our staff

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.

Sarah Jones

Store 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.

Kelli Gleiner

Events Coordinator, Mess Maker, Box Artist

Miss Kelli began working at blue manatee over ten years ago as a part-time bookseller. In the years since, she’s expanded her niche from finding great books for great kids to thinking up new, fun things to do and ways to share the love of reading with children in Cincinnati. Her other duties include making messes, booking author events, and climbing in the windows to create fun displays. Before she was our resident creative cat, Kelli taught art for kids grades K-12. She took a brief pause to raise her own reader, create two Monster books, and write grants for a non-profit, but now she's back at her most favorite job ever. Some of her favorite picture books are Last Stop on Market Street, Stuck, and CDB (the first book she remembers reading).

Erin Barker

Weekday Bookseller and Generally Awesome Person 

Erin is an illustrator and designer who loves kids and books! With a background in fine art and several years experience as a summer daycare teacher, she finds children's literature to be one of her favorite things in the multiverse. (Her first children’s book is coming out Spring 2018!) When she isn’t drawing, painting, or making up weird characters, you can find her at the bookstore talking about Harry Potter, rollerblading, musical theatre, or the X-Files. Some of her favorite kids' books are I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, Chester's Way by Kevin Henkes, and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. 

Alicia Lemar

Book Buyer and Story Time Expert

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

- 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.


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.


Alison has a Masters in Mental Health Counseling and loves to explore diversity and brain health through literature. She has a passion for all books, but lives in the world of picture books with her current favorite being The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers. Come visit her in the store during the weekend for Sign Language story time!


Kathryn is a first grade teacher and bookseller who loves to share her passion for children's literature! Some of her favorites include books by Kevin Henkes, the Elephant & Piggie series by Mo Willems, and The Wild Robot by Peter Brown. 


Jesika has a Master's degree in child development and a life-long addiction to children's literature. When she's not working at the Blue Manatee, you'll find her trying to keep up with her tornado of a toddler, googling answers to the millions of questions her older son has about life, maintaining her crazy-cat-lady status, and crocheting tiny things. Her favorite book as a child was The Monster at the End of this Book. As a grownup, her favorite children's books are anything by authors Oliver Jeffers and Dan Santat.