American Library Association Virtual Midwinter Meeting

It’s time for ALA Midwinter Meeting!

I probably wouldn’t have tried to go, but since it’s virtual, it’s a whole lot less expensive than when you have to pay for a flight, lodging, and food. Unfortunately, I did not get any free books (I usually bring or ship home more than a hundred advance reader copies!), and I did hear about some books that I preordered on the spot — so I didn’t realize that it would cost me extra money in book orders. Oh well! Money well spent, I’m sure!

I often post my notes from every session I attended, but I thought this year, I’d just hit the highlights.

One thing I liked about this conference is there weren’t nearly as many competing sessions. Most of the things I wanted to attend were on the one main livestream, so I didn’t have to make the tough decisions between which sessions would be most helpful. I did miss the long lines after a session to get the author to sign their books, though! But without those lines, they didn’t make me miss the following session.

I ended up not including the Youth Media Awards. Those are always a highlight! I will update all the books I’ve reviewed with the awards they’ve won, eventually. (It will take a long time.) I’m always so happy for the books I’ve read that win and eager to read the ones I’ve missed.

Okay, highlights:

Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson

These two creators of the Newbery-winning and Caldecott Honor book Last Stop on Market Street told about making that book and the new book they have coming out, Milo Imagines the World. They had great things to say about making picture books. Some good lines:

We shouldn’t have lazy stereotypes in seeing the people around us. Even for a moment on the subway. Everybody has depth. We’re all connected.

The more specific you are with artistry, the more universal it becomes.

Usually, to get the “music” of a picture book right involves cutting.

A great writer for picture books leaves room to create — for the artist and reader both.

Ruby Bridges

It was a real treat to hear Ruby Bridges talk with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayes about what it was like for her as a six-year-old to integrate an elementary school.

How could you explain it to a six-year-old? Her parents just told her, “You’re going to a new school. You’d better behave!”

The innocence of a child protected her. At first, she thought the people shouting and throwing things outside the school were part of Mardi Gras. She didn’t know anything about racism.

She was the only one at school the second day, and she didn’t know it was because of her. The teacher greeted her, and Ruby was surprised she was white and didn’t know what to expect. She thought her mom had brought her too early was why she was the only one there.

But Mrs. Henry showed Ruby her heart and that she was different from the people screaming outside.

When asked, “Were you scared?” she answered that the one thing that scared her was the small coffin the protesters carried with a black doll inside. She’d have nightmares about it.

Mrs. Henry made school fun, but she did miss the other kids. She wasn’t allowed on the playground or in the cafeteria. Federal marshals escorted her to the restroom. She felt like she was being punished for something.

When some white kids did come back to school, the principal hid them from her, but she heard their voices and Mrs. Henry made sure they were finally able to be together. The kids didn’t have a problem with each other.

“Racism has no place in the hearts of our babies.”

I loved the story she told about her son. He’d looked at pictures of the presidents and asked if the president has to be white. She told him, “No, they’re waiting for you!” So he kept telling everyone he was going to be president when he grew up. Then when Barack Obama was on the ballot, he was surprised his mom would vote for him. But she told him, “People are tired of waiting. You’re so young.”

He responded with, “Just because he’s the first, doesn’t mean he’s the best.”

Ruby Bridges has a book for children coming out called This Is Your Time.

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and Dr. Keisha N. Blain

These two talked about a book they edited that I preordered on the spot: Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019. The book has 80 authors writing essays about five years of history each. In addition, there are 10 poets, who cover 40 years each, and read the eight essays about the time period they were covering.

The editors think of it as a choir, with the poets as soloists.

They tried to have a wide variety of backgrounds in the writers. “Individuals of African descent are rarely allowed to be individuals.” They wanted to show the vast diversity while creating this community piece.

They explored the quotation, “We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams.” They talked about discovering what their ancestors’ dreams were. In so many ways, those dreams were for full freedom, and the fight for that full freedom continues. We may be their wildest dreams yet, but we can be.

“As we reflect on the past, may their stories inspire us to forge ahead and make their dreams reality.”

The book writes about history, and itself is a piece of history.

Books I’ll Preorder or Check Out

Besides the books that won the Youth Media Awards this morning that I haven’t read yet, and besides the book above, some other books went on my radar:

The Hidden Palace, by Helene Wecker. This is a follow-up to The Golem and the Jinni. Wow! That’s all they need to say!

My Remarkable Journey, by Katherine Johnson of Hidden Figures fame.

Anne of Manhattan, by Brina Starler, which is described as a modern Anne of Green Gables romcom. I’m skeptical, but will at least want to check it out.

As Far As You’ll Take Me, by Phil Stamper, author of The Gravity of Us

A Vow So Bold and Deadly, finishing up the trilogy by Brigid Kemmerer

Merci Suarez Can’t Dance, by Meg Medina, the sequel to our Newbery winner, Merci Suarez Changes Gears!

The Beatryce Prophecy, an upcoming fantasy by Kate DiCamillo.

Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People, by Kekla Magoon. The author talked about her research for this and made it sound so fascinating.

Ethan Hawke

He talked about his upcoming book, A Bright Ray of Darkness, about an actor. (Write what you know!)

He also talked about his love of reading and stories. Acting, at its core, is a celebration of writing. He told stories of playwrights who made the most of every comma and were always striving to improve the art of communication.

The theme of his book is the healing impact of performing. For him, acting is the one place where emotions are wanted and needed. Those emotions are necessary to tell the truth about human experience.

Joy Harjo

She’s the Poet Laureate of the United States.

Poets are truth-tellers. Poetry is like a house or a pocket — it can hold time, grief, questions, joy.

She has a new poetry anthology coming out: When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through.

She also has a new memoir: Poet Warrior: A Call for Love and Justice.

Humans are Story-gatherers.

Le Uyen Pham

She talked about writing her new picture book, Outside, Inside. She wrote it in six weeks in June, when in lockdown but not realizing how long it would last.

She said that it was about this moment when we tested ourselves and learned our humanity and that we’re all the same on the inside.

She used a cat as a character on all the pages, because a human face invites judgment, but a cat can go anywhere, inside and outside.

She made the pictures to reflect the entire world, not simply one neighborhood or even one country.

She watched heartbreaking YouTube videos to get actual scenes in hospitals. She absorbed as much information as she could until she felt like “we” told the story, not just her.

She took scenes of grief and wrapped them in hope. (And she cried even to talk about it.)

“I just kept thinking, at the heart of who we are, not just as Americans, but as humans, we care for one another.”

It doesn’t end with “Spring is here,” but with “Spring will come.” As a metaphor, that’s always true.

Amanda Gorman

The Inaugural Poet read from her upcoming picture book, Change Sings. Wow!

Closing Session: Dr. Jill Biden

When she was a kid, she’d walk to their local library every two weeks and take out as many books as she could. In college, when she met people who couldn’t read, she realized how precious the gift of reading is and decided to be a teacher.

Loving to read means loving to learn. It teaches understanding, kindness, and compassion. It shows us we can do more and dream bigger.

Libraries are also where students learn to research.

What community is all about: Coming together to share our joys and burdens.

To librarians:
Never forget that what you’re doing matters.
Someone’s a better thinker, is kinder, stands a little taller, because of you.

Books are an important way for children to understand their feelings.

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

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 They need our stories about grants or federal funding and the good work they have done.

Also check 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

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!

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

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

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!

Thank You, Friends of the Library!

So, the reason I got to go to ALA Midwinter Meeting? Registration and Hotel were paid for by the Friends of the George Mason Regional Library. Airfare was paid for by the Friends of the Virginia Room.

I am so thankful!

What did I get out of the conference?

Well, it’s hard to explain the energizing effect of hanging around a huge group of book people. Attending ALA conferences always leaves me proud to be a librarian and excited about my job and my calling. Truly, these are my people!

I do get ideas of things to do and new programs, I find out about lots and lots of new books, I make professional connections, and I hear some great speakers.

Some of those connections included the folks at the Bedtime Math booth! They knew who I was, since I have been featured on their website. 🙂 They also sponsor the Crazy 8s Math Club program we do once a week at my library.


I also got to meet two of my fellow Cybils judges, Brandy Painter and Maureen Eichner, for the first time in person. We had a lovely dinner together while the blizzard was raging outside.


Speaking of the weather, I even got to experience an historic Chicago blizzard — from the warm comfort of a hotel and a shuttle bus and the convention center.


I’m going to summarize the sessions I went to with links to my reports. I’ll intersperse them between the snow pictures.

Friday night began with the Graphic Novel Author Forum.


And after a binge at the Exhibits, I went to a USBBY meeting.


Saturday morning brought more time in the Exhibits and an Abrams Book Buzz.


Saturday afternoon was the Women in Geekdom panel.


And after more time in the Exhibits, I finished up Saturday listening to a talk by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.


Sunday (the day of the blizzard) began with LeVar Burton!


Lunch on Sunday was compliments of publisher Boyds Mills Press.

Sunday afternoon, I went to a panel on Young Children, New Media, and Libraries.


Sunday finished up with an inspiring talk by Mick Ebeling.

The final day of the conference, besides helping the publishers unload books, was taken up with the Youth Media Awards and the YALSA Morris and Excellence in Nonfiction Awards Ceremony.

And all that time in the Exhibits? I ended up gaining and shipping home 140 books.


No, I won’t get them all read. But I will get many read. And I will be familiar with many more because of this. And I will have many to give away as prizes at my Brain Games programs.

And in the meantime, the piles of books are making me happy. 🙂

So Thank You, Thank You, Friends, for a wonderful conference! Thank you for learning and connections and ideas and new energy and lots and lots of new books!

YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction and Morris Awards

Monday morning, after the Youth Media Awards, I attended the YALSA Award Ceremony for Excellence in Nonfiction and the Morris Awards for books by a first-time author.

I love that YALSA announces the Finalists for these awards ahead of time — so they can get speeches from everyone and do an awards ceremony the same day that the winner is announced.

Here are my notes from the speeches:

YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award

Shane Burcaw – Laughing at my Nightmare

(Video speech) He’s 22 years old. Blown away when he found out he was a finalist.
Has Spinal muscular atrophy.
Humor and positivity are keys to dealing with his disease.
Laughing is the best way to overcome.

Candace Fleming – The Family Romanov

She was worried about the story – might as well be another planet for her readers.
Conflict: 3 separate revolutions, each extremely complicated.
Had planned to focus on Anastasia – decided she was boring, so expanded her focus to the other children – they also weren’t that interesting. They were naive and cloistered.
Nicholas and Alexandra were more interesting, but they were adults.
Then expanded focus again to revolutionaries.
She saw a movie where the characters kept asking, “But who is interested in Russian History?”
This award tells her, “You are.”

Emily Arnold McCully – Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business – and Won!

Why Ida Tarbell? She was a defender of democratic values when they were challenged.
She was the only woman muckraker.
The author tried to squish it into 32 pages, but the story was too big.
Ida Tarbell saw the cost of the oil rush to ordinary people and the environment.
Science taught her to always look beneath the surface of things and verify.
The issues that led to muckraking are back.
She went after the story and told it true.

Steve Sheinkin – The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights

His brother-in-law loves conspiracy theories – told him first atomic bomb was tested in Port Chicago – but that led him to the true story.
Heard from a man whose father was in the mutiny. Loves getting this story out.

Winner: Maya Van Wagenen
Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek

She’s the child of a historian, so knows the power of truth and primary sources.
Always wanted to be a writer.
Found the book before 8th grade — Her mother’s idea was to try the ideas and write about it.
Learned the kind of popularity Betty Cornell talked about was based on being a good friend and reaching out with compassion and understanding.
Greeting the world with your head held high will never go out of style.
None of this would have been possible without books and librarians.
Middle School Librarian was a light to the students there.
Has turned to reading nonfiction because it tells teenagers that their story is part of a much bigger fabric of history, and each one plays a unique part.

Morris Award, Honor Books:

Jessie Ann Foley, The Carnival at Bray

She’s a high school English teacher, here in Chicago. She loved librarians before she was nominated for this award, and now even more so!
Librarians help teens find books that speak to them.
“That is part of the beauty of literature: You discover that your longings are universal longings… You are not alone.” (A quote she read while writing this.)
She kept in tough scenes so girls who have gone through that would not feel alone.

E. K. Johnston – The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim
due to weather, she isn’t here.

Len Vlahos – The Scar Boys

Central theme: The power of music can give anyone confidence, friends, even save a life.
Music can be an intensely personal experience, but is more appropriately a shared experience.
Music, like math or physics, is a universal language.
Math and physics are the foundation for music.
Music makes us feel something viscerally
Magic dust sprinkled on math and physics
Resonance – sound or vibration in one object produced from sound or vibration in another.
Perfect metaphor for librarians
Immensely skilled at finding the right book and putting it in the right hands.
Finding the perfect book to resonate with that reader and amplify the content.
“School librarians are my heroes.”
Writing is a solitary process, publishing is not.
Librarians help the work of writers resonate far beyond the walls of our institutions.

Leslye Walton – The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

She’s a teacher.
Wrote it with little hope than anyone would actually read it.
Didn’t write it as a YA book. She might have wanted to protect them.
When she was a teen, she experienced isolating grief, and hung out in the local library to find people (in fiction) who were grieving like she was.
There is beauty in sorrow.
I hope it makes someone feel less alone and more alive.
And that there is life beyond that sorrow.
Librarians, you are saving the lives of readers everywhere.

Winner: Isabel Quintero – Gabi, a Girl in Pieces

“To quote someone very dear to me, ‘Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!'”
Started by reading “I Too Sing America” by Langston Hughes
Offended by someone who asked if her laborer parents were surprised that she is an intellectual.
Now she’s a professor of composition.
She thinks about her parents who had tough jobs when they came to America and worked to make sure their children had a different life.
She thinks about fat girls, pregnant girls, and gay teens.
The only option for a daughter of laborers is to think — because that’s what her parents have taught her to do.
It helps when you have a community of people doing the solitary thing together. (Her creative writing group)
“An honor and a privilege to be here, but that was to be expected, given who my parents are.”

Inspiring and lovely speeches! I always love the Morris Awards, because the authors are happy to be published, let alone to receive recognition. Makes me want to go home and Write!

Youth Media Awards 2015!


Hooray! I got a front row seat for the Youth Media Awards announcements that happened on Monday!


As you can see, I had a great view — though I spent most of my time tweeting the winners, rather than taking pictures.

The announcements of all the awards are on the ALA website, so I will just give some general impressions and link to the books I’ve reviewed.

The energy in the room can’t be described! These people who ignored the Super Bowl the night before (Well, I did.) and don’t even turn on the Oscars (Well, I don’t.) were energized and excited to find out who wins the Children’s book awards. We got up early and came through the snow and waited in line to be there, and speculation was high.

I’ll talk about the announcements in the order I remember them happening. It all starts with the Alex Awards — a list of ten adult books with strong appeal for teens. This list contains several I’ve been meaning to read, but none I actually have read.

One of the fun things about the announcements is that all the committees are there. Most committees bring some sort of prop to celebrate their top choice. Here is the Odyssey Award committee celebrating their choice of Horse, by Christopher Myers:


I didn’t notice if they did, but they could have thrown their props again when The Crossover won the Newbery Medal and a Coretta Scott King Honor.

I’ll go with some general impressions first.

It seemed like a lovely day for the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign. The Wilder Award went to Donald Crews. The Edwards Award went to Sharon Draper. The Arbuthnot Lecture Award went to Pat Mora.

The Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement went to Deborah Taylor, a librarian whom I know from Capitol Choices, and a wonderful choice.

And Graphic Novels! El Deafo, by Cece Bell was a Newbery Honor Book, and, most surprisingly, This One Summer was both a Printz Honor Book and a Caldecott Honor Book.

I was especially happy about El Deafo after hearing Cece Bell speak in the Graphic Novel Author Forum on Friday night. It couldn’t happen to a nicer person! I have read El Deafo and have already written a review, which I’ll post soon.

A Caldecott Committee member whom I happen to know said, “The criteria is for ages up to 14. If they want to change the criteria…” Others have expressed indignation that a book for teens would win a Caldecott Honor, but the criteria indeed say nothing about “picture books” needing to be targeted to younger readers.

Before the awards, people I talked with felt that there would be great indignation if Brown Girl Dreaming did not win the Newbery, though one friend said that the writing in The Crossover is actually better. Yet when it came down to it, no one was indignant. I think that’s because Brown Girl Dreaming did win the Coretta Scott King Author Award, while Crossover won an Honor. In the Newbery, those positions were switched — but the fact that both were represented in both awards shows that those are just two darn good books.

And this completely puts to rest the idea that the Newbery committee might set aside books by African-Americans, thinking the Coretta Scott King Award will take care of them.

The one thing that made me sad was not seeing The Farmer and the Clown up there among the Caldecott Honors. I do love Marla Frazee’s work.

I hadn’t read as many of the contenders as usual this year, but many of those I had read were also my own personal favorites.

My review for The Crossover will be posted soon.

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson, won the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor, and a Sibert Honor (for children’s nonfiction).

The Noisy Paint Box, by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPré, won a Caldecott Honor.

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen (review upcoming), won a Caldecott Honor.

Viva Frida, by Yuyi Morales, won a Caldecott Honor and the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award.

How I Discovered Poetry, by Marilyn Nelson, won a Coretta Scott King Author Honor.

My favorite children’s nonfiction book of the year, A Boy and a Jaguar, by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by Cátia Chen, won the Schneider Award for younger readers.

Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust, by Loic Dauvillier, illustrated by Marc Lizano, color by Greg Salsedo, translated by Alexis Siegel, won a Batchelder Honor.

Finally, my much-loved Waiting Is Not Easy!, by Mo Willems, won a Geisel Honor.

ALA President’s Program: Mick Ebeling

I walked in a little late to Mick Ebeling’s talk, but still came away inspired and uplifted.

Here are my notes. The end of the talk came from audience questions and comments:

Mick Ebeling

Making things to change people’s lives.
They changed one guy’s life.
Then it was listed as one of the greatest inventions of all time.
They just sought to help one guy.
They got an email from him. It was the first time he’d drawn in 7 years — they decided they had to do it again.

Started Not Impossible Labs
Based on the concept of Technology — making Technology for the sake of humanity.

The concept of Impossible — Nothing was *always* possible

Everything that is possible today was once impossible.

Impossible is hinged to the concept of permission. Roger Bannister breaking the 4-minute mile is an example of that.

Dr. Tom Katana – The only doctor within a 50-mile radius in a wartime situation.

Mick’s method: Commit. Then figure it out.

Surround yourself with people who make you feel stupid.

Made prosthetics for a kid who lost his arms.

Their plan was to teach *them* to be makers as well.

If it could go wrong, it did.
They made a prosthetics lab the locals could run themselves.

Lens they look through: Help One. Help Many.

He learned: You can get carpal tunnel shaking a tin cup.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
–Buckminster Fuller
Changed the model to for-profit.
You can do good and make money!

In 14 weeks, they had 420 Million Earned Media Impressions
Won at Cannes

Want to show that Doing Good is Good Business.
Also: Doing Good is Good Branding

The 3 Rules of How:
1. Singularity of Focus (Help One.) Doable and attainable.
2. Give it Away. (Open source)
You can’t argue with free. You can’t hate on free.
Release early and release often and with open source, you’ll get help.
3. Beautiful, Limitless Naivete
“I know just enough to know I don’t know what I’m talking about.”
What can be done without our preconceived notions.

The Power of Story
Not Impossible Now — a blog that tells the story of people who are doing the not impossible.

All the technology they make isn’t as powerful as the stories they’re telling.

What is your story?
In the concept of Help One, Help Many, Who is your one?
Who is your Daniel?

Libraries should get 3D printers!
A 3D printer is the industrial revolution in a box.
It’s a new way of looking at the world.
It opens kids’ minds up.
Help kids know that nothing that exists now wasn’t impossible at one point.

Walk not impossible — low cost robotic legs teaching kids with cerebral palsy to walk.
The genesis of it starts with the need, not the solution.
The more we tell our story, the more people come with ideas.

Librarians are the Sherpas on the mountains of information.

Listen to those moments when I’m inspired. Walk down the road to explore where the inspiration comes from.
The permission is already granted. If you fail, you learn something.

It’s hard to sue an entity that’s giving it away.
In the maker culture, if you can’t afford something, make it.
Companies are bringing their prices down as a result.
They don’t have patents, and may get sued. But so far, no problem with that.

Comment: Libraries are at the forefront of free and sharing.
Libraries can make a policy that things made on the 3D printer are free and shared.

Smart people find them.

Comment: Like him, as librarians, we can tell stories. How do we tell our stories better?
We are stewards of stories! Collect stories and give people freedom to tell their stories. Be a sherpa and advocate for story.

Comment: Look at those stories of past human ingenuity.

Biggest mistake in project Daniel: They trained all guys. Now they will always train 50% women as minimum.

The editor of a documentary is the storyteller.

Young Children, New Media, & Libraries


Sunday afternoon was a very interesting session talking about a survey that was done about using new media in libraries with young children. Here are my notes:

Young Children, New Media, & Libraries
Liz Mills
Amy Koester
Julie Roach
(ad lib panel because of storm)

Liz: A survey was done from — use of new media with young children in libraries. Role of children’s librarian with new media.
Wanted an initial snapshot of technology use in libraries. Esp programming for ages 0-5.
Wanted to cast as wide a net as possible.
What’s the landscape in public libraries?
To what extent is tech being used in libraries?
What kind of funding/selection strategies?

Def: New media is digital technology, particularly tablet-based. Esp looking at children ages 0-5.
More than 400 responses in 18 days.
Looked at how new media was being used in programming
40% using devices in storytime
31% using devices in programming that is not storytime
26% had devices available for check out.
Most popular: Tablets
Largely funded by library’s operational budgets
2nd was grants and donations.
Also staff used personal devices.
Respondents did consult some type of outside resource.
Will be increasing availability and use.

Not all responses were positive.
Saw some pushback. Some don’t believe tablets are good for young children.
Reasonable to conclude that this is still an important topic to investigate.
Survey sets the stage for a larger discussion around media mentorship.

Interesting similarities between libraries and families using new media.
2013 – 75% of households use new media. 71% of libraries.
40% of families with children 8 and younger own some sort of tablet and their children have used it. 39% of libraries have used tablets in storytime.
Libraries compare well with families in 2013.
Prevalence of families who use digital media continues to go up.

Only 22% of libraries are offering some sort of mentoring on media.
Mentoring on media is what we youth librarians do.
Digital media is just a new form of what we’ve always been doing.

Main implications of survey data: We need digital media mentoring in libraries.

A media mentor is a person who is knowledgeable about recommendations of how children and families use media and supports decisions. We can refer them to experts and give them the information.

Every library needs to have a commitment to meeting families where they are.

We should be familiar with different policy statements — and provide access to the best resources possible.
AAP, Fred Rogers Center, Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshops, Erikson Institute — these have done the research and laid out their positions.

Know your resources and share them with families.

Recognize this is a vital way we can serve families.

Library Schools should include this in their discussions with future Youth Librarians.

Julie (Moderator): What initial steps would you take in leading people to be a media mentor?

First step: Identify key resources and make sure staff have an opportunity to read and discuss these resources.
We’d need to remember our role as objective information providers.
Whatever our own personal convictions, it’s up to parents to make the decisions for their families — we need to give them objective information

Liz – at U of Washington, they are preparing a new class about that.
Making students aware of what the landscape is.
Helping students realize they don’t have to be an expert. Talk with the family. Find out what they’re looking for — a Reader’s Advisory/ Reference Interview

What surprised you most from the survey results?
Amy: Surprised by how high the numbers are on current use.
Liz: Curious about the <5000 population libraries. Excited about the 58% who plan to increase use.
Amy: It’s not a tech or no-tech issue.

Julie: Any lessons learned from the survey?
Liz: Would have asked more questions. Really broad swathes.
Amy: Looking at the data in different ways, going in as deeply as possible.

Julie: Any tips for developing media mentors?
Amy: We need general acknowledgement that this is an issue that every library serving youth and families is facing every day.
Emphasize to our managers and policy-setters that we are encountering this and it is important. We need a commitment to explore these issues.
There’s power in a large group of people working toward the same goal.
Liz: Openness and flexibility. Another way in which people are consuming information. Not replacing books.

Question about digital divide. Libraries having tech — how is that related to the income of the families they serve? A follow-up question.

Provides an extra facet to where media mentorship can come in.

Blogs like littleelit and storytimeunderground

More and more research is going on and tied to policy statements. Look at this as a potential research topic.
This area is changing quickly. We need to do a lot to capture what’s happening and think critically about that.

Look for commonalities in the work that’s already being done in making media mentors.

In the same way we can do readers’ advisory in areas we’re not familiar with, we can learn the resources.