· By Sam Robertson

Arvida is hosting the first ever Summer Reading Fest!!

By Maddy Posner

Join Arvida in Celebrating Summer Reading with Author Guests!

Arvida’s first Summer Reading Fest will be a fun-packed experience featuring many amazing authors and illustrators through the first weekend of July. The event is aimed towards readers of all ages, and will include a myriad of activities such as readings, interviews, Q&As, autograph signings, book giveaways, and more.

Saturday, July 1st is the first day of the event; presenters will include six authors and two illustrators. Learn more about these incredible individuals by reading a little bit about them below!


Tootie Nienow

A local children’s book author from Orange County, Tootie Nienow has also been a school librarian for ten years. Her debut novel, There Goes Patti McGee! The Story of the First Women’s National Skateboard Champion, was published in February of 2021. A delightful picture book biography about the first professional female skateboarder and winner of the 1964 National Skateboard Championship for women, There Goes Patti McGee! shows that anyone can skate.

Joy Hwang Ruiz

The artist and mom behind the popular Instagram account @momisdrawing, Joy Hwang Ruiz captures the magic of parenthood and celebrates family life with her illustrations. She has contributed to several picture books, including Every Little Letter, My Moms Love Me, and Sometimes Love. Her illustrations are featured in new release I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know, a heartfelt ode conveying the love parents feel for their children.

Laurenne Sala

A children’s book author, storyteller, and poet, Laurenne Sala also works in the advertising and branding field in Los Angeles. She has written three books: You Made Me a Mother, You Made Me a Dad, and her newest release, Mi Casa Is My Home, published in 2021. A bilingual Spanish-English children’s book, Mi Casa Is My Home celebrates family life as Lucia shares her home and her loving intergenerational family.

John Archambault

A children’s book author, poet, and journalist, John Archambault is best known for his picture book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, an award-winning alphabet rhyme he wrote alongside Bill Martin, Jr. A classic bedtime story and a fantastic pick for kids learning the alphabet, the story also comments on deeper messages such as human instincts. Other books by this author include Knots on a Counting Rope, Barn Dance, Boom Chicka Rock, and Here Are My Hands.

Benson Shum

A children’s book author-illustrator living in southern California, Benson Shum creates his illustrations in various mediums including watercolor, ink, and digital tools. He is also an Animator at the Walt Disney Animation Studios, working on films including Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, Moana, and Encanto. He has illustrated many children’s books but is best known for Anzu the Great Listener and Anzu and Great Kaiju, which received accolades by Kid’s Indie Next List and School Library Journal.

Helena Ku Rhee

An author of children’s books and an essayist whose work has appeared in various national publications, Helena Ku Rhee is most known for her picture book The Paper Kingdom, originally published in 2020, which draws on her personal experiences accompanying her parents to work as night janitors in Los Angeles. Her most recent release is Sora’s Seashells, a beautiful story about a young girl named Sora who comes to embrace her culture through her name after the death of her grandmother.

Letitia Clark

A local elected official, former mayor, and author, Letitia Clark is also a community leader and communications professional. Her debut book, Mommy is the Mayor, conveys the impact of local government from the eyes of children. Her most recent release, Baby’s Room to the BoardRoom: A Guide for Working Moms, was published in March of 2023, sharing tips with working moms on how to balance work and motherhood.

Michelle Dowd

A journalism professor at Chaffey College and contributor to national publications including The New York Times and The Los Angeles Book Review, Michelle Dowd published her debut novel and personal memoir Forager: Field Notes on Surviving a Family Cult in March of 2023. Her novel recounts the difficulties of growing up isolated from the world in an apocalyptic cult, and shares a unique story of growth made possible by survival skills and nature knowledge.

Sunday, July 2nd is the second day of the event, featuring six authors, an illustrator, and a columnist. Read below for more information about these fantastic people!

Marla Jo Fisher

A former hard news reporter and the mother of two, Marla Jo Fisher is best known as the Frumpy Middle-Aged Mom columnist for the Southern California News Group. She also writes about traveling cheaply in her Cheapo Travel column that runs in newspapers around the country. Her work can be found in the Orange County Register, Philadelphia Inquirer, Miami Herald, and many more newspapers and websites nationwide.

Lucky Diaz

A bilingual children’s musician as part of Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, Lucky Diaz has won two Grammy Awards and an Emmy. Alongside his wife, Alisha Gaddis, he has been celebrated for his bilingual indie music for kids, or “kindie” music. His debut picture book, Paletero Man, was published in 2021, and celebrates the strength of community and the feeling of summer.

Chelsea Lin Wallace

A children’s author, poet, and former elementary school teacher, Chelsea Lin Wallace loves teaching creative writing to children and cheering them on as a volleyball coach or musical theater director. She is best known for her picture book A Home Named Walter, published in 2022. Her newest release, Ode to a Bad Day, travels through a kid’s not-so-good day and the accompanying emotions that come in turn.

Shiho Pate

A children’s book illustrator who first worked for indie gaming studios, Shiho Pate has illustrated seven picture books, published or forthcoming, often focusing on full color illustrations with simple lines. She may be best known for her work in Animated Science: Rocks and Minerals, a narrative nonfiction text with kid-friendly information, silly, interesting characters, and engaging illustrations.

Michelle Sterling

A writer, photographer, and speech-language pathologist, Michelle Sterling has published picture books including When Lola Visits and A Sweet New Year for Ren. Her latest release, Maribel’s Year, was published in May of 2023 and celebrates the connection between father and daughter. Michelle also has a blog, Avery & Augustine, about children’s books, language, and literacy.

Alejandro Morales

A professor in Latino Studies at the University of California, Irvine, Alejandro Morales writes novels in both Spanish and English, focusing on the lives of ordinary people and the intersection between history and fiction. He is best known for his work The Brick People, which tracks the historical growth of California through the rise of the Simons Brick Factory. The same novel inspired a documentary film released in 2012.

Lisa Cupolo

A fiction writer who teaches writing at Chapman University, Lisa Cupolo has had stories published in journals including The Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Narrative, and

more. Her book Have Mercy On Us was released in January of 2023, winning the W.S. Porter Prize. It is a collection of ten unique stories telling of the human experience, taking place all around the world and surrounding characters of varying age and origin.

Richard Bausch

A novelist and short story writer, Richard Bausch has written twelve novels, eight short story collections, and one volume of poetry and prose. He is a professor in the Writing Program at Chapman University, and has been for a decade now. His latest release, Playhouse: A Novel, was published in February of 2023, and tells the story of a theater community in Memphis as they work on a transformative production of King Lear.

Monday, July 3rd is the last day of the event, with four author guests. Make sure to read about these amazing women below!

Marcie Colleen

A former classroom teacher turned children’s book author, Marcie Colleen has written The Super Happy Party Bears chapter book series and picture books Love, Triangle and The Bear’s Garden. Her latest release, Survivor Tree, tells the true story of a pear true that survived the September 11th attacks. Marcie currently works at Epic! Originals as a senior Writer/Editor, working on comics and other prose for a digital platform.

Susi Schaefer

A children’s book author and illustrator, Susi Schaefer was also trained as a glass painter after being raised in the Austrian Alps. She illustrated the book Zoo Zen and the upcoming Good Morning, I Love You, Violet! She is also the author-illustrator of Cat Ladies and the most recently released book of hers, The Glow Show, which teaches about the importance of friendship while educating kids about sea creatures.

Bronwen Butter Newcott

An author, poet, former high school English teacher, and art workshop teacher, Bronwen Butter Newcott loves telling stories and connecting with readers. Her debut book, Race to the Great Invention, was released in May of 2023, and tells the story of Tessa and her best friend Gus as they work to save the world by saving the brilliant Unseen world.

Wendy Blanda

Wendy Blanda’s book, How to Foster a Rescue Dog: Training for You and Training For Your Foster Dog, was released in May of 2023. It details the process of fostering a rescue dog, answering all the relevant questions that may come up for potential adopters.

For exact times and details of guest events, click on the link below!