Monthly Archives: November 2018

Learning to Do Better as a White Ally at NAIS’s POCC

This week I will be attending NAIS’s People of Color Conference after having heard about it for years from my POC friends and colleagues. Participating in some incredible workshops led by some of our high school students who had attended in previous years and being told that there was space for white allies had me eager to go. And so now I am, hoping to learn, listen, and to come back a better ally for my school community and outside as well.  If anyone familiar with the conference has recommendations for me, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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Orisha Priest Jaye Winmilawe’s Review of Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone

The rave reviews and accolades for Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone have been many. And while I too appreciated the book, I did wonder how someone who practiced Orisha and came from the culture being represented would feel about it. And so I was very pleased to read Jaye Winmilawe’s insightful review in Africa Access Review. She begins:

Adeyemi’s ashe or power as a writer is expressed in the success of her debut novel Children of Blood and Bone. She was awarded a groundbreaking seven figure YA book contract and a movie deal, at 23 years old.  The book has been well received, note the numerous reviews and the NY Times Best Sellers listing for over 34 weeks (presently).  So, what new could another reviewer say about this work?

Not many can assess its representation of African Yoruba Orisha culture, history, diaspora and modernity. Thus, since I am a scholar, children’s book author, and priest of the Orisha (Yoruba and Africa), it’s fair that I chime in.  My own questions about this book upon it’s March 2018 launch were:  1. How does it represent Africa and the African Diaspora? 2. How does it represent the Orisha (Orisa) and Yoruba?  3. Is this book appropriate for my elementary school-aged children and/or their library?

I highly recommend her review (and, actually, all the Africa Access reviews).

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The Book That Made Natasha Tretheway What She is Today

I was fortunate enough to meet and work with former poet laureate Natasha Tretheway years ago when she was an artist-in-residence at my school, a memorable experience that has stayed with me ever since.  And so I was delighted today to see her in the current New York Times Book Review’s By the Book feature.  While all of it is worthwhile reading, one answer stood out for me as I might answer with the same book though from a different point of view.

If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?

“The Diary of Anne Frank.” I read it when I was in the fourth grade and it showed me how a young girl from another time, place, race, culture, experience and situation could be so like me, that I could connect to her through a shared need, the necessary utterance of her words, and that my capacity for empathy could be deepened by reading the intimate account she left us in her own voice.

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CLNE aka Children’s Literature New England

The wonderful entity known as CLNE has closed its doors. It was a very special and wonderful organization that impacted my life in major ways.

Starting in 1999 (relatively recent compared to those who were involved many, many years before me) I began attending the annual summer institute of Children’s Literature New England.  I hadn’t intended to make it an annual thing, but like many others, once I started I couldn’t stop.

The institutes were extraordinary.  They were sometimes in New England (often at Harvard, Vermont, and other nearby places(, but sometimes farther off in Cambridge, England, and Toronto, Canada. There were required readings, some quite dense, lectures, small group discussions, poetry, singing, talks of a caliber quite remarkable.  And those who gave the lectures and talks! Ashley Bryan, Brian Selznick, M. T. Anderson, Alan Garner, Elizabeth Partridge, Nikki Giovanni, Neil Gaiman, Katherine Paterson, Susan Cooper, Tim Wynne-Jones, Virginia Euwer Wolff, Diana Wynne Jones,  Jill Paton Walsh, and so many more.  The directors were Gregory Maguire and Barbara Harrison. The other attendees were incredible too:  writers, editors, librarians, educators, booksellers, and every sort of person who was besotted with children’s literature. In 2005 I was honored to be a speaker and in 2006 to be a discussion leader at the final institute. Afterwards, there were other events, some of which I attended with pleasure.

It was a grand and wonderful organization. I thank everyone involved.

 

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The NYTimes and NYPL Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2018

Thrilled to see this year’s list. Having been on the jury a few years ago I know how exciting it is for the list to be finally announced. A wonderful collection of titles — congratulations to all involved! You can see the full list with art here.

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