Beloved by young readers, speculative fiction often gets a very different reception from grown-ups, some of whom lament that such books lack the depth of literary fiction, especially if — horrors! — they are popular ones in a series. It took a tsunami of media attention to get such adults to capitulate to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books and, once they did, they raved about the series as an exception, seemingly unaware of its distinguished lineage. Fortunately, others feel differently, aware that some of the most inventive, enthralling, provocative and (yes) literary writing for children comes in this form. Setting their stories in invented places, a magical version of the real world or far across the universe, these authors explore weighty themes in highly original ways. For established fans, new readers and open-minded skeptics, four new titles offer distinctive and rich reading experiences.
Read on here to see what I thought about Corey Ann Haydu’s Eventown, Anna Ursu’s The Lost Girl, Catherine Doyle’s The Storm Keeper’s Island, and Yoon Ha Lee’s Dragon Pearl.
I was delighted to be in the room where it happened (well, where it was announced) this year in Seattle. I was 2nd in line due to the energy of my roommate, the irrepressible Susannah Richards, who — as she does — helped the ALSC and convention center staff — manage the line. Meanwhile, I ate donuts offered by another front-liner, agent Barry Greenblatt, and had some fantastic conversations with members of this year’s Notables committee and others.
Oh, and also was talked into this photo. Why this guy was there, I’m not really sure.
Anyway, the real point was the announcements. Sitting directly behind the committee members (due to my hardworking roommate) was great fun. Having been in their seats, I know how incredibly exciting and moving it is to have your selections announced.
Now as to those selections — a reminder: every committee is made up of a group of individuals. A different group of individuals would probably make a different selection. This year’s committee members worked hard all year and then really hard last weekend to make their decisions. Having been there I know how difficult it is to reach consensus. You have to give up beloved titles to get to those that you all can agree on. So while we observers may be surprised and perhaps disappointed in the results, I urge that we respect those who made them. (A few years ago I wrote a post for the Nerdy Book Club that is still relevant: “Top Ten Things You May Not Know About the Newbery Award.”)
While the Newbery winner, Meg Medina’s Merci Suárez Changes Gears, was not among my personal top choices, I had read it with pleasure and think it a terrific choice, one I’d easily have gotten behind if I’d been on the committee. Here’s what I wrote on goodreads last April after reading it:
Lovely spot-on middle grade featuring a close extended Cuban-American family, a realistic middle school, and a warm story. Merci is a delightful character to spend time with along with her friends and family.
Also had read and liked the honors, Veera Hiranandani’s The Night Diary and Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s The Book of Boy.
I was glad some of my personal favorites were recognized in other awards.
- Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X received the Printz Award, the Pura Belpré Author Award, and an Odyssey Honor (which is how I experienced the book).
- Kekla Magoon’s The Season of Styx Malone received a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award
- Jonathan Auxier’s Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster received a Sydney Taylor Book Award
- Varian Johnson’s The Parker Inheritance received a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award and an Odyssey Honor (narrated by Cherise Booth).
But it was the Children’s Literature Legacy Award that meant the most to me. It was posthumously given to Walter Dean Myers, one of the great men of this tiny word of books for children.
This past year has been an odd one for me in terms of Newbery possibilities. You see, I’m chairing the Boston Globe-Horn Book award committee and we consider books published in an unusual timeframe: June 2018 — May 2019. As a result, I’ve had to focus my attention on books that came out the second part of last year. I did read a number of the earlier ones in ARCs before that, but not as many as I would have otherwise. So with that caveat here are some titles I’d be happy to see recognized a week from tomorrow. (I should also say that, unlike Newbery committee members, there are no restrictions on BG-HB committee members as to stating preferences on social media:)
Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X. Because this title was not up for my committee (having won last year) and because it seemed above the Newbery age range, my copy sat staring at me for a long time. Finally, because it was a novel in verse celebrating spoken poetry, I decided to listen to it. (I listen to a lot of books as I walk to and from school mostly for adults.) And I was smitten as well as convinced that it was absolutely within the Newbery age-range which is through age 14 which can mean a few days shy of 15. (Interesting to see that Common Sense media puts it at 13+.) The issues in this book are completely within the interest and concerns of upper-range Newbery age readers. Nothing in it is inappropriate or too old for them.
Kekla Magoon’s The Season of Styx Malone. I fell madly in love with this title when I read the ARC last August. I’m now reading it aloud to my 4th graders which makes me appreciate it all the more — the sentence-level writing is a delight, the characters — main and secondary— superbly delineated, and the clever plot riveting. You can read my gushing review of it here.
Jonathan Auxier’s Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster. BG-HB eligible, but will say I loved it on first reading and agree with all the accolades.
Jarrett J. Kroscoczka’s Hey, Kiddo. Also eligible for BG-HB so I won’t say much other than I was very impressed with it and will definitely be looking at it more closely when time to consider our choices. As for it being a graphic novel, I’ve become swayed by others over the years as to how to consider the story more than staying rigidly to only the text.
Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Journey of Little Charlie. While not eligible for the BG-HB I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC and read it last spring. You can read my admiring review here.
Kwame Alexander’s Rebound. Another not eligible that I was fortunate to read anyway in ARC. I thought the themes, the poetry, and the comics were seamlessly interwoven. I did read elsewhere that there were some factual errors in the ARC and hope those were corrected in the final book.
Jacqueline Woodson’s Harbor Me. Another eligible for my award and one I admired greatly. Woodson excels at tiny moments and those set in the school range true for me. There was one in the lunchroom where something happened and then the kids moved on that was so real to this teacher. Beautiful.
Kate DiCamillo’s Louisana’s Way Home. Also eligible and also one I will consider seriously come time for our deliberations. DiCamillo is the master of the not-quite-real story. In following discussions on this title over at Heavy Medal it occurred to me that her stories are somewhat like filmmaker Wes Anderson’s — hyper-fable-folk-real-tale. Think The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Varian Johnson’s The Parker Inheritance. Another I was fortunate to read early on. Thought I’d reviewed it, but evidently did not. I did blurb it for the author (something I only do if I can be completely honest and I was): “The Parker Inheritance is a remarkable and rich book, one that kept me reading late into the night, absorbed and captivated. Fresh, original, timely, it is an outstanding read.”
The Center for Children’s Literature at Bank Street College of Education is thrilled to announce its second mini-conference focusing on Latinx Children’s Literature. The event will take place this year at Bank Street’s 112th Street address.
Author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh will be our keynote speaker.
Duncan is the recipient of the Pura Belpré and Sibert medals as well as the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award. He is the author and illustrator of Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight (Abrams) Amalia Hernández and Mexico’s Folkloric Ballet (Abrams) The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes (Abrams) as well as many other amazing books!
The conference will be in English and is for Spanish and English speaking librarians, elementary school teachers, publishers, authors and parents who want to expand their knowledge and better serve their populations.
Thanks to KidLit TV portions of the program will also be live streamed.
9:00 – 9:30
Breakfast and Registration
9:30 – 9:45
Loida Garcia-Febo, President, American Library Association
9:45 – 10:30
Fantasy and Illustration in Graphic Novels and Comics
Raúl the Third, Lowriders Blast from the Past
Liniers Macanudo, Buenas Noches Planeta
Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, La Borinqueña
Moderator: Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal
10:30 – 11:20
Elevating Our Heroes Through Picture Books
Duncan Tonatiuh, Danza! Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México
Raul Colón, Miguel’s Brave Knight: Young Cervantes and His Dream of Don Quixote
Eric Velasquez, Schomburg: The Man Who Built the Library
Anika Aldamuy Denise, Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and StoryTeller Pura Belpré
Rudy Gutierrez, Carlos Santana: Sound of the Heart, Song of the World
Moderator: Sonia Rodriguez, LaGuardia Community College
Lunch on Your Own
11:45 – 12:20
Author, Book Signing Begins
12:20 – 1:10
Soy yo: Developing Identities & Relationships in Latinx Coming-of-Age Stories
Pablo Cartaya, Marcus Vega Does n’t Speak Spanish
Emma Otheguy, Silver Meadows Summer (tentative)
Angela Dominguez, Stella Diaz Has Something to Say
Hilda Eunice Burgos, Ana Maria Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle
Aida Salazar, The Moon Within
Moderator: Carla España, Hunter College
1:10 – 1:30
Keynote: Duncan Tonatiuh
1:30 – 2:00
Authors Sign Books
In 2011 white educator, scholar, and diversity trainer Robin DiAngelo coined the term “white fragility” to describe white folks’ responses to discussions around race, especially when asked to consider their own racism. Now she has taken her long experience and knowledge to create a potent publication: White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. Crisp, to the point and chock-a-block with useful information, DiAngelo digs deeply and effectively into the difficulties encountered by white people when it comes to white supremacy and this country’s long-unresolved history with race. She unpacks language, defines difficult ideas, presents recent research, addresses triggers, white women’s tears, millennium racism, and more with clarity and accuracy. Especially effective are the anecdotes she provides as they make explicit the ideas she is discussing; these include her own personal experiences, those of friends and acquaintances, and situations that happened during her diversity work. This succinct book, full of food for thought, is one of the best I’ve read by a fellow white person on today’s urgent need for us to deal with our own racism, white supremacy, and what we can do about it. Highly, highly recommended.
Author Philip Pullman has said he is “very surprised and honoured” after being awarded a knighthood.
The Oxford-based writer of the His Dark Materials trilogy has been recognised in the New Year Honours for his services to literature.
Pullman, 72, said he was “proud” to be in the company of many people he admired.
Pullman, who studied English at Exeter College, Oxford, is in the middle of writing a new trilogy of novels.
In a statement, he said: “I believe the profession of letters should be recognised as having a proper place in the life of the nation, along with science, and sport, and music, and scholarship, and many other human activities.
From this article.