I spent a very moving afternoon yesterday at Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater for a commemoration of Dr. King jointly presented by WNYC radio and the Apollo. First of all, there is something very special about being at such event in such a space. The audience was diverse and committed. Listening to them was as important to me as to those on the state. Of all the speakers the most electrifying was Dr. Clarence Jones, attorney, speech writer, and confident of Dr. King. There was prayer, calls to action, song, and music. You can view it here and here.
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Jacqueline Woodson — Congratulations!!!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National Book Award Winner and four-time Newbery Honor Medalist encourages readers to embrace the impact reading can have on creating a more hopeful world with her platform, READING = HOPE x CHANGE
New York, NY, January 4, 2018 – The Children’s Book Council, Every Child a Reader, and the Library of Congress today announced the appointment of Jacqueline Woodson, four-time Newbery Honor Medalist, Coretta Scott King Book Award-winner, former Young People’s Poet Laureate and National Book Award Winner for her memoir-in-verse Brown Girl Dreaming, as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature program, established by the three organizations in 2008, highlights the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education, and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.
Woodson will travel nationwide over the course of her two-year term promoting her platform, READING = HOPE x CHANGE (What’s Your Equation?), which encourages young people to think about — and beyond — the moment they’re living in, the power they possess, and the impact reading can have on showing them ways in which they can create the hope and the change they want to see in the world.
Woodson succeeds beloved and esteemed authors Jon Scieszka (2008-2009), Katherine Paterson (2010-2011), Walter Dean Myers (2012-2013), Kate DiCamillo (2014-2015), and Gene Luen Yang (2016-2017) in the position.
The inauguration ceremony, to be presided by the 14th Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden and attended by both Woodson and Yang, will take place on Tuesday, January 9 at 10:30 a.m. in the Members’ Room of the Library of Congress’ Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. Tickets are not required for this event, which is free and open to the public.
“I think the work ahead of me is challenging,” says Jacqueline Woodson, “I don’t believe there are ‘struggling’ readers, ‘advanced’ readers or ‘non’ readers. I’d love to walk away from my two years as Ambassador with the qualifiers gone and young people able to see themselves beyond stigma or oft-times debilitating praise. Martin Luther King Jr. said people should not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. In that regard, I think young people should not be judged by the level of their reading but by the way a book makes them think and feel. By the way it gives them hope. By the way it opens them up to new perspectives and changes them. I’m excited to have these conversations with some of the best conversationalists in our country – our young people.”
“We are delighted that Jacqueline Woodson has agreed to be the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “I have admired Jacqueline Woodson’s work for years, especially her dedication to children and young-adult literature. The Library of Congress looks forward to Jacqueline’s tenure of encouraging young readers to embrace reading as a means to improve the world.”
Nancy Paulsen, President and Publisher of Nancy Paulsen Books, says: “We think Jacqueline Woodson is the perfect Ambassador for our time because of her commitment to making sure all children have access to all kinds of books, and are sure to see themselves portrayed in those books. This is exactly what’s needed to appeal to today’s readers and to grow the next generation of book lovers.”
Carl Lennertz, Executive Director of Every Child a Reader and the Children’s Book Council, added, “We couldn’t be more pleased with the selection of Jacqueline Woodson as the next ambassador. She embodies everything that we look for in this position and we can’t think of a more passionate advocate for young people and for reading over the next two years.”The National Ambassador is selected for his or her contributions to young people’s literature, the ability to relate to kids and teens, and dedication to fostering children’s literacy in all forms. The selection, made by the Librarian of Congress, is based on recommendations from an independent committee comprising educators, librarians, booksellers, and children’s literature experts.
The 2018-2019 selection committee for the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature:
- DeAndra Beard, CEO and founder of Beyond Borders Language Learning Center, Kokomo, IN
- Sarah Park Dahlen, Associate Professor in the Master of Library and Information Science Program at St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN
- Earl Dizon, Bookseller at Green Bean Books, a children’s bookstore in Portland, OR
- Travis Jonker, Elementary school librarian in Dorr, Michigan and School Library Journal blogger
- Starr LaTronica, Director of the Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro, VT
- Ellen Ruffin, Curator of the de Grummond Collection, U. of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS
- Gene Luen Yang, Printz Award-winning author, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, 2016-2017, 2016 McArthur Fellow, Berkeley, CA
The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature program is administered by Every Child a Reader. For more information about the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, visit read.gov/cfb/ambassador/.
About Jacqueline Woodson
The Children’s Book Council, is the nonprofit trade association of children’s book publishers in North America, dedicated to supporting the industry and promoting children’s books and reading. The CBC offers children’s publishers the opportunity to work together on issues of importance to the industry at large, including educational programming, literacy advocacy, and collaborations with other national organizations. Learn more at CBCBooks.org.
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States – and extensive materials from around the world – both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.
Ironically, 2017 was both challenging and good for me. The challenges came in politics, in world events, in grappling with my privilege, in recognizing my need to change, in tense conversations, in pain global and personal. The good was because I was on sabbatical for seven of the twelve months, a happy and productive time that brought me back to school this fall refreshed. I don’t have resolutions as such, but here are some words I’m living by these days and will do so all the more deliberately and consciously in 2018:
- I’m listening a lot as I follow difficult and important conversations about diversity, race, identity, gender, and more.
- I’m pondering what I thought I knew, what I thought was true, and how to reconcile this for me today.
- I’m avoiding assumptions.
- I’m trying to be more outspoken and more visible as an ally — hard for me as both an introvert and shy in unfamiliar situations.
- I’m learning always, reaching out to know more in areas that are necessary for me as a person, human being, teacher, world citizen, and more.
- I’m reading out of my comfort zone.
- I’m leaning into discomfort — to be honest, trying to.
- I’m regularly rethinking my teaching so it better serves all my students.
- I’m still championing and drawing attention to Sierra Leone in particular and other parts of Africa that I don’t know as well too.
- I’m trying hard to be always willing to change.
Reading Roger’s Sutton’s post about Patrick McDonnell’s Caldecott chances for his delightful The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way)*, made me think fondly of McDonnell’s illustrations for the Mac Barnett-penned The Skunk which I, along with my follow jurors Marjorie Ingall and Frank Viva, honored with a New York Times Best Illustrated nod back in 2015. Both these books and other work by McDonnell have always felt to me full of sly homages to the George Herriman comic, Krazy Kat which ran from 1913 to 1944. So today I did some poking around a bit and learned that MacDonnell is a longtime and serious fan, witness his 1986 Krazy Kat: the Comic Art of George Herriman (You can read an essay adapted from the book here). And then, for another layer, I came across Gabrielle Bellot’s “The Gender Fluidity of Krazy Kat” and Chris Ware’s “To Walk in Beauty”, reviews of Michael Tisserand’s recent award-winning biography Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White. In these I learned that both gender fluidity and race are aspects of this ground-breaking comic that so clearly inspires Patrick MacDonnell.
I mean, just take a look at McDonnell’s little cat:
Here’s a taste of Herriman’s strip, one from 1917 in which Krazy gives pal Ignatz a smooch.
Here they are side by side:
*Check out this delightful video of a book chat I was honored to feature, between Mcdonnell and Victoria Stapleton.
Here are ten of the many beautiful, thoughtful, and intriguing indie press books that I have loved and not mentioned (I don’t think) here yet this year. They’d all make spectacular gifts for the season. Please do check them out, my other indie spotlight posts, and the many other wonderful books coming from the vibrant independent publishers world.
Do seek out Nnedi Okorafor and Mehrdokht Amini’s rollicking Chicken in the Kitchen from Lantana.
Gecko Press gives us Chatharina Valckx and Nicolas Hubesch’s utterly charming chapter book/picture book hybrid: Bruno: Some of the More Interesting Days in My Life So Far.
The absorbing picture book biography, Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil-Rights Activist Nina Simone , written by Alice Brière-Haquet and illustrated by Bruno Liance, comes to us from Charlesbridge.
This is always a terrific list. You can see the list in greater detail (with covers and lengthy annotations) here. Congratulations to all involved, judges and creators alike.
Katherine Paterson is one of America’s greatest literary treasures; her works include novels, picture books, chapter books, and nonfiction. Her honors are myriad, from Newberys (two golds and a silver), a National Book Award, and….well too many to name. Just go here, here, and here to see them all. This remarkable woman, on her journey as a writer, is always exploring new vistas. Her latest, My Brigadista Year, centers around Lora, a thirteen year-old Cuban who joins Fidel Castro’s national literacy campaign in 1961. In the form of a diary, the novel is a fascinating exploration of a little-known aspect of recent Cuban history. When I was approached about interviewing Katherine about the book I jumped at the chance. Thank you so much, Candlewick for this opportunity and Katherine for the wonderful answers to my questions.
- It seems as if the remarkable emphasis on basic literacy during this time period in Cuba was what inspired you to write this book. Can you speak to the importance of this globally today?
Sources vary, but Cuba is still regarded as one of the most fully literate nations in the world at 99.8% literacy. After the campaign year of 1961, the UN observers declared Cuba a fully literate nation. This compares (and, again, sources differ) to an 86% literacy rate in our country with 21% of the population reading below a fifth-grade level. The Huffington Post says that 19% of high school graduates cannot read or write. Most of our large prison population is also illiterate. Globally, I’m most concerned with literacy and education for girls and women. If the women of a nation are educated, the whole nation benefits. But we have a lot of work to do here at home. So why am I writing books instead of teaching someone to read?
- How did your own visits to Cuba inform your writing this book?
Through the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), I got to know Dr. Emilia Gallego, who, every two years, leads an IBBY Sectional conference on literacy and books for Latin America. It is held in Havana and she has invited me to speak there, first in 2001 and again in 2015. I had wondered for years about Emilia because, in a country where people have to be careful about what they say and do, she is an outspoken force of nature. I learned, just before my second trip to Cuba, that she had been a teenage volunteer in the 1961 literacy campaign. It seemed to explain a lot about my friend. All the women I had read about or listened to in the film Maestra said how being a part of the campaign had been a turning point in their lives. They had begun the year as sheltered girls and came out as strong women who knew they could make a difference in the world.
- Can you reflect on the idea of writing from the perspective of someone not of your culture? What are your thoughts on how you did it and when and how others should or shouldn’t?
I would never venture to tell anyone what she could or could not write. But believe me, I hesitated to write this book. I am not Cuban and have only visited Cuba twice. I do not speak Spanish. There is plenty of ammunition for anyone who would challenge my credentials. But the story of the young volunteers in the 1961 campaign is an amazing one that hardly any young person in this country has ever heard, and I wanted to share it. I hope readers will notice that I chose to tell the story from just one character’s point of view, in first person. Lora is thirteen years old, and she is limited in her experience and thus her point of view is also limited. In the epilogue, Lora is a grown woman, but she is still living in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. She loves her country, but she doesn’t think for a minute that it is perfect. She doesn’t plan to flee and she would rather not go to jail, so she is careful about what she says.
- Cuba is currently on our radar for a variety of reasons. Do you have any thoughts about the US’s relationship with the nation today and how your book can help young readers better understand it?
We don’t like to hear good things about people we consider evil, but some good things happened in Cuba under Castro’s dictatorship. Everybody learned how to read and write. Education is free from pre-school through PhD programs. Excellent health care is available to every citizen. The US-imposed embargo has been an economic burden for over fifty years, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union. My friends love Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont for his efforts through the years to improve US-Cuban relationships and were thrilled when President Obama came to Cuba and the ambassadorial relationships were restored. Of course, everyone asked when the embargo that has long crippled Cuba’s economy would be lifted. I had to say that was up to Congress, not the president. We took three steps forward and now we’ve gone two steps backward, but I have hope that we’ll be moving forward again before too much longer. And like Jella Lepman, who established IBBY, I believe that books can be bridges to peace, and I truly hope mine will be.
- You thank the “real-life Emilia and Isabel.” Anything you can tell us about them and your connection to them? Inquiring minds are curious!
I introduced Emilia above. Isabel is a professor of classics at the university and acts as Emilia’s and my translator. Emilia, for all her brilliance as an educator and writer, has very spotty English, and we won’t even talk about my Spanish. Naming the two little girls after these two wonderful women was a loving joke. To my great joy and relief, Emilia loves my book. Part of her letter responding to it is, with her permission, on the back of the jacket.
- Is there anything else you wish to let us know about this book?
I can’t tell a reader how to read my book, but I do have a wistful hope that some young Americans reading it will see the selfless idealism of those young Cubans and be inspired to give of themselves to the greater good of our country and our world.