About That Royal Wedding

Until yesterday morning I had just about no interest in the wedding. To be honest, not following it closely, I wondered why so many were so engaged. What, I wondered, made this British monarchy so compelling still? Especially for us in the United States? I was aware that the bride was American and bi-racial, divorced, and not exactly “typical” for the British royal family. Nonetheless, when people wrote of getting up early to watch the event, to have parties, etc I smiled bemused and went on with my work.

However, it so happened that I am a very early riser and so, yesterday,  happened upon a report that the service was starting and thought — why not check in? So I did, with mild curiosity, and was blow away. For I came in just as Bishop Michael Curry began, and that was that — I was solidly in.

I’ve been working intensely on a new project featuring the slave trade and much of my research has been about the British involvement. And so seeing the descendants of perpetrators and the enslaved marrying, being part of the celebration, in that ancient tradition was incredible, for me tear-inducing.  FWIW, here are my tweets (first are at the bottom) as I watched:

  • No one should allow the  to make them think it proves things are okay. They are not. It does show that the world has changed for the good in this one small case. (Small for all the wedding is big.)
  • Listening to “This Little Light of Mine” and watching those horses and carriages that were long ago the exclusive traveling method of slave owners, my goodness.
  • More gospel!!!!!
  • Doesn’t change the horrors of today, but I’m so moved by  all the same. For just an hour we can see that the world has changed.
  • Watching such prominent descendants of those who perpetuated and suffered during the eons of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, is surprisingly moving.
  • Been so deep into Britain and slave trade so seeing this happening … is tear-provoking.
  • Ben. E King’s Stand By Me now being sung by a gospel choir.
  • Don’t care about dresses and celebs much, but this ceremony is amazing. Reverend Michael Curry
  • “Dr. King was right. We must discover love.” Reverend Michael Curry
  • Okay, changed my mind. I tuned into the  in time to hear Bishop Michael Curry preaching and it is extraordinary.

I do hope this pushes the Royal Family to make some big statements about their family’s complicity in the slave trade. It is overdue.


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Appreciating Teachers

Yesterday was Teacher Appreciation Day in the United States. I’m going to be blunt here — as a teacher in her fifth decade in the classroom, I find the celebration simplistic and annoying. In this country, teachers are generally not appreciated, but hectored at, scolded, disrespected, and generally seen as problematic in endless ways. I wrote yesterday on facebook:

On this Teacher Appreciation Day, I’d like to wish that teacher colleagues receive respect (not scorn) every week of the year not just one, income that is commensurate with their work and education, to be given what they asked for in terms of resources, to be listened to seriously when decisions are being made, and…did I say given respect? Look to Finland if you want to know how to do it.

Those who appreciate teachers, please help us in these areas. Show us respect by giving us what we need to be effective, to feel honored, to matter. I’m so fortunate I landed where I did so long ago, in a private school. This only happened because there were no public school jobs in the mid-1970s when I was on the job hunt. (New York was in a fiscal mess at the time.) After all, I’d gone to public school and wanted to teach in one. But that isn’t the career trajectory that happened for me. And good thing too as my age-peers in public schools have largely taken early retirement due to the reductive and negative nature of their jobs today. I am so lucky in not being curtailed by endless testing and other outside controls on my teaching. I’m able and encouraged to develop curriculum, to think, to reflect, to learn, and do better. I so wish that was true for all teachers in the United States. Make it so all of you teacher appreciators!

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Children’s Africana Book Awards 2018

Congratulations to all!




Angela Brooksbank, illus.
South Africa
Kathryn  Erskine
Charly Palmer, illus
Farrar, Strauss, Giroux



      Portia Dery
Toby Newsome, illus.
     African Bureau Stories



Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl
Sandra van Doorn, illus.

Wanuri Kahiu
Manuela Adreani, illus.


South Africa

 When Morning Comes
Arushi Raina




Kwame Alexander
Mary Rand Hess


Nnedi Okorafor




Leah Henderson



Keely Hutton
Farrar Straus Giroux




Imbolo Mbue
Random House

The Children’s Africana Book Awards (CABA) are presented annually to the authors and illustrators of the best children’s and young adult books on Africa published or republished in the U.S. The awards were created by Africa Access and the Outreach Council of the African Studies Association (ASA) to encourage the publication and use of accurate, balanced children’s materials about Africa. The awards are presented in three categories:Young Children, Older Readers and New Adult. Notable Books recognize additional worthy titles.
Award Sponsors

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Georges Méliès Celebrated in a 360 Google Doodle

I was too lazy to find my cardboard viewer and download the app, but it looks pretty good this way too.

Here’s Méliès original Trip to the Moon

And here is the Georges Méliès tribute scene (The recreated films start at 3:16.) from Scorsese’s film Hugo, based on Brian Selznick’s book The Invention of Hugo Cabret. For a very cool slide show of the opening images in the book click here.


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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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