Picture Book Author
Carter G. Woodson Book Award Winner
Travels from: Minneapolis, MN

“I absolutely loved how you so easily got families involved with your story, and I know families really enjoyed it.” — School Visit

Working at the intersection of nature, literature, and culture, Mélina Mangal’s work has been published by Milkweed Editions, Coffee House Press, W.W. Norton, and Carolina Wren Press. She is the author of five biographies for youth, including The Vast Wonder of the World: Biologist Ernest Everett Just, winner of the Carter G. Woodson Award. Her book, Jayden’s Impossible Garden,won the first Strive/Free Spirit African American Voices in Children’s Literature contest, was recognized as a Blueberry Honor book by the Evanston Public Library for inspiring love of nature and action for planet earth, was named One of the Best Children’s Books of the Year by Bank Street Center for Children’s Literature, and was nominated for the Minnesota Star of the North Reading Award. Mélina is also a school library media teacher and enjoys spending time outdoors with her family.

Jayden’s Impossible Garden

Free Spirit Publishing |

Jayden and a new friend bring nature to the city in this timeless story about a community garden

Amidst all the buildings, people, and traffic in his neighborhood, Jayden sees nature everywhere: the squirrels scrounging, the cardinals calling, and the dandelions growing. But Mama doesn’t believe there’s nature in the city. So Jayden sets out to help Mama see what he sees. With the help of his friend Mr. Curtis, Jayden plants the seeds of a community garden and brings together his neighbors—and Mama—to show them the magic of nature in the middle of the city.

Timeless and vibrant, this story highlights the beauty of intergenerational relationships and the power of imagination and perseverance in bringing the vision of a community garden to life. Jayden’s love of nature will inspire readers to see their environment and surroundings as bursting with opportunities for growth and connection. At the back of the book, readers will find activities to make items found in the book, such as the milk jug bird feeder.

Jayden’s Impossible Garden is the winner of the 2019 African American Voices in Children’s Literature writing contest, cosponsored by Strive Publishing and Free Spirit Publishing, and the recipient of the 2021 Foreword INDIES Honorable Mention, Picture Books, Early Reader (Children’s).

The Vast Wonder of the World: Biologist Ernest Everett Just

Millbrook Press (Tm) |
Middle Grade

A must-purchase picture book biography of a figure sure to inspire awe and admiration among readers.–School Library Journal (starred review)

Extraordinary illustrations and lyrical text present pioneering African American scientist Ernest Everett Just.

Ernest Everett Just was not like other scientists of his time. He saw the whole, where others saw only parts. He noticed details others failed to see. He persisted in his research despite the discrimination and limitations imposed on him as an African American. His keen observations of sea creatures revealed new insights about egg cells and the origins of life.

Through stunning illustrations and lyrical prose, this picture book presents the life and accomplishments of this long overlooked scientific pioneer.


School Visits

Multimedia presentations, including a book reading of one of my books and chants, song, or fingerplay, depending on the age. School wide, by grade, or just a classroom.


Youth Writing Workshops

For middle grade youth or teens with a focus on poetry, nature, research, biography, or STEM connections.Suitable for camps, classrooms, or conferences. Single event or residencies.


Adult Writing Workshops

For adults, with the focus on writing picture books, the research process, or writing biographies for young readers.


“Behind the book” Readings

Readings tailored to any audience, whether it’s preschool, elementary, middle school, or high school or adult public. Book reading along with presentation on how the book came to be, the writing process, and additional background, along with Q & A.


Reading with Hands-on Activities

Book reading along with hands-on complementary activities tailored to audience age, whether preschool, elementary, middle school, high school, or special needs classes.For example, decorating sand dollar replicas along with a reading of The Vast Wonder of the World: Biologist Ernest Everett Just or creating recycled container planters along with a reading of Jayden’s Impossible Garden.


How a Book is Made—From Writing to ‘Exciting’!

As a former book production editor, Mélina brings the knowledge of the book making process, combined with her experience as a librarian and author.Tailored for any age audience.


Intergenerational Storytime with Jayden’s Impossible Garden

I will read my picture book with Jayden’s Impossible Garden for a public audience, focusing on intergenerational relationships like grandparents and grandchildren.I will present a Google slides/Powerpoint presentation, along with discussion of the book and a recycled gardening activity or poem writing activity.

Audience: Adults and children


Cells, Seeds, and Sentences

In this multimedia presentation for grades 3+, I share my picture books, along with the idea of essential elements, highlighting the basic building blocks of writing.

Audience: Grades 2+


Nature-Smart school Libraries

Multimedia Professional Development geared to school librarians, highlighting the ways that school libraries can create nature-based collections and support or lead in nature-based instruction.


Infusing Word Play into Your Day

Multimodal Professional Development for educators infusing movement and creative writing activities into teachers’ instructional practice to reach all learners.

The Minnesota Picture Book | A Twin Cities Book Festival Event

Mélina’s Recent Work

Mélina’s Resources

Mélina’s Blog

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Carter G. Woodson Book Award
NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
Blueberry Honor book by the Evanston Public Library
Foreward Indies Honorable Mention for Picture Books Early Reader
One of the Best Children’s Books of the Year by Bank Street Center for Children’s Literature
Minnesota Star of the North Reading Award Nominee

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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