The Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet was one of many highlights for me at this year’s ALA. First of all, Ashley Bryan with whom I go way back as he was a teacher at my school and would return in my early years there as an artist in residence. I also spent time with him over the years at the summer CLNE Institutes. (You can read my appreciation of him here.) It was absolutely wonderful that he was able to be there and accept the Newbery Honor for his fabulous book Freedom Over Me, doing so in his unique way — a Langston Hughes’ poem call and response. His CSK speech was one for the ages and I will write about it more in another post.
And then, Jason Reynolds. Last year around this time I’d fallen hard for his extraordinary Ghost. (You can read my gushy post here.) And a year later I’m reading with awe and pleasure the sequel Patina and another cool project of his, Miles Morales: Spiderman. And so it was an awe-inspiring surprise to arrive at my S&S table to discover that I would be sitting between Jason and Ashley Bryan. I knew I’d be with Ashley, but Jason? No way! We’d never met before and started a great conversation that I hope we will be able to continue in the future.
Now I’m planning a post on all the grand experiences I had at ALA this past week, but right now I want to do something else. In the course of our conversation Jason mentioned one of his first editor-mentors, Joanna Cotler, a wonderful editor who is now retired. She published Jason’s first book, My Name is Jason. Mine Too: Our Story. Our Way which I do remember now, but sadly no longer have a copy. Nor will I get one soon as the cheapest available copy on amazon is $75.32 which I suspect is typical for other sites as well. Here’s a bit more from a recent PW article:
At the age of 33, Reynolds may seem like an overnight sensation, but he calls his recent success “a second breath.” After college at the University of Maryland, he and classmate Jason Griffin moved to Brooklyn and self-published My Name Is Jason. Mine, Too. The largely autobiographical account tells the story of two broke young men with the same first name and the same dream: becoming artists. “Foolish children” is what Reynolds says now about his decision to spend $30,000 on the self-publishing venture.
Though the book didn’t find a wide audience, it caught the eye of then-HarperCollins-editor Joanna Cotler, who republished it for teens. The book still didn’t sell well, but it convinced Reynolds to write for young people, specifically those who hate reading. Since his breakout three years ago, he has become a sought-after speaker in schools, doing as many as 100 visits a year. “I have a hard time with people who say they write for children but they don’t really like children,” he says. “I love children. I love talking with them. We have a good time. We talk about sneakers or Tupac, and the books I sneak in the back door.”
So props to Joanna for discovering this wonderful young author!