Boyds Mills Press Luncheon

I was invited to a lunch given by Boyds Mills Press. They gave us yummy food and talked about their Spring titles and gave us a bag of books to bring home. Two authors spoke about their new books.

Here is what they talked about:

Boyds Mills Press Luncheon

Big Tractor (not much need to say more! Looks great!)

No No Kitten – about imagination

Space Boy and his [Sister] Dog – also about where your imagination can take you

Book by Jane Yolen, Heidi Semple & Melissa Sweet – You Nest Here With Me
Bedtime book with science facts

“The great Rebecca Kai Dotlich” – 11 very very very short stories. One Day The End.
Illustrator put in a story on every spread.
Ends with: “One day I wanted to write a book. So I did.” September 2015.

With Calkins Creek, they’re trying to bring history to engage kids and make it come alike.

Gail Jarrow – writes thrillers — If you can make science and history thrilling for kids, you have done a great thing!
Fatal Fever — Typhoid Mary as you’ve never seen her before. She was a cook, and that’s how she infected so many people.
A turning point time in human health 1930s. Woman born in 1900 lived only 48 years. In 1950, 72 years. Now, we’re only up to 81.
These diseases were brought under control in this time.
35,000 people in the US died of typhoid fever in 1900.
Cornell University had 29 students die, so they worked on eradicating Typhoid Fever.
The age group hit the hardest by typhoid fever were young adults. She put in individual stories of people who had Typhoid.

Kathy Cannon Wiechman – Like a River
Captures the soul of the Civil War. A story first, populated by beautiful characters, with a strong voice.
She didn’t like history as it was introduced to her — dates and facts.
As story, she loves history — people and stories.
Inspiration – The Sultana Disaster – 3 weeks after end of Civil War
Took Union prisoners and sent them north on steamboats. Owners got paid for the number on the boats. Sultana built for 300, carried 2500 people. Boilers exploded, and killed more people than died on the Titanic. Mostly returning prisoners of war.
The more she found out, the more she had to tell the story.
Told in two parts, from two points of view — a boy and a girl. The girl is dressed as a boy, and a soldier, too.

LeVar Burton!


I was a little late today, but I got to hear LeVar Burton speak at ALA Midwinter Meeting in Chicago, while a blizzard raged outside.

Here are my notes. The ending part seems a little disjointed, because those were his remarks responding to audience questions.

LeVar Burton

His new book was inspired by Fred Rogers. He wants it to be a resource to talk with kids about tough times.

The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm

He comes from a collaborative creative background — movies are very collaborative, so his writing was not a solitary journey.
The Rhino is one of the strongest in the animal kingdom. If a rhino can be brought down by depression, than all of us are susceptible.

He doesn’t understand the stigma of depression. It happens to us all.

Irma Jean Christian — His mother. Made him who he is.

She is the first of his storytelling mentors. A voracious reader.

“She read not only to me, but in front of me.”

A very important example to sell.

How often do your kids see you reading?

Do you know what your child is passionate about?

It is our passions that drive the self-selected activity of reading.

“If your child is passionate about superheroes, then, dammit, buy your kid comic books.”

Another storytelling mentor: Alex Haley.

When LeVar reads Alex’s writings, he hears Alex’s voice.

When you were in his presence, you were the person he was most interested in.
Alex was laser-locked on you when you were speaking with him.
Supremely interested in who you are in that Now moment.

In the act of telling his own personal narrative, he changed the way our nation looked at itself.
There’s a throughline in history from slavery through Roots through Barack Obama’s presidency.

Another storytelling mentor: Gene Roddenberry.

The value of remembering that our heroes are you.
Seeing Nichelle Nichols on the bridge of the Enterprise that meant more than the world to him. Made him know there’s a place for him.
It was confusing that this great visionary was Neanderthal in his views toward women.
Our heroes are human — It’s important for us to remember this.
We must separate the man or woman from the myth.

Another storytelling mentor: Fred Rogers

Thanks that a book recommended on Reading Rainbow was first book he checked out from the library — and now he’s a librarian.

Surprise from Rhino — Finished product is vastly different than what he planned. Didn’t expect it to be rhyming.

What piece of literature would you adapt? He’d turn something of Octavia Butler’s into a miniseries. She talks about what it means to be human and what it means to be humane.

Favorite Children’s Books: Amazing Grace, by Mary Hoffman
He relates to Grace’s journey. He was often told there were things beyond his reach. His mother told him no limits were imposed on him. He got the best education available so he could compete with anyone.
Enemy Pie, by Derek Munson
Protagonist has a problem – an enemy who’s moved into his neighborhood. Father helps him solve that problem. At the end of the day, it is our own prejudice that gets in the way of us being open to some of the most wonderful experiences in life.

Favorite Reading Rainbow moments: Hot air ballooning, diving in the Coral Reef, every book carries a specific and indelible memory.

What are you most excited about for the future? Reading Rainbow was most backed Kickstarter or crowd-funded campaign in history. Every Child, Everywhere
Beginning in the US releasing the web product of the app. Reading Rainbow the app is a brilliant translation of the tv show to an app. Content is original digital books with a video — 2 new released every Friday.
In discussion to go to Latin America.

Why Bookmobiles? Because connection with the written word on printed paper is an essential aspect of what it means to be a reader.
There’s nothing like flipping open the pages of a book.

A thank you from a Mom who learned English along with her kids watching Reading Rainbow.

Look at Youtube the Reading Rainbow channel.

What would you say about the value of libraries?
Even in this age of technology, Libraries do one thing that no other institution in America does, and that is provide access to ALL. Everyone has access to the information that defines the quality of our lives. Period.

When Reading Rainbow started, people were asking if TV was the death knell of education of our kids. It has demonstrated that the content is what is important.

LeVar is Awesome!


ALA Loot

I try to restrain myself at ALA! Really I do!

But it’s been more than a year since I went to an ALA conference. My self-control is ebbing.

The first night, I picked up 37 books:


The second day, with a trip back to the hotel in the middle to drop off books — I got 42.2 books. I’m calling a Naomi Novik booklet with the beginning of her new book a tenth of a book, and same for a CD sampler from Guys Listen! with excerpts from various audiobooks.


This includes several signed books. Let’s see:

From the graphic novels panel, I got an ARC of Out from Boneville, Tribute Edition, signed by Jeff Smith

Nina in That Makes Me Mad!, a Toon Book by Hilary Knight, signed by Francoise Mouly, editor of Toon Books

A copy of The Shadow Hero signed by Gene Luen Yang

Then from the exhibits yesterday:

The Terrible Two, signed by Mac Barnett and Jory John

Channing O’Banning and the Turquoise Trail, signed by Angela Spady (who was very excited that my son goes to William & Mary, as does her daughter)

Today I got While Beauty Slept, signed by Elizabeth Blackwell, a book I’ve been meaning to read for some time.

Poison Fruit, signed by Jacqueline Carey

An ARC of Dark Debt, signed by Chloe Neill

Ben Franklin’s Big Splash, signed by Barb Rosenstock

And the only books I paid for ($6 each): Infidel and Nomad, signed by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Some other books I’m very excited about include:

The third Princess Academy book by Shannon Hale

The sequel to Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

A new book by Jessica Day George

A new Clementine book by Sara Pennypacker

Two books by Clare Dunkle (one with her daughter), which I had already preordered

The Chosen Prince, by Diane Stanley

Nightbird, by Alice Hoffman

A Dangerous Place, by Jacqueline Winspear

And much, much more!

And there’s still a day and a half to go! (Though I also have to figure out a time to ship the books.)

Ayaan Hirsi Ali – Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture at ALA Midwinter Meeting

The last session of the day today was a big auditorium lecture (A conversation with a moderator) with Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Here are my notes:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture
Moderator: Donna Seaman

She worked in a ThinkTank. Managing immigration in Holland. How much immigration can a welfare state absorb and remain a welfare state?

On 9/11, when she saw the towers fall, she prayed that it was not Muslims who did this.
Was frightened when some Muslim kids were filmed being happy about it.
Holland was trying to pretend that nothing had happened.
A vast march of Muslims saw the attacks as the right way to attack the infidels.
She had to evaluate where she stood on Islam.

Donna Seaman: Talk about when you discovered your first school library.

Hirsi Ali: The institution called a library is why she’s here.

They had Shakespeare, but the hottest copies were Nancy Drews, Hardy Boys, Enid Blyton

The most highly read copies had the end missing, but they were still kept in the library.

That was the seeding of her intellectual life.

What was your education like before that?

We are not Islands. Our communities exercise control.

When she was in Somalia, it was all about the collective — everyone policing her behavior, and everyone else’s behavior.

She moved to Kenya at 10 years old, and she went to school, because her father insisted.

There were no screens. She had “A lot of time to be bored and be evil.”

In hindsight, a little bit of my ethical moral training came from Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. Also the individualistic way of thinking about things — the basis was laid back then.

For an average student, seeded with extremely limited resources with the ideas of the enlightenment…. shows how important children’s minds are.

If we consciously try to promote the ideas of the enlightenment, we can reach children’s minds.

For her, her writing is more about the message than about the craft. English is her 4th language.

You need the freedom of expression for her message to get out.
She was amazed when she moved to the Netherlands at the freedom of expression.

When the Dutch had a flood, they blamed the government, rather than God!

In the context where she grew up, her questions were clamped down.

After she wrote Infidel, she became famous or infamous, just from telling the story — and she offended the community she grew up in. The collective was not ready to reveal these things to the world.

99% of western society said it was different — but not some of the fundamentalist westerners. Authoritative collectives treat individuals the same way. This is something universal.

She learned from the responses is that there are degrees in which the authoritative collective can inhibit freedom.

Where we are now is going to military means first.

Most Muslims are good people. They are not going to become atheists. In 2010, she thought they should become Christians.

Then Arab Spring happened. She saw crowds of young people demanding freedom.

After they were standing up to despots, they will learn to stand up to the personal despot. Students will start asking questions.

In the Muslim context, it is “You have to obey because Allah says so.”

The question now is, “Who is Allah? Who is Mohammed to tell me what to do?”

Now seeds for reformation are there.

She is seeing young women having a state of dissonance.

Some choose to clear that dissonance by becoming more fundamentalist.

They cocoon themselves by going by the letter.

What gives her hope is those who try to get to the core of the text. We need a new relationship with God.

Librarians are probably the happiest community on the planet because they have time to read.

It helps to remember when Christianity was as intolerant as Islam is now. And remember that those who wanted change were accused of blasphemy.

Remember that with Christianity: That’s how it was. 500 years ago, Christians were easily offended as well.

Librarians can encourage those conversations.

Libraries are a place where you come and reflect. Think of libraries as temples of enlightenment.

People who are vulnerable to terrible ideas need to see competition of ideas at libraries.

We need the courage to say, if I’m in a place to choose between my conscience and the demands of a God, I need to choose my conscience.

Women in Geekdom

Today at ALA Midwinter Meeting in Chicago, I went to a panel called Women in Geekdom. It was excellent, about reaching out to women via libraries.

Here are my notes:

Women in Geekdom

Moderator, Samantha Nelson, from the A. V. Club — talking about Gamers

Tricia Bobeda — Nerdette Podcast – Nerd is not what you love but how much you love it. 50,000 people listen.
All you need to podcast is a computer and a decent microphone.
Interested in librarians podcasting.

Mo Fong – K-12 Education Outreach at Google
The world is changing, and students need access and exposure to learn.
Research: Why women choose computer science: Encouragement and exposure. That’s something librarians do.

Emily Graslie: The Field Museum & The Brain Scoop
Similarities between libraries and museums.

Molly Jane Kremer: Challenger Comics & 
Have won the Eisner’s for best retailer. She reviews comics.
Libraries facilitate collaboration.

Samantha Nelson, Moderator: “Gamers love to talk to other Gamers.” Libraries can be a space for that.

Tricia: Kickstarter is a similar model to Public Radio.
Membership can also be about getting together and sharing ideas.

Mo Fong – There is lots of collaboration in Computer Science, and that works well with libraries.

Emily : Libraries and Museums have the advantage of an exciting physical space. The majority of their community building happens online.
You can invite people to come into the physical space.

Molly Jane: People assume comic fans are antisocial — but they connect with fellow enthusiasts. Libraries can foster that sort of community.

Moderator: Geekdom can seem intimidating. A library can help people get that first exposure.

Mo: Finding out what students already love within their communities and adding those: Arduino lights on shoes!
Video: Made with Code campaign
It has projects kids can do right in the library
Host a Made with Code Party — comes in a box. You’re a facilitator. Minimal cost and equipment.
Only 18% of Computer Science Graduates today are women.
CS First Clubs. Targeted toward middle schoolers. Tied to themes — music art, fashion, games, friends. Clubs we can run.

Tricia: Podcasting is a safe space, like libraries. Not afraid to show themselves as beginners.
If kids can become the teachers, it’s less scary, and it’s empowering.
Get the kids in your community face to face with scientists.

Emily – She has a web series where she continues to ask the amateur questions. Learning together is a unifying thing.
NOT the empty vessel model.
Allowing kids to become an authority is so empowering for them.

Molly Jane: Intimidating when starting out in comics. Libraries are great places to get around that. You just need a kind understanding person to help you figure out what you need to know. Making you feel like you can dive in.

Samantha: A program is only successful if people show up. How do you combat the perceptions as a waste of time?
More brain power used than the game of chess.
How do we make it clear and remove the negative stigmas? How do we explain the social and mental benefits?

Emily: Can go both ways. She hated everything as a teenager — you also need to appeal to the kid.
Associated with the library gives it built-in credibility!
Depends on the age of the kids, too.

Mo: Curious about how we get interest at different ages.
Can there be parallel programming for the parents?
Tricia: Journalists and librarians are conduits for actual understanding.
Street cred to what we do!
Make partnerships so kids can see actual scientists.

Molly Jane: Get comic artists to do signings.

Samantha: Co-programming is good.
Why do you think women are less represented in your groups?
It’s empowering to meet other women interested. Library can be a place where that happens.

Tricia: The Safety to be As Weird As You Are
When they started Nerdette it was to give women a space.
Libraries can take up the community conversation being dropped by newspapers

Mo: Perception is a problem. What books do you highlight? In history, women were not seen as any less capable with computer science.

Emily: Lots of thoughts in my Mind Palace about women in geekdom
We call the shots on what’s cool.
We don’t have enough positive female role models in these fields.
Take a stance on issues! Highlight women scientists!
You can expand people’s ideas of what games can do.
Games as narrative.
Parents do bristle at things marketed for boys or for girls.
Public librarians: Reach out to the community colleges.
Steer young people to the special programs.
First Robotics programs (free, online).

Tricia: Don’t be apologetic to ask the community for help!

Mo: You only need one person super passionate about things to make things work.

Abrams Book Buzz at ALA Midwinter Meeting


This morning, at ALA Midwinter Meeting, I started off my morning in the Book Buzz Theater for the Abrams Preview of upcoming titles.

Here are my notes:

Abrams Book Buzz
Mac Barnett & Jory John started it off, talking about their new book, The Terrible Two – It’s a book about pranksters.
A kid comes to a new school and wants to be the school prankster, but this school already has a prankster. He must outdo and uncover the other. A book about friendship.
The audience took the prankster’s oath! “amuse the merry” “dismay the dour”


Tom Angleberger
New book: The Rat with the Human Face
Ended the Origami Yoda series last year because the story was ending.
Relaunching the Qwikpik series.
What they are about: A poop fountain, and a rat with a human face — sort of cast as historical fiction. About real kids. Need to find the audience.
New book in the fall: Picture book about a toad McToad Mo’s Tiny Island.
It has every form of toddler-beloved transportation.

Daniel Kirk — You Are Not My Friend, But I Miss You
and The Thing About Spring
A little simpler than his previous books.
Character ended up being a sock monkey (like one he’d stolen as a child).
Favorite toy is stolen — can he get a new friend or not? Be his own best friend?
The Thing About Spring – a character who hates spring and doesn’t want anything to change. Trying to save snow for later.

Andrea Beaty – Rosie Revere Engineer will be going to the International Space Station this fall — Storytime from Space!
Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau, illus by David Roberts has info about the illustration process.
Fluffy Bunnies 2: The Schnoz of Doom sequel to Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies.
Originally, it was supposed to be about bunnies so cute they make the cats on the internet weep from jealousy. Became six-foot-tall scary bunnies from outer space and their planet is going to be struck by a marshmallow.
Kids save the earth from the enormous fluffy bunnies — until now. It’s a hybrid graphic novel with Dan Santat. Some real science, but utterly stupid.

Ethan Long: Hi! An original board book series.
Profile eyes to make it subdued and unthreatening. 18 words.

USBBY Meeting at ALA Midwinter

I’m at ALA Midwinter Meeting in Chicago. Last night, thanks to a tip from Sarah Flowers, whom I saw in the hotel eating area, I went to a meeting at my hotel of the United States Board on Books for Young People.

This is the 10th year that USBBY has made an Outstanding International Books List. They are books published in the United States, that originated in a different country, and they help American children see other perspectives. This year’s members presented the 2015 titles — They definitely made me want to read them.

Then they had an author speak who has an international perspective. Here are my notes from her talk:

Sabaa Tahir, author of An Ember in the Ashes.
She has family all over the world.

Her personal history: Begins in the Mojave Desert, grew up at Richcrest in a Motel which her parents managed. She knew from an early age that she didn’t belong. People told her parents to go back to where they came from.

She was voiceless. Her Kindergarten teacher didn’t think she could talk.

She escaped to the library. Particularly fantasy novels.

She was a hero and an adventurer when reading.

These characters would have the chance to speak out.

She was working at the Washington Post — reading about the most powerless and voiceless people in the world.

Also about courage, loneliness, love, family.

Intersection of hope & despair. The decisions they make define everything that comes after.

She made the book as authentic as she could — lots of research.

She interviewed modern day warriors to get the souls of her characters.

Talked with an FBI agent who fought gangs in San Jose. Psychological matters a lot more than the physical.

Was told there are people in the police force who should not be in positions of authority.

West Point cadet had a presence.”Duty Honor Country” – not just words, a way of life for him.

Researched Ancient Rome – Julio Claudian era. Social stratification based on that. Used Sparta for the academy. Spartans entered at 7 years old.

Her female character must become a slave. Researched what it was like for slaves in everyday life.

Also storytelling research. Saw a Persian storyteller, practicing the ancient art of Nakali — which women aren’t normally allowed to practice. Amazing storyteller — even in Farsi. She used her whole body, and without the language she could still understand the story.

Character names: Each race has its own naming conventions. Each character had a name that fit with them. Elias — a humble Hebrew statement of faith. The names Elias and Alia are supposed to sound like a song when together.

Why she writes:
Writing for her is research, and revision, and frustration. It took her 6 years.
She wanted to tell their story.
In the end, she wrote because of her desire for a voice.

She wants to speak to those who feel they do not have a voice.

ALA Midwinter Meeting – Graphic Novel Author Forum

Yay! I’m at ALA Midwinter Meeting in Chicago. Tonight I’ve got a cozy night in my hotel room, so my plan is to write up my notes from the sessions I’ve attended so far.

First up was an Author Forum featuring authors of Graphic Novels — Cece Bell, Jeff Smith, Francoise Mouly, and Gene Luen Yang.


I’m going to paste my notes below and try to clean them up:

ERT Booklist Author Forum

Cece Bell, Francoise Mouly, Jeff Smith, Gene Luen Yang

Moderator: How did you start with comics?

CB: When she was 7 or 8. Older brother had National Lampoon. Friend had Beano, from England.

Jeff Smith: Peanuts, Pogo, National Lampoon, MAD Magazine — father read it to him.

Francoise – Grew up in France, where comics were ubiquitous. Magazine Pilot, inspired by MAD.

Gene: Started collecting comics in the 5th grade. Marvel 2 in 1 – Mom made him get Superman instead. The bomb dropped in the comic and captured his imagination. Mostly superhero comics were available then. Did find Bone — proved to him that comics don’t only have to be about superheroes.

What does it mean when someone labels your work “All Ages”?
Francoise: “Little Lit” was labeled for All Ages. She realized later that’s not helpful. Labeling provides guidance, because you can’t tell at a glance what level is appropriate.

Jeff Smith: He doesn’t like that term. He was trying to do a newspaper strip — for everyone. He does a children’s book for adults — “That’s all ages.”

Gene, How do you feel when Middle Schoolers are assigned to read your stuff?

Gene: It’s NUTTY! He started American Born Chinese as pamphlets he copied himself. His own son’s class just did it.
Since he deals with racial stereotypes, he does worry that the kids get it. When he sees middle school teachers leading thoughtful discussions about the issues the book raises, that’s the best case.

Jeff: “How can you make comic books boring?”
We shouldn’t talk them out of comic books by assigning it in school!

Cece, feedback about El Deafo?

Cece: Kids like her are so happy about it. A format they can share with their friends. Also adults, to explain what they go through. It has become a manual, as well as a story of friendship.
A manual so people know how to talk to her!
Response from kids and adults without hearing loss has also been wonderful.
Nicest thing: “I am now meeting people who are like me, wearing hearing aids and lip reading.” When she meets people like that, her world implodes.

Francoise: The abstraction of comics helps pull everyone into the character.
Comics are a young medium, and is opening up.

How do you think comics fit into the movement toward diversity in children’s literature?

Gene: In comics, you can’t hide your character’s diversity.
How do we present cultures that are not necessarily mainstream? That we are not necessarily a part of in an authentic way?
Need to find a balance — not running roughshod over other cultures, but not being afraid to include them.
“We have to be willing to tell stories we are uncomfortable telling.”

Francoise: Cartoonists have been killed for their art. Being brave enough to go there!
As visual people, they go with the essence of things.
A cartoonist has not only the ability, but the duty to bring this to the table.
It’s not like they give the answer. But cartoonists tend to gravitate toward wanting to understand things.
“Cartoonists are in the business of communicating their thoughts.”
If a cartoonist doesn’t communicate, it’s on them.
This is a good medium for exploring diversity.
Comics are very intimate — you see the hand of the author.
The sharing of experience, like Cece mentioned — very vivid and intimate.

Jeff – Hand drawn is extra intimate.
The mixture of the word and picture is dangerous and soupy.
About Charlie Hebdo — the power of the cartoon image is tremendous — but this is a whole new level of messed-up-ness.

Francoise – The issue feels very close to my heart.

Jeff – Francoise has been choosing the New Yorker covers for 21 years. Controversy!
The image completely shook up the whisper campaign that Obama is a Muslim.

Francoise: You can show in a cartoon in a way that really brings it to the front.
That cover got 20,000 insulting letters.
Cogent remark from Candidate Obama: “After all, what is exactly wrong with representing a Muslim in the White House?” Why is that such a shocking image?
The cartoonist can shine a flashlight on issues: Let’s talk about it! Better than hiding things under the rug.

Moderator: Comics in classrooms?

Jeff: Well, I’d make more money.
Certain pieces of information are more effectively communicated visually.

Gene: Comics in Legos, comics in airplanes. Sequential visuals.
There’s a visceral power to the simplified image.
To put an emotion directly in his reader’s gut, he goes with an image.

Cece: A gateway for kids who have trouble reading to start. Deaf kids are already more visual than verbal, and it gives them a headstart.

Visual Literacy: Do you think championing comics as a way to learn visual literacy pigeonholes them?

Jeff — Visual literacy has *always* been a real form of communication.
More images does not mean it’s dumbed down. Visual literacy is incredibly primal to us. Even though he’s talking, he’s still using his hands. Life is visual!
It’s a form of writing that can be as communicative as any other form.

Francoise: Only in the last 25 years have cartoonists thought of themselves as authors — and only the last 10 years that others have.
Some think pictures replace your imagination.
More like poetry and graphic design – both very distilled forms.
Makes for much more sophisticated readers.
Jeff: Unlike a film — director has made timing decisions, more passive.
Comics, like a book, require you to engage and use your imagination.
You have to make them come alive.
Jeff taught himself how to read with Peanuts.
A real thought in those days was that comics caused illiteracy. Even as a kid, he knew that was ridiculous. He knew he was reading. For him, it was absolutely crucial to his imagination and storytelling.
He used his brain to turn it on and discover these real people in comics.
A real imagination-starter.

Cece — You have to fill in what happens in between panels.

Gene — I don’t think of it as a pigeonhole, but as a foothold.

Francoise — We need a vocabulary to talk about visual media.

Moderator: Making comics is difficult. Why are you doing it?

Cece: “I am a terrible descriptive writer.” Being able to tell the story in pictures is a way to get around that.
Being able to use the speech balloons to show what hearing loss is like is so much more immediate than trying to use words to describe it. Allows the reader to experience it right then and there.

Gene loves comics with a pre-logical love. His storytelling voice is in comics.

Jeff – It is indeed a brutal schedule. But that’s only a part of it. The world goes away in that actual moment when you’re creating. A supreme experience, which he loves — like a drug. I get to go there. “That zen thing is why I do it.”

Francoise – She was groomed to be a surgeon. Realized as a teenager she wasn’t going to do that. It helped that her family wasn’t interested in comics. She studied architecture. Was frustrated that your plans are rarely realized. She met Art Spiegelman in NYC. He courted her by reading her comics. She couldn’t believe there was this world of potential hidden in plain sight. She fell in love with him the same time she fell in love with his medium.

Moderator: If you could recommend two books every library should carry, what would they be?

Gene: Usagi Jimbo (a samurai rabbit) By Stan Sakai.
He does his research, so his has lasted.
Meanwhile, by Jason Shiga. Choose your own adventure — Maze and comic combined.

Francoise: (More comics by women are coming out): Castaway on the Letter A, by Fred

Jeff: Hark a Vagrant
Goliath, by Tom G., also, “You’re All Just Jealous of my Jet Pack.”

Cece: Ed Emberley (to create comics) Anybody can draw with these books!
Moomim books


After this wonderful panel, I was able to get books signed by the authors featured, and then hit the Exhibits! I managed to restrain myself to 37 books that first night. No, that’s not very good self-restraint.

Gearing Up for the Morris Seminar and ALA Midwinter Meeting

I’m so excited! Four years ago, the Association for Library Service to Children announced it would be starting the William Morris Seminar: A biennial invitational training in book evaluation skills, run by people who have selected past Newbery, Caldecott, Odyssey, Geisel, and other award winners.

I applied that time, but didn’t get accepted. I applied two years ago, but didn’t get accepted. I applied this time and did! So will I let a little thing like iffy health after a stroke stop me from attending? No, I will not!

But now it’s getting down to the wire. The seminar is this coming Friday, in Dallas, and as soon as it is over, ALA Midwinter Meeting begins. I have today off, but I will be working tomorrow and Wednesday. Wednesday night, I have to go to a “Senior Night” for parents at my son’s school. I believe they are mainly collecting money! But also some information will be given out, and I need to fill out some forms and drop off a toddler picture of my son. Then I leave on Thursday.

In the meantime, I also really need to get the FAFSA and CSS Profile paperwork done for my son’s financial aid applications. Because if I wait until after the seminar, the time will be too short. Better do it today, but I do find myself definitely procrastinating.

On a more fun note, I should go over again the books on our discussion list. I’ve read them all, but I should look at them afresh in terms of discussing their distinguished qualities. I think I will interrupt my reading plans to reread Okay for Now after I finish Death Comes to Pemberley and take notes for discussion.

Then there’s the matter of packing. I am sure I will have plenty of chances to pick up books to read once the conference starts on Friday. But what to read on the plane? What to read Thursday night? I may well have finished rereading Okay for Now by then. The next item on my 2012 Reading Plan is an Award Winner. I was going to read Please Ignore Vera Dietz, but I don’t like to bring hardcover library books on trips. So instead, I think I’ll go further down the list and read Everybody Sees the Ants, also by A. S. King, which is a 2011 Cybils Finalist, and which I have as a paperback ARC. After that, my plan says I read a prepublication ARC, so I think I will tuck in Drowned Cities, by Paolo Bacigalupi. Since I’m also bringing Okay for Now for the Morris Seminar, and since I will have plenty of opportunities to pick up new books, that will surely be plenty to bring. The big question is, can I really stop with those three? We shall see….

Of course another huge highlight of ALA Midwinter is the Youth Media Awards announcements on Monday morning. In the past, I’ve followed those on the internet, so it will be a thrill to be there in person, especially having discussed possibilities in detail at the Morris Seminar.

Another thing that makes me happy about ALA Midwinter is that I’ve already connected with some friends who will be there. I’ve only officially been a Librarian for four years, so I am very happy to already have some good friends in the library world. I’ve made them via Twitter, blogs, KidLitCon, our local DC KidLit book club, and other ALA events, and these are people who are also interested in great books for children. It feels very good to feel part of this world and have actual friends I’m excited to see and some to meet in person for the first time. Oh, and on top of that, my writing buddy is going to come for the weekend and share my hotel room. We met in Paris and she is a wonderful vivacious and encouraging person, and I’m so excited to get some time with her.

Of course, on top of all that, I’d really like to get my 2011 Stand-outs page posted! And all the reviews written for the books I chose. We shall see. This day off is already getting out of hand. And did I mention that on top of all of it, I’ve caught a cold? Oh, and I finally have an appointment with my neurologist — the day after I come back — to find out if I had another stroke some time in December. At least that way he won’t have the chance to tell me not to go!

Speaking of my neurologist, I was proactive and got a note from him to allow me to bring a rolling cart onto the exhibit floor. Since every single e-mail about the conference ends with the admonition: “No rolling carts are permitted on the exhibit floor!” I hope that this note will give me an exception. At ALA last summer, I knew my shoulder and neck seemed to be hurting extra from carrying a heavy bag of books, but I didn’t realize I’d had a vertebral artery dissection and was probably making it worse. Now I’m going to stick to my guns and insist on that cart.

I’ve already had two different dreams about ALA Midwinter! In one, I met Brian Selznick and was discussing why I think his book is fabulous as a whole, but I don’t think the text or illustrations on their own are distinguished enough to win (though I would be happy enough if I’m wrong). In the next, I was at an SCBWI Conference, happily picking up free books. I must be excited!