“Outstanding in all ways, this title deserves a place in most collections and adds a wonderful opportunity for upper elementary students (and higher!) to unpack our complicated histories.”― starred review of Where We Come From, School Library Journal

John Coy is the author of young adult novels, the 4 for 4 middle-grade series, and nonfiction and fiction picture books including Night Driving, Hoop Genius, Two Old Potatoes and Me, Their Great Gift, Dads, My Mighty Journey, and the unique collaboration Where We Come From. This fall he has three new picture books, The Secret of Fall, Stokes: The Brief Career of the NBA’s First Black Superstar, written with Ty Chapman, and So Cold!

He has received numerous awards for his work including a Marion Vannett Ridgway Award, a Charlotte Zolotow Honor, a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year, the Burr/Warzalla Award for Distinguished Achievement in Children’s Literature, and the Kerlan Award in recognition of singular attainments in the creation of children’s literature.

John loves visiting schools and libraries across the country and around the world to discuss the process of creating a book, work with students and adults on their writing, and answer questions about reading, writing, and being an author. He lives by the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

John's Featured Titles

Stokes: The Brief Career of the NBA’s First Black Superstar

Millbrook Press |
Children’s Biographies

Stokes tells the story of the NBA’s first Black superstar, Maurice Stokes, who is not as well known as he should be in part because of a career-ending injury.

Coauthors and basketball enthusiasts John Coy and Ty Chapman highlight what a standout Stokes was: he was 6’7” and as they write, “nobody had ever seen a guy his size score, defend, rebound, dribble, and pass so well.”

In a 1958 game against the Minneapolis Lakers, Stokes, went down hard and hit his head, losing consciousness. At the time, there was no concussion protocol, and Stokes went back into the game. A few days later, he went into a coma and woke up unable to move his body from the neck down. Players did not have any sort of financial support in situations like this, and Stokes’s teammate Jack Twyman worked with other players and Milton Kutsher to put on a benefit game during the summer at Kutsher’s hotel in the Catskills. This game became an annual tradition, and Stokes was eventually able to travel and watch the game. Wilt Chamberlain said of Stokes, “He had something transcending as a person. . . . Everybody loved him.”

Back matter includes some great historical photos as well as further information about Stokes, who was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004, and about the NBA’s Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award.

This picture book biography provides a fascinating look at basketball history, accompanied by Lonnie Ollivierre’s action-packed illustrations.

Where We Come From

Carolrhoda Books |

In this unique collaboration, four authors lyrically explore where they each come from–literally and metaphorically–as well as what unites all of us as humans.

Richly layered illustrations connect past and present, making for an accessible and visually striking look at history, family, and identity.

We come from stardust / our bodies made of ancient elements. / We come from single cells / evolving over billions of years. / We come from place, language, and spirit. / And each of us comes from story.

So Big And So Small

Beaming Books |

Next to a speck of sand, you’re huge. But gaze up into the night sky with its millions of stars, and suddenly you’re tiny. So which is true? Are you big or little?

Author John Coy captures the whimsical poetry of a child’s perspective as he looks at everything gigantic and minuscule in the universe to arrive at a surprising conclusion: kids are both big and little–just the right size to be exactly who they’re meant to be.


Carolrhoda Book |
Children’s/Middle Grade

Celebrate all that fathers do: building, fixing, cooking, cleaning, laughing, crying, hugging, playing and more John Coy and Wing Young Huie–the author and photographer behind Their Great Gift–reunite for a new book that shows a wide range of fathers and children, particularly highlighting families of color and lower-income families, who often aren’t depicted in children’s books. This beautiful book is a perfect Father’s Day gift

If We Were Gone: Imagining the World Without People

Millbrook Press |

Water, air, sunlight, plants . . . we need these elements to live in this world. But does the world need us? And what would happen to the world if humans were gone? This is the premise of a thought-provoking picture book from John Coy. His insightful text explores how nature would reclaim the planet, accompanied by Natalie Capannelli’s gorgeous watercolor illustrations. Back matter gives further context and discusses what kids (and all of us) can do to truly help our planet.

My Mighty Journey

Minnesota Historical Society Press |
Children’s/Middle Grade

I am
a powerful
I listen.
I pay attention.
I have a long memory.
You might find it hard to believe,
but I have moved through time.

My Mighty Journey is the story of the only major waterfall on the Mississippi River–and the changes it has witnessed over twelve thousand years. Written from the perspective of the waterfall, the narrative considers the people who lived nearby, the ways they lived, and how the area around the waterfall changed drastically in the past two centuries.
Internationally acclaimed artist Gaylord Schanilec created stunning visual images featuring material collected along the riverbank to show the progression of the waterfall–eventually known as St. Anthony Falls–as it moved fifteen miles upriver from present-day St. Paul to its current location in downtown Minneapolis.
Many are surprised to learn that the falls has not always been locked in place. Perhaps more thought-provoking is that Europeans and their descendants have resided near the falls for less than three percent of the time people have lived here. My Mighty Journey helps readers realize that many of us are newcomers to this region and that there is so much to learn about the waterfall, this land, and our place in it.

On Your Way

Beaming Books |

A tender look back at a child’s first steps, On Your Way is a celebration of growth, movement, and the importance of slowing down to observe life’s milestones both big and small.

A mother recounts for her child that day on the porch when they first tried to walk. As the child totters, stumbles, and flops, young animals nearby gallop, jump, waddle, and hop. Kids will delight in the child’s progress and think of the ways they’re still learning to grow and move every single day now that they’re on their way. A perfect book for looking back at how far kids have come…and how far they’ll go.

Gap Life

Feiwel & Friends |
Young Adult

Cray got into the same college his father attended and is expected to go. And to go pre-med. And to get started right away. His parents are paying the tuition. It should be an easy decision.

But it’s not.

All Cray knows is that what’s expected of him doesn’t feel right. The pressure to make a decision—from his family, his friends—is huge. Until he meets Rayne, a girl who is taking a gap year, and who helps him find his first real job, at a home of four adults with developmental disabilities. What he learns about himself and others will turn out to be more than any university could teach him—and twice as difficult.

Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land

Carolrhoda Books |
Children’s/Middle Grade

With lyrical text and thought-provoking photography, Their Great Gift explores the experiences of immigrants in the twenty-first century, focusing on the lives of children. Images of families who came to the United States from many different parts of the world celebrate the diversity of our country and contain a vision of hope for the future.

For Extreme-Sports Crazy Boys Only

Feiwel & Friends |
Children’s/Middle Grade/YA

From snowboarding to skydiving, here are the most extreme sports for the most daring boys.

“It’s that adrenaline rush, I think, that comes with extreme sports. For me it’s all about the passion of sport and the goodwill that sport creates.” -Robby Naish, windsurfer and kitesurfer

From the rush of skateboarding to some of the most ultimate extreme sports like base jumping and ice climbing-there’s so much to know about the world of extreme sports. The Olympics and the X-Games have opened our eyes to so much, but there’s still so much to see. Do you want to learn more about aggressive inline skating? Do you want to read up on how to protect yourself next time you go sandboarding?

If you feel the rush of adrenaline every time you think about riding that big wave, or taking that half-pipe by storm then For Extreme-Sports Crazy Boys Only is definitely the book for you!

Game Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game

Carolrhoda Books |
Children’s/Middle Grade

When they piled into cars and drove through Durham, North Carolina, the members of the Duke University Medical School basketball team only knew that they were going somewhere to play basketball. They didn’t know whom they would play against. But when they came face to face with their opponents, they quickly realized this secret game was going to make history.

Discover the true story of how in 1944, Coach John McLendon orchestrated a secret game between the best players from a white college and his team from the North Carolina College of Negroes. At a time of widespread segregation and rampant racism, this illegal gathering changed the sport of basketball forever.

Two Old Potatoes And Me

Nodin Press |

One day at her dad’s house, a young girl finds two old potatoes in the cupboard. “Gross.” But before she can throw them away, her dad suggests they try to grow new potatoes from the old ones, which have sprouted eyes. Told from May to September, the potato-growing season, the story includes all the basic steps for growing potatoes while subtly dealing with the parents’ recent divorce. Just like the new potatoes that emerge from ugly old potatoes, this dad and daughter move on and make a new life together in the face of unavoidable and unpleasant change. Carolyn Fisher’s artwork will be instantly recognizable from her picture book debut, “A Twisted Tale,” and her trademark high-energy art and design infuse joy and humor into this heartwarming story.

Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball

Carolrhoda Books |
Children’s/Middle Grade

Taking over a rowdy gym class right before winter vacation is not something James Naismith wants to do at all.

The last two teachers of this class quit in frustration. The students–a bunch of energetic young men–are bored with all the regular games and activities. Naismith needs something new, exciting, and fast to keep the class happy–or someone’s going to get hurt. Saving this class is going to take a genius.

Discover the true story of how Naismith invented basketball in 1891 at a school in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Vroomaloom Zoom

Nodin Press |

It’s time for bed, but Carmela isn’t sleepy, so she and Daddy go for a ride. The rhythmic, repetitive text and the vibrant pictures against colorful pages make this story a perfect read-aloud. (School Library Journal, starred)

Top Of The Order: 4 for 4 #1

Square Fish |
Children’s/Middle Grade

Jackson’s mom is dating. Gig’s dad is going to serve in the Middle East. Isaac might be going to a new school. Diego spends his spare time working. These four friends lead different lives, but on the baseball field, they’re a strong team—the top of the order. As their last year of elementary school ends, the boys want to have their best baseball season ever. But this year, they might not even have enough players to stay in the league. Then a great player volunteers to join the team. But it’s a girl! And she plays with a pink glove! Now the team is coming apart at the seams. Will this end up being the worst season ever?

Here is a story about how life, like sports, can be unpredictable, frustrating, and exhilarating. Top of the Order by John Coy is part of the 4 for 4 series, an action-packed middle grade series for young readers about four boys from diverse backgrounds who deal with family, friendship, and school situations.

Eyes On The Goal (4 For 4 #2)

Square Fish |
Children’s/Middle Grade

Here is a story about how life, like sports, can be unpredictable, frustrating, and exhilarating. Eyes on the Goal by John Coy is part of the 4 for 4 series, an action-packed middle grade series for young readers about four boys from diverse backgrounds who deal with family, friendship, and school situations.

Just before they’re due to start middle school, Diego, Gig, Jackson, and Isaac, four sports-loving friends, all attend the same weeklong soccer camp. Diego is an experienced soccer player, and Gig has a natural ability for the sport he never realized. But Jackson and Isaac are split into another group of players—a group with younger, smaller kids. For the first time, both boys aren’t the stars of their team. In fact, they can’t seem to get a handle on soccer. At the same time, Jackson is having a hard time getting a handle on his mom’s deepening relationship with her boyfriend, and her suggestion that they move in with him. And Gig is worried about his father’s deployment to Afghanistan.

Love Of The Game (4 For 4 #3)

Square Fish |
Children’s/Middle Grade/YA

Middle school is full of new challenges for Jackson, Gig, Isaac, and Diego, four sports-loving friends who have always stuck together. Lockers that won’t open, older (and bigger) kids, classes that are far apart, tons of homework—there’s a lot to get used to.

One thing the boys are looking forward to, however, is making the football team. Not every one will get what he wants, though, on the field and at home.

Here is a story about how life, like sports, can be unpredictable, frustrating, and exhilarating. Love of the Game by John Coy is part of the 4 for 4 series, an action-packed middle grade series for young readers about four boys from diverse backgrounds who deal with family, friendship, and school situations.

Take Your Best Shot (4 For 4 #4)

Square Fish |
Children’s/Middle Grade

Middle school and life on and off the basketball court are what four friends deal with in this satisfying conclusion to the 4 for 4 series. Here are four very different boys dealing with family, friends, school, and sports, told in a believable and accessible style.

Jackson, Gig, Isaac, and Diego, four sports-loving friends who have always stuck together, are getting used to the routines of middle school: detention, tons of homework, and a bit of drama where girls and school dances are concerned—there’s a lot on their plates.

One thing the boys are looking forward to, however, is basketball season. The court may be unpredictable, but it’s nothing compared to their lives. Jackson’s mom is marrying her boyfriend. Isaac and Diego may not even play basketball, because they have so many other things going on. And Gig is worried about his father, who is still stationed in Afghanistan.

Here is a story about how life, like sports, can be unpredictable, frustrating, and exhilarating. Take Your Best Shot by John Coy is part of the 4 for 4 series, an action-packed middle grade series for young readers about four boys from diverse backgrounds who deal with family, friendship, and school situations.

Box Out

Scholastic Press |
Middle Grade/YA

John Coy turns to the high-stakes world of high school basketball in this fast-paced YA novel.

Liam has just been bumped up to starter on the varsity basketball team, and the pressure’s on. With the girls’ team heading to State, the boys’ team is under even greater scrutiny than usual in Liam’s small midwestern town. When the team’s coach starts counting on the power of prayer—and enforcing teamwide participation—Liam finds himself in a spotlight that’s more nerve-racking than any trip to the free-throw line. In trying to stand up for what’s right, Liam is forced to stand up for himself—against his teammates, his fellow students, and even his parents.

Around The World

Lee & Low Books |
Children’s/Middle Grade

Junior Library Guild Selection

From New York to China to Australia and six other countries, an unrelenting basketball game rages on as kids compete and play for keeps, all determined to sink the winning shot. Presented in graphic, comic book style.

A fantastic journey around the world is about to begin. Starting in downtown New York and traveling to Australia, China, Turkey, Serbia, Nigeria, France, Brazil, Canada, Puerto Rico, and back to New York again, kids play their hearts out in a grueling, winner-take-all, pick-up basketball game. Full court passes in a gym in Shanghai are effortlessly picked off in Istanbul with a turn of the page. Thwack Readers will challenge themselves to keep pace with these young players while taking in the sights of the Eiffel Tower and other landmarks that frame the action in each city.

John Coy, author of the award-winning Strong to the Hoop, draws once more from his bottomless knowledge of basketball to bring readers the grit, sweat, and realistic “hoop-speak” that passes between players who know and love the game. Packed full of comic book style action and locales from all over the globe.


Scholastic Paperbacks |
Children’s/Middle Grade

When Miles Manning, a successful high school football player, discovers his teammates are using steroids–and one of them is his best friend–he’s faced with a tough decision: Is he willing to do what it takes to win? Football is his life, and his family, especially his dad, is pinning its hopes on him. It’s a lot of pressure for a high school junior to bear. This gripping look into the world of high school boys and athletes–and their struggle to be the best–is provocative and searingly honest.

Night Driving

Square Fish |
Children’s/Middle Grade

A warm-hearted portrait of a simple event that encapsulates the bond between a father and a son.

This warm and thoughtful story about a father and son on an all-night drive to the mountains is just right for Father’s Day.

Strong To The Hoop

Lee & Low Books |
Children’s/Middle Grade

When James is finally allowed to play basketball on the main court with the older boys, he has to prove he can hold his own. It’s Skins against Shirts, and James is guarding Marcus, the biggest Shirt of them all. Marcus is all muscle, but James has skill and determination on his side. In the end, there’s much more than the game point riding on James’s last shot. John Coy’s energetic prose captures the intensity and emotion of the competition, while Leslie Jean-Bart’s photo collages convey the gritty pace of the game.


Creating a Picture Book

At first glance, picture books seem remarkably simple. Behind this simplicity, however, are days, months, and years of hard work. In this presentation, John will explore the steps of picture book creation from draft, through revisions, rejections, more revisions, editing, to finished book. John will show examples and discuss how the writer, editor, illustrator, art director, editorial director, publicist, lawyer, and sales staff all work together to make a book and get it into the hands of readers. John will ask questions throughout to engage the audience and will respond to questions.


Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

For many students, coming up with writing ideas is a challenge. But these same students are full of ideas. In this presentation, John will explore the process of getting started and examine ways students can develop ideas that they naturally have. He will discuss the necessity of not being too critical at this early stage in order to have multiple possibilities to choose from. John will show examples from his own early drafts and demonstrate guaranteed ways to find interesting ideas.


Revision: Seeing Your Story Again

Of all the aspects of writing, revision is the most difficult. Today’s students live in a world of fast changes, and getting them to go back and revise writing is a major challenge. John will share simple and effective tips for helping students revise. He will read selections of his own work to show the necessity of revision and will conduct exercises so students will see the improvement in their own writing quickly.


Writing a Young Adult Novel

Young adult novels provide a unique opportunity to explore character, plot, scene, voice, and ideas through the eyes of a young person. John will talk about how he organizes these elements and the surprising amount of work that is done away for the desk. John will share examples of drafts, revisions, and advance copies to show the steps a manuscript goes through on its way to becoming a YA novel. Questions are encouraged and welcomed.


It's Boring: Boys and Reading

Many boys and men don’t like to read. Why? In a first grade class, students are excited about letters and words and cracking the secret code that is reading. But by fourth and fifth grade, many boys have decided they don’t like reading. John will explore some of the larger reasons boys get turned off from reading and offer specific suggestions to address the genuine interests of boys and get them engaged in reading again.


It's True: New and Improved Nonfiction

Lately, we have had a strong emphasis on nonfiction, which some people now call informational text to not imply a hierarchy with fiction. This is a major switch for fiction lovers and many of us have a bias about nonfiction that we might not even be aware of. In this presentation, John will discuss the creativity and originality of some recent nonfiction and the connection it has with major aspects of storytelling. We can expand our definitions of fiction, nonfiction, and informational text and see how they can all work together to benefit students and teachers.


Seeing Ourselves as Writers

Many teachers and librarians are people who loved to read and write as students. As adults, however, they may have limited opportunity to write for reflection and enjoyment. In this workshop, we will examine how writing was taught to us and what lessons we took from that. We’ll explore aspects of writing such as generating ideas, creating drafts, and making stories better through revision. We’ll also examine some common obstacles that hold us back in writing. This is an excellent opportunity to challenge our notions of who is a writer and in doing so to gain new insights into exciting ways writing can be taught.

John’s Main link for Educators

Presentations for Educators

Curriculum Resources

John’s Link for Boys and Reading

John’s Articles

Reader’s Theater Script for Strong to the Hoop

Strong to the Hoop Link

Reader’s Theater Script for Night Driving

Activity Guide Link for Where We Come From

Activity Guide Link for Hoop Genius

Honors, Awards & Recognition

White Raven List of the International Youth Library for Best Books of 2023
Finalist for the 2023 Heartland Booksellers Award
Marion Vannett Ridgway Award for excellence in an author’s or illustrator’s first picture book, 1997
Loft/McKnight Award for Children’s Literature, Honorable Mention, 2003
Charlotte Zolotow Award for Outstanding Writing in a Picture Book, Honor, 2004
Mentor for the Shabo Mentorship in Children’s Literature from The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, 2006
Winner of the 2016 Elizabeth Burr/Worzalla Award for Distinguished Achievement in Children’s Literature by the Wisconsin Library Association Youth Services Section
Winner of the 2017 Correll Book Award for Excellence in Early Childhood Informational Text
Kerlan Award for 2017 in recognition of singular attainments in the creation of children’s literature and in appreciation for generous donations of resources to the Kerlan Collection for the study of children’s literature
Riverby Award Winner for 2020 for exceptional nature book for young readers by the John Burroughs Association
Nominated for 2021 Green Earth Book Award by the Nature Generation
Finalist for the Minnesota Book Award in Children’s Literature in 2023

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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