Archive for the ‘Conference Corner’ Category

2018 Morris Awards and YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Awards

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

I’m blogging about my experience at ALA Midwinter Meeting in February 2018. Last time, I blogged about my first meeting with the 2019 Newbery committee meeting. On Sunday, I went to a couple of publisher events (which I’m not going to talk about) and some interesting talks.

One was about Equity and Diversity in Libraries. It was an inspiring session and encouraged us to reach out to our communities and make new connections. They also encouraged us to find people of color and encourage them to become librarians. Only 10% of our profession is people of color, which is a crying shame. Where to find them? They are already working in our libraries in positions that don’t require a library science degree. Encourage someone you know to get that degree and join our profession!

Another session I went to was on Blockchain, Open Civic Data, and TV Whitespace – all ways for libraries to bring access to their communities. They are just beginning to research using these. But some websites to watch and find out more are:

https://ischoolblogs.sjsu.edu/blockchains/
https://civic-switchboard.github.io/

I also went to a session sponsored by Demco where they talked about transforming event and collection discoverability with linked data. They have a product that takes your event data and makes it discoverable by Google – so, for example, someone searching for a yoga class in the area will have a library event come up, and it will be on top because of being free. Tagging with the location, the price (free), and the time the event happens all will help library events show up on top of search results. (Our library just got a new event system, so I’m not sure we can use this, but it is an exciting development.)

After the exciting Youth Media Awards announcements on Monday morning and breakfast with friends, I finished up my conference with the Morris Awards (for a debut novelist) and the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Awards. All the Finalists give speeches, and they let you choose five of the winners to take home with you (Yay!), so I love going to this event. Here are my notes on the speeches, with the Morris finalists beginning:

Nic Stone, Dear Martin
Such an honor to be part of everything happening right now! This book had a wild journey to publication, and it’s amazing to be here.

S. F. Henson, Devils Within
She’s dreamed of being a published author since she was 4 years old.
This book began when she saw a news article about a 10-year-old boy who killed his white supremacist father.
She grew up in the South – accustomed to be silent when people made racist comments.
When hate is all you know, how do you learn to love?
Nothing will change if people remain silent.
Books are a gateway to empathy.
Silence hurts people.
Seeds don’t grow on their own.

S. K. Ali, Saints and Misfits
Peace – the one thing our world needs.
What if we need inner peace first?
Her agent asked her: What if we looked for stories featuring young Muslim heroes?
Readers have told her, MeToo!
The main character has to grapple with the power of words. Words save us and break chains of shame.

Akemi Dawn Bowman, Starfish
Thank you for knowing how important stories are for teens.
Her book has trauma, racism, abuse, and feeling alone. So she’s sad when kids say they see themselves in the book – but glad they feel seen.

2018 Morris Award Winner:
Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give

Her favorite rapper is Tupac. He’s never won an award, but he has changed lives – by acknowledging young people like she was.
The greatest achievement is sparking other brains.
It’s an honor to write for these young people.
Our world would be a better place if current political leaders read books about people who are not like them.
Be the light in the darkness.
The child you hand a book to today may some day be a president with a Twitter account.

Next came the Excellence in Nonfiction Finalists, though not all were present:

Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos, Eyes of the World
This is the second book they’ve written together and the second that’s been a finalist for this award.
Collectively the finalists give fresh approaches to nonfiction, books that take risks and experiment with voice.
For teens, many voices come at us at once.
“Good for reports” is over – these are “real books” with innovation and invention.
The story of the people in this book is also our story.
They were refugees from an anti-Semitic Fascist state.
The book was a year-long dive into photos she treasures.
A love story – and their book is, too.
Two refugees with a camera tried to stop Hitler before it was too late. (They did not succeed, but they still shed light.)
When hatred is the path to power, we must all fight with our own voices.

Dashka Slater, The 57 Bus
The story happened in her neighborhood. How could such a thing happen? But she asked follow-up questions.
We believe in the power of stories.
But the Truth isn’t always black and white.
That’s the beauty and power of nonfiction storytelling.
Young people are capable of understanding complexity and nuance. They require it.
The stories we give them must be as complicated as they are.
We live at a time when we place value on certainty.
Uncertainty is a humbler place – but it leads to investigation and understanding.
Give kids tools to do better next time – and give them a next time.
Give them true, complicated, and messy stories.

Deborah Heiligman, Vincent and Theo
(These remarks were delivered by her editor, Laura Godwin.)
She’s bolstered by a community of young adult nonfiction writers.
Writers are using new techniques.
The books “leave the world a souvenir.”
Without Theo, we wouldn’t have Vincent’s art.
Theo told Vincent to use more color, to lighten and brighten his pallette.
Vincent would envy us our community.

First Meeting of the 2019 Newbery Committee!!! – 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting, Part Two

Saturday, February 24th, 2018

I’m blogging after the fact about my attendance at ALA Midwinter Meeting 2018. Saturday afternoon was the highlight of the conference for me, because it was the first meeting of the 2019 Newbery Committee!!!!!

Our first meeting is not, actually, closed to anyone outside the committee. So – I can even post my notes about it.

Our chair is Ellen Riordan. 12 of the 15 of us were there. (The first meeting is strongly recommended, but not required.) We introduced ourselves and told about a past Newbery winner or honor book that meant a lot to us. I mentioned The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner, as I love the intricate plot that fools the reader, as well as the wonderfully drawn characters.

I thought about mentioning The Blue Sword or The Hero and the Crown, both by Robin McKinley, as they are the past winners I love the most. But I think excellent plotting or the opposite may end up being a theme of my committee service. (It has been when I’ve served on Cybils committees.) I thought maybe I should give the committee fair warning. (Besides, I love The Thief, too.)

Other books that were mentioned were The Witch of Blackbird Pond (another one I love!), Island of the Blue Dolphins, Holes, Caddie Woodlawn, The Perilous Gard, The Giver, A Single Shard, A Wrinkle in Time, Call It Courage, Out of the Dust, Lincoln: A Photobiography,, and The Hundred Penny Box. It’s fun how knowing a favorite Newbery helps you know about people.

Ellen gave us a pep talk first. We’re all so thrilled to be here, and she reminded us what a luxury it is to be on the committee. Every committee is different, but we’re beginning with respect: For the child reader and for each other. Toward the child reader, we’re keeping a sense that what’s being said is important. Toward each other, we will learn to listen to each other.

We will need to read past our own personal taste and to know our own biases, both objective and subjective. We will get familiar with the manual, particularly the criteria and eligibility. Our sense of the criteria will grow with us as a committee. The process works!

We talked about the timeline and calendar. We’re going to be sending suggestions to Ellen by the 15th of each month. We should only suggest if the book is striking and we think it’s distinguished. (I will have to shift gears from looking for the best 100 books of the year in Capitol Choices to looking for the best few.) A guideline is: “If you’re wondering about it, try to say No.”

By the end of each month, Ellen will send us the list of what has been suggested. We are required to read everything suggested. (This is why we shouldn’t go overboard.)

She told us to make room in our house for all the books publishers will send us! Someone asked how many books to expect. She said we’ll end up with “hundreds.” She wouldn’t give a number to how many hundreds, but it will be more than one hundred.

Then we talked about protecting the integrity of the award. She recommends going off social media altogether. At the very least, we should stop “liking” publisher posts about publishing. The important thing is never to give the impression a title is being considered. All titles written by an American author and published by an American publisher in 2018 are eligible – but don’t ever communicate which books are getting attention from the committee.

We were reminded that the world is watching us. So we must not talk about books online. “Anything that appears to be a conflict” is the problem.

All our communication is confidential, and we should only communicate about committee work through Ellen. We don’t want to have side conversations about books, because the whole committee is going to work together to make the decision.

She reminded us: “Take joy in every moment.” (Yes!)

We had a special guest speaker for the last half of our meeting, Deb Taylor, who’s been on numerous committees.

Her first piece of advice was: Trust the process!

We will go from being individuals to being a group.

It’s a joyous experience.

Reading is very personal, but do remember that we’re standing in for the kids, reading for our child readers, not for ourselves.

Deb’s experience has taught her not to question a committee’s choice. You simply don’t know what they considered or what factors made the difference. Only those people know.

We will own whatever we come up with. It’s almost alchemical.

The children’s book community is growing in diversity and reflecting the full tapestry of the world. We need to be considerate of all the children we love these books for. She recommends looking up Ta-Nahesi Coates on YouTube, “Why White People Shouldn’t Use the N Word.”

“I believe in the people this profession attracts.”

She said to be sure to enjoy the discussion – It’s super high-caliber. “Damn near Librarian Nirvana.”

We are reading differently, and we will have to learn about ourselves as a reader.

As far as a note-taking method, she used cards. She recommends the worksheet in the manual on page 27.

Then she told us about someone who reacted to the announcement of the win for Last Stop on Market Street by saying “The committee obviously put diversity over quality.” That made her realize why she loves the book so much. CJ is on a Hero’s Journey, a universal search. But part of the point is that people will criticize our decision.

The most daunting part of the process for her? Rereading. Going back and rereading books she already thought she knew. It’s a little easier at the “suggestion” stage. Tougher at the nomination stage.

The rereading process is tough. Have a separate set of questions and make the second reading dig deeper.

It also takes discipline to move on to the next book.

She did have a method for getting input from kids. She liked to find out how kids thought. What books engaged them more? If no kid connects with a book, it hasn’t done a great job.

I decided to use her idea of including a card with the book at my Newbery Book Club meetings and getting opinions from kids on the cards.

Yes, we can and should look at reviews. This is yet another perspective and may help us to notice things about the book.

After the meeting, energized and excited, I went back to my hotel room, where my brother and his wife picked me up and took me out to dinner! That was a wonderful finish to a fantastic day.

I’m ready to read!

2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting, Part 1 – Toxic Stress in the Library

Friday, February 23rd, 2018

I went to ALA Midwinter Meeting in Denver, Colorado, on February 8 through 12, and I want to blog about the conference, as usual.

But this was a new sort of conference experience. I am a member of the 2019 Newbery Committee and was to meet with my committee for the first time. To avoid any appearance of conflict of interest or bias, I wasn’t going to look for pictures with authors this time. I wasn’t going to get any 2018 books signed. I had agreed never to mention eligible books online – so that meant no pictures of all the advance reader copies I picked up.

I also knew that I didn’t really need to pick up too many advance reader copies – before too much longer, publishers are going to start mailing me finished books to consider. However, my plan is to use any advance reader copies to give to kids who come to my Newbery Book Club at the library. So I did want to pick some up, and also see if there are some titles I’m excited about. (I won’t tell you which those are!)

Now, I have a doctor’s note, written in 2011, to permit me to use a wheeled cart on the exhibits floor. I felt a tiny bit guilty using it, because it’s so old. But I had a vertebral artery dissection happen in 2011 when I slept on a plane on the way to ALA Midwinter without a neck pillow, and the plane encountered some turbulence while I was sleeping. I know that carrying books in a shoulder bag that weekend didn’t help. In fact, for the next four weeks I had a headache, centered in my neck, that I just couldn’t get rid of. Then I went back on birth control pills (to help with ovarian cysts) – and the next day had a stroke. They determined that a vertebral artery dissection was the cause, so I figured out what caused the four weeks of headaches at the same time.

Anyway, I’d been told that people who have had a vertebral artery dissection shouldn’t carry heavy loads. I wasn’t sure if it still applied. But I brought my wheeled bag (my carryon, emptied out) onto the exhibit floor. I showed lots of restraint! I only filled the bag with advance reader copies. I pretty much only took books for middle grade readers (which I’d be able to use with my Newbery Book Club), and I left the exhibits when my bag was full.

But I still had to get the bag back to my hotel room. I lifted it up the steps of the shuttle bus and lifted it onto the seat next to me. (There had also been some lifting during my flight earlier that day when I put my carryon in the overhead bin.) Whatever the reason – that night my neck was aching badly, just exactly where my vertebral artery dissection had happened seven years before. It had me awake and scared most of the night. Fortunately, when I got up in the morning, it got better. And it didn’t bother me too much the rest of the conference. But I was a lot more careful about lifting things with my right arm. And I no longer feel guilty about using that old doctor’s note!

[I also want to add that a friend who’d recently had surgery asked about how I get this permission. I told her it’s an easy process, which it is. The ALA Accessibility Services folks are very helpful and accommodating. However, there have been times in the past when I’ve seen angry posts on Twitter about people bringing rolling carts into the exhibit hall. Don’t worry, folks, if we don’t have a doctor’s note, they won’t let us in. Many disabilities cannot be seen by the casual observer. Just saying.]

On Saturday, the first full day of the conference, I decided to keep myself AWAY from the Exhibits, since I’d had such a bad night. So I decided to go to “Leadership and ALSC,” which was happening at a hotel.

“Leadership and ALSC” happens every conference, and chairs for ALSC (Association of Library Services for Children) committees attend. I went when I was chairing the Grants Administration Committee. They always have an excellent speaker, as well as getting to meet other people in ALSC leadership. Our Newbery committee chair had suggested attending this session (You do not have to actually be in ALSC leadership.), so when I was looking for a way to keep from being tempted by the exhibits, this seemed like a good idea.

First we heard from ALA’s Washington office. We expected the library budget to get zeroed out again, so we need to advocate. (Indeed it was zeroed out.) You can find helpful information at ala.org/advocacy/fund-libraries. They need our stories about grants or federal funding and the good work they have done.

Also check districtdispatch.org where the Washington office posts national concerns for libraries. We have the skill set to advocate for libraries. We are storytellers!

Then we had our main speakers, Dr. Janina Fariñas and Dr. Johanna Ulloa Giron. They spoke on “Toxic Stress in the Library: The Upstream Impact of Life Adversity on Children.”

Here are my notes:

Trauma and toxic stress pervades our experiences.

Protective factors are influences that help children bounce back: Relationships, nurturing caregivers, routines, stabilities, good books, etc.

How can we make systemic change?

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are unfortunately not rare. Signs are easily seen. ACEs include abuse, witnessing abuse, parental divorce, neglect, household dysfunction, and more.

A major study on ACEs was done that was one of the largest ever of its type. There’s direct correlation between ACEs and social, emotional, and cognitive impairment. The study showed that they impact people throughout their lifetime.

But that study mainly looked at a white population. These speakers said we also need to look at the huge stress of immigration and acculturative stress (having to adapt to a new culture).

For the speaker, when she was a child, going to the library was stressful, because she didn’t know the culture.

There’s also deportation and detention stress – fear that causes excessive stress which is prolonged over time.

Stress exists on a continuum from positive to tolerable to toxic. Toxic stress is completely overwhelming.

Microaggression stress is another kind of stress that immigrants face. It comes from behavior that’s aggressive toward an oppressed community.

What kind of microaggressions are we allowing in the library? (By definition, we’re unaware. They’re assumptions.)

Chronic stress leads to hypervigilance. And the stressful experience cycle directly affects the brain over time. The hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal gland all start chronically vibrating and the executive functioning parts of the brain go offline.

Equality is not the same as Equity. Equality treats all kids the same. Equity gives all kids what they need.

There is hope! Children are resilient. How can we support that?

A counterbalance to ACEs are BCEs, Benevolent Childhood Experiences. BCEs predict less stress.

How do we help develop BCEs for all?

In the speaker’s experience, books literally saved her life. Now she’s working to build cultural proficiency on behalf of vulnerable communities.

We need to hold all forms of culture and history difference in high esteem.

There’s a continuum of Cultural Competency: From racism to curiosity to competent. It’s more than ethnicity and race.

Conduct self-examination about how you are serving families in your community. How can we support people from different cultures?

Develop a no-nonsense understanding of the stresses in your community. Consider carefully where you stand on immigration. Children are now in foster care because their parents were deported. This causes fear. At least 4 out of 10 children carry stress.

Help communities reclaim their experiences. Partner with people doing this work. Choose to share power – who gets to make decisions about how libraries work?

Information is power! So public libraries have huge power in changing communities. Stand in solidarity for rights of immigrant children and students.

We are not neutral! Libraries are for those families. You are welcome here!

Then they talked about some programs going on in their own libraries. An example: World Language Storytimes. Storytimes in many languages, and the families are in charge. (They get training.)

Another program is a pen pal program with a library in Nicaragua.

Kids being able to help others is a BCE.

Another program is using a green screen to create pictures as if in another country.

And of course have multicultural books!

Another program is partnering with community experts and providing therapy services in nontraditional spaces.

They have intentionally created a very safe space for immigrant families. These programs create benevolence in the community.

The library should be in the list of protective factors for children.

We are an environmental factor. Make that a benevolent one.

Schools are heavily monitored. Can that hypervigilance relax in the library?

Assume you’re having an impact! Decide what that impact will be.

2018 Youth Media Awards

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

I’m going to blog about 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Denver – but I think I’ll begin with the Youth Media Awards.

These are always an exciting highlight of midwinter. This year, it was all the more exciting as I anticipate being in the group that decides the Newbery winners next year.

I’ll be honest, knowing that I’d be reading for the Newbery in 2018, I didn’t read as many children’s books in 2017. I hadn’t read either the Printz winner or the Newbery winner. But many of my Sonderbooks Stand-outs and other favorites did win Honor, so I’m going to talk about those.

Looking at my Stand-outs page, none of my Children’s Fiction choices got honor, but a book I almost picked (and loved much), Charlie and Mouse, by Laurel Snyder, won the Geisel Award for beginning readers.

One of my Sonderbooks Stand-outs in Children’s Nonfiction, Grand Canyon, by Jason Chin, won both a Caldecott Honor (for illustration) and Sibert Honor (for children’s nonfiction). I was thrilled about that!

One of my Sonderbooks Stand-outs in Picture Books, A Different Pond, by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui, won Caldecott Honor. Huzzah!

I never did review Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James, a picture book about an African American boy getting a haircut – a wonderful book that made me smile. But Crown impressively won Coretta Scott King Honor in both the Illustrator and Author categories – and then went on to win Caldecott Honor and Newbery Honor. Now, it’s very rare for a picture book to get Newbery Honor, since that is for the text. But the Coretta Scott King committee also thought the writing was distinguished – so we can’t chalk it up to a fluke on the part of this particular Newbery committee.

I was excited and surprised that three of the four Printz Honor books were Sonderbooks Stand-outs. (I don’t usually see eye-to-eye with the Printz committee, and I hadn’t even read the winner or the other Honor book.)

I was especially happy about the Printz Honor for Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor, since fantasy doesn’t often do well with the Printz committee – and Laini Taylor created an amazing world in this book.

Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds, cleaned up four Honors – Newbery Honor, Printz Honor, Coretta Scott King Author Honor, and Odyssey Honor for the audiobook read by the author.

And The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, won the Morris Award for debut fiction for young adults, won the Odyssey Award for the audio version (which is how I read the book), plus Coretta Scott King Author Honor, and Printz Honor.

Some books I reviewed but did not name as Sonderbooks Stand-outs also won some awards. I was happy about Silent Days, Silent Dreams, by Allen Say, winning a Schneider Family Book Award, for excellence in portrayal of a character with a disability.

Another one I have reviewed – but it looks like I haven’t posted the review yet – is Out of Wonder, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, written by Kwame Alexander, which won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.

You can see the big award winners are missing. But this will give me some reading to do!

And it’s always a wonderful experience to be part of the thrill of books being honored. You either have wonderful books brought to your attention, or you have wonderful books affirmed to the world.

But next year’s going to be much more exciting!

Closing Session at #alamw17 – Neil Patrick Harris

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

There’s not a whole lot to say about closing session of ALA Midwinter Meeting with Neil Patrick Harris except that it was superlatively entertaining. I will share a few nice quotes:

“Librarians are definitely the most literate group of people in the government.”

“I love books nursing my brain into uncharted territories.”

“Books are a crucial tool in my parenting magic kit.”

One of his favorite parts of magic is misdirection, and misdirection is also a valuable tool in an author’s quiver.

Reading and magic both need practice and patience and lead to perspective.

The Morris Awards and YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Awards at #alamw17

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

There are two youth media awards which have the Finalists announced ahead of time — the Morris Award for a debut author of a young adult novel, and the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction.

Because the Finalists are known ahead of time, they can be invited to give a speech at the awards ceremony at ALA Midwinter Meeting. That morning, they will find out which one is the winner, but all are thrilled to be there.

It’s always a treat to attend this ceremony. The Morris Award Finalists are especially fun to listen to. These are debut novelists. They are still thrilled to be published, let alone to win an award. I’ll give some tidbits from their speeches.

This year, honestly, the speeches were the occasion for a John Lewis lovefest. Happening at the end of a significant weekend and in Atlanta, the heart of John Lewis’s district, after he joined in the Women’s March on Saturday — each speaker mentioned how much they love and respect him. And the crowd roared.

The Morris Finalists were first.

M-E Girard for Girl Mans Up:

She was okay with thinking of this book as a niche story. Her character’s a girl, but not in acceptable ways, but with normal teen questions about things like family relationships and friendships. After getting comments from teens, she’s found that her character’s a lot more universal than she’d thought. Librarians are getting her book to the right readers. Why? It must be a calling.

Sonia Patel for Rani Patel in Full Effect

Sonia started out with a rap speech. Her character is not your typical girl next door. She has diversity within diversity. The author is a child psychologist, and she wrote a character who has trauma-related brain damage. She’s emotionally delayed and sees people by how they make her feel. Rani opens our eyes to the long-term damage from abuse.

Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock for The Smell of Other People’s Houses

She thanked Mrs. Long, her elementary school librarian who picked out books just for her. She was someone who saw her as a person and noticed what made her tick. This is a book about Family that happens to be in Alaska. Even today’s Alaska is not the same as it was when she was growing up. As a kid, everything seems normal. The message they were taught was “Don’t be vain, and don’t ever talk about yourself.”

Calla Devlin for Tell Me Something Real

As a child, books and the library were her salvation. The library was also her future. A kid asked her, “What if no one wants to hear my story?” An important part of being a teen involves finding your voice. Librarians introduce teens to whole new worlds.

Morris Award Winner: Jeff Zentner for The Serpent King

He began the book on January 20, 2014. It was written mostly on his iPhone. He wanted to talk about the most ferocious sort of love between friends who fill the place of family for each other. They’re wrestling with faith, division, and disparity in America. There’s a festering poison in rural America that makes people afraid. He wanted to show young people wrestling with this. There’s a fundamental failure of empathy.

But stories build empathy. Stories are like fire: They give light, warmth, and they burn to let new things grow. The soul of our nation depends on getting stories to young people.

Then we heard from the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Finalists:

Karen Blumenthal for Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History

At a time when the world’s tempted to divide the world between winners and losers, this award makes her feel like a winner. Hillary Clinton is still the most admired woman in America, according to a recent Gallup poll. In doing the research, Karen had to learn lots of terms for unpleasant women. Research was a challenge to learn what was actually true. She didn’t find any evidence that Hillary really did throw something at Bill in the White House, for example. She had to write two versions of the paperback ending, because it was due on November 9th.

Young people deserve to hear the full story. She mentioned this quote from Hillary: “Please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.” Some other new terms Karen had to deal with were “gaslighting,” “fake news,” and “alternative facts.” The work of librarians is fighting for truth! Few trailblazers ever get to see their work completed. Hillary Rodham Clinton is a winner. And this is a life worth sharing.

Kenneth C. Davis for In the Shadow of Liberty

He speaks as a child of the public library. The library made him a reader and also a writer.

How could men who risked all for freedom go home to plantations dependent on slave labor? He decided to focus on 5 slaves of 4 great presidents.

William Lee was a manservant to Washington. Ona Judge was the tailor who sewed his uniform. She eventually escaped. Isaac Jefferson was in Yorktown with the British. He was taken back into bondage. Paul Jennings was taken to the White House as a 10-year-old child. Alfred Jackson was tried for murder and President Andrew Jackson paid for his defense. Alfred Jackson lived until 1901 — This is not ancient history. American slavery was a crime against humanity of epic proportions.

Today we celebrate literacy and reading. They can make us free!

Pamela S. Turner and Gareth Hinds for Samurai Rising

Yoshitsune is like King Arthur, but his story is true. Mostly. The author had no idea that sifting knowledge from fakery would be so timely. Fan fiction is not an invention of the 20th Century. Yoshitsune is deeply embedded in Japan’s national history. It’s crucial to teach young people what nonfiction is and how and why it’s fictionalized.

Linda Barrett Osborne for This Land Is Our Land: A History of American Immigration

Librarians are the front line; authors are the supply line. Her book wasn’t as timely when she started writing it in 2013. What do we mean when we say, “This land is our land”? There’s nothing new about saying awful things about immigrants. Benjamin Franklin spoke against Germans. Our history shows us why we fear, but also invite, immigrants. People come here to make a better life for their children.

The book spans four centuries. There are many parallels between then and now. Negative comments about immigrants are remarkably unchanged.

Some surprising facts:
Immigrants from Asia were not allowed to become citizens until 1952.
The first patrols along the Mexican border in 1890 were aimed at keeping Chinese people out, not Mexicans.

Her book also tells about the immigrants themselves. We have the power if we want to treat immigrants with compassion and respect, not fear and hate.

Then the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award Winner: John Lewis for March: Book Three

He didn’t grow up in a big city, but in rural Alabama, poor, with six brothers and three sisters. As a kid, he asked “Why?” about things like signs for different bathrooms. Teachers and librarians told him to Read. We should teach people to find a way to get in the way. He got in trouble, necessary trouble. His late wife was a librarian. She also taught him to have a love of books. With books you could travel!

As a young child, he wanted to be a minister. He used to preach to the chickens. Some of those chickens listened to him better than his colleagues today in Congress. Some are more productive.

Keep the faith! When you see something not right, tell people to be brave!

Then we were told each of us could choose 3 of the award-winning books to have signed. I went first to John Lewis’s line (and shook his hand), then Kenneth C. Davis’s line for In the Shadow of Liberty, and then Jeff Zentner’s line (the person signing behind John Lewis in the photo above), for The Serpent King.

I’m afraid this year I hadn’t read any of the books receiving awards. But that’s going to change!

Attending the Youth Media Awards at #alamw17

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

The announcement of the winners of the Youth Media Awards is without question the highlight of every ALA Midwinter Meeting.

You get up early to get a place in line. The doors open at 7:30 am for the 8:00 announcements. I found a friend and sat right behind the committees. (I like that I have good friends whom I only see at ALA events. It shows that these really are my people.)

When waiting in line, you exchange hopes with others. What do you think will win the Newbery? The Caldecott? Nobody I talked with mentioned what did happen.

Now, if I were a serious campaigner (and an extrovert), this would have been an ideal time to go up and down the line passing out my “Sondy for Newbery!” cards, asking for votes for the 2019 Newbery committee. As it was, I did give it to people I was near in line and sitting near, but all people I actually then spoke with. I even met someone at the airport who was on the current Caldecott committee! And this initiated some great conversations. I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have been so bold as to meet so many strangers if I hadn’t had this to introduce myself. (And I definitely needed some Introvert Time when I got home!) But it felt great to meet so many people who also love children’s books.

Here’s the crowd ready for the announcements to start!

Then the announcement of the awards began, with lots of surprises.

My friend Susan Kusel has pointed out the many striking things about the awards this year.

What I noticed was the March Madness — March: Book Three won an unprecedented four awards — The Coretta Scott King Author Award, the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award, the Printz Award, and the Sibert Award! Not an Honor in any of them, but the award. Moreover, the event was happening in Atlanta, in the heart of John Lewis’s congressional district. The crowd was thrilled.

My only sad thing was that I’d hoped for some kind of award for the book Some Writer!, by Melissa Sweet — probably the Sibert, but maybe even Newbery or Caldecott Honor. Anyway, she’s been honored before, and I sure don’t begrudge John Lewis the Sibert.

Sadly, even though I read and loved March: Book One, I still have not read Book Two or Book Three! This is going to be remedied, especially now that I have a signed copy! (More on that in my next post.)

I also haven’t read the Newbery winner, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, but I have proof that I was meaning to — I’ve got it checked out! I’m going to start reading it tonight!

So I’m just going to mention which of my Sonderbooks Stand-outs did win something. (Of course, the reason I read The War That Saved My Life was because of the awards it won last year.)

Sachiko, by Caren Stilson, won a Sibert Honor (for children’s nonfiction).

Another Sibert Honor went to a book I liked very much, We Will Not Be Silent, by Russell Freedman.

Newbery Honor went to two of my Stand-outs: The Inquisitor’s Tale, by Adam Gidwitz and Wolf Hollow, by Lauren Wolk. I’m super happy about those. (Someone I talked with in the line really wanted Wolf Hollow to win because it’s one of those rare children’s books with two parents who are great role-models.)

The audiobook version of Anna and the Swallow Man, which I have yet to listen to but have on hold, won the Odyssey Award for best recording of a children’s or young adult book.

And my favorite young adult novel I read all year, The Passion of Dolssa, by Julie Berry, won a Printz Honor. Yay! I hope I’ll get to go to the Printz Awards this year and hear her speech!

It was fun to go through the Exhibit Hall after the awards ceremony and take pictures of the books with their new stickers!

I hadn’t realized until I saw their booth that Little, Brown, has published the Caldecott Medal winner for three years in a row!

Campaigning Connections (Vote Sondy for Newbery!)

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

At ALA Midwinter Meeting this year, I’m meeting lots of people, especially in various lines and at events. When someone gives evidence of being a children’s librarian, I’m giving them the card I made, which has the image at the top of this post, and a link to my Sondy for Newbery! page.

What’s been so much fun about it is that most of the people I meet this way say something along the lines of, “Oh, that would be so wonderful!” Many also ask me, “How does the process work?” I hope I’ve inspired several more people to try to serve on a committee in the future!

But it’s just brought home to me how very much the people who come to ALA conferences, especially children’s librarians, are kindred spirits and my people! I have found my tribe!

On Thursday, my friend was telling me about her experience serving on the Caldecott committee and how thrilled she was when she was selected and how the first person she told didn’t have a clue what it was. It’s so much fun to share my hope about this with people who agree with me that it would be awesome!

It’s made me just a little braver to introduce myself to people — and I have been rewarded by meeting so many wonderful people!

It’s been a lovely conference. And bright and early tomorrow morning, we get to find out who this year’s winners are….

Kwame Alexander at #alamw17

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

I always love hearing Kwame Alexander talk.  His speeches are also poetry.

He began by saying that we need to feel that we aren’t going backwards.  As Langston Hughes said, “But I don’t care, I’m still here!”

What should we do?

Remember:  We are the army!

He read a poem using book titles.  Librarians, fire your cannons!  Books have a job to do and words plant seeds.

He told about his work with kids in Ghana.  Books connect us to each other.  Books don’t segregate.  We do.
What should we do?

Remember.  Recognize.  Resist.

You have to sing somewhere.  Words connect us all.  You’ll feel empowered if you lift your voice, wheher people listen or not.

We’ve been here before.  This is just one more river to cross.  Wrap yourself in a mountain of prayer.  Rise into the wonder of daybreak.

The alternative is unimaginable.  Fortunately, in this room, we are nothing if not imaginative.

The rest of these notes are from answers to audience questions, so the topics flit around:

He tells kids, If you can’t travel, read a book.

Poetry helps people deal with things.  It calms us, soothes us.

Kids from all over the world, all over the country, want to be engaged, want power, and want you to sign their forehead.

Poetry isn’t the only answer, but it’s an answer.

He writes for everybody.  He writes for all of us.  His characters are universal.  We all laugh, cry, smile, and love the same.

Novels in verse work with kids because in 15 lines you get a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Poetry is the opposite of intimidating, and it’s a bridge to other literature.

“Books are like amusement parks.  Sometimes you have to let kids choose the rides.”

To get kids excited about poetry, model that excitement.  We’ve all been a little afraid of poetry.  We send them from Silverstein to Shakespeare.  Give them a bridge.  Teach accessible poetry.  Show them how much fun it is.  Let it energize and excite you.

Poetry is the answer to draw people to reading.  It works everywhere.

And when Kwame recites it, it certainly does!

Then he signed copies of his new book with National Geographic Kids, Animal Ark

Shipping Books at #alamw17

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

“It’s a sickness.”  
“At least we all have it.”

That was my conversation with a stranger-I-just-met on the Exhibit Hall floor, talking about the free books we aren’t capable of resisting.

If you consider yourself a Book Addict — No ALA conference will ever cure you.  And you’ll be surrounded by other Book Addicts confronted with piles of their drug of choice.

I DO want to proudly declare that yesterday, I did not step into the Exhibit Hall even once!  
I know!  Am I amazing or what?

However — today I went to a Scholastic Preview where they gave me a bag of six Advance Reader Copies.  Combined with the four signed books I got yesterday and the books I’m going to get by going to the Morris Award ceremony — I know it’s already more than I can comfortably carry in my suitcase and carry on.  (I could fit them, but I’m not supposed to carry heavy things.)

So — since I decided I needed to do another shipment — might as well make the shipment count!  I went into the Exhibit Hall and began taking ARCs.  In about two minutes, I’d filled my rolling bag.  After about five minutes, both the bag and a tote bag were full.

The good news — There is a post office in the Exhibit Hall.  The bad news is that it closes before the exhibits do, so you have to plan things carefully.  But this is where my lightning-quick bag-filling came in handy.  I had plenty of time.

And this is where the Book Addicts hang out.  I had a nice conversation while waiting in line about our mutual problem.  I even saw someone I’d encouraged yesterday about grabbing ARCs and told her you can ship them home.  Always happy to Enable a new friend!

I should say that the employees at the Atlanta post office today were extra helpful!  A man was putting boxes together for us and bringing around tape.  I shipped two flat-rate boxes.  I didn’t count how many books it was, but I will when I get back.

I like to use middle-grade ARCs as prizes for a games program.  When the books are prizes, they are all the more valued, and may get read.

As my friend told me when I was shipping my first box, “It’s for the children!”  I don’t have a problem at all….