Institute Speakers

Wade and Cheryl Hudson will deliver the 2022 Mary Nagel Sweetser Lecture at Lost & Found. In 1988, the Hudsons founded Just Us Books, a ground-breaking independent publishing company centering books about Black experiences for Black children. Their initial publication of Afro-BetsABC Book remains in print and has been followed by a myriad of books that make visible the quotidian, exceptional, and heroic. In 2004, they added the Sankofa Books imprint to revive out-of-print Black classic books. They received recognition as Haki Madhubuti Publisher of the Year and the Ida B. Wells Institutional Builders Award. 

Cheryl Hudson and Wade Hudson each pursue careers as independent and collaborative authors. Their works include: Cheryl Hudson’s BRAVE. BLACK. FIRST. 50+ African American Women Who Changed the World (illustrated by Erin K. Robinson, 2020), published with the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture; Wade Hudson’s memoir Defiant: Growing Up in the Jim Crow South (2021); and their joint editing effort Recognize! An Anthology Honoring and Amplifying Black Life (2021), a collection of essays, poems, short stories, historical excerpts, and art.

Lesa Cline-Ransome’s Coretta Scott King Honor Finding Langston (2018) is the first in her middle grade historical fiction trilogy which includes Leaving Lymon (2020) and Being Clem (2021).  Together, they draw on forgotten history to explore young Black boyhood in the post-World War II segregated north. Her most frequent collaborator is James Ransome (see below).

Flamer, Mike Curato's 2021 Lambda Literary Award, ignites self-knowledge with vibrant images and easing humor. Fearing that his sexuality might run astray of his faith, Aiden achieves a comfortable balance during a summer at boys’ camp. Where is Bina Bear? (2022) limns shyness and friendship in a clever game of hide-and-seek. 

Jennifer De Leon is an Assistant Professor of English at Framingham State University. Whether in the young adult novel Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From (2020) or the nonfiction essays in White Space: Essays on Culture, Race, and Writing (2021), De Leon locates identity at the crossroads of leaving and returning home.  

Michaela Goade's watercolor paintings for the 2021 Caldecott Medalist We Are Water Protectors (by Carole Lindstrom) simultaneously comfort and confront as they seek solutions to the climate crisis in Indigenous-led environmental justice efforts. Her upcoming Berry Song (2022) traces the connections forged between generations and between humans and the earth.  

As Chief Curator at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Ellen Keiter helps visitors of all ages discover the joy of original art in the galleries and in exhibitions that travel the world. She combines a particular interest in public art and performance to create interactive opportunities for visitors.

Rajani LaRocca blends medical science and poetry in her 2022 Newbery Honor-winning middle grade novel-in-verse, Red, White, and Whole. Thirteen-year-old Reha toggles between her Indian immigrant parents’ traditional ways and her pop-music infused American childhood until, faced with the loss of her mother, she discovers a new wholeness.

Amber McBride’s 2021 debut YA novel-in-verse, Me (Moth) was a 2021 National Book Award Finalist and the 2022 John Steptoe New Talent Award. Moth and Sani embark on a road trip to Sani’s home in search of healing and love that can only be unveiled in remembering the Hoodoo magic and Navajo story of their ancestors.

Gregory Maguire returns to Simmons to discuss Cress Watercress (2022), a middle grade animal adventure. Enhanced by David Litchfield’s plentiful and luminous illustrations, Maguire takes readers on a journey – perilous and delightful – where playful literary allusions peek through as unexpected friendships flourish.

Oge Mora transforms found objects into textured collages that celebrate Black characters and historical figures. Her 2019 debut picturebook, Thank You, Omu! earned a Coretta Scott King Award and a Caldecott Honor. Everybody in the Red Brick Building (2021, by Anne Wynter) – illustrated during the Covid-19 pandemic – reveals joy in the noisy comforts of home. 

James Ransome’s illustrations for books by a star-studded list of authors reveal the varied lives of historical and contemporary Black Americans. In Overground Railroad (by Lesa-Cline Ransome, 2020), realistic watercolors combined with collage transport readers back in time to experience the Great Migration from the perspective of a young child traveling north.

Susan Rich, Editor-at-Large at Little Brown Books for Young Readers, guides the work of award-winning illustrators. She championed Michaela Goade’s 2022 American Indians in Youth Literature Award Honor I Sang You Down from the Stars (by Tricia Spillet-Sumner) and Goade’s Berry Song, due out just in time to wend its way to the Institute.
A Boston Public Library Writer-in-Residence (2006) and winner of the Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award (2009), Anna Staniszewski  mixes comedy and angst with a dose of the scientific process in Clique Here and Double Clique (2021). These middle grade books dazzle with the wishful experiments of ever-changing tween friendships.

An image from James Yang’s 2022 Asian Pacific American Award for Literature Honor A Boy Named Isamu: A Story of Isamu Noguchi offers a springboard for creative and critical engagement with the theme Lost & Found. Stop! Bot!, his 2020 Geisel Award, melds whimsy with graphic novel conventions and invites the youngest readers to join the zany search for a lost robot.