Since its foundation in 2009, the Tucson Festival of Books has welcomed authors, programs, and exhibitions from diverse groups in hopes of promoting literacy rates across Southern Arizona. Included among these spotlighted guests are children’s authors who, with the power of their imagination, bring life to meaningful, unique, and heartwarming stories. From cultural themes to tales about family ties, there is something for every children’s literature reader. Read on for some of our favorites, and don’t forget to check out these authors (and others) on the University of Arizona Mall from March 4th to 5th, 2023!
Inspired by the short story that led her to win the We Need Diverse Books writing contest, Kelly J. Baptist released her first novel in 2020, titled Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero. She released other children’s books in subsequent years, including The Electric Slide and Kai. This picture book follows Kai on his mission to overcome his fears and learn the electric slide in hopes of receiving a groovy nickname from his grandad. Within her stories, Baptist explores integral themes such as family, loss, determination, and confidence while centering on Black lead characters and families. Her stories are bound to bring you tears of laughter, joy, sadness, and everything in between!
Award-winning author Monica Brown has written over 30 children’s books, many of which are inspired by her Peruvian-American background. One of her most noteworthy works is Sharuko: el arqueólogo Peruano/Peruvian Archaeologist, a bilingual story that celebrates the life and discoveries of Peruvian archaeologist Julio C. Tello in a way that can be understood by younger audiences. Amidst the vivid drawings and surreal narratives of her books, Brown aims to educate children on Latin American historical figures, multicultural experiences, and environmental topics. Take a look at Brown’s website for more about the author and her work. We love her, and we know you will too!
Tami Charles began her rise to fame with her New York Times bestseller All Because You Matter. In this poetic picture book, Charles wields her words with rhythm and love to affirm the worth of Black and brown children regardless of their life circumstances. Through this empowering text, she opens a gateway to deeper conversations about race that may be difficult to have with younger readers. Charles is also recognized for her other children’s books and young adult novels that dive into deeper themes about race, innocence, and growing up. Don’t hesitate to check out one of her books, as they can be enjoyed and appreciated by all ages.
Primarily an artist, Zahra Marwan published her first picture book in 2022, which recounts her immigration journey from Kuwait to New Mexico. Interspersed among the watercolor illustrations of Where Butterflies Fill the Sky lies a nuanced message about belonging as Marwan navigates two separate worlds with similar traits she can call home. Marwan’s debut, filled with her self-illustrated images, moved our hearts and was impossible for us to put down! Head to her website to find more of her enchanting art, as well as updates on her future book releases.
Andrea Wang’s love for mythical creatures, reading, and environmentalism has won her numerous awards, such as the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature and the Caldecott Medal for The Nian Monster and Watercress respectively. Wang’s stories are inspired by her Chinese roots and explore culture and identity through illustrated stories about family, fantasy, and the bonds that can be created between cultures. Through these magical and inspiring tales, she brings a refreshing perspective to the world of children’s literature.
PRR Writer, Editor, and Social Media Manager, Emily Abundis