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Independent Press Update

In order to make it easier for visitors to check out the ever-growing list of independent presses that I started on my “Amplifying Diversity: Independent Presses” post, I’ve created a page featuring them and added it to the menu above. Please continue to let me know of presses to add. (FYI I will only add international presses that have US distribution.)  I will also be continuing my Indie Press Spotlight series — two so far and many more to come.

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Thinking About Identity Labeling

A few days ago I was struck by Lisa Selin Davis’s New York Times Op-Ed, “My Daughter is Not Transgender. She’s a Tomboy.” It captured for me the need we seem to have to get young people identified and then label that identity. Often kids who, in my experience, are exploring and trying out identities as they figure out what they want to be.

Then a few days later I read Chase Strangio’s thought-provoking response, “An Open Letter to Those Praising the New York Times ‘Tomboy’ Piece.” And I realize yet again how incredibly complex our current world is as we work to support evolving identity from every side.

I’m still reading, listening, learning, watching and thinking about all of this. Hope you all are too!

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Not Your Nice Little Bunny Books

Seeing all the sweet bunny books being touted for Easter makes me think of those that aren’t so, er, nice. Here are few that came quickly to mind. By all means suggest more in the comments.

You may be surprised to know that one of the first is Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit.  Potter’s Peter and other animal characters (she’s got quite a few bunnies) in her books tend to be selfish, silly, and not particularly nice.

A recent subversive one is Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, and Matthew Myers’s Battle Bunny. I wrote about reading aloud here. That is NOT a nice bunny!

I’m partial to Emily Gravett’s Wolves which is from the point of view of a bunny. Things may or may not go well — depends on which ending you prefer.


Another oldie, but goodie is “The Story of the Wild Huntman” from Heinrich Hoffman’s brilliantly subversive Struwwelpeter.

As for the one in Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back,  hmm….


Jules Danielson just recommended this one. You can get a taste here and here. Boy oh boy is that one bad bunny!


Roxanne below reminded me of this “bopping them on the head” bunny.  I knew the rhyme, but not that it was adapted as a picture book.


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Impressions of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2017

Last year as I began planning my spring term sabbatical  I realized that I would be free to check-out the legendary Bologna Children’s Book Fair. And so I convinced Susannah Richards to join me and on Friday, March 31, off we went for a week at the fair.

While I had heard a lot about the fair from others, got plenty of advice, I still went with few expectations other than that it seemed to be more for buying foreign rights and not so much for the likes of me. I quickly discovered that while it was indeed mostly for rights, it also was rich in learning opportunities of all kinds. I wandered the halls in awe of the range of publishing from throughout the world, sat in with editor friends while they met with foreign publishers, went to some wonderful panels, saw amazing art and books, and met old and new friends from all over. Add in the marvelous city of Bologna and it was all in all a fantastic experience.

We arrived on Saturday, giving us the weekend to sightsee before the start of the fair on Monday. Wandering the streets of Bologna, stopping into bookstores, libraries, and more was wonderful. Everything I ‘d heard about this city was correct. Then we spent the bulk of Monday-Wednesday at the fair itself. It was incredible wandering the halls, setting in on panels, seeing art, meeting people, and more. A truly wonderful experience; I’m so glad I went. I realize now I didn’t take very many photos at the fair itself — probably feeling it would be too intrusive — but there are plenty elsewhere, say from at the fair’s site,  PW (I was quoted in this article of theirs), and here.  Here are a few I did take as I wandered the city and the fair.

The warm colors of Bologna are marvelous.


Bologna is known for its food. Here is a storefront featuring its famous tortellini (which deserves the accolades).

The Piazza Maggiore at night.

On Sunday there was a huge architectural annual competition on the piazza. This year the challenge was to create a thirteenth gateway to add to the twelve already around Bologna.

There were exhibits all over the city featuring children’s books. The fair’s guest of honor for the year included Catalan children’s book creators and there was a delightful exhibit of their work at the gorgeous Biblioteca Archiginnasio.

New York Times children’s book editor Maria Russo moderated a terrific panel featuring books on artists.

It was great fun being at the announcement of this year’s Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award winner Wolf Erlbruch whom I first encountered long ago via this book.

Looked for African publishers and found Golden Baobab. Representation was sparse for the continent and so I hope there will be more as years go on.

Aspiring illustrators were everywhere.

We visited the remarkable public library, Biblioteca Salaborsa.  There was a delightful exhibit, Rules of the Game, that cleverly allowed for interacting with books. Saw the Horn Book Magazine among their periodicals and was mighty impressed with their range of book offerings in so many languages.

It was a wonderful and most worthwhile experience, one I’m still processing.



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Kwame Alexander’s Phenomenal Closing Write-up for SLJ’s BoB

….Once upon a time, a poet made a decision that since there was no rubric for judging heart and pain and soul and love and vicious clubbing and death and love and magic and the audacity to hope, the criteria for judging the School Library Journal Battle of the Books would be, get this: remembering….

Please, please, whether you follow the BoB or not, whether you approve of the concept or not, read Kwame’s post — it is magnificent.

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Alexander’s 2017 Very Bad Day

There was quinoa for dinner and I hate quinoa.

For any one like me who is old enough to have read over and over Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, you are likely to get a kick out of Mark Remy’s update at the New Yorker: “Alexander and the V Bad, FML Day.

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Amplifying Diversity: Independent Presses

The ongoing and hugely important conversation featuring #ownvoices, diversity, and equity was most recently centered around an unfortunate WSJ journal article which Allie Bruce unpacks in her RWW post, “Why ‘Rock Star Librarian’ is an Oxymoron.”  I highly recommend reading the original article (tricky as it is behind a paywall — need to go to a library perhaps!), Allie’s post, and the ongoing conversation going on in her post’s comments.

One aspect of this that I think gets overlooked is that some of the best books featuring #ownvoices come from presses other than the biggies, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Little Brown, Penguin, or Random House. I would urge all of you, but especially those with big social media platforms, those with massive followings, some of whom were featured in the article, as well as working to celebrate and feature more #ownvoices, also make greater efforts to do so with books from smaller presses. While I see a sincere effort to bring out more voices, they tend to be from the afore mentioned publishers.  There are great books coming out from other places as well and those of you with big platforms could do a lot to bring them to the attention of your followers.  (By the way, for those who are fortunate in having books sent by publicists, this may involve the seeking out and buying of books rather than just waiting for them to come to you.)

A terrific resource is the CCBC’s list of Small Presses Owned/Operated by People of Color and First/Native Nations. Also, I recommend attending to recommendations by WNDB, RWW, Debbie Reese, Edi Campbell, Brown Bookshelf, Latinx in Kid Lit, Africa Access, Betsy Bird, Travis Jonker, Jules Danielson, USBBY, and the CCBC among others who celebrate books by independent presses regularly. (I’m sure I’m leaving many out so please tell me in the comments and I’ll add them in here.) Whenever I see mention of an independent press book that might work for my 4th grade students I order it immediately. I was delighted when serving on the New York Times Best Illustrated books jury to learn of many more outstanding independent presses. And when at conferences I come across still others at the exhibits (but many can’t afford to be there so it is important to look everywhere not just there).

Here is a collection of those I have come across over the years, some of which may be already familiar and some not. Please do mention others in the comments and I’ll add them here. (I’m leaving out some of the bigger and more familiar independents like Abrams, Candlewick, Bloomsbury, Lerner, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Holiday House, Scholastic, and Chronicle as I see their books already celebrated on social media by those with big followings. I do it myself.:) I recommend checking out their websites and, if something catches your eye, buy it. And if you like it celebrate it on twitter, facebook, your blog,  your podcast, and/or whatever your platform is.

ETA I am now adding suggestions to  a dedicated page for Independent Presses (easier to find as it is right on the menu bar at the top) rather than here. So keep the suggestions coming, but know that I won’t be adding them to this post, but to the page.

ETA For easier access I’ve created an Independent Press page for the menu bar above and will be updating that list rather than the one here.


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