School closures and stay-at-home orders may have forced the nation’s readers inside, but children’s and YA authors and illustrators have stepped up in unparalleled ways. From storytimes to drawing lessons and online festivals, the work these authors do each day ensures that those who are fortunate to have digital access can discover new worlds.
Kids’ Authors Go Digital is an occasional column that shares brief news on the most creative, interesting, and inspiring author initiatives that are coming across our screens. Sometimes the columns will feature lists of trends we see, other times they will focus on a single unique effort. All of them will share the goal of helping highlight places for authors and readers to come together and imagine things beyond the confines of home.
For our first column, we are taking a look at seven digital efforts that capture some of the diversity of what is available for children and teens right now:
Conceived before the pandemic, Kids Ask Authors is the brainchild of Newbery and Caldecott Honor recipient Grace Lin. The podcast, which is geared toward elementary and middle school children, gives readers the opportunity to ask a question of their favorite author or illustrator. Children can submit questions on the podcast website. Each short episode features a different question, ranging from “What do you do when your brain does not come up with any ideas?” to “How do you get drawings or paintings into a book?” The podcast’s growing catalog of 16 episodes includes authors Jeanne Birdsall, Linda Sue Park, Don Tate, and Jane Yolen.
One of the greatest hits the kids’ lit world has taken is the cancellation of book festivals nationwide, including YALLWEST in Santa Monica, Calif. Undeterred, organizers managed the monumental task of taking the entire festival online. The weekend bash, which will take place online on April 25 and 26, will feature more than 70 YA authors for a YALLSTAYHOME Book Festival. Authors Melissa Albert, Kacen Callender, Stuart Gibbs, Leah Johnson, David Levithan, Angie Thomas, Sarah Watson, and others will participate in panels, readings and contests. Signed books will be available for purchase from Blue Bicycle Books. Details and schedule information can be found on the festival’s website.
As the stay-at-home order went into effect, The Campaign (Abrams, Aug.) author Leila Sales was feeling alone and inundated by technology. To fight back, she launched a choose-your-own-adventure inspired game called Ada and the Lost Horizon that participants can join by following her on Instagram or Twitter. The game launched on April 9, but it is not too late for new users to catch up and dive in. Each day, participants have 24 hours to accomplish a task and there is room for creativity every time. Participants can share how they accomplished the goal with the hashtag #AdaAndTheLostHorizon.
Aspiring young artists can tune in to Hey, Kiddo and Lunch Lady series author Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s daily drawing lessons, which the author-illustrator began doing from his home studio in late March. Beginning with an episode on how to draw every day, Krosoczka’s lessons have become something of a master class for young artists, from tips on coming up with ideas, to picking colors, all the way to drawing Yoda.
Armed with costumes, props, and a giant stack of books, Brad Meltzer has posted four videos to his YouTube channel of readings from his Ordinary People Change the World books. I Am Neil Armstrong features flying spacecraft while I Am Billie Jean King includes King herself, as well as Meltzer in period-specific tennis gear.
Illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi was planning to wait until she could brush up on some digital technology skills before launching Ask Me To Ask!, a YouTube series where children’s authors and illustrators pose a question to themselves and give an answer. With the coronavirus outbreak, Ohi decided to dive into the series, adding illustrations to questions like Kevin Sylvester’s “how do you stop your hand from hurting when you draw?” Ohi’s YouTube channel also features storytimes and drawing lessons.
Author and illustrator Peter Reynolds also owns the Blue Bunny, an independent bookstore in Dedham, Mass., which he has turned into a space from which to reach the world with storytimes and drawing lessons each week. Every Friday at 12 p.m. ET, Reynolds takes a book down from the shelves, sharing stories about his own connections to the book, giving drawing lessons, and offering a free story time for children.