Category Archives: Other

An IBBY Wonderland

If you are interested in international children’s books (hopefully you all are!) and able to make it to New York this October, I urge you to consider attending the 11th Annual IBBY Regional Conference, “Through the Looking Glass: Exploring the Wonderland of International Children’s Literature,” October 16-18, 2015. Several years ago I was able to attend the IBBY Congress in London (it is every two years in different parts of the world — next summer it is in New Zealand) and it was fabulous. (You can read my impressions in these blog posts.)  And so I’m guessing that the regional conference will be a mini-version of that and equally awesome. Kate DiCamillo, David Almond, Paul Zelinsky, Leonard Marcus, Chris Raschka, Lois Lowry, and Susan Cooper will be there. Breakout session presenters include Betsy Bird, Marc Aronson, Jaime Campbell Naidoo, Padma Venkatraman, Sarah Park Dahlen, Susan L. Roth, Junko Yokota, Anrdi Snær Magnason, Margarita Engle, and Lisbeth Zwerger, (Oh, I’m doing one too .)  Hope to see some of you there!  (ETA Just saw that there are only 40 spots left so register today!)

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The Martian, Book and Movie

I listened to Andy Weir’s The Martian last fall and, at first, wondered what it was all about, writing in a  goodreads update:

Just as I thought “this is getting claustrophobic” the other side’s story kicked in.

And once that happened, I was completely absorbed. My final brief review:

This was fun. Pretty much a roller-coaster. Almost predicable in that as soon as things seemed okay something else terrible happened, but somehow super-smart Whatley figured them out each time.

Now I’m evidently the last to know the movie is coming out this fall. The trailer has me quite excited. Love this sort of stuff!

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The Holocaust and White Privilege

I was surprised last fall when, during a day of equity training at my school, some of my white Jewish colleagues struggled with the idea that they were privileged. This was due to their awareness of historical anti-semitism against Jews, especially the Holocaust, even though, in most cases, their own immediate families had not experienced this firsthand. As someone who is first generation German Jewish and did have immediate family who had experienced this, I was puzzled. My father, who fled Germany at age 14 after far too much experience with Nazis (his father stayed and was killed), always spoke of how lucky I was not to have experienced anti-semitism. He would have been the first to point out to me how fortunate I was to be able to attend a distinguished college (as he was at Columbia I was able to get multiple degrees there without having to pay tuition) and to do all sorts of things because of my race, education, class, and more. (Not money as we were extremely poor when I was young, something that might surprise people who would assume a young academic was financially comfortable. Not so.) I often repost this piece written by him about his experiences in Montgomery during the bus boycott when I was young. It makes me confident that he would scoff at the idea that his personal background allowed him to claim a lack of white privilege. As a young adult I used to find it enormously frustrating when I complained about something in my life and my father simply pointed out how fortunate and lucky I was. I now see how right he was.


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Another Iconic American Author with a Newly Discovered Book

“Why, then, did … leave this one in the drawer?”

No, that isn’t someone asking about Harper Lee. It is New York Times children’s book editor Maria Russo wondering about Dr. Seuss in her thoughtful review of his new posthumously published book, What Pet Should I Get?  I’d already seen the positive review by Michiko Kakutani’s for the weekday New York Times (done in Seussian rhyme no less), but it is Russo’s for the Book Review that really gets to the heart of the matter. She situates her review within a broader overview of Seuss’s work and time and indeed has a really smart answer to the question above, based on careful consideration of the historical record. Highly, highly recommended reading.

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New Trailer for the SyFy Series of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians

I’m enjoying the BBC’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell  (while revisiting the book via the audio edition) tremendously and am certain to be sad when it is over. So I am encouraged by this clip from the forthcoming Syfy series of Grossman’s The Magicians as I liked the books very much (though they are totally different from Clark’s book). There’s an earlier  teaser trailer here.

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My Thoughts on The Guardian Children’s Fiction Award Long List

Today the longlist for the Guardian Children’s Ficton Award was revealed. I love this prize and discovering new titles through it (especially ones that aren’t published in the U.S.). Here they are with some commentary from me:

  • Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders. I first learned of this book when it was shortlisted for the Costa Prize and immediately ordered it from the U.K.  I thought it outstanding (my review here) and was thrilled when it won the Costa. Very happy to see it on this list. Would be even happier if it was published in the U. S.
  • My Name’s Not Friday by Jon Walter. I’ve heard such great things about this book (especially from its publisher David Fickling) and have moved the ARC way up on my to-read pile. Can’t wait to read it.
  • An Island of our Own by Sally Nicholls. I was a big fan of this author’s earlier title, Ways to Live Forever (was a contender for the very first Battle of the Kids’ Books) and so, when I saw this title, immediately downloaded the ebook. Looks great fun.
  • The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge. I’m a big fan of this author and some time ago when I saw a review of this I immediately got the ebook (only edition available in the US). It is fabulous, fabulous, fabulous.
  • El Deafo, by Cece Bell. Er… there is this and my thoughts here. Darn cool to see it here!
  • A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond. This writer is always magical and here he is evidently reworking The Odyssey. I’m in and have moved the ARC up on my to-read pile.
  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. This has gotten raves in the US.
  • Apple and Rain Sarah Crossan.  Another to move up on my to-read pile.


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Tales of a San Francisco ALA on an Historic Pride Weekend

June 2014. Las Vegas. Evening. A gaggle of ALA-attending librarians trudge along the Strip past feathered showgirls, dodging happy folks with very large drinks, and loud hen parties full of girls in very high heels. “Next year it is San Francisco.” mutters one librarian. “On Pride Weekend.” she goes on, stone-faced.  “I heard that meant that they will be running around with their thingies out.” says another. “Oh jeez.” they all moan as they slip past a sort-of-naked person, enter a hotel, and stolidly march through the noisy casino toward a publisher event.

June 2015. San Francisco. Pride Weekend. Gaggles of librarians are everywhere, wearing rainbow wristbands (provided by ALSC), smiling, grinning, and bursting out with tears of happiness, thrilled to be part of the Pride weekend, to celebrate the historic SCOTUS decision. These librarians are not trudging through the crowds on Market Street, but bouncing through it, peeking over shoulders at the parade, enjoying the crowd, and the day. “Oh yay!” is the overriding sentiment.

And so it was with the happy rainbow background of the SCOTUS decision and Pride Weekend that we assembled for ALA Annual 2015. Some highlights for me:

  • Everything that honored the SCOTUS decision. This came up in speeches and informal conversations at every moment. Of course being around the Pride Parade was amazing, but it was just the overall feeling of joy that was what made things really special.
  • The Coretta Scott King Awards Breakfast. This is, for me, always the most moving event of the convention.  (You can read my last year’s overview here.) The combination of the happiness of the SCOTUS decision mixed with the continuing horror of #BLACKLIVESMATTER. illustrated most recently in Charleston, made for an extraordinary event. You can read some of the fabulous speeches and appreciations over at the Horn Book. Fabulous all of them.


Two honorees, Deb Taylor and Marilyn Nelson, with some of the 2002 Newbery Committee of which Deb was a part and which honored Marilyn.

  • Visiting Angel Island. I’ve been teaching a unit on this for many years as part of my 4th graders’ study of US immigration. We focus specifically on the Chinese who were impacted by the Chinese Exclusion Act and centered that around the immigration station at Angel Island. How amazing to go to it in person. To see the poems carved by desperate detainees waiting, the space, and more. Roxanne took many photos and videos which she plans to organize into a presentation for our students. (I took some too, but hers are much better than mine.)


  • Chances to talk and talk and talk with my people, so many of whom I see so rarely. It wasn’t enough time!  There were so many of you I didn’t get to see at all or just barely!  But I loved what I got from all of you. (Melanie Koss — haven’t seen you for three days — what’s up?:) My great thanks to all the publishers and folks who hosted me at fabulous events. The were all terrific.


Megan Whalen Turner and Jonathan Hunt


Myself with the one and only Rita Williams-Garcia


Jon Muth (first time I met him ) and Peter Sis (old friend)


Christian Robinson and his grandmother

  • The Ferry Building. We went there several times just because we liked it. For evening drinks, for an early morning breakfast, and a late day visit on our final day.
  • The Newbery-Caldecott Banquet. It was just incredible. Lots of powerful words and tears. I was honored to be sitting with Eerdmans, celebrating Melissa Sweet’s Caldecott Honor for The Right Word. But I was right there to cheer on all the glorious honorees. What a night!


Before the banquet I was invited to toast Cece Bell for her Newbery for El Deafo (a book I’d championed mightly). And, oh my goodness, there was cake!


And here is the very final photo shoot of the honorees at the very end of the evening.

  • Oakland. We went there for a swell party given by Nina Lindsay for her sister-in-law, Melissa Sweet. In addition to seeing the house Nina and her husband Max have been restoring for many years, catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in a year or much longer and meeting new friends, being at a street party in that lovely neighborhood was a real treat.


Roxanne Feldman and Nina Linsday

  • Berkeley. On our final day, we stopped into the campus of UC Berkeley to wander about the tall eucalyptus and redwoods before going to lunch at the charming home of Elizabeth C. Overmyer (current Sibert chair).  There we admired her lemon trees, quilts, and remarkable collections and also met her pleasant husband, Doug. He was most tolerant as we and the other guests (Armin Arethna, a member of this year’s Newbery Committee, and Patty Carleton who served with Roxanne and Elizabeth on the 2002 Newbery Committee) talked and talked, winding down after a fabulous few days.


 And here is the SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books Team, already scheming for next year’s Battle!



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