Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Holocaust and White Privilege

I was surprised last fall when, during a day of equity training at my school, some of my white Jewish colleagues struggled with the idea that they were privileged. This was due to their awareness of historical anti-semitism against Jews, especially the Holocaust, even though, in most cases, their own immediate families had not experienced this firsthand. As someone who is first generation German Jewish and did have immediate family who had experienced this, I was puzzled. My father, who fled Germany at age 14 after far too much experience with Nazis (his father stayed and was killed), always spoke of how lucky I was not to have experienced anti-semitism. He would have been the first to point out to me how fortunate I was to be able to attend a distinguished college (as he was at Columbia I was able to get multiple degrees there without having to pay tuition) and to do all sorts of things because of my race, education, class, and more. (Not money as we were extremely poor when I was young, something that might surprise people who would assume a young academic was financially comfortable. Not so.) I often repost this piece written by him about his experiences in Montgomery during the bus boycott when I was young. It makes me confident that he would scoff at the idea that his personal background allowed him to claim a lack of white privilege. As a young adult I used to find it enormously frustrating when I complained about something in my life and my father simply pointed out how fortunate and lucky I was. I now see how right he was.

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Who’s Alice: An Evening with Kate Burton, David Del Tredici, Andre Gregory, and Monica Edinger

In 1982 the acclaimed actress Kate Burton launched her career portraying Alice in the critically acclaimed Broadway revival of Alice in Wonderland. With Alice Symphony, Haddock’s Eyes, In Memory of A Summer Day, and other works, Pulitzer Prize winning composer David Del Tredici has conjured the sounds of wonderland throughout his career. In 1968 director Andre Gregory and his The Manhattan Project, a renege troupe of alternative theater performers, flung audience down a reinvented, psychedelic rabbit hole. Today, Monica Edinger, celebrated teacher, author, and blogger at “Educating Alice,” helps us understand in Lewis Carroll’s legacy, creating new stories about inquisitive, intelligent, adventurous children. Four great artists come to the Library to examine the enduring allure and fascination of Alice.

At Lincoln Center’s Library for the Performing Arts Bruno Walter Auditorium, Monday, October 5, 6PM.

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Which Charlotte’s Web character are you?

 I’ve always thought it would be fun to create a children’s lit-centric buzzfeed quiz. So….I gave it a try. I sure hope E. B. White isn’t turning over in his grave!

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Another Iconic American Author with a Newly Discovered Book

“Why, then, did … leave this one in the drawer?”

No, that isn’t someone asking about Harper Lee. It is New York Times children’s book editor Maria Russo wondering about Dr. Seuss in her thoughtful review of his new posthumously published book, What Pet Should I Get?  I’d already seen the positive review by Michiko Kakutani’s for the weekday New York Times (done in Seussian rhyme no less), but it is Russo’s for the Book Review that really gets to the heart of the matter. She situates her review within a broader overview of Seuss’s work and time and indeed has a really smart answer to the question above, based on careful consideration of the historical record. Highly, highly recommended reading.

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Alice at the Morgan Library

There’s a splendid new Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland exhibit at the Morgan Library here in NYC and you can read my report on it over at The Horn Book Magazine here. The exhibit is up till October so you’ve all got plenty of time to get to it. And I should say, the museum, in addition to this wonderful exhibit, is well worth visiting.

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New Trailer for the SyFy Series of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians

I’m enjoying the BBC’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell  (while revisiting the book via the audio edition) tremendously and am certain to be sad when it is over. So I am encouraged by this clip from the forthcoming Syfy series of Grossman’s The Magicians as I liked the books very much (though they are totally different from Clark’s book). There’s an earlier  teaser trailer here.

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My Thoughts on The Guardian Children’s Fiction Award Long List

Today the longlist for the Guardian Children’s Ficton Award was revealed. I love this prize and discovering new titles through it (especially ones that aren’t published in the U.S.). Here they are with some commentary from me:

  • Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders. I first learned of this book when it was shortlisted for the Costa Prize and immediately ordered it from the U.K.  I thought it outstanding (my review here) and was thrilled when it won the Costa. Very happy to see it on this list. Would be even happier if it was published in the U. S.
  • My Name’s Not Friday by Jon Walter. I’ve heard such great things about this book (especially from its publisher David Fickling) and have moved the ARC way up on my to-read pile. Can’t wait to read it.
  • An Island of our Own by Sally Nicholls. I was a big fan of this author’s earlier title, Ways to Live Forever (was a contender for the very first Battle of the Kids’ Books) and so, when I saw this title, immediately downloaded the ebook. Looks great fun.
  • The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge. I’m a big fan of this author and some time ago when I saw a review of this I immediately got the ebook (only edition available in the US). It is fabulous, fabulous, fabulous.
  • El Deafo, by Cece Bell. Er… there is this and my thoughts here. Darn cool to see it here!
  • A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond. This writer is always magical and here he is evidently reworking The Odyssey. I’m in and have moved the ARC up on my to-read pile.
  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. This has gotten raves in the US.
  • Apple and Rain Sarah Crossan.  Another to move up on my to-read pile.

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In the Classroom: Teaching on the Screen

I find it fascinating to see how classrooms and schools are represented on the screen. Too often they look little like my own reality — the desks are in rows (I have them in table groups), the teacher sits at her desk at the front of the room (I’ve a rug and rocking chair at the center of my room), and the walls are full of commercial stuff (mine are full of children’s work). As for the interactions between children and teacher — they tend to be pretty limited.

And so may I just mentioned the kick I’m getting out of how my professional life is represented in the new Amazon Prime series, Catastrophe. A rom-com about two different people meeting (Rob’s from Boston and Sharon is Irish), getting to know each other, and falling in love, the conceit is that it all happens after they get together — when she gets pregnant after a brief affair and they decide, for the child’s sake, to marry and live in London (where Sharon lives and works). This is a witty series, loads of fun to watch for many reasons, but one for me is that Sharon is a teacher of what looks like kids the age of the ones I teach. And so the bits in the classroom and school are totally hilarious. Sharon is clearly a terrific teacher, well respected and no doubt loved by her students, but she also is a strong and complicated person and ….things happen…in school. Just teeny bits among the larger scenes of the real story, but fun nonetheless. Highly recommended for teachers and non-teachers alike.

There’s a brief bit at 1:16 in this trailer:

And a pretty over-the-top one at 37 in this one. (I remember thinking — no, she isn’t! And she does. The kids’ reactions — need to see the full episode for them — are fabulous.)

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Tales of a San Francisco ALA on an Historic Pride Weekend

June 2014. Las Vegas. Evening. A gaggle of ALA-attending librarians trudge along the Strip past feathered showgirls, dodging happy folks with very large drinks, and loud hen parties full of girls in very high heels. “Next year it is San Francisco.” mutters one librarian. “On Pride Weekend.” she goes on, stone-faced.  “I heard that meant that they will be running around with their thingies out.” says another. “Oh jeez.” they all moan as they slip past a sort-of-naked person, enter a hotel, and stolidly march through the noisy casino toward a publisher event.

June 2015. San Francisco. Pride Weekend. Gaggles of librarians are everywhere, wearing rainbow wristbands (provided by ALSC), smiling, grinning, and bursting out with tears of happiness, thrilled to be part of the Pride weekend, to celebrate the historic SCOTUS decision. These librarians are not trudging through the crowds on Market Street, but bouncing through it, peeking over shoulders at the parade, enjoying the crowd, and the day. “Oh yay!” is the overriding sentiment.

And so it was with the happy rainbow background of the SCOTUS decision and Pride Weekend that we assembled for ALA Annual 2015. Some highlights for me:

  • Everything that honored the SCOTUS decision. This came up in speeches and informal conversations at every moment. Of course being around the Pride Parade was amazing, but it was just the overall feeling of joy that was what made things really special.
  • The Coretta Scott King Awards Breakfast. This is, for me, always the most moving event of the convention.  (You can read my last year’s overview here.) The combination of the happiness of the SCOTUS decision mixed with the continuing horror of #BLACKLIVESMATTER. illustrated most recently in Charleston, made for an extraordinary event. You can read some of the fabulous speeches and appreciations over at the Horn Book. Fabulous all of them.

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Two honorees, Deb Taylor and Marilyn Nelson, with some of the 2002 Newbery Committee of which Deb was a part and which honored Marilyn.

  • Visiting Angel Island. I’ve been teaching a unit on this for many years as part of my 4th graders’ study of US immigration. We focus specifically on the Chinese who were impacted by the Chinese Exclusion Act and centered that around the immigration station at Angel Island. How amazing to go to it in person. To see the poems carved by desperate detainees waiting, the space, and more. Roxanne took many photos and videos which she plans to organize into a presentation for our students. (I took some too, but hers are much better than mine.)

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  • Chances to talk and talk and talk with my people, so many of whom I see so rarely. It wasn’t enough time!  There were so many of you I didn’t get to see at all or just barely!  But I loved what I got from all of you. (Melanie Koss — haven’t seen you for three days — what’s up?:) My great thanks to all the publishers and folks who hosted me at fabulous events. The were all terrific.

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Megan Whalen Turner and Jonathan Hunt

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Myself with the one and only Rita Williams-Garcia

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Jon Muth (first time I met him ) and Peter Sis (old friend)

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Christian Robinson and his grandmother

  • The Ferry Building. We went there several times just because we liked it. For evening drinks, for an early morning breakfast, and a late day visit on our final day.
  • The Newbery-Caldecott Banquet. It was just incredible. Lots of powerful words and tears. I was honored to be sitting with Eerdmans, celebrating Melissa Sweet’s Caldecott Honor for The Right Word. But I was right there to cheer on all the glorious honorees. What a night!

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Before the banquet I was invited to toast Cece Bell for her Newbery for El Deafo (a book I’d championed mightly). And, oh my goodness, there was cake!

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And here is the very final photo shoot of the honorees at the very end of the evening.

  • Oakland. We went there for a swell party given by Nina Lindsay for her sister-in-law, Melissa Sweet. In addition to seeing the house Nina and her husband Max have been restoring for many years, catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in a year or much longer and meeting new friends, being at a street party in that lovely neighborhood was a real treat.

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Roxanne Feldman and Nina Linsday

  • Berkeley. On our final day, we stopped into the campus of UC Berkeley to wander about the tall eucalyptus and redwoods before going to lunch at the charming home of Elizabeth C. Overmyer (current Sibert chair).  There we admired her lemon trees, quilts, and remarkable collections and also met her pleasant husband, Doug. He was most tolerant as we and the other guests (Armin Arethna, a member of this year’s Newbery Committee, and Patty Carleton who served with Roxanne and Elizabeth on the 2002 Newbery Committee) talked and talked, winding down after a fabulous few days.

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 And here is the SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books Team, already scheming for next year’s Battle!

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