Our team





Sherry Bushue, publisher, entrepreneur, and author heads both publishing houses. Her earlier career as a medical social worker and life-long helping children who have special needs, combine with her passion for planting seeds of knowledge by creating diverse, entertaining books and products. Sherry’s focus incorporates visual, auditory, and often multiple language formats to inspire and nourish kids worldwide. She sees fig trees and learning as quite similar in their potential; each originates from a tiny seed then swiftly grows, spreading into all environments, cultures, and strata. She’s fascinated with frogs and Fig Newtons.


Publisher, Author, published by Star Bright Books and Levine Querido (2024)




Jenn Bailey, award-winning author, editor, and instructor for over 12 years.

She has her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and her B.S. in Film/Screenwriting from Boston University. Her debut picture book, A Friend for Henry, won the ALA National Schneider Family Honor Book award (2020), is a 2021 Virginia Reads selection, and a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year (2020). She is contracted for several more manuscripts with the next in the Henry series receiving a Kirkus Star.


Editor, Award-winning author, published by Chronicle and Levine Querido (2024)




Tessa Elwood, author and graphic designer, works with small businesses, state organizations, and New York Times bestsellers. She writes YA and is particularly fascinated by messy lives and complicated loyalties. Her first duology was an Indie Next pick and listed in Bookriot’s 100 Must-Read Inclusive YA SFF Books. Tessa is an honors graduate with a B.A. in Communications Arts from Park University, where she and Jenn later taught the NWI (Nonfiction Writers Intensive), developed by The Little Fig’s team. Tessa is obsessed with stories, coffee, and running shoes.


Graphic designer, Award-winning author, published by Running Press Kids



Beth Bacon, author and graphic designer, was born in New England and has lived in in five different states and three different countries! Santa stays busy keeping track of her whereabouts. Her books include I Hate Reading, The Book No One Wants To Read, The Panda Cub Swap, and AlphaBuddies: G Is First. Beth has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, an MA in Communication Arts from New York University, and a BA in Literature from Harvard University. The Family Santa Almost Forgot 2023)


Graphic designer, author, published by Harper Collins, Histria Kids, Blair, Penguin Dial, and The Little Fig

The Family Santa Almost Forgot (2023)



Judy Hyde, editor, author, and moderator received her BFA in Advertising and Editorial Art from the University of Kansas. Her books were published by Children’s Press/Scholastic, and she moderates a decades-long weekly critique group for Heartland Writers for Kids & Teens. For recent community projects, Judy planted a Monarch Waystation in a city park, constructed a Little Free Library, co-chaired a multi-city Environmental Fair, and is exploring the wonders of digital illustration. Judy loves to read, garden, birdwatch, and she adores the Rocky Mountains. She lives in Kansas with her fun-loving husband and three rambunctious cats.

Editor, graphic artist, author published by Children’s Press/Scholastic




Gregg Yowell is a member of the Caldwell & Moll, LC team and has served both The Little Fig and The Big Fig companies since their inception in 2014. His experience spans from startup entrepreneur to management roles of increasing responsibility in Fortune 500 companies. He participated in the turnaround of Apple, Inc. following the return of Steve Jobs to the company. Gregg advises clients on many aspects of business, with an emphasis on practical solutions for growth initiatives and risk mitigation. Gregg is most helpful with regards to all intellectual property’s aspects of the companies.








In order of publication



Kristy Nerstheimer, award-winning author and educator for over 20 years, holds a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction. She writes for various educational organizations including the Kansas Historical Society and the Southeast Kansas Education Service Center. Her debut biography for children, The Greatest Thing: A Story About Buck O’Neil, was inspired after meeting Buck personally. Just like Buck O’Neil, Kristy thinks love is the greatest thing and enjoys sharing that love with children everywhere. Follow her events at  My Journey with Buck, a showcase of monthly events, honors, interviews, and celebrations.


Author, educator, The Greatest Thing: A Story About Buck O’Neil (2021)



Christian Paniagua, award-winning artist and illustrator, is a native New Yorker and an alumnus of Pratt Institute where he received two degrees in Communication Design. Christian’s art flows from his urban roots, love for animation, comics, and educational background. His whimsical approach and distinctive blend of movement, colors, and emotions into artwork allow him the freedom to diversify his designs. His resume as an illustrator and graphic design artist encompasses a 25-year career.


Illustrator, artist, The Greatest Thing: A Story About Buck O’Neil (2021), The Family Santa Almost Forgot (2023), Flight of the Phoenix (2024)




Nancy Kelly Allen, award-winning author and speaker, holds master’s degrees in both Education and Library and Information Science. She has written more than fifty children’s books in the comfort of her log cabin near the town of Hazard, Kentucky. In Nancy’s neck of the woods, she and her husband are always in danger of a vampire attack. If gnats don’t scat, they get a splat with her hat. Tick bites on her two miniature schnauzers do not TICKle her either. Nancy willingly gives blood for a good cause, but to a vampire? Never!


Author, speaker, Bugs on the Job (2022), Dear Vampire (2022), Dear Chimera (2024)



John Babcock, artist and illustrator, began drawing complex, story-telling illustrations as a child, leading to the launch of his art career in 1986. His broad portfolio includes children’s picture book illustrations, magazine illustrations, themed labels, storyboards, technical illustrations, website designs, and commercial content development. John is repeatedly sought out for creating technical and medical illustrations. Works featuring the geologic and paleontological history of Kansas City is on permanent display at the Museum of Natural History. He enjoys hiking adventures, dark sky watching, outdoor photography, and cross-country skiing with family and dear friends.


Artist, illustrator, Dear Vampire (2022), Dear Chimera (2024)



Martyna Nejman, illustrator, excels in both digital and traditional paintings. She cooperates with publishers, as well as with individual clients in creating illustrations for picture books, concept artwork, posters, CDs, and book covers. She takes her inspiration from places, people, and their stories shared over good food. Free time finds Martyna mastering her rock climbing skills or biking. She uses every occasion to escape the city and travel to the Tatra mountains, her favorite place in Poland.


Illustrator, artist, Bugs on the Job (2022), You Are Here (2022)



Lisha Cauthen writes and edits in the attic of her 100-year-old home in Kansas City, Missouri, where she recently put the finishing touches on middle grade ghost stories book, because she likes to write about things that make her curious. On warm summer nights she lies in her hammock, counts the stars, and knows she is here.


Author, editor, You Are Here (2022)









Ahmed Hassan, author and therapist, is from Somalia where he continues to give back, recently helping to build a new school. He now works and resides in Minnesota. He is a therapist at Summit Guidance and a Bush Fellow. Ahmed is a licensed professional counselor who works with refugee and immigrant populations. His interests include indigenous African knowledge and culture.


Author, therapist, Fire and Ashes: A Boy and an African Proverb (2022), and 2nd book in the African proverb series, Don’t Step on Thorns (2024)






Wes Erwin, author and licensed counselor, pens picture books and middle grade novels. No stranger to higher education, Wes has a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Counseling from the University of Iowa and currently works with people who are refugees in the Shoreview, Minnesota area. In his spare time, he enjoys basketball, reading, hiking, biking, canoeing, and camping with his family.


Author, therapist, Fire and Ashes: A Boy and an African Proverb (2022), 2nd book in the African proverb series, Don’t Step on Thorns (2024)






Meryl Treatner, award-winning children’s book illustrator and portrait artist, has worked for numerous major publishers across the United States and around the world. A graduate of the University of the Arts, Meryl has created books that shine that glow, that sparkle, and that beg to be read. Her realism is astounding, and her depicting of the work’s surroundings absorb and captivate the reader’s attention. She has been commissioned in hundreds of newspapers and magazines like ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS, ABC New Nightline, American Playhouse, National Geographic and Scholastic. Meryl is an experienced courtroom sketch artist and has been featured in United Press International and ABC Nightly News


Artist, illustrator, Fire and Ashes: A Boy and an African Proverb (2022), 2nd book in the African proverb series, Don’t Step on Thorns (2024)



Jennifer Daniels Neal, award-winning singer/songwriter, author, and teaching artist. She and her husband, Jeff Neal, have released nine music albums, a picture book, and two human children into the world (boy/girl twins, so . . . bonus!). There are more to come! (Books and songs. Not kids.) Jenn and the fam live on Lookout Mountain in Georgia, where there are mountain lions, excellent bike trails, and a one-hundred-pound tongue inside of a black lab named Ziggy Marley. Visit JenniferDaniels.com to learn more.


Musician, author, composed musical score Fire Fall Down to accompany the title, Fire and Ashes: A Boy and an African Proverb (2022)



Matt Forrest Esenwine’s, author and children’s poet, can be found in numerous anthologies including The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry. His poems and picture books received numerous positive reviews including a Kirkus star, selection by the New York Public Library as one of the Best Books for Kids, and chosen by Kirkus as one of the Best Picture Books of the Year. Matt currently has numerous other books under contract and coming soon. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife, kids, and more pets than he has fingers.


Author, speaker, Everybody Counts (2023)





Lisa Rose, award-winning author, is a University of Michigan alum who claims to be a recovering first grade teacher. She left the position to raise a daughter who is visually-impaired. She has a lifelong interest in writing. “I think all my books champion the underdog. I never really set out a purpose . . . I just think it happens. Lisa loves to swim with a mermaid tail and belongs to the Great Lakes Mermaid pod. There she educates children about water safety and conservation. Lisa also practices yoga, and eats ice cream, just not at the same time. She lives near Detroit with her family, a dog, two cats, one fish, and three hermit crabs. Learn more at www.LisaRoseWrites.com.


Author, Señor Saguaro (2023)



Emma Graham, illustrator, graphic artist, and author, takes pride in her commissions for the Children’s Appeal at Ipswich Hospital, United Kingdom – a charity raising funds for a full refurbishment of the children’s ward. She illustrates books with Suffolk Mind to improve children’s movement and mental health. Emma is versatile and experienced artist and a graduate of Norfolk Institute of Art (UK). Her vibrant portfolio includes children’s picture books, private commissions, and Wild In Art sculptures. Her story was a finalist in the Stratford Literary Festival’s Stratford-Salariya Prize.


Artist, illustrator, author, Everybody Counts (2023), Señor Saguaro (2023)


L. S. Moore, author, has lived many places, including Rome, but calls the Kansas City area where she was born and raised, home. After studying theater at the University of Missouri, she moved to Chicago to try her hand at acting and became a professional bartender and cookie baker. Finally, her passion for storytelling found its outlet in writing. When she isn't crafting ghost stories for young adults, she's walking about cemeteries indulging her obsession with gravestone designs or cultivating her garden, growing bushels of veggies for her husband and two sons.


Author, BridgeKeeper (2023)





Cristina Bencina, artist and illustrator, was born on Long Island, New York and received her BFA at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Her experience on a wide range of projects includes book and cover designs, interior narrative illustrations, portraiture, albums, advertising, conceptual artwork, and more. She has been selected and featured in various annuals and exhibitions such as Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, American Illustration, and The Society of Illustrators in New York City.


Illustrator, BridgeKeeper (2023)




Kelly Hams Pearson, freelance writer and poet, is located not far from the river’s edge where the Missouri meets the Kaw in Parkville, Missouri. Her writing serves as her divining rod. Her keen interest in social and restorative justice intersects with mystical truth and personal discovery as she celebrates her ancestors, guides and historical sages through her words. Kelly’s literary work fits within her lifelong goal of equipping youth as well as adults with capacity building competencies that will allow them to live their best possible lives.

Author, poet, Flight of the Phoenix (2024)





David Hoffman, author and freelance editor, frequently stays up well past their bedtime.  An enthusiastic fan of classic ghost stories from an early age, David grew up haunting the dustier aisles of central New York's libraries and long-buried bookstores. An MFA graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts' Writing for Children and Young Adults program.

Author, editor, Another Dog (2024)


Lindsey Manwell Melchor, artist, author, and illustrator, studied children's illustration at the Academy of Art University, in San Francisco. More recently she obtained an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at VCFA. She is Litworld’s World Read Aloud Day illustrator, has shown oil paintings in coffee shops, drawn sets for Pottery Barn catalogs, and illustrated stories for the wonderful Cricket Magazine Group. She loves, loves, loves the rain and writing in the early morning around 5am. Lindsey currently lives with her family in Menlo Park, California where she enjoys the sound of her daughter's voices when they first awaken.

Artist, author, illustrator, Another Dog (2024)






Juan De Lascurain’s, artist and speaker, combines eye-catching designs and animated illustrations to provide a truly authentic pattern. He is an entrepreneur and artist from Mexico City. His vibrant illustrations and bold designs create a mosaic of originality. His artistic creations are featured worldwide. Juan believes, “It doesn’t matter where you come from, or how much money you might have. If you have faith, a dream, and you work hard; you can accomplish anything.” His trademark company, Dream Big World, supports camps for children, commercializes his works, and delivers his inspiring messages across the globe so that others may accomplish their dreams. 


Artist, entrepreneur, Animal ABC: Bilingüe Bilingual (2018), Star Bright Books






Cassie Allen, (pseudonym Hypervigil), ink artist and illustrator, currently lives in Kansas City, Missouri. Cassie graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2015, having earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, double majoring in Illustration and Creative Writing. Born in 1993, she began drawing seriously at the age of 9, and has always pursued a marriage of image and narrative that combine her interests in nature, science, mythology, and the grotesque.


Artist, illustrator, Dinosaurs Count (2019), Star Bright Books