2011 Conference

Kirby Larson

Kirby Larson is the acclaimed author of the 2007 Newbery Honor book, Hattie Big Sky, a young adult novel set during WWI and inspired by her great-grandmother, Hattie Inez Brooks Wright, who homesteaded alone in eastern Montana as a young woman. In addition, Kirby has written three books for children, including the award-winning picture book, The Magic KerchiefTwo Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship and Survival is an inspiring story about two good (animal) friends and Nubs: The Story of a Mutt, a Marine, and a Miracle were co-authored with her good friend, Mary Nethery. Larson’s newest book, The Fences Between Us: The Diary of Piper Davis, (Dear America) is set in Washington State during the Japanese Internment, and was released fall 2010. Larson has always had a passion for books and believes they were her best friends growing up. In fact, her teachers often complained that she spent too much time reading and not enough time on homework. But Kirby never imagined becoming a writer. That is, until she had children and read them Arnold Lobel’s Ming Lo Moves the Mountain. “When I turned the last page, a switch went off inside me,” she said. “I wanted to learn how to write stories that would touch others the way this book had touched me.”

Chris Raschka

For Chris Raschka, the road to being, “one of the most original illustrators at work today” (Publishers Weekly) has not been a straight and narrow one. In fact, the 2006 Caldecott-award winning illustrator of The Hello, Goodbye Window almost pursued a career in the field of medicine. Born in Pennsylvania, Raschka grew up in suburban Chicago with an older brother and a younger sister. As a child, he loved to read and draw. He was also quite musical and excelled at playing the viola. Along with his love of art and music, Raschka had an affinity for the sciences, and he especially enjoyed studying animals. With thoughts of becoming a zoologist, Raschka attended St. Olaf College in Minnesota and graduated with a degree in biology. Unsure about what to do with his life post-college, Raschka worked and traveled abroad for a few years. He eventually decided to apply to medical school – but the dream of a career in art was never far from his mind. “The morning of my first day of medical school, I called the school and told them I wasn’t going to come,” he says. “That was when I knew I really wanted to be a painter.” Today, Raschka has over forty children’s books to his credit. His first book, Charlie Parker Played Be Bop, was published in 1992. He garnered his first significant award in 1994, with a Caldecott Honor for Yo? Yes! and followed that in 2006 with the Caldecott Medal for The Hello, Goodbye Window. When asked if he ever regrets choosing a life in art over a career in medicine, Raschka’s answer is clear. “No,” he says. “I feel extremely lucky. I wouldn’t trade this for anything else.” Raschka’s newest title, Little Black Crow, will be released in late summer 2010. Biography from Hyperion Press