Get to Know… Debbi Michiko Florence!

My name is… Debbi Michiko Florence. Michiko is my middle name, and I was named after the then Princess Michiko (now the Empress) of Japan. I actually met Princess Michiko when I was a toddler.

I am… an animal lover. I have my degree in Zoology and I used to rescue and rehabilitate raptors (owls, hawks, eagles, etc.). I’ve scooped a lot of poop working at pet stores, the humane society, and zoos — and now I scoop poop at home for my two ducks, a bunny, and a rescue dog.

As a kid, I was… kind of, sort of bossy to my little sister, but I loved making up stories and adventures for us to play out with our stuffed animals.

Writing is… hard work but so much fun. I love to lose myself in my characters’ lives.

Reading is… my favorite escape.

Books are… my obsession. I can’t go into a bookstore (and I visit every independent bookstore I can) without buying at least one. I have huge piles of books to read, and I keep adding to the piles. Books make me happy!

Did you know… I have a tattoo of jasmine flowers in honor of my Jasmine Toguchi chapter book series.

You can find me… on Twitter at @DebbiMichiko, on Instagram at @jasminetoguchi, and at my website:

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If you visit Debbi’s site (which I highly suggest), make sure to sign yourself up for her newsletter. It’s fantastic! You can do so by scrolling down to the bottom of the screen and entering your email address in the box that looks like this:

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And if you’re not already familiar with Debbi’s books, here’s a look at their covers (shout-out to Elizabet Vukovic for her Jasmine Toguchi art, and to Monika Roe for her work on the Dorothy and Toto series!):

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ARCs and ARC-Sharing Groups

The other day, I found a package on my doorstep. For better or worse, there was not a farting robot tucked inside of it. But the contents of the package were still pretty exciting…

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What are these colorful, solidly bound beauties? ARCs! Which is an acronym for Advance Reviewer Copy, which is a physical copy of a book that has been printed several months before its release date so that certain people (professional reviewers, for instance) can experience the book just as other readers will once it is officially for sale.

In addition to sending ARCs to the professional reviewers mentioned above, publishers typically ship a handful of copies to the book’s author. The author then has several options. They can:

  1. clutch the ARCs to their chest and cry tears of joy;
  2. anxiously scrutinize every page of the ARCs for typos, less-than-perfect phrasings, or awkward bits of typesetting;
  3. send the ARCs on tour!

I could talk (at great length) about the first two options, but this blog post is about the third. So: what’s ARC tour? And why should an author consider sending their ARCs on tour?

ARC-sharing groups are collections of mostly educators and librarians (though there are also some authors involved!) who, after obtaining an ARC, pass it around from one member to the next and, using Twitter or Voxer or good old-fashioned Post-It notes, discuss it, share it, and review it. ARC-sharing groups get ARCs in a variety of ways – at conferences (where publishers often give away ARCs of upcoming releases), by asking publishers and authors directly (though politely!) for ARCs, or, increasingly, by having authors offer ARCs up to them.

As far as I can tell, the first official, organized ARC-sharing group was #BookJourney, and you can read more about how they got started, how they operate, and many of the amazing benefits of being part of such a group in this great post on Phil Bildner’s blog.

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I’d also highly suggest checking out this more recent post on the Nerdy Book Club blog, in which members of #BookExpedition discuss their history and experience as a group.

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Now, AUTHORS – you might be wondering why in the world you’d want to send your book on an ARC tour. Isn’t it just giving all these educators and librarians a FREE sneak peek of your book?

Well, yes. Yes, it is. And that is AWESOME. Because it’s those same educators and librarians who might then add your book to their collections. Who might pull it off the shelf and booktalk it to their classes or reading groups. Who will now know what you and your work are all about so that when they encounter a kid who’s looking for or needs a book just like yours, they know exactly where to find it. Also, the members of these ARC-sharing groups are some of the most social media savvy people on earth. Sending an ARC on tour with them is guaranteed to get your book in front of tons more eyeballs than it would on your shelf (or clutched to your chest, where not even YOU can see it through your tears of joy).

And whether or not you’ve got an ARC to send to any of the people below, I suggest you follow every single one of them, and make them a part of your greater Personal Learning Network. The members of these groups are among the most devoted and innovative educators and librarians I know. As I’ve said about a million and one times before, children’s book creators and children’s educators are colleagues. At the end of the day, our core mission is the same – to both better and enrich the lives of kids, through caring connections and through BOOKS. And sure, sending an ARC on tour can benefit your book’s sales – but more importantly, it’s equipping the people who are with kids every day with another tool to reach, engage, interest, and excite them.

Below is an alphabetized list of all the ARC-sharing groups I currently know of, along with directions for how to get in touch with their members and get your ARCs on tour with them. But more groups are being created all the time — #LitReviewCrew was literally put together while I was working on this post. I’ll keep updating this list as more groups are formed and/or I learn about others. Questions? Reach out to me or, better yet, ask the members of the groups themselves!

(And a quick parenthetical aside for anyone interested in starting a new group: please know that publishers typically don’t give authors very many ARCs. Like, they might only get one or two. If asking an author directly for an ARC, it is best to do it privately, and if that’s not possible, it doesn’t hurt to let them know that you know the above, and understand that they therefore may not be able to send an ARC your way.)

#BookExcursion – “Authors can search the hashtag and reach out to any of the members by sending a DM, then we’ll send an address where the ARC can be sent to begin its excursion. Members include: @lauramossa, @DrLMaucione, @Teacher_AWebb, and more.”

#BookExpedition – “Authors can reach out via DM to @KReilley5, @barberchicago, @erinvarley, @Caranewman12, @CherylTeaches, @patrickontwit, @SusanLSullivan, @mgrossoauthor, @LauraShovan, @brooksbenjamin, @Wiggins_Reads, or @mckenrickreads and we’ll reply with an address.”

#BookHike – “Authors can reach out via DM to any of the members and we will reply with an address. We love all books: picture, MG, & YA. Members are @zonderclassnews, @kirstenbiehl, @MsHolstine, @shender503, and @OneTeachersTake!”

#BookJaunt – “We have an age range in educators. Authors can use #bookjaunt or DM @brittyc1928, @mbiehl1, @BrandyBaxter1, @lit_learn_love, @KristySkoglund, @shawkl77, @OrangeTeacher2, @scout615, or @mrshull6.”

#BookJourney – Members include: @sfillner, @hansonhallway, @teachreadrepeat, @Wklybkspotlight, @Beth_Parmer, @Kpteach5, @literacybigkids, @mrsapia_teach, and @MsAPlusTeacher. Any of them can be reached via DM. Their focus is mostly PB, transitional chapter books, and MG, based on the age ranges that they teach.

#BookJunkies – “We have been reading YA and MG, but would all love PBs as well. Reach out to @maestraw.”

#BookOdyssey – “We are librarians and educators who love to read picture books through YA. Feel free to DM any of our members: @MrsB_reads, @betweenmargins, @LiteracyJunky, @msmarythomas, @IowaAmber, @MsG_PagebyPage, and @ashhickeyread.”

#BookPortage – A Canadian ARC-sharing group. Contact Casey Lyall (@CKLyall). Other members include: @kmcmac74, @bibliosmartgirl, and @IceNIN75.

#BookPosse – “We are up for Picture book thru YA. We use mostly PB and MG with our student populations, but we love to read/review ’em all! Members include: @CynthiaSchwind, @HopewellLibrary, @mrsbabichkbk, @mmestallard, @Melady2000, @hmspires, @kdm_guybrarian, @MrsPogal, @jubileestories, @Pittstop_in_501, @Helen00402749, and @krstnktng.”

#BookRelays – Reads MG and YA. Contact @mrzholden, @jillbless, @JanaTheTeacher, @Teachr4, or @books_ghealy.

#BookSojourn – “Authors can reach out to @jenbozyk, @jdsniadecki, @SawyersShari, @tannertheteach, @cschliep4, @TeamRo5th, @MrsShadish, @creyer3, @literacy_lovin, @SadieFritz2, @sarah_aronson, or @mrskavanaugh5th either by sending a DM or tagging us.  We have educators in all levels.”

#BookSquad – “Authors can go to the hashtag and reach out to any of the members by sending a DM, then we’ll send an address to where the ARC can be sent to begin its adventure!”

#BookTrek – Authors can find/contact members by searching the hashtag. Members include: @AppleMurphy22, @BarbInNebraska, and @cupcake_savant.

#BookVoyage – “We usually read MG but also some YA! DM: @KirchnerJulie, @mrsmontjoyreads, @corrinaaallen, @ela_everyday, @smilngbec, @dgoldenreads, @JessSamuel2010, @MrsGettler, or @mrs_cmt1489.”

#collaBOOKation – Authors can contact @mgbookjunkie. Other members include: @amysoupy and @DrMayesElma.

#KidLitAlliance – “A diverse group of educators, librarians and authors excited to read all kid lit, PB thru YA. Members include: members are @LoganTCES @donna_rineholt @acraftyarab @sakraal @YouAreMeAreYou @wlingle @CPravata @techie_denise @MsBlyereads @NicolleKR.”

#KidLitExchange – “We are a network of kid lit reviewers sharing ARCs of kid lit and reviewing EVERYWHERE — we take submissions from authors and publishers!” Check out their website ( or contact them using their handle (@kidlitexchange).

#LitReviewCrew – Search the hashtag or tweet directly at their group account: @litreviewcrew.

#read2nite – “We’re a group of educators ranging from elementary through middle grade, and we love to share and promote picture books through middle grade novels. DM @DrMayesElma for an address where to send books.”

#YellowBookRoad – “Authors can reach out to @rach3liblady, @megankohlman, @rbharder, @mrskaufman1st, @SJNeill13, @janealgray, @AmandaBuethe, or @TonyaFoster3 by DM or tagging us. We teach all levels, 1st through HS, and are interested in all levels of books.”

There are also a bunch of awesome KID reviewers of kid lit out there. For instance:


I’ll keep updating this list as I learn of more groups or more groups get created. Also, if members of any of the above groups want me to edit or add information to their little blurb, let me know! And for


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One year ago today, a dream came true and my silly little book about kids banding together to save their town from a horde of endlessly hungry, dangerously flatulent robots was released into the world.

The past year has been, in a word, incredible.

A big, huge, gigantic THANK-YOU to every single person who supported me and ENGINERDS in any way. To celebrate (and to further thank you all), I’m doing a giveaway on Twitter. Head over there to check it out!

And THANK YOU again!

Get to Know… Emmy Kastner!

My name is… technically Emily Anne Kastner. My grandma has always called me Emmy, as well as other family and some friends. I opted for the more familiar name on my books, as that’s the kind of relationship I aim to have with my readers. I’ll answer to Emmy, or Em, or Emily. An old softball coach used to call me Auntie Em. No need to call me that now unless you’re my nieces or nephew. And I’ll always look up where I am, whenever I hear “Mom!”


I am a… curious person by nature, a natural teacher. Not that I think I’ve got loads of wisdom to edify the masses with… I just enjoy learning, community building, and communication in a way that makes for an engaging teaching/learning environment. This has taken shape for me both in the traditional sense as I was a high school science and English teacher, but also in youth-serving spaces through my life as a camp counselor, serving on student council back in the day, and more recently in adulthood as co-founder of Read and Write Kalamazoo. Inspired by the 826 National model when I was living in San Francisco, my friend Anne Hensley and I co-founded a literacy-based nonprofit here in Kalamazoo, Michigan that aims to celebrate and amplify youth voices.

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As a kid, I was… either trying to make everyone laugh, was writing, or drawing. I had grand plans to have many careers: I was certain I’d be a writer and star on Saturday Night Live, a writer/illustrator of picture books, play the bass clarinet for the New York Philharmonic, a teacher, a photojournalist for National Geographic, a marine biologist, and a mom. I was obsessed with my dad’s electric typewriter, which made working on “my first chapter book,” The Bear Who Came Alive quite professional. I spent the bulk of my childhood living in the woods with no neighbors that were my age close by. I lived in such a vivid imaginary world which from the outside looked like a girl talking to herself and running/dancing/leaping around (which was great material for my big sister to poke fun). Abby Hanlon’s Dory Fantasmagory series feels like an accurate representation of my childhood.

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Writing is… beautiful. I am such a fan of words. My favorite question to hear in the world is, “Can I read this to you?” Yes. The answer is always yes. As a teacher, or popping into our writing center at RAWK and having kids come running with some fresh words on the page, a friend asking to read a story, my kids showing me a new comic they’ve created … that question is always the best. Yes. Please read to me. Words are powerful. Writing connects us, show us corners of ourselves yet undiscovered, and opens our eyes to experiences and people different from ourselves. Empathy! Words move us to FEEL and GO and DO! And to have the ability to pick up a pencil, a pen, to open a computer and to build people, entire worlds, and to craft their stories? That is remarkable!


Illustrating is… exciting, sometimes scary, often unexpected. I have always been drawing and painting, as I’m a visual learner and, really, it’s a lot of fun. I have always been drawn to art that is loose, modern, and often imperfect, but have always but strange expectations on my own art. Second guessing myself artistically has always been a hurdle to putting it out there and sharing it with anyone. It wasn’t until adulthood that I really embraced my art in a way that I wanted to share it publicly. The pairing of words and art has always been magical, both to witness and create. To fill in the spaces between words, and play with the conversation between words and art on the same page… that has been a driving force for me to navigate this adventure of being an artist, more specifically a writer and illustrator of children’s books. And to my surprise when I started to dip my toe in the water of publishing and connecting with an agent, the three agents I queried all loved my art and had kind, generous suggestions referencing the story as the component that needed more finesse.


Reading is… not always something I was deeply in love with. I liked it alright, but was not the kid reading a book at recess. Early on I wanted books that made me laugh (like Amelia Bedelia), or books that were about the characters in the TV shows/movies I loved. The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover checked both those boxes! I was also obsessed with Sunday comic strips. Snoopy! I really fell in love with reading in 5th/6th grade when my fantastic teacher, Mrs. Owings, shared books with us that opened my eyes to the world. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor and Number the Stars by Lois Lowry were gorgeous stories that taught me so much about the power of reading books. I cried. I was confused. I was moved to find answers and do something in the world to make a difference. Reading! That’s power.


Books are… beautiful. Many hands and hearts touch the making of every book. I just love that. My preschool was at a library and I slept with books in my bed. And I don’t mean falling asleep reading them, though I probably did that too. I would tuck them in beside me, under my pillow, at my feet. Books were, and still are, such a comfort. My son and daughters all do the same thing! It’s like when Wendy grows up in Peter Pan and her kids are doing the same things she did as a kid. Am I making that up? That happened, right? Maybe it’s the movie I’m thinking of? Either way, my kids are doing the same thing I did, which is a universal phenomenon (but maybe not a part of Peter Pan…). There’s a gravitational pull between book people. More book people in the world means more connections between us all.

Did you know… 12 more moons were discovered circling Jupiter this summer? I’d just turned in final art/copy for Nerdy Babies: Space and I received texts from a few friends giving me the heads up with a link to the news. Though we’re learning new things about the solar system every day, I did include the fact that Jupiter has 67 moons on a spread in the book. I excitedly sprang the newly discovered moons on my editor and had the green light to add 12 moons to the illustration, and revise the copy to accurately tally Jupiter’s moons at 79. I’m grateful for the scientists who made the discovery before the books went to print.


You can find me… in my studio making art and writing, above our coffee shop in Kalamazoo. Though I am grateful that this is the spot I frequent most, I’m ideally found at our favorite beach on Lake Michigan. More conveniently, you can find me on social media, most likely distracting myself from work making/sharing stories on Instagram: @emmykmakes. And, the first two books in the series, Nerdy Babies: Space and Nerdy Babies: Ocean, will make their ways to shelves at a bookstore near you via Macmillan’s Roaring Brook Press on May 7, 2019!


Get to Know… Ann Braden!

My name is… Ann Braden. (Or if I’m going to sign my name the way my 8-year-old son does: Ann Braden!!!!!!!)

I am a… MG author, a former middle school teacher, a lover of spreadsheets, and a community organizer (first about gun laws, then about love, and most recently about getting kids books)

As a kid, I was… so shy that I wouldn’t play on a playground if other kids were on it.

Writing is… something that I used to never think I could do, so I didn’t do it. But now I need to do it to stay sane.

Reading is… a way to live so many lives with just our one.

Books are… something every kid should have easy access to.

Did you know… my cats will eat entire plates of broccoli if left unattended? They’ll each grab a big piece of broccoli and run off with it (growling to protect their catch), devour it somewhere in the shadows of our house, and then repeat until the plate is empty.

You can find me… on Twitter at @annbradenbooks, on Instagram also at @annbradenbooks, and on Facebook at ann.b.braden.

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Ann’s debut novel, The Benefits of Being an Octopus, hits shelves next week, on September 4th! Below, check out some of the stellar reviews it’s garnered so far, and don’t miss the book’s trailer, made by the talented students of Brattleboro Area Middle School!

Screen Shot 2018-08-29 at 4.39.15 PM.png“This heartbreaking, beautifully written book about finding one’s voice will offer some readers a relatable reflection and others a window that can help build empathy and understanding.” — School Library Journal (starred review)

The Benefits of Being an Octopus is a beautiful, layered look at the courage it takes to stand up to and stand up for the people you love–including yourself. Braden’s story captivated me and carried me along, leaving me changed for the better. — Elaine Vickers, author of Like Magic and Paper Chains

“With grace and heart and words masterfully woven, The Benefits of Being an Octopus captures the quiet and loud masks of domestic violence. Braden navigates the complexities of choice and power and the meaning of courage. And how sometimes together, we can find our voice and our strength.” — Elly Swartz, author of Finding Perfect and Smart Cookie

“This wise book knows we can’t always keep the people we love safe. But it also knows that courage and compassion can sometimes turn lives around. You will care so fiercely about Zoey — the octopus-loving, truth-telling young heroine that you’ll want to wrap all eight of your own arms around her.” — Anne Nesbet, author of California Book Award winner, Cloud, and Wallfish

“You are seen. You are heard. You are loved.” In a perfect world, every child would know these three absolutes. Ann Braden shares this message with her readers in a funny, poignant story about Zoey, her siblings, their mother, and one very special teacher. An octopus might be the most clever creature, but it can’t hold a candle (or eight) to Braden’s masterfully constructed prose.” –– K. A. Holt, author of House Arrest


Get to Know… Supriya Kelkar!

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I am… a screenwriter who has been on the writing teams of several Bollywood films and one Hollywood feature, and the author of AHIMSA (2017), THE MANY COLORS OF HARPREET SINGH (2019), and THE SANDALWOOD PYRE (2020).

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As a kid… I was afraid of a lot of things thanks to the power of writing. After writing a long research paper on sharks in fourth grade, I was nervous every day when I took a shower, even though I knew logically there was no way a shark was going to swim up the drain and enter the bathtub. After seeing Jurassic Park, I was terrified to take my dog out at night, even though I knew there was no way a velociraptor could really be hiding behind our pine trees.  And after I read a non-fiction book about poltergeists from our elementary school library, I never slept again.

Writing is… the way I process what is going on in the world today and a way for me to express myself and speak out.

Reading is… a way for me to learn about the world and myself.

Books are… home.

Did you know… I wrote the first draft of AHIMSA in 2003 and it was published over a decade and several revisions later in 2017?

You can find me… on Twitter @soups25 on Instagram @supriya.kelkar and at my website

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Want to more about Supriya’s upcoming books? Below are the acquisition announcements from Publishers Weekly.

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And just in case you haven’t seen it (or want to share it with your students this upcoming school year!), here’s the book trailer for AHIMSA:

Get to Know… Sarah Lynne Reul!

My name is…

new_watermark_with_subtitle.pngI am… an author/illustrator/animator with three books that debuted this year: THE BREAKING NEWS, ALLIE ALL ALONG & PET THE PETS.


I’m also a maker of tiny things, a person who draws on photos, a 2D animator, a mom (to two kids), a kid (to my mom!), a friend, an explorer, a connector of worlds.


As a kid, I was… super interested in animals, reading, singing and making stuff.

Writing is… a way to process my world; a place to consider, wonder and imagine… “what if…?

Reading is… a way for me to gain perspective; to learn, explore, think and feel.

Books are… the best way to hold a world in your hands. They’re a place to escape, a comfort to hold, a way to connect; a practice zone for meeting the dragons of fear, doubt, loss and disappointment.

Did you know… sometimes the biggest problems can be solved by focusing on one small thing at a time?

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You can find me… making tiny things, drawing on photos and connecting with friends on Twitter @sarahlynnereul, Instagram @thereul and on my website,

I’m also planning to do more school visits in the upcoming year, so I hope you’ll be able to find me presenting at your local school in the near future!