“Burke Kunkel renders a genuinely suspenseful and touching account of Schön delicately approaching McCloskey with the idea of memorializing his book’s characters.” — ★ review, Publisher’s Weekly

Angela Burke Kunkel is an educator by day and a writer in the very early mornings. Her debut picture book, DIGGING FOR WORDS, JOSÉ ALBERTO GUTIÉRREZ AND THE LIBRARY HE BUILT (Schwartz & Wade), celebrates perseverance, community, and the power of books. DIGGING FOR WORDS was named an ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book, and is the recipient of both the Américas Award and the International Latino Book Award for best English language title.

As a current school librarian and former English Language Arts teacher, Angela has experience working with all types of readers, from the reluctant to the voracious. A graduate of Simmons College, she has taught in alternative and public school settings in Massachusetts, as well as at a New Mexico middle school with a nationally-recognized dual education program. Angela now lives in Vermont with her husband and two children. Her most recent book, MAKE WAY, explores the creative process(es) of author-illustrator Robert McCloskey and sculptor Nancy Schön, and how both artists created beloved representations of “Make Way for Ducklings.”

Angela's Featured Titles

Make Way: The Story of Robert McCloskey, Nancy Schön, and Some Very Famous Ducklings

Random House Studio |
Children’s

A beautiful and fascinating picture book biography that follows the lives of Robert McCloskey, creator of Make Way for Ducklings, and sculptor Nancy Schön, whose famous bronze ducks grace Boston Public Garden.

In the beginning, there was a boy named Robert McCloskey, growing up in Ohio, his hands always moving, always creating. Many years later, after attending art school in Boston, he would reflect on his days wandering through Boston Garden and write the classic picture book Make Way for Ducklings.

In the beginning, there was also a girl named Nancy Schön. She grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, working in her father’s greenhouse, twisting wire and boughs into wreaths. Many years later, Nancy would look at Robert’s drawings in Make Way for Ducklings and get the seed of an idea. That seed became the beloved bronze sculptures of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings that stand in Boston Garden today.

This stunning and clever picture book biography intertwines the lives of two phenomenal artists–who were contemporaries and friends–and reveals the extraordinary impact they’ve had on generations of children.

Penguin Journey

Harry N. Abrams |
Children’s

A lyrical picture book exploration of emperor penguins’ incredible journey to parenthood, with stunning watercolor art

Packed Snow / Moon glow
Wind-blown / All alone

This young picture book is about the incredible lengths to which emperor penguins go for their young ones. Angela Burke Kunkel’s lyrical text and Catherine Odell’s gorgeous illustrations detail the penguins’ amazing journey, and an author’s note and bibliography provide added context.

Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built

Random House Studio |
Children’s

A gorgeous and inspiring picture book based on the life of José Alberto Gutiérrez, a garbage collector in Bogotá, Colombia who started a library with a single discarded book found on his route.

In the city of Bogata, in the barrio of La Nueva Gloria, there live two Joses. One is a boy who dreams of Saturdays– that’s the day he gets to visit Paradise, the library. The second Jose is a garbage collector. From dusk until dawn, he scans the sidewalks as he drives, squinting in the dim light, searching household trash for hidden treasure . . . books! Some are stacked in neat piles, as if waiting for José́. Others take a bit more digging. Ever since he found his first book, Anna Karenina, years earlier, he’s been collecting books–thick ones and thin ones, worn ones and almost new ones– to add to the collection in his home. And on Saturdays, kids like little Jose run to the steps of Paradise to discover a world filled with books and wonder.

With an evocative text by a debut author, and rich, stunning illustrations from an up-and-coming Colombian illustrator, here is a celebration of perseverance, community, and the power of books.

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The Importance of Book Access for All

In “The Importance of Book Access for All,” Angela shares the story behind Digging for Words and why José Alberto Gutiérrez’s resonated with her as a classroom teacher and school librarian. Let’s celebrate literacy leaders who ensure equitable access to a diverse collection of books for all children. (for teachers and librarians, 45-60 minutes)

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Finding the Narrative Path: Inspiration, Research, and Picture Book Biographies

What keeps you curious and engaged as an educator? What skills do you have as an educator that you can use on your own writing journey? In this talk, Angela shares the inspiration for her various picture book biographies, how she decided on the threads and themes in each work, and the research skills she practices as both a librarian and a writer of nonfiction. (for teachers and librarians, 45-60 minutes)

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Re-vision: How Revising Makes You a Stronger Writer

In this presentation, Angela shares the process of a book from idea to first draft to final product! Using Penguin Journey as a mentor text, students will see concrete examples of using feedback from others to revise and strengthen their writing. Young writers will have the chance to generate and work with their own ideas through image-based writing prompts. (Grades 3 and up, 45 minutes)

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Educator Toolkits

Angela’s Newsletter Link

Resources for Writers

Honors, Awards & Recognition

DIGGING FOR WORDS
★ Kirkus, starred review
★ School Library Journal, starred review
Américas Book Award, 2021
An ALSC Notable Book, 2021
International Latino Book Award Winner, 2021
A Notable Social Studies Book of 2021
A CCBC Choice, 2021
A Kirkus Best Picture Book of 2020
A Junior Library Guild selection
Best Picture Books of 2020, Kirkus
Best Picture Book Biography of 2020, Kirkus
Best Picture Books of 2020, Chicago Public Library
Best Spanish Children’s Books List of 2021, Bank Street College of Education
Best Children’s Books of 2021, Ages 5-9, Biography and Memoir, Bank Street College of Education
Notable Children’s Books of 2021, Association of Library Service to Children
2021 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, Children’s Book Council
CCBC Choices 2021, Cooperative Children’s Book Center, UW-Madison
A Tejas Star Reading List selection, 2021-2022
A Día Booklist selection, 2021
Américas Book Award, 2021
International Latino Book Award Gold Medal Winner for Best Picture Book-English, 2021
Donna Norvell Book Award nominee, 2022
Michigan Reading Association Great Lakes Great Books Award nominee, 2022-2023
Nutmeg Book Award nominee, 2022-2023
Virginia Reader’s Choice nominee, 2023-2024

MAKE WAY
★ Kirkus, starred review
​★ Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

PENGUIN JOURNEY
★Kirkus, starred review
A CBBC Choice, 2022

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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