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Meet our PYI 2021 Speakers


About Hatem Aly

Hatem Aly is an Egyptian-born illustrator who currently lives in New Brunswick, Canada, with his wife, son, and more pets than people. He has illustrated many books that earned multiple starred reviews and positions on the NYT bestseller lists including The Proudest Blue, In My Mosque, the Newbery Honor winner The Inquisitor’s Tale, and more.


About Tina Athaide

Tina Athaide’s debut, Orange for the Sunsets, won the Geoffrey Bilson Prize for Historical Fiction, was a Junior Literary Guild selection, and chosen for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Best Books for Kids & Teens. She’s also written leveled readers and her first picture book is forthcoming. Born in Uganda and raised in London and Canada, she now lives in California.


About Tanaz Bhathena

Tanaz Bhathena’s critically acclaimed and award-winning books include A Girl Like That, The Beauty of the Moment and the medieval India-inspired fantasy series, The Wrath of Ambar. Her novel Hunted by the Sky won the 2021 OLA White Pine Award.


About Dr. Rita Cox

Renowned storyteller, librarian and community leader Dr. Rita Cox pioneered the Toronto Public Library’s Black and Caribbean Heritage Collection, and established the Cumbayah festival of Black heritage and storytelling. The author of many stories, including How Trouble Made the Monkey Eat Pepper, she has been honoured with the Canadian Library Association’s Public Service Award, the Black Achievement Award, and was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada for her work in storytelling and literacy.


About Claudia Dávila

Claudia Dávila is an illustrator and author of over 30 children’s books and graphic novels, including the award-winning Child Soldier, Super Red Riding Hood and Fast Friends. Her latest is Hockey Night in Kenya. She also has an ongoing Instagram comic called Flora & Liberty. Born in Chile, Claudia now lives in Toronto with her husband, daughter and son.


About Cary Fagan

Cary Fagan is the author of more than a dozen picture books, including King Mouse and Bear Wants to Sing, illustrated by Dena Seiferling. He has won the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, IODE Jean Throop Award, the Joan Betty Stuchner Funniest Children's Book Award, and the Vicki Metcalf for Literature for Young People for his body of work.


About Michelle Kadarusman

Michelle Kadarusman is a middle-grade children's author. She grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and has also lived in Indonesia and Canada. Her novels have earned many nominations and honors, including the Canadian Governor General's Literary Awards, two USBBY Outstanding International Books, a Malka Penn Award for Human Rights in Children's Literature, NCTA Freeman Award honor book and Kirkus Best Middle Grade Books of the Year. She lives in Toronto, Canada, and Byron Bay, Australia.


About Amanda West Lewis

Amanda West Lewis is the author of seven books for young readers. She is the founder and Artistic Director of the Ottawa Children’s Theatre and holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her new novel These Are Not the Words (Groundwood Books) is scheduled for spring 2022. The Planet Poems (Kids Can Books) is scheduled for 2023.


About Cornelia Li

Cornelia Li specializes in illustrating nonfiction books for children and has collaborated with publishers across multiple continents, and has been awarded by the Ontario Library Association, Little Hakka Award, and Society of Illustrators New York. She also works as a story artist for editorial, advertising, and kids TV shows.


About Khary Mathurin

Karhy Mathurin is an editor and bookseller based in Toronto, ON. Whether looking for new projects to acquire at Annick Press or helping teachers and librarians improve their collections through Another Story Bookshop, a passion for children's and young adult literature always guides his way. 


About Ali McDonald

Literary agent and partner at 5 Otter Literary, Ali McDonald represents bestselling, award-winning, emerging, and debut children’s authors and illustrators. From board books to young adult literature and everything in between, Ali specializes in genre fiction— particularly speculative, thriller, horror, science fiction, and fantasy—as well as literary fiction, graphic novel, and non-fiction.


About Dirk McLean

Dirk McLean is a highly praised, star-reviewed author of three picture books with Groundwood and Tundra, and four young adult sports-themed novels (covering cricket, soccer, and cross-country running) with Lorimer. Lone Runner is his latest title. His memberships include CANSCAIP, The Writers’ Union of Canada, Canadian Children’s Book Centre, and IBBY Canada. He lives in Scarborough/Toronto.


About Catarina Oliveira

Catarina Oliveira is a Portuguese illustrator living in Canada since 2016. After working 10 years as a graphic designer, she redirected her career path in 2015 to do what she loves -- creating characters and illustrating stories, particularly for children’s books. When she is not drawing, she enjoys being at home cooking and going on hiking trips around the world.


photo credit Mark Raynes Roberts

About Kenneth Oppel

Kenneth Oppel is the bestselling author of many award-winning books, including Silverwing, Airborn, Half Brother, The Boundless, The Nest, Every Hidden Thing, Inkling, and most recently, the Bloom trilogy.



About Kit Pearson

Kit Pearson’s children’s books have been published since 1986. She has written twelve novels and two picture books and has won seventeen awards. In 2018, Kit was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada. She lives in Victoria, B.C. with her partner Katherine and their dog, Brio.



About David A. Robertson

David A. Robertson is the author of numerous award-wining books for young readers and adults, including When We Were Alone (Governor General’s Literary Award), The Barren Grounds, and Black Water: Family, Legacy, and Blood Memory. A sought-after speaker, he is a Norway House Cree Nation band member and lives in Winnipeg.


About Tom Ryan

Tom Ryan is an award-winning author of books for young readers. His YA thriller Keep This to Yourself received the 2020 Arthur Ellis and ITW Thriller Awards, and his follow-up YA thriller I Hope You’re Listening won the 2021 Lambda Literary Award and the Arthur Ellis Award. Tom, his husband, and their dog live in Nova Scotia.


About Dena Seiferling

Dena Seiferling graduated with a BFA and Visual Communications degree from the Alberta College of Art and Design, where she later worked as an instructor. Her books include King Mouse and Bear Wants to Sing by Cary Fagan, Alice & Gert: An Ant and Grasshopper Story by Helaine Becker, the upcoming Night Lunch by Eric Fan and her debut writing effort The Language of Flowers. Dena lives in Calgary with her husband, two children and two dogs.


About Erin Silver

Erin Silver is the author three children’s books: Just Watch Me, What Kids Did: Stories of Kindness and Invention in the Time of COVID-19 and Proud to Play: Canadian LGBTQ+ Athletes Who Made History.


About Jeremy Tankard

Jeremy Tankard is a best-selling author and illustrator, best known for the wildly popular Grumpy Bird picture book series. His first graphic novel, Yorick and Bones, co-written with his daughter Hermione, was published in 2020. A sequel arrived in 2021 and a new graphic novel series with Scholastic Press’s Graphix imprint is coming in the near future.


About Yasmine Uçar

Yasemin Uçar is editorial development director at Kids Can Press. She has been editing children’s books for over two decades. Before joining KCP in 2012, Yasemin worked at Scholastic Canada, at Piccadilly Press in the UK, and as a freelance editor. She has worked with many popular and award-winning authors and illustrators, including Ashley Spires, Chieri Uegaki, Heather Smith and Louise Rennison.


About Claire Wilkshire

Claire Wilkshire is editor at Breakwater Books in St. John’s, and owner of an editing and translation business. Her novel, Maxine, appeared in 2013. A collection of stories, The Love Olympics, is forthcoming in October 2021. Claire studied at Memorial University (BA Hons), McMaster (MA) and UBC (PhD) and taught English and French at Memorial.

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