Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Wein’

ALA 2013 – Printz Awards Reception

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Every year I go to ALA Annual Conference, I can think of no better way to finish it off than attending the Printz Awards Reception. Unlike the Newbery-Caldecott Banquet, all the honorees give a speech. They’re good authors, so you’re in for some eloquent speeches. The Printz Award is open to any English-language book, so you usually get to listen to some wonderful accents!

Before I cover the Printz Reception, here’s a wrap-up of all my ALA 2013 posts:

Caldecott Preconference Reception
A Wild Ride: 75 Years of the Caldecott Medal
Friday Night Exhibits (Books, Books, Books!)
Saturday Sessions
Sunday Excitement
Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet (with costumes!)
Monday Meetings

One thing I enjoy about the Printz Reception: I get to see my YALSA friends, who weren’t necessarily at the earlier ALSC events I attended. (YALSA is for service to young adults, and ALSC for service to children. As a public librarian in Fairfax County, we have them grouped together in “Youth Services.”) I got to sit next to Liz Burns and got to talk to others at the reception.

But the speeches!

It was quite unfair that Benjamin Alire Saenz, author of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe went first, since he had much of the audience in tears with his heartfelt speech.

I haven’t (yet) read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, but I gather it’s about a boy discovering friendship and romance with another boy.

Benjamin Alire Saenz said that this book was written out of his own journey, which was conflicted and difficult.
He “came out” at 54.
“What are a few wounds to a writer?”
His character, Ari, is on the brink of manhood, but also on the brink of self-hatred.
His characters’ fears and apprehensions too closely mirrored his own.
“There should be road maps out there for boys who were born to play by different rules.”

To those who say homosexuality is a choice, he asks:
“What madman would make such a choice in a world such as this?”

“It is no accident that many gay men have to struggle to love another man — and themselves.”

“Men and boys like me are neither demons, nor are we deviants. We are just men.”

He went on to thank the committee for choosing to honor this book. It was published on the day his mother died. So he wasn’t able to celebrate the book’s publication. Honoring Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe gave him back his book and gave him a chance to celebrate it.

Elizabeth Wein, Honor for Code Name Verity:

“Friends make exceptional teams, but help from angels is always appreciated.”

“Julie is born to be a novelist, but this is her only chance.”
“Julie also writes because there is power in it. Words are her weapon of choice.”
“Inventing the code sequences is what keeps Julie going.”
“In times of stress, or fear, or boredom, we invent stories.”
“Julie writes in the present tense. She is eternally writing.”

This book makes people cry, but it also makes them laugh.
“The paradox of the power of words: They can be wielded, like all dangerous tools, for good or for evil.”

Terry Pratchett, Honor for Dodger, via his editor, Anne Hoppe:

The book was undertaken as a tribute to Henry Mayhew, who wrote London and the London Poor.
The poor had freedom — to starve.
“Authors tend to have pack rat minds, and my mind has more rats than Hamelin.”
“Everything in the book is real except the plot.”
“You don’t have to make much up if you read a lot of social history.”

Beverley Brenna, Honor for The White Bicycle:

These conferences are a great opportunity to share stories.
Stories can change people.
Diversity can create walls or take down walls.
People with disabilities don’t often travel in YA novels.
Librarians make connections between people and reading.
“Librarians are partners with authors in a deliberate quest to achieve social justice.”

Nick Lake, Printz Award for In Darkness:
(Just when I thought we weren’t getting cute accents this year, Nick Lake had a marvelous one.)

His theme involves Circles, which protect against the evil eye.
“The ordinary world really is magical and wonderful.”
“Infinity is not necessarily big.”
“Toussaint and Shorty are inside each other.”
“From the perspective of genes: Nothing is ever lost.”
“Even in darkness, there’s the possibility of light.”
To him, it’s about goodness.
“Loss isn’t real and can be overcome.”
The magical power of the book is about the possibility of wonder in the everyday.

“Almost all YA novels are about a spirit journey.”
The characters enter a liminal world and an adventure that changes them, followed by a return.
It’s Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.
The concept of the eternal return – time when direct communication with God was possible – We long for that time.
We re-enact the eternal return by rituals and rites of passage.
Rites of passage are about moving into the adult world.
Which is not easy.

“We live in a world where boundaries between the young and adult are constantly eroded.”
“Reading fiction is an example of the eternal return.” – Vicarious initiation rituals.
“Books help young adults navigate the path to the adult world. They help them to grow up well.”

And so, deeply inspired, we moved on to dessert — cupcakes and popcorn.

I schmoozed a little bit, talked to friends, and got one more picture with Elizabeth Wein:

It was a nice end to a fabulous conference!

ALA 2013 – Monday Meetings

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

I’ve posted about almost all of ALA 2013 Annual Conference now. Still to report: One last day of meetings, and the Printz Awards Reception in the evening.

There was one thing from the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet, however, that I didn’t notice until I was packing up to go home.

I don’t know about your libraries, but at our library, we put out those golf pencils and have to replenish them every single day. They disappear because people take them without thinking about it.

At the Caldecott Banquet, honoring the 75th anniversary of the Caldecott Medal and this year’s winner, Jon Klassen, author of This Is Not My Hat, they handed out a Bingo contest with Caldecott trivia. They handed me a golf pencil, and I didn’t get the chance to refuse because I’d rather use a pen. When I was packing up to go home, I found the pencil in my purse and was going to throw it away. But then I looked at it:

I laughed and laughed! Here’s the full view:

For the record, I did not throw it away!

Monday morning, the first meeting I’d planned to attend was too packed to enter. So I headed for the ALSC Awards, which were scheduled a little later, so I was on time for a change! They award the Sibert Medal, the Carnegie Medal, the Batchelder Award, and the Geisel Award at this event.

Some notable quotes:

Steve Sheinkin (Sibert Medal winner):
His story started with the story of a diamond mine scam. He couldn’t find sources, so switched to an obscure spy, “and so it began.”
“If Shakespeare could write one historic play about an American, I think it would be Oppenheimer.”
When he found out about the Norwegian spies, he thought of them as “Indiana Jones on skis.”

Katje Torneman (Carnegie Medal winner):
She began making films to spread awareness about the environment.
“We can make a difference in the world.

Dial Books representative (Batchelder Award winner):
When the book was being translated, she only got to read a chapter at a time.
It’s a story of duality, a girl who has nothing, but has everything.
(Note to self: Must read My Family for the War)

Ethan Long (Geisel Award winner):
The big banner in his mind: “You beat Mo!”

After the celebration of the award winners, it was back to the exhibits for a bit. I saw these two Odyssey Award narrators being interviewed by Booklist:

On the left is the narrator of the latest Artemis Fowl, and next to him is Elliot Hill, the narrator of Cornelia Funke’s Ghost Night. I could listen to both of their wonderful voices for hours, and, come to think of it, I have listened to Elliot Hill for hours. (It’s maybe just as well that I didn’t know while I was listening that he’s cute, too!)

After a little time in the exhibits, I went to the ALSC membership meeting. That’s the children’s services division of ALA. Among other things, they talked about the Common Core and the importance of play.

I’m a member of two other divisions — YALSA, for young adult librarians, and PLA, the public library association. But my heart is with ALSC, and that’s where I’m trying to get involved. I just finished two years on ALSC’s Children and Technology committee, and have begun serving on the Grant Administration committee. And I’m hoping that some day, somehow, I’ll get to serve on the Newbery committee.

Then it was back to the exhibits. I went straight to the Booklist booth to hear Elizabeth Wein speak, but she wasn’t there yet. I heard that she was still signing — and I immediately went to find her, since I figured they might be giving out ARCs of her new book! Sure enough, I didn’t get it signed, but I did snag a copy of Rose Under Fire!

And then I got to hear Elizabeth Wein speak, so it was a Win-Win morning!

At the Booklist interview, she talked about writing Rose Under Fire. Her introduction to Holocaust literature was the same as mine: reading The Hiding Place. She became obsessed with it. Both Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire are based on a story she wrote when she was 12. The story was not written, but she made pictures. It started with spies and went on to a concentration camp, so Rose Under Fire is the second part of that.

There’s a part of her that says, “I have no business telling this story.” But she didn’t deprive herself, because she knows her characters, and the real people they’re based on, wouldn’t wish that kind of hardship on anyone.

“Both books are about the Power of Words.”

Julie’s process of writing was very self-indulgent for Elizabeth Wein. She had to rein herself in for Maddie.

The importance of poetry in Rose Under Fire comes from a survivor account.

Each of her books is about something specific.
Rose Under Fire is about hope.”
Code Name Verity is about friendship.”
“My first book [The Winter Prince] is about jealousy.”

“Fly the plane” comes from flight instructors. When you’re up there, you can’t think about anything else.

There’s more of her in Rose than any other character she’s written.

After that, I had lunch and then tried to get out of the exhibits. But I was pulled inexorably into the free books line at the Simon & Schuster booth. I got four free books (the EXACT number so that my brother Robert correctly guessed that I’d come home with 92 books), but then managed to NOT get back in line.

The final program I attended was “Think with Your Eyes” about Visual Thinking.

The man leading it was modeling Visual Thinking Strategies. He had a work of art up on the screen and asked three questions:
“What’s going on here?”
“What do you see that makes you say that?”
“Thank you. What more can we find?”

“Something about VTS encourages scaffolding — building off each other.”

“Don’t start by asking ‘What do you see?’ Start with ‘What’s going on here?'”

Image selection is a critical part of the process.

“Provide a space where you have a multiplicity of right answers.
This matches real life.”

You can also use this method with poetry.
Kids get used to no wrong answers.

Evidentiary reasoning: “What do you see that makes you say that?”

“‘There’s one answer to everything.’ is the opposite of creativity.”

Paraphrasing responses clarifies and validates.

The facilitator also points out linking — “You’re building on what Joe was saying.”

The hard part: Teaching educators to remain neutral.

Participants learn that other people think differently than you.

It’s very similar to the Scientific Method, only less directed.
Meta-cognition — becoming aware of how you think.
Collaborative, not competitive.
There’s not consensus, but everyone listens and hears the multiple perspectives.

Find out more at the VTS website!

The VTS images become more complex with time.
Teaches silent looking — a valuable skill.
“Gives students a format for civilized discourse.”

Next speaker, a teacher, uses VTS with Caldecott books.

I want to try those questions the next time I use a wordless book in a storytime. It’s a great model!

That was my last session of the day. I needed to get back to my hotel early, so I could ship my books before going to the Printz Awards Reception. Here are some of my piles:

Those were the books I got on Monday. So much restraint compared with the other days!

I used my wheeled bag plus a tote bag to get the books to the post office. Here’s the tote bag stuffed full:

And the remaining books that I need to put in the wheeled bag:

The good news was that I got ALL the books except one into four Flat-Rate boxes and shipped them successfully. I was all ready to go to the last event, the Printz Awards Reception!

ALA 2013 – Saturday – Programs and Ideas and Authors, Oh My!

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

This is Part 4 of my summing up of the 2013 ALA Annual Conference. I’m up to Saturday, a day of some inspiring programs full of ideas I’d like to try.

The day got off to an inauspicious start. I had carefully set the hotel alarm clock the night before. In the morning, I laid awake on the bed with my blindfold in place quite awhile, wondering why I’d woken so early. Finally, I looked at the clock and discovered it wasn’t so early after all. Though I’d set the alarm, I hadn’t actually turned it on. So I didn’t get to the convention center in time for the Collection Management session I’d planned to attend. However, it turned out I was right on time to attend the Scholastic Book Buzz.

I’ve actually started trying to avoid the Book Buzz sessions — it just tells me about more books I want to read. But I still enjoy them. It’s fun to then go to the booth and ask for specific titles you saw in the program. For example, one that caught my eye was Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, by Katie Alender. The premise simply makes me laugh — a modern-day teen in Paris discovers that Marie Antoinette’s ghost is haunting the city — and she’s angry. It makes sense. After all, wouldn’t she be angry?

Next was a tough choice. I’d wanted to go hear Naomi Novik speak on a panel titled “Beyond Genre.” But I decided that more practical to my job would be a session put together by Cen Campbell, who’s served with me on ALSC’s Children and Technology committee, and who is doing amazing things. The session was called “Building A to Zoo for Apps,” and is about the need for App Advisory, and how that’s exactly something librarians are good at and should be doing.

She had assembled a stellar panel of speakers. Clarissa Kruger writes a blog that reviews apps. She started as a mom who saw a gap. Parents are looking for ebooks and they need help. Other speakers talked about how librarians should get involved reviewing apps, and identify themselves as librarians when they do so (Sneaky outreach!).

An especially inspiring speaker was Chip Donohue from the Fred Rogers Center. He said that the new tools hold wonderful potential for promoting relationships and interaction.

“The tablet is an invitation.”
“We have a wonderful opportunity to model appropriate use of this tool.”

He said that we should avoid the false dichotomy of ALL tech or NO tech. It CAN be both! “Young children do not segment their thinking.”

“How can these tools become tools for literacy and engagement?”

“Parents are dying for help selecting apps.”
“Work on your own digital literacy.”
“Select. Use. Integrate. Evaluate.”
“It’s what we’ve always done. We know how to do this.”
“Fred Rogers believed that technology is okay and can be great if it’s used to build relationships, interactions, and social-emotional development.”

Some responses during the Question and Answer session:
“This new technology is NOT ‘better.’ It’s a new tool added.”
“The tools ARE in the kids’ hands. Let’s use them.”
We need to be the researchers. Edtech research lags 10 years behind technology.
When we use apps in storytime, we’re modeling using them in an educational way.

And the final rallying cry:
“We need to build an army to curate this new marketplace.”

Okay, after that program, I went to an “Ignite!” program, where 6 people spoke on different topics for 5 minutes each. These were interesting, and the presenters really pared down their talks so you got the nugget of what they had to say quickly. They were extremely varied ideas. Some helpful ones:

It’s important to build a professional learning network. Be prosumers (producers) as well as consumers.

Shanna Miles talked about “PTSD and the Urban School Library” – Kids need reflective texts, books where they see themselves.
Do characters speak, act, look, experience life like these kids?
Do the books provide solutions and give hope?
If they can live it, they can read it.

Kim Ventrella, from my own library system, did a presentation on “Book Snacks: Teen Humor Edition.” She showed how you can make “booktweets” promoting a book in 140 characters or less. You can use this idea on bookmarks, book displays, and more.

Jennifer Lau-Bond talked about Creativity in Reference Service Provision.
She described “Predatory Reference” — What questions aren’t people asking? Go answer them!
Had “Librarians on the Loose” at a train station.
Monitor local social media questions.
Where does your community go online? How can you contribute?

After that interesting session, I got lunch and explored the exhibits some more. Then I walked in a little late to the panel “Science Fiction: The Factual and the Counterfactual.” I’ve gone to this session most years at ALA, and I love what the authors have to say about the state of science fiction and fantasy. I’ll list some good quotations:

David Brin:
“We create industrial grade magic of incantations.”
“Science fiction takes these incantations and expands them.”
“Get back to the heart of science fiction: Optimism.”
“Can we get people to think it’s possible to leave people with the belief we might make it?”

John Scalzi:
“Given enough time, anything in science fiction is eventually proven wrong.
Why this does not matter: It’s about the larger themes.
“Science fiction misses the small details but gets the larger picture right.”
“DO get the stuff we know right. But don’t worry about the rest.”
“It’s about positing what these things will do to us as humans.”

Elizabeth Bear:
“I grew up in a library.” The only child of a single parent, she was there every day for 3 hours.
Today there’s big diversity in YA science fiction fans and writers.
“The Rainbow Age of Science Fiction” – This is the factual world. It’s diverse.
The job of science fiction writers isn’t futurism.
“The best science fiction is always about the present.”
It extrapolates and examines.
You don’t have to use metaphor. You can tackle issues thematically without oversimplification and didacticism.
“In good characters, specificity becomes general.”
“Provide that right environment for young readers so they can figure out what they think about the world.”

Brandon Sanderson:
As a kid, he was often told to “be realistic.” What does that even mean? Approximate reality?
“In fantasy, the world was so different, that makes the person [the main character] my tribe. This was the familiar among the strange.”
“It makes the strange familiar and adds a new level of strange.”
“It made being a fantasy novelist realistic by comparison.”
“I’m not trying to be a wizard! I just want to write books!”
“We’re giving books to the people who will define what realistic means in 40 years.”

Cory Doctorow:
He doesn’t think science fiction is extrapolative. It’s more like a petri dish.
“We predict the present by doing a world-in-a-bottle-exercise.”
“Knowing about the present is necessary but insufficient to knowing about the future.”
“We only experience one person’s interiority, our own. Yet books are about interiority.”
“The amazing thing about literature: The sustained illusion that we can share in someone else’s experience of the world.”

They gave a bag of books to everyone who attended the panel, but unfortunately, I didn’t have time to stand in line to get them signed. I wanted to go to:

Conversation Starter: 90-Second Newbery Film Festival

My friend (by now) James Kennedy was running this program. He talked about the 90-second Newbery Film Festival, now in its 3rd year. He showed lots of brilliant examples, created by kids. The premise is to show the entire story of a Newbery winner or honor book in 90 seconds.

“Any book becomes hilarious when compressed to 90 seconds.”
“Kids take control, and they have to know the text really well.”
Much of the creativity comes in when they put the text in another movie style.
“What kids want is recognition.”
“There’s a lot you can do with very limited resources.”
“It takes real engagement with the text to boil down the script to 90 seconds.”
“Teaches kids about a long-term project and digital literacy.”
“Genre-bending takes some smarts.”
There is a curriculum guide at 90secondnewbery.com
Some advice for public libraries: Try using puppets in case the same people don’t show up at later meetings.

I’d really like to get this going at my library. Not quite sure how to start rounding up a group of interested kids, but the ideas are percolating….

After that, I hit the exhibits again, shipped the day’s books, and then went to hear Elizabeth Wein speak at a session sponsored by USBBY.

She’s an appropriate speaker for USBBY, a branch of IBBY, an international organization of books for youth, since she has lived in many different countries.

She talked about her childhood. She was born in America, but lived as a child in the United Kingdom, and then in Jamaica. She didn’t come back to America until she was 9 years old.

She showed us some old pictures and some of her writing and drawing as a child. We saw some themes that came up in Code Name Verity!

She migrates like the osprey — not immigrating, but having a home in different places.
“Moving around created a strong sense of nostalgia early on.”
She longed for a sense of place and a place to be rooted.
She spends her life collecting places she loves.
Living in Jamaica, she was international and colorblind in her early reading, including reading English translations of Chinese propaganda picture books.
She wrote Sara Crewe and Alan Garner fan fiction.

“Passenger air travel has made our world smaller and brought us closer together.”
“Best we can ask: Open minds and no fear of strangers.”

I was especially excited to meet Elizabeth at the end of the session. (That’s the picture at the top of this post.) I was happy that she knows my name. I’ve been reviewing (and loving) her books for 10 years! It turns out that the first book I read of hers, A Coalition of Lions was my #1 2003 Sonderbooks Stand-out in Historical Fiction. (Back then, there weren’t so many bloggers, so I even talked to her via e-mail a little bit.) And I’ve continued to love her books over the years.

After that, it was back to the hotel. I grabbed some dinner, and then went to the ALA/ProQuest Scholarship Blast where Second City was performing comedy and improv. I was curious about them ever since listening to Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants.

It was very funny. I don’t think I’ll probably go to this event in future years unless I find a friend to go with. At the Newbery Banquet and Printz Awards, I always run into several people I know — They’re for the children’s and YA book people. At this, I saw one person I knew, but I think he was on a date. Still, it was nice to not think and just laugh.

And that was my big Saturday! More ALA coverage will follow — Writing up helps me consolidate in my mind all I learned and experienced. Sunday was one of the highlights of the conference — The Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet. I took lots of pictures of people dressed up in honor of the Caldecott’s 75th anniversary. Coverage coming soon!

Stand-out Authors: Elizabeth Wein

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

I’m doing a series featuring those authors with 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs who have had Sonderbooks Stand-outs before. In other words, my Favorite Authors.

Four authors on this year’s list have had a total of 5 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. I’ll begin with the one who wrote my favorite book of 2012, Elizabeth Wein, author of Code Name Verity.

I discovered Elizabeth Wein ten years ago in 2003. In my 2003 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, her book A Coalition of Lions, was #1 in Children’s and Young Adult Historical Fiction. Like Code Name Verity, A Coalition of Lions is historical fiction, but it is set in ancient Aksum (Ethiopia) and features the daughter of King Arthur. Technically, this was part of a series, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it first.

But that meant I had to read her others. The next two books, coming before and after A Coalition of Lions were my only two Young Adult Historical Fiction books listed on my 2004 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. I rated the book that follows, The Sunbird, at #1, and the book that came before, The Winter Prince, at #2.

In my 2007 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, I included her next story about Telemakos, The Lion Hunter. It was #3 in Historical Fiction for Teens, but that was the year when I didn’t get all of my Stand-outs reviewed. In fact, the sequel to The Lion Hunter, The Empty Kingdom was the only book of hers I’ve read that didn’t make that year’s Stand-outs. And this year she certainly is back among my favorites.

I want to highlight here that Code Name Verity was no aberration. I was happy to hear lots of people discussing one of my favorite authors this year! If you haven’t read her Aksum novels, I highly recommend going back and rectifying that situation!