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Meet our PYI 2023 Speakers



About Kate Blair

Kate Blair is a British-Canadian author, with four novels for teens and children published with DCB Young Readers. All have been nominated for multiple awards, two were optioned for television, and one was translated into French. Her latest YA, A Mist of Memories, came out in May 2023. 



About Julia Breckenreid

Julia Breckenreid is an illustrator who lives in Toronto, painting stories for kids big and small. Her work has been recognized for its quality and depth, recently featured in the NYT Books section and The Original Art Exhibition: A showcase of illustrations from the year’s best children’s books published in the US,  at the Society of Illustrators Museum in 2021.


photo credit to Jessi Lalonde

About Peggy Collins

Peggy Collins is an award-winning author-illustrator of more than 35 titles, including Percy’s Perfect Friend, Whistling for Angela, Harley the Hero (winner, Blue Spruce 2022) and A Sky-Blue Bench (ALA Schneider Family honor book 2022). A college professor in animation and game development, she works in and around visual storytelling every single day.  


About Naseem Hrab

Naseem Hrab has worked in children’s publishing for over 15 years. She’s the Associate Publisher, Creative at Kids Can Press, a former librarian of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, and a Governor General’s Literary Award-winning children’s book author. She has written many books including Otis & Peanut, How to Party Like a Snail and The Sour Cherry Tree.


About Michael Hutchinson

Michael Hutchinson is a member of the Misipawistik Cree Nation and is dedicated to telling First Nation stories and advocating for First Nations issues. Having worked in both communications and journalism, he has been the Press Secretary for the National Chief as well as a host for APTN National News and CTV Morning Live Winnipeg. He is currently working on the fifth book in his Mighty Muskrat Mystery Series


About Sharon Jennings

Sharon Jennings has spent 45 years toiling in the children’s publishing business. She has written over 70 books for young people, been nominated for the GG award twice, and works as a writing instructor and editor. Her experience as a juror for the Governor General’s Literary Awards led her to new insights about writers’ craft. 


photo credit to Nicole Kagan

About Kathy Kacer

Kathy Kacer is the author of more than 30 books focusing on the Second World War and the Holocaust, including The Secret of Gabi’s Dresser, Hiding Edith, Broken Strings, and Under the Iron Bridge. A winner of numerous awards in Canada and the US, Kathy travels the world speaking to young people about the importance of keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive.



About Andrew Larsen

Andrew Larsen is the author of over 20 picture books including Jungle Cat, The Imaginary Garden and A Squiggly Story. Andrew became an author when he became a stay-at-home dad. He believes we all have stories to tell and our own ways of telling them. His next book, Sally's New Look, was inspired by his dog.


photo credit to Deke Snow

About Joanne Levy

Joanne Levy has written several books for tween readers, including the award-winning Sorry For Your Loss, set in a funeral home. She can be found at her computer, creating spreadsheets (sometimes just for fun) or channeling her younger self into books. Joanne lives in rural Ontario with her husband and pets, one of whom vomited during the writing of this bio.  


About Serah-Marie McMahon

Serah-Marie McMahon is an acquiring editor and marketing associate at Annick Press, specializing in graphic novels. She co-authored Killer Style: How Fashion Has Injured, Maimed & Murdered Throughout History, which won the Norma Fleck Award for best Canadian children’s nonfiction in 2019. Serah-Marie was also a bookseller with Type Books and the publisher of WORN Fashion Journal.


About Jennifer Maruno

Jennifer Maruno began her writing career with a pickle contest. She received her BA from Waterloo University and M. Ed from Brock University. She is the author of seven award-nominated novels for middle grade and young adult readers, as well as the picture book Moose’s Roof. As well as writing, Jennifer enjoys the literary roles of editing and mentoring. 


About Suharu Ogawa

Suharu Ogawa is a librarian-turned-illustrator originally from Japan. She has illustrated several books on STEM and social science for Annick Press/Ontario Science Centre and Orca Book Publishers, as well as fiction books for kids. Suharu also teaches illustration at OCAD University, Toronto. 


About Peter Phillips

Peter Phillips is an editor with Tundra Book Group who enjoys working on picture books, graphic novels, and fiction for middle-grade readers and teens. He is the editor of Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao, a #1 New York Times bestseller, and has co-edited a number of titles, including Ben Clanton's Narwhal and Jelly series. He is especially interested in fantasy, science fiction, and horror.


About Miki Sato

Miki Sato is a mixed-media illustrator who uses a variety of textiles and papers to create layered, three-dimensional illustrations. She enjoys experimenting with textures and spends her days cutting and pasting tiny pieces of her illustrations together. She has illustrated Golden Threads, the Weather Days series, While You Sleep, and more. Originally from Ottawa, she currently resides in Toronto. 


About Adam Schafer

Adam Schafer grew up immersed in books, art, movies and comics. He studied film at Humber College and currently works in visual effects production, having helped make such films and TV shows as The Shape of Water, Nightmare Alley and The Expanse. He strives to make his picture books a cinematic experience.


About Katie Scott

Katie Scott is an editor at Kids Can Press. Her books have won numerous awards and accolades, including Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal Best Books of the Year and the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction. She has served on the board of directors for IBBY Canada, and on the nomination committee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration.


About Ken Setterington

Ken Setterington is the former Children and Youth Advocate for Toronto Public Library. He received the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada for his work bringing children and literature together. His most recent book is The LGBT Purge and the Fight for Equal Rights in Canada


About Sadé Smith

Sadé Smith is the Canadian children's book author of Granny’s Kitchen and Julia and the Mango Tree. Her books often involve colorful illustrations to capture the vibrancy and beauty of the Caribbean islands. She is very passionate about literature and writes books of representation for young readers. Sadé can be found on social media @stc_smith or via her website


About Shelley Tanaka

Shelley Tanaka is an editor, writer, teacher and translator. She is the long-time fiction editor at Groundwood Books and has written 30 books for young readers. She is a mentor for Whale Rock Workshops, and teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.


About J.Torres

J. Torres is a Filipino-Canadian comic book writer, perhaps best known for his work on DC’s all-ages Teen Titans Go, Batman, and Adventure Comics. His graphic novels for kids include Brobots, How to Spot a Sasquatch, Lola: A Ghost Story, Planet Hockey, and Stealing Home. He lives in Whitby, Ontario, with his wife, two sons, and their Morkie. 


About Kari-Lynn Winters

Meet Dr. Kari-Lynn Winters – an award-winning Canadian author, playwright, performer, elementary school teacher, and academic scholar, with over 30 books since 2007. As a full professor at Brock University, Kari-Lynn inspires future educators with her love of literacy and the arts. Her research delves into equitable arts education, authorship, children’s literature, and embodied literacies. Learn more at


About Victor Wong

Award-winning illustrator Victor Wong’s love of animals, bright colours, and nature greatly inspires his work, which has appeared in Reader’s Digest Canada, Cottage Life, The Walrus, and his first children’s book, Becoming Bionic and Other Ways Science Is Making Us Super! When he isn’t doodling in his office, you’ll likely find him outside with a camera, or with friends at the gym.

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