2015 Children’s Africana Book Award Winner is…

Andrea Pinkney’s The Red Pencil!  I reviewed this fine book for the New York Times and am delighted to see this. Congratulations, Andrea and Little Brown Books for Young Readers!

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More on the BBC’s adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Thanks, Vickester51Corner, for alerting me to an informative write-up of the preview of the forthcoming series here.

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Book-Shame

But the truth is that those of us who feel book-shame are probably worrying too much. Most people neither notice nor care what others are reading.

The above is from Charles McGrath in “Is There Anything One Should Feel Ashamed of Reading?.” And I’m now thinking — is there anything I’d be ashamed to be seen reading? Not really. That said, I love reading on my Ipad largely because I am a very fast reader and it allows me to have at my finger tips tons to read, but a secondary aspect is the privacy aspect. I like deciding who sees what I read, good stuff or bad. But I like control a lot of what people know about me. There isn’t much, blog readers may have noticed, about me personally here, for example. That said, privacy doesn’t always apply to children. That is, while we adults may care or not about what we read, many of us care a lot about what kids read. Some, in fact, make them feel all too embarrassed for their choices. And that is indeed a shame.

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Thinking About International Children’s Books

I’m really looking forward to this free event next Saturday, April 18th:

Where the Wild Book Are 

An event exploring and celebrating international picture books and the publishing industry, emphasizing their role in promoting global literacy and creativity.

Where the Wild Books Are was conceived by artist Etienne Delessert, who, along with author/illustrator and Parsons faculty Steven Guarnaccia, will present the event as a creative response to explore cultural trends and changes in the field of global publishing and their impact on the cultural literacy and the imaginative capacities of the next generation.

Join critics, authors, illustrators, publishing professionals, and educators from Europe, the United States, and beyond as they introduce audience members to a diverse array of important picture books published in France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and Japan. Take part in a lively exchange on the ethical, commercial, and aesthetic dimensions of the evolving global publishing scene.

Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm
The Auditorium at 66 West 12th Street, Alvin Johnson/J.M. Kaplan Hall
66 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10011

More information and registration here.

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Thoughts on Newbery: If I Could Change One Rule

Here’s my comment on Betsy Bird’s provocative post of today: “If you could change any rule…

More awards are certainly all well and good, but the Newbery is the biggie out there (for better or worse it is the only one most know) and therefore as I’ve argued many times before, I’d like its criteria to change to be positive about the way art and design propel the storytelling. A graphic novel award will not keep the Newbery Committee from continuing to grapple with the current negative criteria* regarding more boundary-breaking works. Seems to me their energy should not be expended in contortions to make a less-conventionally-produced story fit, but rather in its quality. (El Deafo’s Honor this year does not prove that the criteria is fine as is. It happens to have text that does work without the images beautifully, but that isn’t always the case. And so, why should works like El Deafo be the only ones to have a chance?)

*The committee is to make its decision primarily on the text. Other components of a book, such as illustrations, overall design of the book, etc., may be considered when they make the book less effective.

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In the Classroom: Cultural Norms

Because we are living abroad, my kids have lots of inevitable small embarrassments during the day due to being international students and being out of linguistic and cultural step. Consequently, my husband and I are really conscious of making sure they have the “right” things with them when we can. The thing is, there are so many unarticulated things that cultural insiders just know and that no one thinks to tell you.

That is from Marika Seigel‘s  thoughtful article, “On Being the Mom of ‘the Foreign Kid.'” (Thanks to Pooja Makhijani for posting it on facebook.) It reminded me of situations I encountered during my time in various German schools as a child. (My father was a specialist in German politics as well as originally German and so we spent a couple of years there at different points in my youth.)  In one case, I was to sing a song with some others in my second grade class for a Christmas performance. I knew I was to wear a party dress, but it was only when I got there that I discovered that all the others were wearing white dresses while I was in blue. We were, I learned, meant to be snowflakes.

I think the article is something that we in the US should take to heart too. Those cultural norms are all over the place. For example, my school had Pajama Day this past Thursday. Most of the girls in my 4th grade class excitedly came to school all dressed up in pajamas. None of the boys opted to participate nor did one of the girls who prefers to hang out with the boys. One child at our morning meeting said something along the lines of being offended by those who decided not to participate. I firmly pointed out the problem with that statement and she got it. I’m actually glad she said it as it gave me a chance to point out why it was so important to not make anyone feel self-conscious about how they participated or if they did. And then I thought back to my childhood and how problematic it would have been for me. I wouldn’t have had the right sort of pajamas (my mother didn’t shop local), I’d have worried that they weren’t pretty/new/etc enough. In fact, I’d have been a wreck about this whole day. So being the foreign kid can be as simple as being not part of the dominant school culture, whatever it is.

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Africa is My Home: Children’s Africana Book Awards Weekend

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