Reading Rock Stars Dallas & Fort Worth

On March 24 and 25, the Texas Book Festival returns to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to visit six elementary schools as part of the Festival’s annual Reading Rock Stars program. Throughout the two days, ten nationally-acclaimed children’s authors will visit each school and present to students, a culmination of weeks of each school’s preparation for the program. Additionally, TBF will gift each student a copy of the visiting author’s book.

TBF will donate 2,400 books to classrooms at Frank Guzick Elementary School, NW Harllee Elementary School, Dr. MLK Jr. Arts Academy, Meadowbrook Elementary School, Van Zandt-Guinn Elementary School, and BJ Elliott Elementary School.

With this latest round of Reading Rock Stars, the Texas Book Festival will have given more than 133,000 books to students in elementary schools across Texas since the program’s inception.

The Texas Book Festival’s Reading Rock Stars literacy program brings books to life for children in elementary schools by inviting authors and illustrators into classrooms with entertaining presentations that inspire students to read, write, and create. Thanks to generous support from sponsor H-E-B and many individual donors, the Texas Book Festival gives each student an autographed copy of their author’s book and provides the school library with a new set of books by the visiting Reading Rock Stars authors. After each presentation, the author personally hands an autographed copy of their book to each student.

Get to know the authors and their books:

Raúl the Third is the Pura Belpré Award-winning author-illustrator of ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat, ¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market and the rest of the World of ¡Vamos! series. He is also the Pura Belpré Award-winning illustrator of Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, written by Cathy Camper. Raúl was born in El Paso, Texas, and grew up going back and forth between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, México. He now lives in Boston, Massachusetts, with his collaborator and fellow artist, Elaine Bay, and their son, Raúl the Fourth.

Website: Twitter: @raulthe3rd Instagram:

¡Vamos! Let’s Cross the Bridge

A 2021 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Book

Little Lobo and Bernabé are back in this joyful story about coming together and celebrating community, a lively follow-up to ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat, by Pura Belpré Medal-winning illustrator Raúl the Third.

People are always crossing the bridge for work, to visit family, or for play. Some going this way; others going that way. Back and forth they go. With friends on foot and on bicycles, in cars and trucks, the bridge is an incredibly busy place with many different types of vehicles.

Little Lobo and his dog Bernabé have a new truck and they are using it to carry party supplies over the bridge with their pals El Toro and La Oink Oink. The line is long and everyone on the bridge is stuck. How will they pass the time? Eventually, everyone comes together for an epic party on the bridge between two different countries. Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go get a Mexican-American makeover in this joyful story about coming together.

Don Tate is an award-winning author and the illustrator of numerous critically acclaimed books for children. He is also one of the founding hosts of the blog The Brown Bookshelf – a blog designed to push awareness of the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers, with book reviews, author and illustrator interviews. Don frequently speaks at schools, public libraries, and writing conferences, and participates in book festivals.

Pigskins to Paintbrushes

Pigskins to Paintbrushes is the inspiring story of Ernie Barnes, who defined himself on his own terms and pushed the boundaries of “possible,” from the field to the canvas. 

Young Ernie Barnes wasn’t like other boys his age. Bullied for being shy, overweight, and uninterested in sports like boys were “supposed” to be, he instead took refuge in his sketchbook, in vibrant colors, bold brushstrokes, and flowing lines. But growing up in a poor, Black neighborhood during the 1930s, opportunities to learn about art were rare, and art museums were off-limits because of segregation laws. Discouraged and tired of being teased, Ernie joined the school football team. Although reluctant at first, he would soon become a star. But art remained in Ernie’s heart and followed him through high school, college, and into the NFL. Ernie saw art all around him: in the dynamic energy of the game, the precision of plays, and the nimble movement of his teammates. He poured his passion into his game and his craft and became famous as both a professional athlete and as an artist whose paintings reflected his love of the sport and celebrated Black bodies as graceful and beautiful.

Deliberately walking through the intersection of Hip Hop, education, and spirituality, Bavu Blakes is an educator, a servant–leader, and an award-winning musician. He is a curriculum & instruction specialist whose facilitation of teaching & learning via writing, reading, listening, and speaking extends beyond classrooms to out of school & after school programs, school & community assemblies, district professional learning sessions, conventions, national education conferences, and concert venues, as well as workshops & events serving youth, men, teens, families, and faith communities. Accordingly, Austin mayor Steve Adler proclaimed April 23, 2015, as Bavu Blakes Day to a capacity crowd at City Hall. 

El, I mean Ellison Blakes, is a scientist, pianist, researcher, athlete and baller, gaming lover and designer, sportswriter, and author. After Mama’s prediction (with a wink) came true, Dad started helping him create El’s Mirror. He still goes to the school up the street from the big house full of books and art on the West side of the South.

El’s Mirror

“When I look in the mirror, I see somebody who kind of looks like me…” Young El starts kindergarten with high expectations for his school experience. Unexpected challenges force him to learn from other people’s mistakes. El’s family, and a few familiar faces, help him find his way. He even starts to understand the world by looking at himself. You are welcome to this realistic journey through everyday children’s stories where objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. Welcome to El’s Mirror, an upper elementary picture book and a reflective tool for families, parents, mentors, leaders, and educators of children.

Named State Poet Laureate of Texas in 2015, Dr. Carmen Tafolla is an award-winning poet and children’s author, storyteller, performance artist, motivational speaker, scholar, and university professor. The author of more than 30 books and a Professor of Transformative Children’s Literature at UT San Antonio, she holds a Ph.D. in Bilingual Education from the University of Texas and a B.A., M.A., and a Doctorate Honoris Causa in Humane Letters from Austin College. Dr. Tafolla has performed her one-woman show throughout the Americas, Europe, and New Zealand, and her work appears internationally in textbooks, newspapers, journals, magazines, elementary school Big Books & posters on city buses, and engraved on sidewalks and museum walls. Dr. Tafolla credits the community around her with her inspiration and her training, and says her works are inspired by “ancestors whispering over my shoulder.”

I’ll Always Come Back to You

I might have to visit a very sick friend or rescue a sinking canoe, but I will always, always, always come back to you! What happens when someone you love heads out the door? When a mother goes out to work and her daughter stays behind, Mom reassures her child that nothing can keep her from coming back home again. Mom promises that she would even ride on a whale or fight off a passel of bears if that’s what it takes to return to her child! Her daughter might have to wait with Gramma or a friend at home. Whether their time apart has been long or short, the family will be together again.

This humorous and touching book reminds young readers that distance cannot diminish love. Perfect for children struggling with separation anxiety or a change in family life, this book represents a parent’s promise that they will be back, no matter what! Reassuring rhyme and amusing illustrations create a story to cherish when loved ones have gone away—and also when they’ve come back at last.

Elisa Chavarri is the illustrator of numerous books for children, including Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del Arcoiris and  Federico and the Wolf. Originally from Lima, Peru, she did much of her growing up in Northern Michigan where she now resides with her husband and two small children whose little hands she loves to hold.

I’ll Hold Your Hand

This sweet picture book celebrates the unbreakable bond of a parent’s support for a child through life’s milestones, from learning to walk to the first day of school and all the highs and lows in between. From the night you arrive to your first night away, from learning to crawl to healing a broken heart, and for all the highs and lows in between. . .through every season, every challenge, and every joy, you are loved. With sweet, lyrical text and stunning art, I’ll Hold Your Hand celebrates the unbreakable bond of family and all the ways our actions can say “I love you” louder than words.

Chris Barton is the author of many picture books including the award-winning What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara JordanNew York Times bestseller Shark vs. Train, Sibert Honor-winning The Day-Glo Brothers, and Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List books The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch and Whoosh!. He visits schools by the score and also loves speaking to professional gatherings of librarians, educators, and his fellow writers. Chris and his wife, novelist Jennifer Ziegler, live in Austin, Texas, with their family. For more information about Chris, please visit

How to Make a Book About My Dog

How do you make a picture book? Well, you need an author, an illustrator, and . . . a dog?! Acclaimed author Chris Barton and his trusty pooch Ernie show readers how to make a nonfiction picture book . . . about Ernie! From coming up with ideas, researching, and writing the first draft to find the perfect illustrator, deciding what goes on the cover, and getting every last word just right, you’ll see how a book is made from beginning to end.  

From acquisitions and editing to graphic design and dog treats, find out what’s required to bring a book to life. This title perfectly blends how-to and humor for an informative look at book publishing. And look, this is part of the marketing step!

Jennifer Ziegler is the author of several novels for young and young-at-heart readers, including Worser, Revenge of the Flower Girls, and How Not to Be Popular. She also serves as faculty co-chair of Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. A native Texan of Mexican American heritage, Jennifer lives in Austin with her husband (and favorite author), Chris Barton, and their boss, a terrier mix named Ernie. When not teaching or creating books, Jennifer loves to visit schools, festivals, and conferences to lead workshops and presentations, urging readers and writers to recognize their own powers and use them for good.


A lover of logic, words, and grammar, 12-year-old William Wyatt Orser acquired the annoyingly ungrammatical nickname “Worser” so long ago that few people at school know to call him anything else. Nor do they know about his Masterwork—an epic lexicon of words he’s carefully collected over the years.

When his widowed mother suffers a debilitating stroke that leaves her unable to speak, Worser’s world is completely upended. His aunt moves in along with her cats, art projects, loud music, and bright clothes, and home is not the refuge it once was.

Feeling lost, lonely, and overwhelmed, Worser searches for a new sanctuary just as the Literary Club run by his favorite classmate, Donya Khoury, needs a place as well. Worser finds a used bookstore that opens its doors to all of them, and he discovers—much to his surprise—that the key to making friends is for him to open up, too. Gradually, he finds himself sharing his thoughts, feelings, and sense of humor—and even pages of his treasured Masterwork.

But when change threatens his new refuge, Worser’s grief and frustration lead him to react in an extreme and destructive way, and he must make peace with the fact that nothing stays the same forever. In the end, it is up to Worser to turn the page on his own story.

Angela Shanté is the award-winning author of The Noisy Classroom, a picture book that she wrote about her third-grade classroom to help soothe childhood anxiety associated with school and change. In the classroom, she taught emergent learners through college; specializing in literacy and curriculum development. After leaving the classroom Angela worked in publishing for traditional and educational publishers as an Editor, Children’s Book Acquisition Editor and Consultant. With one leg in education and the other in the creative world, Angela divides her time around her passion (1) advocating for more diversity in publishing, (2) working as an educational consultant,  (3) running Sunday Dinner Publishing, and (4) hosting the podcast First-Generation Problems. Angela currently lives in Southern California with her husband and dog (Blue).

When My Cousins Come to Town

Voted BEST KIDS BOOK OF 2021 by NYC Public Library! A fun, lively story of Black family and cousin culture that celebrates individuality and embraces differences. Fitting in can be hard, but standing out isn’t easy either!

Every summer a young girl eagerly waits for her cousins to come visit and celebrate her birthday. All her cousins are unique in their own ways and have earned cool nicknames for themselves… except for the girl. But this year things are going to be different. This year before summer ends, she’s determined to earn her own nickname!

Filled with warmth, love, and laughter, When My Cousins Come to Town brings all the energy and love of a big family to prove that you don’t need to be anyone else to be special—just the way you are is exactly right!

Lyla Lee is an author of books for children and young adults. In addition to the Mindy Kim series, she is the author of I’ll Be the One and the upcoming Flip the Script for teens. Born in South Korea, she’s since then lived in various parts of the United States, including California, Florida, and Texas. Inspired by her English teacher, she started writing her own stories in fourth grade and finished her first novel at the age of fourteen. After working in Hollywood and studying psychology and cinematic arts at the University of Southern California, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. When she is not writing, she is teaching kids or playing with her dog, Eiva the Siberian Husky.

Mindy Kim and the Trip to Korea

Fresh off the Boat meets Junie B. Jones in the adorable chapter book series following Mindy Kim, a young Asian American girl—in this fifth novel, Mindy goes to South Korea!

Mindy is super excited to go to South Korea to visit her grandparents! She has never taken such a big trip before, and she can’t wait to see her family again. Plus, Dad’s girlfriend, Julie, is also going to meet the family for the first time.

Mindy and Julie decide to make a traditional Korean meal for the family as a thank-you for hosting. But after a few mishaps, Mindy fears they are cooking up a big disaster in the kitchen! Can Mindy and Julie make sure their meal passes the most important taste test of them all?

Thank you to Interabang Books for sponsoring our Reading Rock Stars in Dallas!