Kids' Books With a Local Connection
Authors and illustrators of kids books from the Philadelphia area who introduced new work in 2019.
Do you like to give kids books for the holidays?
If so, here are some 2019 releases that have a local connection, either because the author or illustrator lives in or near Philadelphia or, in one case, because it features Pennsylvania’s official (and grossest) amphibian.
A recent Philly transplant
Antony John lives around here. Promise. But if you buy his new coming-of-age novel The Other, Better Me, you might notice his bio says he lives in St. Louis.
Not anymore, says the British-born author who graduated with a PhD in musical composition from Oxford.
“I now live just outside Philadelphia, home to cheesesteaks, lots of history, and a baseball team whose mascot, Phanatic, is even weirder-looking than Fredbird (the St. Louis Cardinals’ mascot),” John says. Two of his previous books were set in cities where he’d lived, but only after he moved away. Maybe Philly will be the exception.
Donna Gephart is another middle-grade novelist with a new book and a home near Philadelphia. The Paris Project is about a young girl planning to leave her hometown in Florida to go to The American School of Paris. Gephart is a Philly native and moved back here after graduating from Penn State. So take that, Paris.
Drawn to Philly
Greg Pizzoli is not just a local author. He’s also an illustrator who lives in Philadelphia and taught seven years at the University of the Arts, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts. He has several award-winning books. His latest two are collaborations with Mac Barnett for Jack Blasts Off and Hi, Jack, which feature Jack, a rabbit who goes on adventures and is “a good guy, but he can also be bad.”
Could this be Tinyville Town?
Brian Biggs is another Philadelphia-based illustrator who has worked with Barnett. But in the spring Biggs released What Kind of Car Does a T. Rex Drive with author Mark Lee, about car-shopping dinos. And last month he released his first standalone picture book The Space Walk about, well, a space walk. He is also the creator of the Tinyville Town series.
PA Proud: The Snot Otter
This book is not by a local author, but has a decidedly Pennsylvania focus thanks to its title: Gross as a Snot Otter: Discovering the World’s Most Disgusting Animals.
The snot otter, if you didn’t know — and we can’t blame you if you’ve intentionally avoided finding out — is Pennsylvania’s state amphibian. It is also known as the hellbender salamander, which, while a fun name too, does not have the same kid appeal as snot otter.
It is one of several entries in a book dedicated to foul creatures of all sorts, but the snot otter’s name — derived from the fact that it is covered in mucus that protects it from infection and predators — earned it a place in the title. We’re blushing (and gagging a little).