Get to Know… Kara LaReau!

My name is… Kara LaReau (pronounced KARE-uh la-ROW for the uninitiated).

I am a… children’s book writer, editor, and mom, not always in that order.

As a kid, I was… funny, smart, snarky, sneaky, curious, anxious, weird, dramatic, imaginative, and never without a book. (Pretty much the way I am now.)

Writing is… the hardest, most fun job in the world.

Reading is… one way I improve my writing (writing ALL THE TIME and sharing my work with others are two more ways).

Books are… a great way to entertain and educate ourselves, a way to escape, and how we learn to empathize.

Did you know… I also have a full-time job as a writer at Hasbro? I write package copy and rules for many of their games.

You can find me… writing, working, hanging out with my friends and family (preferably at the beach), drinking too much coffee, and at my website,

. . .

Kara LaReau was born and raised in Connecticut. She received her Masters in Fine Arts in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts and later worked as an editor at Candlewick Press and at Scholastic Press. She is the author of picture books such as UGLY FISH, illustrated by Scott Magoon, and GOOD NIGHT LITTLE MONSTERS, illustrated by Brian Won; an award-winning chapter book series called THE INFAMOUS RATSOS, illustrated by Matt Myers; and a middle-grade trilogy called THE UNINTENTIONAL ADVENTURES OF THE BLAND SISTERS, illustrated by Jen Hill. Kara lives in Providence, Rhode Island with her husband and son and their cat.

Get to Know… Armand Baltazar!

My name is… Armand Baltazar. I’m the author and illustrator of TIMELESS: DIEGO AND THE RANGERS OF THE VASTLANTIC.

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I am a… writer and illustrator now, but once worked as a pizza delivery guy and waiter to pay for school.  I studied to make book illustrations and stories in college but then embarked on a nearly twenty year career making artwork and visual stories for DreamWorks, Disney, and Pixar instead. One fateful day, my son encouraged me to write and illustrate my own stories again and because of him… I’m finally doing what I set out to do!

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As a kid, I was… painfully shy and moving around a lot didn’t help. Books and comics became constant friends. Reading and writing stories and making artwork for them became both an escape and a joy I could do anywhere. My dad loved adventure stories and my mom loved sci-fi. They introduced me to Captain Nemo and his submarine, Long John Silver and his pirates, not to mention Robinson Crusoe, Spiderman, Batman, even Captain Kirk and the Enterprise. Ok, I used to watch Star Trek a lot with my mom as a kid — still do!

Writing and illustrating are… combining two things I’ve always loved. Merging prose and pictures to tell stories that hopefully entertain, captivate, create beauty, and maybe even make the world a better place is the most satisfying job I’ve ever had, after being a dad!

Reading is… the best kind of exercise! It’s exercising your mind and when you are reading something good, it’s like going on a beautiful hike, or like how it feels riding fresh powder on the mountain with your snowboard. It puts me in tune with my imagination and it both stimulates and calms me like a good cup of coffee. I know — that’s pretty weird, but it can be kinda like that to me!

Books are… like movies that play in your head! The characters and the worlds look just like the way you imagine. And best of all you take the adventure with you and enjoy it as fast or as slow as you want, play it over and over, and it will always play for you without batteries, or power cords, and books never need a software update!

Did you know… I’m a first generation Filipino American born and raised in Chicago. Although my heritage is from a warm tropical island culture… I love the snow! My family and I are avid snowboarders and for a time we even owned a women’s snowboarding shop in Pasadena!

You can find me… on Twitter at @ArmandBaltazar, on FaceBook at @ArmandBaltazarStudios, and on Instagram at armand_baltazar. To buy a signed copy of my book and see and buy my art, check out my website: I’m always up to visit schools, libraries, and stores, and I love speaking with fellow authors! If interested, contact me at my email:

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Want to learn more about TIMELESS? Check out the Introduction to Timeless video and read some reviews below!

“While the action will enthrall, and the struggle for a better world will inspire, the reader will ultimately be won over by the intimate moments in Timeless…Like a midsummer action movie, the scope (and budget) of the book is dazzling. Six hundred glossy pages, with hundreds of luscious color illustrations by Baltazar, depict a world after a cosmic event that has reshuffled epochs. People from every era coexist with dinosaurs and giant robots.” — New York Times Book Review

“This epic tale from Baltazar, is not only wildly imaginative and attention-grabbing, it’s downright beautiful: more than 150 full-color photorealistic art pieces bring the characters and setting to life. A series opener that conveys a true sense of wonder and excitement on every page.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Intricate illustrations, stunning in their lush coloring and quality, are liberally interspersed. [C]inematic dialogue, glossy plot twists, and movie-ready illustrations will likely make readers feel they’ve had a theatrical experience.”  Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“The stunning artwork is the real star here. Sure to be popular with middle school fantasy readers.”  School Library Journal 

“Baltazar’s story is a captivating adventure lavishly illustrated with beautiful full-color paintings worth lingering over.”  Kirkus Reviews

“Vivid world creation and brilliant characters make Timeless an unforgettable, wondrous journey that will stay with you long after the final page.” — Ridley Scott


Get to Know… Gina Perry!

My name is… Gina Perry. And also Gina Carey. And sometimes Mrs. Carey or, my favorite from my daughter’s friend, Ms. Gina. I am one of three girls so I use my maiden name to keep the Perry name going. I also grew up on Perry Street and still deeply miss the days when everyone would ask, “Is it named after you, or is it just a coincidence?”

I am a… children’s book writer and illustrator, mom to two kids, lifelong New Englander, and potato chip tester (unofficially, but I’m still very committed).

As a kid… I loved books, drawing, and video games pretty equally. I filled my sketchbook with characters for game ideas that I had. And NERDS (like the candy). Food was inspiring even back then. Adventure and mystery games were my favorite, but I was a loyal Super Mario Bros. fan as well.


Writing is… a surprise career. I have always kept journals and loved creative writing classes but I honestly did not imagine it would be part of my career until I was in my thirties. I went to art school and always worked in that field, so while I love illustration and find it really challenging, it’s the career that I planned. Writing for work is so unexpected and enjoyable. It’s a totally different process from creating visual art, but I absolutely love letting my imagination run wild, then attempting to wrangle it into a good story.

Illustrating is… endlessly challenging — in a great way! Can you picture all the different objects and people and animals and places in this big world? That’s actually my job! From drawing something new and simple (a jar of bowtie pasta!) to researching and interpreting in my own way (squirrel monkeys!), illustration is my ticket to the world.


Reading is… for everyone. Not every book is, however. And that is totally OK! I love seeing what my kids and other kids choose to dive into.

Books are… so hard to make! It is really hard to trust that your idea can grow and be shaped into a real book, but you just have to keep working away.

Did you know… even though I love my quiet work time and am generally shy, I love reading my books to groups of kids AND drawing with them.


You can even find lots of free printable drawing sheets on my website at:

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You can find me… staring out the window, thinking about potato chips and new stories in New Hampshire. Or online at on Twitter, and @ginapineapple on Instagram.

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Gina Perry is an author and illustrator working under the tall pines in New Hampshire. She grew up in Massachusetts, drawing, playing with yarn, and burning through all the books in the library. Gina went to Syracuse University and worked in animation and as an art director before realizing that children’s books were her true calling. Her picture book debut as author/illustrator, Small (little bee books, 2017), is an empowering story about a small girl in the city, who shows us what happens if you take one big and brave step. Her other books include Too Much Not Enough (Tundra, 2018) and a yet untitled picture book (Tundra, Summer 2019). Visit her at or on Twitter @ginamarieperry or Instagram @ginapineapple.

Are Farting Robots Allowed on YouTube?


A few nights ago, Sarah McGuire (author of The Flight of Swans, which hits shelves this coming Monday!) hosted a truly excellent #MGBookChat. Her topic was “Teacher-Librarian-Author Collaboration” – something YOU all certainly know is a passion of mine. Here’s a look at the questions Sarah used for discussion:

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I was particularly interested to see educators’ and librarians’ responses to Questions 2 and 3. They shared TONS of wonderful ideas and suggestions, but one thing definitely stood out: nearly every single educator and librarian who participated in the chat mentioned, among other things, how both they and their students/patrons LOVE videos.

Now, I’m well aware of the popularity of YouTube and its stars – I couldn’t hang out with kids as much as I do and not be aware of it – and I know how tremendous a resource Flipgrid has become. But I guess I just never made the connection between all of that and my author website – a place that, I must admit, doesn’t have all that much to excite the KIDS I write for.

All of which is to say that . . . I’ve started a YouTube channel! And I’ll be sharing all the videos I post over there here on my website, too (I know educators like to use these videos in school, and some schools block sites like YouTube).

Here, for your viewing pleasure, are my first two (very low-budget) videos — an EngiNerds booktalk and a read aloud of the book’s first few chapters:


Read Aloud:

I’ve got some ideas about what else I’ll be posting – peeks at my rough drafts, discussions of my process, drawing demos, etc. – but if any of YOU have ideas about what sort of videos I should be making, LET ME KNOW. You can contact me using my Contact form, which you can find in the Menu at the top of this site, or, of course, you can find me on Twitter (I’m probably hanging out over there at this very moment). And if you want to make sure not to miss any of my future videos, don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel!

Thanks, as always, for reading — and thanks, in advance, for watching!

. . .

Check out the archived version of the “Teacher-Librarian-Author Collaboration” chat here. And find past #MGBookChat discussions to read through here.

Don’t know what Flipgrid is, or just want to learn more? Listen to this episode of the Books Between podcast, during which host Corrina Allen interviews Flipgrid MASTER Nicole Mancini about both it and how to use it to inspire readers.

More information about Sarah McGuire and her new novel, The Flight of Swans, can be found at her website, here. Also find her on Twitter at @fireplusalgebra (a handle which makes more sense if you know that Sarah, in addition to being a novelist, is a high school math teacher!).

Get to Know… Kat Shepherd!

My name is… Kat Shepherd.

I am… a middle grade author, and I love writing fast-paced mysteries and spooky adventures. I have lots of ideas for other books and series, so that description may change! I am also a former teacher, and education still courses through my blood like oxygen.

As a kid, I was… kind of bossy, and I liked doing my own thing. I was always coming up with new ideas for games, trying to get everyone to be in a play I wrote, or telling friends what costume to wear for Halloween. Other kids got pretty tired of that, so I often had dramatic screaming fights with friends where we’d both storm home to cool off. I did eventually learn to compromise, and now people would consider me a good friend.

When I was in elementary school my parents used to sign me up for things I didn’t really want to do, like swim team and golf lessons. I remember hating how cold the water was in the early mornings, and how the Japanese beetles in the pool would always get tangled in my hair. I was terrible at golf and utterly uninterested besides. So they’d drop me off in the mornings and I would ditch both to hide behind a tree and read horror books and mysteries. I guess it paid off!

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Writing is… complicated for me, because I’ve always loved telling stories, but throughout my life I heard a lot of people tell me that real writers all had to be a certain way. They would say things like, “Writers write because they have to,” and “Real writers write every day.” Writing was fulfilling, but I didn’t feel like I had to do it; in fact, there were about a million other things I would rather do instead. And I certainly didn’t write every day. I thought that meant I could never be a writer. I also didn’t feel like a real writer because the stories I wanted to tell weren’t beautifully crafted, award-winners that made people cry. I wanted to tell stories that were silly and scary and fun, the kinds of stories I still love to read.

How amazing it was for me to meet other authors and hear that every person approaches writing in a different way. There are lots of authors who struggle to get the words on the page. In fact, I think most of them do! Some people write daily, and some people write only once every few months. Some writers publish their work, some don’t. Some people consider writing their ‘happy place,’ and some write in the depths of misery. So, in growing up and pursuing this life, I have learned that writing is a place that has room for everyone. Everyone is a writer, everyone has stories to tell, and all of their stories have value.

Reading is… a lifeline for me, and it always has been. I started reading early and often, and I never stopped. Even in those times when I was lonely or had no friends, or when I was fresh out of college with nothing but Ramen for dinner, I was always reading. As a teacher I learned that reading is guided thinking, and it does feel like a magical power that someone can make you laugh or cry out loud in an empty room, simply from the words they chose to string together.

I think that reading and literacy is a fundamental right for all people, and to deny anyone that right is morally wrong. I believe that children should have access to a wide variety of books, and I am against banning or censoring books under the guise of protecting children. Children deserve to read stories that reflect their lives and the world they live in, and we have to respect them enough to honor and celebrate their reading choices. Access to literacy and books is as vital to life as clean air and water, food, and health care.

Books are… like people to me. Some of them you clutch to your heart and know you’ll remember forever and ever. You visit them time and time again. Others bring happiness or intense conversations that are exactly what you need at that time and place, and then you move on. Still others are just not for you. It’s rare that I will abandon a book; I used to feel so guilty about it if I did, like I was letting the book down. But I have been doing it more as I get older, because I’ve learned that it’s okay to say, “This isn’t right for me.”

I was at a conference recently, and a wonderful author said that one of the great things about books is that they create a safe place to practice saying no. For some of us that might mean that if we get to a part that makes us uncomfortable or feels too intense for us, we can listen to that feeling and know that we’re not ready for it right now, or maybe ever. And for others it might be that we just don’t feel the connection we were hoping for, and the story isn’t engaging us. That’s okay. We don’t owe it to books to stick with them if they aren’t right for us, just as we don’t owe it to people to stay in relationships or situations that are uncomfortable or aren’t allowing us to grow. And I really like that message. Books let us practice all kinds of things: facing fear, falling in love, having our hearts broken, coping with loss, feeling compassion and empathy. They are a great training ground for everything.

Did you know… that I have never in my life been without a pet at home? I have always loved animals, and I can’t imagine my life without an animal in it. I am totally a dog person, although I’ve had lots of other pets, like cats, rats, mice, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, lizards, turtles, tortoises, fish, and birds. I have always wanted a pet snake and a hissing cockroach, but my husband refuses. He only likes the fluffy stuff. In my volunteer work at zoos I’ve gotten to work with a lot of interesting animals. Of those I got to work with directly, my favorites were tigers and small primates, although I did form a pretty strong bond with an Andean condor. I love zoos, and volunteering there shows me how much thought and care goes into each animal’s welfare. Sometimes friends would joke about wanting a pet monkey or a meerkat or something. When I tell them what it really takes to properly care for an exotic animal, the jokes stop pretty quickly! My love of animals also includes advocacy. I do a lot of work with dog rescues, and I am also an advocate for wildlife conservation, and you’ll see some of that come through in my books. I’ve put a few of my dogs in my books, too!


You can find me…

Twitter: @bookatshepherd

Instagram: @authorshep

Website: or

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!”

#BookTalkers – “A group of coaches and teachers for grades K through 6 and with contacts across K through 12. Members include @ureadIread @huntingtonteach @kristen_ruso @mblairteach8506 @ccvagrimes @flynn_catherine and more!”

#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 @weknowreaders @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