Guests at this morning’s annual Children’s Book and Author Breakfast will be entertained by a quartet of children’s book creators, including a debut picture book author famous for his performances in other spotlights; the illustrator of a 2014 breakout picture book bestseller; the award-winning author of two back-to-back YA hits; and a veteran children’s and adult novelist whose book sales exceed 305 million worldwide. The lineup is impressive: Nathan Lane, Oliver Jeffers, Rainbow Rowell, and James Patterson. Following the breakfast, ABA members can join the panelists for a book signing in the ABA Lounge.

Acting as master of ceremonies, Nathan Lane steps into a new role at BEA, that of picture book author. Cowritten with Devlin Elliot and illustrated by Dan Krall, Lane’s debut picture book, Naughty Mabel (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Oct.), introduces an entitled French bulldog who bears an unmistakable likeness to the pet that shares Lane and Elliot’s home. “I have to admit the real Mabel is indeed spoiled and pampered,” Lane concedes. “She actually has 26 separate allergies and a very delicate stomach. She’s extremely stubborn, a little neurotic, a little needy—it’s like living with Gwyneth Paltrow.”

Lane says that, when he suggested to Elliot that overprivileged, real-life Mabel might be easily parlayed into a children’s book character, “Devlin thought it was a great idea, and said that we should write it together, and thus Naughty Mabel was born.”

Elliot wrote the first draft of the picture book, which Lane says, “was very sweet, but I thought it was a little too sweet, and I wanted to inject more humor and attitude into the character. We took turns doing drafts, and then worked on each one together, which was great fun. I think French bulldog owners will recognize two hilarious traits that are part of the breed—loud snoring and excessive gas—and we also knew kids would love that!”

Lane is gratified to add children’s book author to his credits, noting that “picture books have a very special place in our culture, and Devlin and I are thrilled and humbled to be a part of it.” As a child, he recalls, bookstores and libraries “were always magical places to me.”

Though the author admits that today’s breakfast takes place at an hour that “is a little early for me—it’s probably a little early even for Tibetan monks,” he’s honored to host the event and be in the presence of “people who are hell-bent on getting the right books into the right kids’ hands. If that is not an honorable profession, I’d like to know what is.”

Oliver Jeffers is certainly a household name to booksellers, who heartily embraced and happily handsold The Day the Crayons Quit, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Jeffers, which has 1.8 million copies in print in North America alone. Fans of all ages will be pleased to know that the strong-willed crayons return in The Day the Crayons Came Home (Philomel, Aug.), for which a one million–copy announced first printing is on order. Jeffers notes that he and Daywalt had a good time bringing the crayons back. “We had a lot of fun doing this book,” he says. “The crayons face a different raft of problems in this book, and rather than protest letters, they write postcards, since they feel forgotten and feel they need to be rescued. Designing the visual elements of the postcards and stamps was fun—I did a lot of laughing when we came up with some of the ideas.”

Jeffers’s tweaks to his art give some spreads in the sequel a slightly different look from its predecessor. “I used some special inks in this book, and it was fun to experiment with those,” he notes. “There are a couple of special crayons playing a role in this story, and I did have some fun with neon and glow-in-the-dark crayons.”

The artist also welcomed the shift in his and Daywalt’s collaborative process this time around. “With the first book, Drew had come up with the idea several years earlier, so when I worked on the illustrations, I didn’t have a lot of communication with him,” he says. “But we got to know each other after the book came out, and at a certain point creating this second book, we realized it was more conducive to be in the same room working on it, so we got together.”

Jeffers has illustrated another fall picture book, Imaginary Fred (HarperCollins, Oct.), by Eoin Colfer, about a boy and his imaginary friend. Jeffers and Colfer met while each was on a book tour “on the other side of the planet, and after chatting in Sydney we decided we should do something together one day,” Jeffers recalls. “Two weeks later, Eoin sent me an idea I thought was a workable story that I could definitely bring to life. The story came pretty quickly to him, and the idea for the art came quite quickly to me. If we have fun making it, then kids will have fun reading it. And we definitely had fun making it!”

Jeffers is pleased to be speaking at today’s breakfast, noting, “I am very flattered to think that people might find what I have to say interesting. And I feel as though I’ve already been introduced to booksellers through The Day the Crayons Quit, which I am grateful they have loved handselling. But I should say, I think the sequel is even a better book than the first.”

Rainbow Rowell, who made a splash in the YA arena with 2013’s Eleanor & Park and 2014’s Fangirl, returns to BEA to promote her newest novel for teens, Carry On (St. Martin’s Griffin, Sept.), which is written in a different vein than, but was sparked by, her second YA novel. “In Fangirl, I wrote about Simon Snow, a fictional character written by a fictional author, and about two sisters who write fan fiction about Simon,” explains Rowell. “I started thinking about how I’d write a story about a boy with magical powers, and that led to Carry On.”

In the novel, a combination ghost story, love story, and mystery, evil forces are out to get powerful magician Simon Snow during his last year at the Watford School of Magicks. “As a kid, my first obsession was with Star Wars,” says Rowell. “And I’ve spent a number of my adult years obsessed with Harry Potter—oh, and I also had a King Arthur period. These were powerful, chosen people, and I began thinking about a young hero who’s born into a similar position, how unfair it would be to a kid to be told, ‘We need you to fight a war to save the world.’ These heroes never get to decide if they really want to fight—and they always have to trust the person who tells them that they have to.”

Rowell is pleased to be back at BEA, where, she finds, “It’s really exciting to experience all this buzzing energy.” A first-time attendee of the Children’s Book and Author Breakfast, the author notes, “I want to take this opportunity to thank independent booksellers for being so very supportive of my books.”

Bestselling author and passionate literary advocate and philanthropist James Patterson is no stranger to booksellers and is pleased to be back at BEA, where he can be a “book junkie, going from booth to booth.”

Patterson adds to his roster of children’s books this fall with additions to two middle-grade series published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Treasure Hunters: Secret of the Forbidden City, in which the Kidd kids travel to China in search of an ancient artifact that will buy their mother’s freedom from renegade pirates; and House of Robots: Robots Go Wild, recounting Sammy’s scramble to find out what is wrong with his malfunctioning robot brother in order to save his family. Both books are cowritten by Chris Grabenstein.

Both series support Patterson’s mission of hooking kids on reading. “By the end of the Treasure Hunters series, kids will have visited every continent, which is a very cool notion,” he says. “And House of Robots helps get kids interested in both reading and science.”

Patterson welcomes such opportunities as today’s breakfast to connect with individuals involved, in various ways, with the children’s book industry. “I love the chance to stand up and encourage more to stand up,” he says. “Kids’ books are one of the ways we can all help. We can’t solve global warming, but we can change things by making parents more aware of the importance of reading, and reaching kids who are reading, but not reading enough. And in terms of at-risk kids, if they don’t become competent readers—not necessarily great readers, but competent—they are pretty much doomed in terms of getting through high school.”

Noting that this children’s literacy cause is “huge to me,” Patterson says, “I am honored to be able to participate in today’s panel, and inspire publishers and booksellers to take more responsibility, as I am also doing, to encourage kids to read. Not all kids love eating broccoli—they may need some encouragement. And we can all help.”