Our Staff

Dr. John Hutton and Sandra GrossDr. John Hutton and Sandra Gross

Owners (CEO/CFO, IT, light-bulb tech, light janitorial...)

John and Sandy were loyal customers of a small children's bookstore called The Blue Marble and were dismayed with the announcement in 2000 that this local treasure would be closing its doors.  Rather than see "The Wall" full of beloved children's author/illustrator signatures and drawings destroyed, they decided to make the ultimate Going Out of Business Sale purchase and bought the store.  Within a week of negotiation with Miss Katie the Story Time Lady and the owner, a contract was signed in green crayon and the store was saved. (For a journalistic account, click here.)

Ten-plus years, gallons of paint, a marine mammal name change, and many rounds of remodeling later, blue manatee is a place that John and Sandy are proud to call their own: a true family business alongside their amazing staff. 

Outside of the store, John is a pediatrician trained at Cincinnati Children's Hospital with a passion for literacy, unstructured/outdoor play, and the health effects of excessive electronic media. Sandy has Master's degrees in early childhood Montessori education and Fine Arts, and is a working artist at (and owner of) Brazee Street Studios up the road in Oakley. Together, John and Sandy own the Sleepy Bee Cafe, with locations in Oakley and Blue Ash. While they have many interests outside of children's books, many of their most profound life lessons and memories were inspired by them.  Both love George and Martha; Sandy is partial to Frederick by Leo Lionni, and John, The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.


Jill Burket RagaseJill Burket Ragase

Store Manager

Jill is a librarian, mother, and a lover of spreadsheets. When she's not successfully managing the bookstore, Jill enjoys running and defying all the odds by driving cross-country with her husband and children. She reserves the right to change her favorite book at any moment, but at this moment her favorite book is Hooray for Hat!... no, wait, Last Stop on Market Street... You should probably just ask her later.


Page SeckPage Seck

Event Coordinator

Page plans all of the fun events at blue manatee! She is a former Montessori teacher with reading and TESOL endorsements, and she loves being surrounded by little ones and their developing excitement of characters in their favorite books. She has many favorite children's books, including The Napping House and We're Going on a Bear Hunt, and her all-time favorite author is Chris Van Allsburg. When she's not at blue manatee, Page loves spending time on her yoga mat, hiking, and volunteering at her daughter's school.


Sarah JonesSarah Jones

Bookseller, Part-Time Manager, and Story Time Leader Extraordinaire

Sarah (known as "Miss Sarah" to her ManaTots) has a passion for children's literature, which inspires so much of what she does at blue manatee! Not only does she lead the famous ManaTots Story Time with her trusty guitar, she also writes and illustrates her own books with blue manatee press. Sarah's background in fine art and education (at Miami University and UC) is a perfect match for blue manatee's whimsical world of children's literature, and she loves adding to the store's artistic charm. Although she loves them all, some of Sarah's favorite children's books are Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio; Stuck by Oliver Jeffers; and The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood.


Alia JonesAlia Jones

Weekday Bookseller

Alia is a former teacher of fun and enthusiastic Korean children. She taught ESL in Daegu, South Korea for four years and loves children's literature. Before Korea, she attended Cornell University for cultural anthropology and interned for the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. In her free time, she blogs about her favorite children's books. Some of her favorites include Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle, Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, and Float by Daniel Miyares.


- Weekend Staff -

ANESSA

In addition to working at blue manatee, Anessa teaches fifth grade and has been teaching for 25 years. In her free time, she loves reading, nature, riding her bike, and hanging out with her two dogs, Oscar and Gizmo. Her favorite book is Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.

ALICIA

Alicia is a children's librarian and loves doing story time at blue manatee! You can find her reading picture books to her two boys or devouring the latest YA fiction.

AMY

Amy loves being on the weekend Mana-Team--helping children and families find that "just right" read. Some of her favorites to recommend are My Garden by Kevin Henkes; Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary; Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech; and The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall.

SARAH

Sarah works behind the scenes at blue manatee, and she loves helping out in the store on the weekends! Her favorite picture book is Madeline's Rescue by Ludwig Bemelmans, and her favorite chapter book is The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.

AVERY

Avery is a senior at Walnut Hills High School. Her favorite picture books are I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen and Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins, and her favorite chapter book is The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.

MIRIAM

Before coming to work at blue manatee, Miriam was a librarian for 20 years, spending most of that time as a school and children's librarian. She likes lots of stuff like music, books, Hershey-dipped Snyders, and treating nature trails like a track.

MITZI

Mitzi is a retired librarian and English teacher. She has a passion for children's and YA books and is thrilled to see children and adolescents embrace reading! One of her favorite books is Olivia by Ian Falconer. She also loves Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes; The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett; and The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis.