As a staff member who works at the front desk, a common thing I hear from patrons when I’m checking out their items is that they are trying to find a new author. Either they have read all the books their current author has written, or they are simply trying to find someone new to read. How they decide who they are going to try reading next comes in a variety of ways. Either they look up an author, ask for a recommendation, or simply grab some books off the shelf that look interesting to see if they like them. After hearing about this for a couple of years I decided to start up an Author Highlight for our library’s blog. In these posts, I will either be focusing on a single author that I want to highlight, or I will find an author and recommend a couple of others that are similar, ie. “If you like James Patterson you may like these two authors”.
For the first author highlight, I’m going to focus on a personal favorite that I discovered last year, Katie O’Neill. I discovered Katie when I was making a list of recommended graphic novels for our children’s librarian to add to the youth collection. I came across her book, The Tea Dragon Society, which also happens to be the first book in that trilogy, and instantly fell in love with her work. She does both the illustrations and the writing for her graphic novels and the second I finished reading the book I couldn’t stop talking about it to my co-workers. I may have literally talked their ears off about that book, and continue to do so. I then read her book, Aquicorn Cove, and loved it just as much as I loved her other book.
So what makes her work so special? Well first off the artwork is absolutely adorable. It’s always so light and bright and just brings a smile to my face whenever I look at it. Even the art in the more serious moments of the story manages to effectively reflect that seriousness without losing the brightness. While the art is definitely aimed more toward kids, I think that it’s something that anyone can appreciate, especially if they need a touch of joy in their life. It’s not just the artwork that is appealing though. Her stories send out messages of positivity and they try to be as inclusive as possible. Her books, The Tea Dragon Society and Princess Princess Ever After include an LGBTQIA+ couple while The Tea Dragon Festival, the second book in The Tea Dragon Society trilogy, includes a deaf character who uses sign language.
She also isn’t afraid to shy away from more serious topics. Aquicorn Cove deals with both mental health and pollution when a young girl has to make peace with the aquicorns and find ways for the village to reduce the pollution they make while they fish. She does all this while also dealing with grief from losing her mother before the events in the book. The book appropriately displays moments of grief and depression Lana feels, while also showing how she deals with it and rises above it in a way that can make sense for children.
Some lighter topics for younger children are also handled in Dewdrop, a picture book about a character named Dewdrop who encourages their friends to embrace their talents and realize that being themselves is more than enough.
Overall, Katie’s artwork and willingness to touch on topics and introduce kids to a variety of different characters has made her a personal favorite of mine. Her books are something that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and I look forward to seeing what she comes out with in the future.
If you have an author you would like to see highlighted please let us know! See you in the next Author Highlight!