Monthly Archives: April 2018

The Refreshing Arbuthnot Lecture and Weekend of Naomi Shihab Nye

This past Saturday was the glorious culmination of the work and appreciation of many people — Naomi Shihab Nye’s Arbuthnot lecture at Western Washington University.  The 2018 Arbuthnot Committee, of which I am a member, began operating way back in early 2016, looking far and wide for the best person possible to deliver this distinguished lecture. Our decision made we had to keep it under wraps until Midwinter 2017 when it was announced to a gratifyingly enthusiastic response. The next task for the committee was to select the institution where the lecture would take place. We considered a rich collection of these, ending up being wowed by an ambitious proposal by Thom BarthelmessNancy Johnson, and Sylvia Tag of Western Washington University and the Whatcom County Library System of Bellingham, Washington. This was announced at the 2017 Midwinter conference and now, over a year later of their efforts, I can serve witness that they pulled it off brilliantly.

After a very, very, VERY long journey across the continent I arrived mid-afternoon on Friday with time to take a lovely walk before a dinner hosted by Harper Collins. Held at Ciao Thyme, we were treated to a heavenly array of courses (my favorite being the rhubarb gallette that ended the meal).

There were events on Friday and then, on Saturday, a Celebration of Poetry Luncheon in Western Washington University’s glorious Reading Room. There was a remarkable one act play performed by BAAY, poems read by children of all ages, and more poems presented around the room.

(Thom was unable to be there in person, but was there in everyone’s thoughts:)



Nancy, Naomi, and Sylvia

Then there was the big night — the lecture itself, “REFRESHMENTS WILL BE SERVED – Our Lives of Reading & Writing.” It was as wonderful as we knew it would be. I look forward to all having a chance to read it in a forthcoming issue of  Children and Libraries.

The Arbuthnot Committee (missing Wendy Lukehart and Tim Capehart), myself, chair Betsy Bird, and Sharon McKellar with Naomi.

Over 500 registered for the lecture!

To conclude, here’s what I posted yesterday morning on Facebook:

Mulling over an extraordinary two days in Bellingham for Naomi Shihab Nye’s Arbuthnot lecture. Every element was perfection (even the light rain as it lent atmosphere). I am in awe, Sylvia TagNancy JohnsonThom Barthelmess for this memorable time. From the glorious luncheon with incredible young people reading and performing to the spaces to the refreshments to the care you took for all of us to the thought to the flowers to the welcome and so much more, I am eternally grateful. I am also in awe of the tireless ALSC folks: Aimee StrittmatterCee Jones, and the one and only Nina LindsayPatty RosatiSuzanne Murphy Giatzis, and Virginia Duncan of Harper Collins—- thank you, thank you. My fellow Arbuthnot committee members Betsy Ramsey BirdSharon McKellarWendy Lukehart, and Tim Capehart — we did [sic] good. And then there is the woman of the moment: Naomi Shihab Nye, you were glorious. Refreshments? I am sated by your beautiful words of last night.








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Teaser for Kate DiCamillo’s forthcoming Louisiana’s Way Home

Out in October, Louisiana’s Way Home hones in on one of the three Rancheros from Raymie NightingaleHaving been fortunate enough to receive an advance reader’s copy along with some peanuts and an O’Henry bar, I dropped into Louisiana’s story penned in DeCamillo’s unmistakable prose and was unable to stop until I was done. Thanks, Candlewick PR folks, for the sustenance as I craved them as soon as they were mentioned. As the book isn’t out for a while all I’m going to say is that it is

Melancholy, heart-wrenching, full of gorgeous writing, and complicated. One to ponder.

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Elizabeth Partridge’s Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam


“This indispensable volume brings a wise and humane lens to a confused and brutal conflict.”

Please check out my starred Horn Book review of this outstanding book.

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Watch Hamilton at the 2018 Olivier Awards in London.

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In Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’ve posted this over the years in honor of Dr. King and do so again today:

Born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1922, my father Lewis J. Edinger, who passed away in 2008, fled with his mother to America at the age of fourteen; his father chose to stay, hoping to ride things out, but was deported and killed. Years later, as a newly minted PhD, my father took whatever jobs he could find; one of those was in Montgomery, Alabama at the time of the bus boycott where, among other things, he met Martin Luther King, Jr.  Here are some excerpts from his memoir about that time in his life.

I got my haircuts at Maxwell Air Force Base from a black barber with unsteady hands named Raymond Parks  — a negro for polite white Montgomery society, a “n-” for most of the whites, and a darky for those who might say one and think the other. Raymond’s wife Rosa was a seamstress I had never head of until she was arrested. She had refused to comply with a city segregation ordinance that required her, like any black, to give her seat in the front of a city bus to a white man and find one in the back. Legend had it that Rosa Parks was defiant because she was simply too tired to surrender her seat. Actually it was a deliberate protest against the all-pervasive racial discrimination by a prominent activist of  Montgomery’s black community. Her arrest started the now famous, well-organized boycott of all the city’s public transport by half of its population. Fifty years after that unforgettable experience I remain proud to have had some part in it.

Early on I had an opportunity to challenge Martin Luther King Jr. on adopting Gandhian non-violent principles for the boycott. I owed our meeting to my wife Hanni and, more directly, to a mutual friend, Virginia Durr, a white woman from a prominent family who played a role in the boycott. She and Hanni had become friends through the small local chapter of the League of Women Voters that often met at our place and then through our membership in the Montgomery branch of the anti-segregationist, interracial Southern Conference for Human Welfare. At that—for me memorable—meeting with King I told him that while Gandhian tactics wore down law-respecting Englishmen in India they could not overcome white segregationists in Montgomery. Virginia Durr set the outside agitator –me — straight with an anecdote.

A debutant and prominent member of the Junior League in Mobile, the young Virginia was sent out of the Deep South where she was raised to get a degree from Wellesley College in Massachusetts. When she came to the dining room for her first breakfast she found the only available seat was next to a black girl and promptly returned to her room, true to her segregationist upbringing. Her grandpappy had fought and died to preserve Southern ways, as she put it to me, and her family expected her to remain loyal to a tradition that put negroes in their place below and most certainly not next to whites. That’s what she told the dean to whom she rushed to explain her position, whereupon that lady told her that if she could not abide by the rules at Wellesley she was free to leave. As she found that impossible Virginia stayed on and learned to live by new rules. And that, the knowledgeable Southern insider predicted, was how it would go with the segregationist rules of Montgomery once they had been declared unconstitutional. And indeed, respect for the law carried the day after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the city ordinance that triggered the precedent-setting, non-violent protest movement led by King.

Some incidents in our direct involvement with the boycott remain unforgettable. One was the impressive evening when a few of us white supporters were just for once allowed to stand in the back of a packed church to witness one of the  mass rallies that  sustained the commitment of the blacks. It took the form of a Baptist religious service with one after another of the local clergy evoking ever more fervent supportive responses from the congregation, capped by shouts of “who is the king – he is the king” when the boycott leader appeared for the climax.

Another time Hanni was driving our young cleaning woman  home when she was flagged down by a Montgomery policeman. He gave her a ticket for an alleged traffic offense, a mild form of harassment in light of what others in our support group experienced. A librarian living alone was driven by ever more threatening anonymous phone calls to commit suicide.

When the boycott did not end quickly the board of Montgomery’s city commissioners joined the radically-segregationist White Citizen Council and that led our little group to draw up a petition in which “we white citizens of Montgomery” asked them to reconsider such an action directed against the black half of their constituents. We decided to submit this petition if we got enough signatures to make an impression and then a work colleague and I approached those we thought would sign. Some did, others would not. It was an unpleasant surprise when supposed liberals from the North lacked the courage to stand by their expressions of anti-segregationist convictions. Phony excuses were induced by fear of McCarthy-style retribution.

Our principled position was put to the test when we asked a visiting black historian Hanni knew from New York for dinner. It seemed a great idea until it struck us that the parents of children Monica played with in our complex would then no longer let them do that. Reluctantly we decided that we could not let our three-year old suffer for principles that were beyond her understanding and moved the dinner to friends who lived in a house and not an apartment.  We thought it the right decision but were never entirely reconciled to it. It left us with a better comprehension of family conformism in Nazi Germany.

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