  • Richard Van Camp is a proud Tlicho Dene from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, Canada. He is the author of 26 books in 26 years in multiple genres for all ages. His novel, The Lesser Blessed, is now a feature film with First Generation Films. His graphic novel, A Blanket of Butterflies (with Scott Henderson), was nominated for an Eisner Award.

Learn More

Event schedules for authors in the Young Readers Track will be announced as the Festival draws nearer. To stay current on Festival events, please subscribe to our e-newsletter at the link below.