Monthly Archives: September 2015

My Very Important Date (with SLJ and Alice)

Doing the research for my SLJ piece,  “Alice in Wonderland: A Very Important Date” was great fun.  That is, it involved finding out what would be coming out this year, what was still in print, and what was not, but still worth including. Having to bring down the list to a manageble number for this Alicephile was not, as you can imagine, easy.  Many favorites had to be left out.  The published article includes a brief prefatory essay on the book’s history and then an annotated list of recommended books, apps, and even a website for a wide variety of ages. Some are the very newest titles available while others are much older. I hope you all will take a look as even if you think you know all about Alice, you may be surprised!


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Jane Goodall, UN Messenger of Peace

A Prayer for World Peace_Cov_Neutral_Layout 1

Yesterday on International World Peace Day I was invited to a small gathering to celebrate UN Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall’s forthcoming  A Prayer for World Peace and its gorgeous illustrations by the distinguished Iranian artist Feeroozeh Golmohammad. The publisher describes the book on their website thus:

● Jane Goodall is recognized the world over for her commitment to natural preservation, and for efforts to being peace to all parts of the world.

● A perfect book for generations of readers who are awakening to the suffering caused by human activities such as animal abuse, environmental degradation, and war.

● This is a prayer that appeals to all humankind, regardless of creed or background. It’s a truly universal message of hope.

Jane Goodall is a world-renowned naturalist who brings her passion and her quest for understanding between all the Earth’s creatures to the fore in this beautiful and affecting prayer for world peace. She asks us all to rise above our dogmas, to bring a spirit of generosity to the living world around us, to pray for justice and for those who are suffering. Illustrated with rich and colorful artwork, this is prayer that’s both personal and universal – one that will speak to people of all ages from all backgrounds. It is the kind of prayer we most need now.

A Prayer for World Peace is a gorgeous, extraordinarily moving book. One, indeed for all ages. The art is glowing, connecting with the Goodall’s passionate phrases to be indeed a call for world peace. And Jane Goodall. After a day of speeches at the UN she was exhausted, but still could not stop talking about peace, children, her Roots & Shoots initiative to make a difference, and so much more. On the fly, she ranged from everything going on the world from refugees in Europe to the dreadful effects of cows and methane gas to events in Burundi. I’ve read much about her, say Anita Silvey’s recent Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall, but this was the first time I can recall meeting her. Aside from being in complete and utter awe of Jane herself — she is a real life hero — I was incredibly moved that she had a small plush chimp there looking very much like her beloved Jubilee as described in Patrick O’Donnell’s charming picture book biography, Me…Jane.

I could not resist a few starstruck photos:




Thank you ipgbooks, Deborah Sloan, and mineditions for inviting me to this special experience.


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New Blog Alert

Today, a group of thoughtful white librarian allies launch the blog, Reading While White. Their mission statement:

We are White librarians organizing to confront racism in the field of children’s and young adult literature.  We are allies in the ongoing struggle for authenticity and visibility in books; for opportunities for people of color and First/Native Nations people in all aspects of the children’s and young adult book world; and for accountability among publishers, book creators, reviewers, librarians, teachers, and others.  We are learning, and hold ourselves responsible for understanding how our whiteness impacts our perspectives and our behavior.

We know that we lack the expertise that non-white have on marginalized racial experiences.  We resolve to listen and learn from people of color and First/Native Nations people willing to speak about those experiences.  We resolve to examine our own White racial experiences without expecting people of color and First/Native Nations people to educate us. As White people, we have the responsibility to change the balance of White privilege.

The first post will go live at 11 EST today. Meantime check out their FAQs and Resources for Further Research.  The history these six librarians (see their names below) have as allies and the timeliness of this makes me certain this is an important blog to follow.

The contributors are:


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(New York, NY – September 8, 2015) — Penguin Young Readers is thrilled to announce a 40th anniversary edition of the Newbery Award-winning ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY by Mildred D. Taylor. With more than 6.5 million copies in print, this masterpiece will have all new covers from Caldecott Winning illustrator Kadir Nelson. The 10 book deal includes covers for Ms. Taylor’s entire backlist and a future hardcover due from Viking in 2017. World rights, all languages were negotiated by Eileen Kreit, publisher of Puffin, and Steven Malk of Writers House. The hardcover anniversary rejacketed edition will publish in January 2016 with the complete backlist to follow in paperback in April.

Set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, this is the story of one family’s struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. It is also the story of Cassie Logan, an independent girl who discovers over the course of an important year why having land of their own is so crucial to the Logan family, even as she learns to draw strength from her own sense of dignity and self-respect.

Ms. Taylor says, “ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY was created from a story my father and my uncle told me while we sat at the dining room table. From the time I was a child, I heard family stories and family history. I have woven all those stories and all that history into ten books, including the book I am now writing, LOGAN, the concluding book of the Logan family saga. I consider my books a legacy to my family, and I believe all those who shared the stories and who lived the history would be as proud as I of the 40th anniversary of ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY, a book begun with a story told around the dining room table.”

“I’m so thrilled to have the opportunity to create new covers for this powerful series by Mildred Taylor,” says Kadir Nelson. “The ROLL OF THUNDER series resonates so deeply with me and I’m very proud to help introduce this saga to a new generation of readers.”

 Don Weisberg, President of Penguin Young Readers, said, “ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY has become a part of our country’s literary history, enjoyed by generations of readers. It’s a privilege to be part of this publishing legacy, and we’re excited to celebrate the upcoming anniversary and new addition to the Logan family saga.”

ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY was first published in January 1976, and was followed by eight additional novels to form the Logan family saga. These titles – Let the Circle be Unbroken, The Road to Memphis, Mississippi Bridge, Song of the Trees, The Friendship, The Land, The Well, The Gold Cadillac – will be rejacketed with original art by Kadir Nelson for release in April 2016. The final book in the Logan family saga will be released by Viking in 2017.

Mildred D. Taylor is the author of nine books including The Road to MemphisLet the Circle Be UnbrokenThe Land, The Well and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Her books have won numerous awards, among them a Newbery Medal and Germany’s Buxtehude Bulle Award (both for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry), four Coretta Scott King Awards, and a Boston Globe—Horn Book Award. Her book The Land was awarded the L.A. Times Book Prize and the PEN Award for Children’s Literature. In 2003, Ms. Taylor was named the First Laureate of the NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature. In 2004, Mississippi celebrated a Mildred D. Taylor Day, and Mildred Taylor returned to her roots to address several hundred school children and adults at The University of Mississippi.

Mildred Taylor was born in Jackson, Mississippi, and grew up in Toledo, Ohio. After graduating from the University of Toledo, she served in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia for two years and then spent the next year traveling throughout the United States, working and recruiting for the Peace Corps. At the University of Colorado’s School of Journalism, she helped created a Black Studies program and taught in the program for two years. Ms. Taylor has worked as a proofreader-editor and as program coordinator for an international house and a community free school. She now devotes her time to her family, writing, and what she terms “the family ranch” in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

Kadir Nelson is a two-time Caldecott Honor Award recipient. He has received an NAACP Image Award, a CASEY Award, the 2009 and 2014 Coretta Scott King Author Award, and the 2009 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award. Among Mr. Nelson’s other awards are gold and silver medals from the Society of Illustrators. His work has appeared in The New York TimesSports Illustrated, and The New Yorker. He lives in Los Angeles.

Penguin Random House ( is the world’s most global trade book publisher. It was formed on July 1, 2013, upon the completion of an agreement between Bertelsmann and Pearson to merge their respective trade publishing companies, Random House and Penguin, with the parent companies owning 53% and 47%, respectively.  Penguin Random House comprises the adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction print and digital trade book publishing businesses of Penguin and Random House in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa, and Penguin’s trade publishing activity in Asia and Brazil; DK worldwide; and Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial’s Spanish-language companies in Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, and Chile. Penguin Random House employs more than 10,000 people globally across almost 250 editorially and creatively independent imprints and publishing houses that collectively publish more than 15,000 new titles annually. Its publishing lists include more than 70 Nobel Prize laureates and hundreds of the world’s most widely read authors.


The Logan Family Saga, by Mildred D. Taylor:


ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY 40th Anniversary Edition

On sale: January 5, 2016

(9781101993880; Dial; Hardcover; $18.99; Ages 8 – 12)


ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY 40th Anniversary Edition

On sale: January 5, 2016

(9780140384512; Puffin; Paperback; $7.99; Ages 8 – 12)



On sale: April 12, 2016

(9781101997543; Puffin; Paperback; $7.99; Ages 8 – 12)



On sale: April 12, 2016

(9781101997550; Puffin; Paperback; $7.99; Ages 8 – 12)



On sale: April 12, 2016

(9780141308173; Puffin; Paperback; $7.99; Ages 8 – 12)



On sale: April 12, 2016

(9780142500750; Puffin; Paperback; $7.99; Ages 8 – 12)



On sale: April 12, 2016

(9780140389647; Puffin; Paperback; $7.99; Ages 8 – 12)



On sale: April 12, 2016

(9781101997567; Puffin; Paperback; $7.99; Ages 8 – 12)



On sale: April 12, 2016

(9780140386424; Puffin; Paperback; $7.99; Ages 8 – 12)



On sale: April 12, 2016

(9780140389630; Puffin; Paperback; $7.99; Ages 8 – 12)


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Remembering September 11

The farther September 11th recedes into the past the better. I’m glad it is vague history to my new 4th graders.

Ten days earlier had been our first day of school. At 8am I had opened my classroom door to a bunch of energetic nine-year-olds who quickly discovered the chocolate ladybugs I’d placed on each of their desks for good luck. By mid-morning, I’d led a discussion on classroom rules, helped them stow away school supplies, and taken them on a tour to see where the all-important bathrooms and water fountains were.

That is from Normal Service Will be Resumed, an article I wrote for the Times Educational Supplement. Those ladybugs struck a particular chord as I wrote about them elsewhere too. That year they were sent to us from all over the world. Ever since those goodluck bugs have been a theme for my classroom. How nice that my current students have no idea why.

And here is what I wrote on the childlit list serve prior to the first anniversary:

Saturday, September 7, 2002 1:30:47 PM

Classes start next Tuesday for my 4th graders. Yesterday, as we

bustled about getting ready, one of my colleagues apologized for

being a bit off-kilter. He was edgy, he explained, because of the

session of Congress being held downtown. He’d just seen another

army helicopter fly overhead. “Why did they have to come here?”

I know what he means. A few weeks ago I couldn’t leave my

apartment building for hours while the police checked out a possible

bomb in a trash can on Riverside Drive, half a block away. When we

peered outside the door we could see the yellow police tape and a

crowd gawking beyond it. I called my dad who lives nearby. He went

out and called back to tell me that everything was closed off for blocks

around. Afterwards I walked to the corner, found the fake bomb which

had been a Fedex envelope with wood inside, and watched the police

put the bomb robot back in a van. My doorman said it was the second

time in a week. Someone somewhere last year wrote about the new

normal. I’m afraid it has yet to feel normal to me.

At one of our planning meetings this week I asked the other teachers

about our fall field trips to Ellis Island and the Lower East Side

Tenement Museum, both of which were cancelled last year.

We agreed that we were ready for the Lower East Side, but not for Ellis

Island. One teacher said she was feeling jittery about next week. She

didn’t have to say anything more; we all remembered those long hours

waiting to hear about her brother who worked in the towers; to hear

he’d escaped. I thought about the photos each of us has of previous

classes at Ellis Island. The ones with lower Manhattan behind right

behind them. They haunt us. We aren’t ready yet.

But most of the time my colleagues and I stick with the easy stuff.

Worrying about our new cohort, for example. The ones with learning

issues. Those with self-control issues. It is so much easier to focus

on them, on trying to find a room for a math class in our overcrowded

building, or creating a fresh new writing activity. So much easier than

thinking about the new normal.

The evening before I had been at our school’s opening party at the

Museum of the City of New York. I spent a long time with one of my

colleagues’ husband; someone who carried a woman on crutches

down 50 flights last year. He talked about that day, about the last year

and how his department was doing, about the bomb in ’93, about

whether or not the videos of the planes should be aired on

Wednesday, about how he’d first seen them in a television studio that

day, where he had gone, still covered in dust to be interviewed, after

making it to the school.

Last year my class made posters for his department, to cheer them up

in their new location, across the river, looking at what is no more. The

posters are still up he told me. Everyone in his department plans to

go to work on Wednesday he told me; they want to be together.

Whether they can do it when the time comes he isn’t so sure.   They

are now in a seven story building; that is high enough he said smiling.

We talked about those who feel the towers should be rebuilt. Who, we

wondered, would want to work in those upper floors? Would his

coworkers like more posters? I asked. His face brightened — yes,

yes, that was a great idea.

Next Wednesday an exhibit is to open at the museum called The Day

Our World Changed: Children’s Art of 9/11. It is a juried exhibition of

children’s art and several of our students’ work was selected including

that of a child whose father ran Windows on the World. “My father

worked on the 106th and 107th floors of the WTC Building One. Luckily

he wasn’t there.”   Andrew’s piece is on the cover of the exhibit’s book

which is published by Abrams. Another image from the book is on the

cover of this week’s New York Times Book Review and more can be

seen at the website:

I was in the school office yesterday when one of our 8th graders came in.

Her father wasn’t as lucky as Andrew’s. She’d been to camp, she

told us. She looked tan, I remarked. When she left no one said

anything. Our new normal.

So far the September 11 book that works best for me is With Their

Eyes: The View of a High School at Ground Zero. I know that school.

Some of our students go there for high school. My father is a graduate

as is my godchild. The voices in the book sound honest to me. I’m

surrounded every day by teens (as my building is for grades 4 -12)

and this book feels utterly and completely authentic.   Some of it even,

remarkably, is comforting. It is a school too you see and a number of

the people interviewed described feelings and experiences similar to

ours. For we too were worrying about family members that day, were

trying to understand what was going on, and soldiering on those next

weeks and months. Yes, some of that was familiar. Not normal


Last year I went to Switzerland over the summer. I brought back

several bags of chocolate ladybugs. Ladybugs are good luck symbols

and I thought they would be fun for my students. And so on the

morning of September 11, as some of you may recall , I put one on

each student’s desk. Days later I gave each another to celebrate our

first complete week of school. In June, when the children were

cleaning out their desks the majority still had their ladybugs, carefully

saved. Their new normal.

This year, I’ve got ladybugs everywhere. On the children’s coathooks,

on the wall, and on the door. I couldn’t find any chocolate ladybugs,

but I found some bookmarks instead. They’ll be on their desks when

they come upstairs after the memorial assembly on Wednesday. My

new normal.


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Who Tells the Story

A couple of complicated, painful, and challenging conversations arose the last couple of days online related to who tells what story:

  • Debbie Reese’s description of a dinner raising white privilege issues around storytelling.
  • Questions here and here about Maggie Stiefvater’s participation on a “Writing the Other” panel and her response.


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The Chinese Children’s Book World

My friend Roxanne Feldman (originally from Taiwan) recently visited China to attend the Beijing International Book Fair and explore the children’s book offerings from Chinese publishers. She did a delightful series of posts here about her visit with Notes from Beijing: Children’s Book Authors & Companies specifically featuring some of what she discovered. Announcing this on the childlit list serve, Roxanne wrote:

From August 21st to 30th, I was in Beijing, as an invited guest by a
Chinese publisher that wishes to start bringing quality children’s books to
the States in dual language texts (Chinese & English) to help with
surveying the current output of the Chinese children’s books (especially
picture books) and making recommendations.  It was a truly educational
experience for me, and I have been documenting my second journey to the
motherland, what I’ve learned, and what I am thinking on my blog.



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