Sherri L.
Middle Grade & Young Adult Author
Golden Kite Award Winner
Travels from: Los Angeles, CA

“A dynamic, heartfelt novel.” – The Washington Post

Sherri L. Sherri L. Smith is the author of award-winning fiction and nonfiction books for young people including the 2021 Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Golden Kite Award winner, The Blossom and the Firefly, and the California Book Awards Gold Medalist, Flygirl.  Her novels appear on multiple state reading lists and have been named Amelia Bloomer, Junior Library Guild, Children’s Book Council, Southern California Independent Booksellers Award, and American Library Association Best Books for Young People selections.  Sherri also writes graphic novels and comics, including Bart Simpson Comics, Wonder Woman, and James Cameron’s Avatar.

Born in Chicago, IL, she has lived on all three coasts (West, East and Lake Michigan!).  She has worked in film, animation, comic books, construction, and at a monster factory.  Highlights included working in stop-motion animation on Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks!, and three years at Disney TV Animation, helping to create stories for animated home video projects.

Currently, Sherri teaches in the MFA in Children’s Writing Program at Hamline University.  She has also taught creative writing at Goddard College, and was the 2021 Mina Hohenburg Darden Visiting Professor at Old Dominion University.  Sherri holds a certificate in the Art of Archetypal Fairy Tale Analysis from the Assisi Institute, and certificates in Applied Mythology and Enchantivism—a form of “activism for introverts” that uses deep storytelling, mythology, dreams and the environment to enact positive change in the world— from Pacifica Graduate Institute.

In addition to public speaking, Sherri offers creativity courses a member of the Two Trees Writers’ Collaborative and the founder of Story Forest, a liminal space where writers follow the old tales to find their own path.

Pro Tip: Her first name rhymes with Capri!

Sherri L.'s Featured Titles

Pearl: A Graphic Novel

Graphix |
Graphic Novel

In a beautifully crafted and captivating graphic novel from award-winning writer Sherri L. Smith and Eisner-nominated artist Christine Norrie, a Japanese-American girl must survive years of uncertainty and questions of loyalty in Hiroshima during World War II.

Amy is a thirteen-year-old Japanese-American girl who lives in Hawaii. When her great-grandmother falls ill, Amy travels to visit family in Hiroshima for the first time. But this is 1941. When the Japanese navy attacks Pearl Harbor, it becomes impossible for Amy to return to Hawaii. Conscripted into translating English radio transmissions for the Japanese army, Amy struggles with questions of loyalty and fears about her family amidst rumors of internment camps in America — even as she makes a new best friend and, over the years, Japan starts to feel something like home. Torn between two countries at war, Amy must figure out where her loyalties lie and, in the face of unthinkable tragedy, find hope in the rubble of a changed world.

American Wings: Chicago’s Pioneering Black Aviators and the Race for Equality in the Sky

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers |
Young Adult

From the acclaimed author of Flygirl and the bestselling author of Code Name Verity comes the thrilling and inspiring true story of the desegregation of the skies.

In the years between World War I and World War II, aviation fever was everywhere, including among Black Americans. But what hope did a Black person have of learning to fly in a country constricted by prejudice and Jim Crow laws, where some previous Black aviators like Bessie Coleman had to move to France to earn their wings?

American Wings follows a group of determined Black Americans: Cornelius Coffey and Johnny Robinson, skilled auto mechanics; Janet Harmon Bragg, a nurse; and Willa Brown, a teacher and social worker. Together, they created a flying club and built their own airfield on Chicago’s South Side. As the U.S. hurtled toward World War II, they established a school to train new pilots, teaching both Black and white students together and proving, in a time when the U.S. military was still segregated, that successful integration was possible.

Complete with black-and-white photographs throughout, American Wings brings to light a hidden history of pioneering Black men and women who, with grit and resilience, battled powerful odds for an equal share of the sky.

Avatar: The High Ground Volume 3

Dark Horse Books |
Graphic Novel

Jake Sully’s fears have come crashing to Pandora, guns blazing. The Sky People are planet-side, and taking Hell’s Gate by storm.

Jake and Neytiri’s children are still on base, surrounded and outgunned. Years of advancement on Earth means they’ll be bringing more firepower than Jake could anticipate. Unable to fully rely on his intel, Jake will have to improvise and risk it all to protect his family, his people, and their home. The battle is underway and every Na’vi is in danger.

Experience the epic finale of James Cameron’s original story “The High Ground” in this graphic novel adaptation written by award-winning author Sherri L. Smith (The Toymaker’s Apprentice, Orleans) and illustrated by Agustin Padilla (Suicide Squad, Transformers, Borderlands, Predator: Hunters II) and Miguel Angel Ruiz (The Passing, Crossed: Badlands). The exciting conclusion to Avatar: The High Ground leads you directly into the opening of the long-awaited film sequel Avatar 2!

Avatar: The High Ground Volume 2

Dark Horse Books |
Graphic Novel
Humans have returned to Pandora—with an armada of starships—but Jake Sully and the Na’vi are ready for them!

Knowing this day would come, Jake has trained his Na’vi warriors with a plan that should make it too costly for the humans to try again . . . if the plan works.

But, any chain of events is only as strong as the weakest link, and in this case the weak link is human nature. As the plan unravels, Jake and Neytiri must race against time to return to Pandora and save their children before the starships land.

James Cameron’s epic original story “The High Ground” continues in this graphic novel adaptation written by award-winning author Sherri L. Smith (The Toymaker’s Apprentice, Orleans) and illustrated by Diego Galindo (Stranger Things: The Tomb of Ybwen, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers). Avatar: The High Ground Volume 2 takes fans to parts of the Avatar universe never anticipated!

Avatar: The High Ground Volume 1

Dark Horse Books |
Graphic Novel

It has been almost a decade since the humans were forced to leave Pandora—but now they’re returning—with an armada of heavily-armed starships!

After years of peace, Jake Sully has settled down with Neytiri and raised a family, so for him, the stakes are even higher than when he first went to war against the corporate might of the RDA.

During the development process of creating the four Avatar sequels, a lot of new ideas and stories were created and discussed. One such EPIC original story idea that didn’t make it into the sequels was James Cameron’s original story—“The High Ground.” Cameron shared what he had written with Dark Horse Comics and it is now being adapted by award-winning author Sherri L. Smith (The Toymaker’s Apprentice, Orleans), and illustrated by Brazilian artist Guilherme Balbi.

Avatar: The High Ground Volume 1 ventures into all-new territory in the Avatar saga, and is a direct prequel to the highly-anticipated film sequel Avatar 2!

What Was the Harlem Renaissance?

Penguin Workshop |

In this book from the #1 New York Times bestselling series, learn how this vibrant Black neighborhood in upper Manhattan became home to the leading Black writers, artists, and musicians of the 1920s and 1930s.

Travel back in time to the 1920s and 1930s to the sounds of jazz in nightclubs and the 24-hours-a-day bustle of the famous Black neighborhood of Harlem in uptown Manhattan. It was a dazzling time when there was an outpouring of the arts of African Americans–the poetry of Langston Hughes; the novels of Zora Neale Hurston; the sculptures of Augusta Savage and that brand-new music called jazz as only Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong could play it. Author Sherri Smith traces Harlem’s history all the way to its seventeenth-century roots, and explains how the early-twentieth-century Great Migration brought African Americans from the deep South to New York City and gave birth to the golden years of the Harlem Renaissance.

With 80 fun black-and-white illustrations and an engaging 16-page photo insert, readers will be excited to read this latest addition to Who HQ!

What Is the Civil Rights Movement?

Penguin Workshop |

Relive the moments when African Americans fought for equal rights, and made history.

Even though slavery had ended in the 1860s, African Americans were still suffering under the weight of segregation a hundred years later. They couldn’t go to the same schools, eat at the same restaurants, or even use the same bathrooms as white people. But by the 1950s, black people refused to remain second-class citizens and were willing to risk their lives to make a change.

Author Sherri L. Smith brings to life momentous events through the words and stories of people who were on the frontlines of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

This book also features the fun black-and-white illustrations and engaging 16-page photo insert that readers have come love about the What Was? series!

The Blossom and the Firefly

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers |
Young Adult

From the award-winning author of Flygirl comes this powerful WWII romance between two Japanese teens caught in the cogs of an unwinnable war, perfect for fans of Salt to the Sea, Lovely War, and Code Name Verity.

Japan 1945. Taro is a talented violinist and a kamikaze pilot in the days before his first and only mission. He believes he is ready to die for his country . . . until he meets Hana. Hana hasn’t been the same since the day she was buried alive in a collapsed trench during a bomb raid. She wonders if it would have been better to have died that day . . . until she meets Taro.

A song will bring them together. The war will tear them apart. Is it possible to live an entire lifetime in eight short days?

Sherri L. Smith has been called “an author with astonishing range” and “a stellar storyteller” by E. Lockhart, the New York Times-bestselling author of We Were Liars, and “a truly talented writer” by Jacqueline Woodson, the National Book Award-winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming. Here, with achingly beautiful prose, Smith weaves a tale of love in the face of death, of hope in the face of tragedy, set against a backdrop of the waning days of the Pacific War.

Avatar Tsu’tey’s Path

Dark Horse Books |
Graphic Novel

James Cameron’s blockbuster film is expanded upon by award-winning author Sherri L. Smith (novels Lucy the Giant, Flygirl, and The Toymaker’s Apprentice) and artist Jan Duursema (Star Wars graphic novel series The Clone Wars, Legacy, and Dawn of the Jedi), with new scenes and new, revealing information about the mysteries of Eywa!

From his first fateful encounter with Jake Sully to his acceptance of Jake as Toruk Makto; the Last Shadow, Tsu’tey’s life takes a path he could never had anticipated, and which the film told only a part…

Collects issues 1-6 of Avatar: Tsu’tey’s Path, plus the short story “Brothers” from Free Comic Book Day 2017.

Who Were the Tuskegee Airmen?

Penguin Workshop |

It’s up, up, and away with the Tuskegee Airmen, a heroic group of African American military pilots who helped the United States win World War II.

During World War II, black Americans were fighting for their country and for freedom in Europe, yet they had to endure a totally segregated military in the United States, where they weren’t considered smart enough to become military pilots. After acquiring government funding for aviation training, civil rights activists were able to kickstart the first African American military flight program in the US at Tuskegee University in Alabama. While this book details thrilling flight missions and the grueling training sessions the Tuskegee Airmen underwent, it also shines a light on the lives of these brave men who helped pave the way for the integration of the US armed forces.


Speak |

“Beautiful clothes, bad habits, ugly secrets: Sherri L. Smith probes the vulnerable underbellies of a lot of toothy sharks in this page-turning California noir.”—E. Lockhart, New York Times bestselling author of We Were Liars 

Bad things happen everywhere. Even in the land of sun and roses.

When Jude’s best friend is found dead in a swimming pool, her family calls it an accident. Her friends call it suicide. But Jude calls it what it is: murder. And someone has to pay. Now everyone is a suspect—family and friends alike. And Jude is digging up the past like bones from a shallow grave. Anything to get closer to the truth. But that’s the thing about secrets. Once they start turning up, nothing is sacred. And Jude’s got a few skeletons of her own.

In a homage to the great noir stories of Los Angeles, award-winning author Sherri L. Smith’s Pasadena is a tale of love, damage and salvation set against the backdrop of California’s City of Roses.

“Enthralling! . . . Smith has created a world that is at once startlingly real and heartbreakingly unreal. Smith’s novel had me leaning forward in my seat trying to remember to breathe.” —Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award-winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming

The Toymaker’s Apprentice

Puffin Books |
Middle Grade
A gorgeously imagined Nutcracker retelling from award-winning author Sherri L. Smith.

Stefan Drosselmeyer is a reluctant apprentice to his toymaker father until the day his world is turned upside down. His father is kidnapped and Stefan is enlisted by his mysterious cousin, Christian Drosselmeyer, to find a mythical nut to save a princess who has been turned into a wooden doll. Embarking on a wild adventure through Germany, Stefan must save Boldavia’s princess and his own father from the fanatical Mouse Queen and her seven-headed Mouse Prince, both of whom have sworn to destroy the Drosselmeyer family.

Based on the original inspiration for the Nutcracker ballet, Sherri L. Smith brings the Nutcracker Prince to life in this fascinating journey into a world of toymaking, magical curses, clockmaking guilds, talking mice and erudite squirrels.

“An absorbing tale of adventure, invention, family loyalty, and sly humor. . . . Bursting with unforgettable characters.” —School Library Journal, starred review

“Exceedingly well done, this is a great fantasy novel and is highly recommended for middle grade readers, fans of fantasy, and lovers of The Nutcracker.” —VOYA


Speak |

First came the storms.

Then came the Fever.

And the Wall.


After a string of devastating hurricanes and a severe outbreak of Delta Fever, the Gulf Coast has been quarantined. Years later, residents of the Outer States are under the assumption that life in the Delta is all but extinct…but in reality, a new primitive society has been born.

Fen de la Guerre is living with the O-Positive blood tribe in the Delta when they are ambushed. Left with her tribe leader’s newborn, Fen is determined to get the baby to a better life over the wall before her blood becomes tainted. Fen meets Daniel, a scientist from the Outer States who has snuck into the Delta illegally. Brought together by chance, kept together by danger, Fen and Daniel navigate the wasteland of Orleans. In the end, they are each other’s last hope for survival.

Sherri L. Smith delivers an expertly crafted story about a fierce heroine whose powerful voice and firm determination will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.


Penguin Books |
Young Adult
For fans of Unbroken and Ruta Sepetys.

All Ida Mae Jones wants to do is fly. Her daddy was a pilot, and years after his death she feels closest to him when she’s in the air. But as a young black woman in 1940s Louisiana, she knows the sky is off limits to her, until America enters World War II, and the Army forms the WASP-Women Airforce Service Pilots. Ida has a chance to fulfill her dream if she’s willing to use her light skin to pass as a white girl. She wants to fly more than anything, but Ida soon learns that denying one’s self and family is a heavy burden, and ultimately it’s not what you do but who you are that’s most important.

Read Sherri L. Smith’s posts on the Penguin Blog


Red Tail, WASP And Firefly: Aviators Of World War II

Take to the skies of World War II in this talk about the research behind Sherri’s stories of the Tuskegee Airmen and the Women Airforce Service Pilots in the United States, and Special Attack, or kamikaze pilots of Japan for her historical fiction and nonfiction books Who Were the Tuskegee Airmen?, Flygirl, and The Blossom and the Firefly. A/V Slideshow.


Fictionalizing History with Flygirl (and Me!)

Sherri talks about the origins of her novel, Flygirl, and how she shapes history into fiction through the lens of a character. A/V Slideshow.


Upcycling Story: Turning Tidbits Into Stories

“Trash to treasure” is something you hear about old furniture or clothes that are remade into something new and wonderful. But did you know it can apply to storytelling, too? In this fun talk, Sherri approaches storytelling like a yard sale, answering the one question every writer gets asked: Where do you get your ideas? A/V Slideshow.


Story Improv: How To Dream Up And Outline A Story

in this is a vibrant interactive experience, Sherri walks students through how she creates her own novels. Students offer up three things to build a story around then brainstorm with Sherri to create a three-act outline—the perfect springboard for writing their own version of the group’s idea. Requires a whiteboard/blackboard or flipchart and markers.


Time Travel In Fact And Fiction: Writing Historical Fiction And Nonfiction

Have you ever wondered about the work that goes into writing the past? Whether fiction or non-fiction, Sherri walks you through the historical record that forms the backbone of her history-based books. A/V Slideshow.


The Enchantivist Plot: Writing To Change The World (For Adults/Educators)

Enchantivism is a type of “slow” activism that uses deep storytelling, dream work, mythology, and ecology to bring about positive change in the world. Through this lens, imagine what a writer can do! In this talk, Sherri shares her experiences in re-enchanting the work of graduate students, how they’ve gone on to plant the seeds of change in their own communities, and how you can, too. A/V Slideshow.


Road Map To Finishing Your Novel, Or How To Outline Without Freaking Out

This is a hands-on session in which Sherri discusses how and why to map out a novel, and get your internal editor to stop criticizing and start helping your creative process. Participants leave with a better grasp on their story, and a road map to finishing their book!


Customized Talk On Creativity, Education, And Positive World Change

What message does your community need to hear right now? Work with Sherri to craft a useful conversation or presentation to inspire creative growth.


American Wings: Chicago’s Pioneering Black Aviators and the Race for Equality in the Sky

Sherri’s Blog

Story Forest

Sherri’s Upcoming Events

Teaching Guides

Honors, Awards & Recognition

ALA Notable Books
A Junior Literary Guild Selection
The Golden Kite Award
California Book Awards Gold Medalist
Southern California Independent Booksellers Award
The Washington Post Best Kids’ Book of the Year

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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