Dr. 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.
Lisa Wilt Oravec
When people ask Lisa where she works, she answers, “In Heaven. I work in a bookstore.” As an enthusiastic (evangelical!) lifelong reader, Lisa shared her love of reading, writing, and words with 8th graders in the Ross school district for 30 years. She has a BS in Education from The Ohio State University (Go Bucks!) with dual certification in English 7-12 and Reading Specialist K-12 as well as an MA in Supervision and Curriculum from Miami University. Lisa is married to Brian, who became an avid reader after he started dating her, and the proud mother of Madison and Emma, both college students. In her spare time, she loves to read, spend time with her family, and hang out with her dogs. She's always hated answering “favorite” questions, but when pinned down, she would say her favorite books are anything Dr. Seuss, The Paper Bag Princess, and Becoming Bach for children, and The Moorchild for young adults. Her favorite books to teach are To Kill a Mockingbird and The Giver.
Assistant 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.
- Weekend Staff -
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 is a children's librarian and loves doing story time at blue manatee! You can find her reading picture books to her two three boys or devouring the latest YA fiction.
Sarah (aka Other Sarah) has a degree in English literature and is a lifelong book lover. Her favorite picture book is Madeline's Rescue by Ludwig Bemelmans, and her favorite chapter book is The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.
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.
Page 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.