If you're into celebrating children's and teen literature, the American Library Association's annual conference is definitely the place to be. Over the past couple of days, children's and teen librarians have been treated to several awards ceremonies highlighting the best books of the year. The highlight was the Newbery and Caldecott banquet, held Sunday night, with 1,200 people in attendance. On Monday morning, the ALA's Association for Library Service to Children feted the winners of other kid lit awards: the Sibert Medal, for the best children's non-fiction book; the Geisel Award, for the best beginning reader; the Batchelder Award, for the best children's book from another country translated into English; and the Carnegie Medal, for the best children's video. Later on Monday, the Odyssey Awards spotlighted the best children's audio books, followed by the Printz Awards, which celebrate the best in teen books. On Tuesday morning, the celebrations conclude with a breakfast honoring the winners of the Coretta Scott King Award.
This year's Newbery/Caldecott Awards banquet was particularly notable, as the winner of the 2010 Caldecott Medal, Jerry Pinkney, was the first individual African-American ever to win the award. Pinkney's winning book was The Lion and the Mouse, a nearly-wordless retelling of the Aesop fable, and he designed the exquisite banquet program based on the book. Beginning his speech, Pinkney called the award
pretty special stuff , especially after winning five Caldecott Honors. Pinkney, 70, said that he always has loved that particular fable since hearing it as a child, noting that
I believe the enduring strength of the tale is that .. no act of kindness goes unnoticed and that even the strongest among us can sometimes use the help of the weakest. Pinkney concluded his speech the way he concludes school and library visits -- with a question, asking the audience
Do you think I'm just as excited today as I was 46 years ago when I illustrated my first book? The answer from the audience was a resounding
While Pinkney toiled for years before finally winning the Caldecott Medal, Rebecca Stead won the 2010 Newbery Medal for her second novel, When You Reach Me. Stead began by saying that she
wanted to write a great speech.... But it turns out that's really hard to do. So Stead decided instead to write four short speeches, each of which illuminated an aspect of her life and work. She talked about the importance of books in her life and said that, as a child, she secretly wanted to be a writer,
but I didn't tell anyone. Instead, I told them that I wanted to be an actress, which seemed much more practical.... Meanwhile, like a lot of people who secretly want to write, I become a lawyer. Stead said that she was halfway through the first draft of When You Reach Me when she thought,
Was I really going to pour all my weirdness into this book? Stead concluded by thanking librarians, saying that they are
smartest, funniest, most open-minded people I've ever met....
At the Monday morning kid lit awards, Tanya Lee Stone, whose book Amost Astronauts won the 2010 Sibert Medal, noted that she was particularly honored to be the 10th recipient of the award because
Marc Aronson, my editor on the book, was the first recipient.
At the same awards ceremony, author/illustrator Mo Willems thanked librarians for awarding the Carnegie Medal to the video created from his book, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by saying that
being able to show a reluctant reader -- which means a boy -- a cartoon that rocks and then hand him the book, is an awesome thing. It's so great to be able to make cartoons that get kids to read.
In accepting the Geisel Award at that same ceremony, Geoffrey Hayes, the author/illustrator of the winning book, Benny and Penny in the Big No-No, was particularly thrilled that a graphic novel had been recognized
instead of being dismissed as sub-literature. Fortunately for us, librarians are a savvy bunch.
To be continued soon with a look at the Odyssey, Printz and Coretta Scott King winners.....!
There are literally dozens of events at each day's session of the American Library Association's annual conference, which is taking place in Washington, D.C. from Saturday, June 26 through Tuesday, June 29. Today, two of the events I attended focused on a common theme: getting kids to read. One of the events, however, didn't even involve books. Instead, the session titled Listen Up! was designed to promote listening to audiobooks as a way to get kids-- especially reluctant boy readers -- to read. The other session, titled Move Over Dick and Jane, focused on the fact that, despite the new Geisel Award for the best beginning readers, publishers still don't seem to be doing much to improve the mostly dreadfully-dull-but-important beginning reader books.
The Listen Up session was chaired by beloved children's author Jon Scieszka, who drew a crowd of several hundred people. Scieszka made a big pitch for his newest endeavor, Guys Listen, a spin-off of his popular Guys Read website. The main point of the new program is, of course, to encourage parents, librarians and educators to let young readers read books by listening to audiobooks. The website includes research on how listening to books helps develop key skills, such as reading fluency and vocabulary, and allows kids to listen to books two grades above their book-reading level. Besides, the idea of listening to a book on an MP3 player or even portable CD player appeals to today's technology-minded kids. As Scieszka says,
Guys love technology. They say I want a thing -- not a book -- a thing.... A big piece of Guys Read is not to demonize technology, which is like breathing air to these kids. They don't care if it's on a phone or a computer or an MP3 player. Other presenters emphasized the fact that using audiobooks really takes us back to the roots of storytelling, and to kids' earliest, pre-reading years, when parents read aloud to them. Many kids also are auditory learners, which makes listening to books a natural, and more satisfying, way to learn. Overall, Scieszka said,
We need to get the word out that listening to books is not cheating!
Finding new ways to help kids enjoy reading also was the focus of the Move Over Dick and Jane program. As any parent knows, many of the beginning readers used to help kids learn to read are duller than dull. In the past few years, however, there's been various efforts to improve beginning readers. Perhaps the most important effort has been the creation of the Geisel Award, named for Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. The Geisel Award is given annually to the best books for beginning readers; several honor books also are chosen. So far, many of the winners haven't been typical beginning readers, but instead have been simple non-fiction books, picture books and even graphic novels. Among my favorite Geisel Award winners are: Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler; the Elephant and Piggy books by Mo Willems; and two graphic novels, Stinky by Eleanor Davis and Benny and Penny in the Big No-No by Geoffrey Hayes. But Ginny Moore Kruse, a noted librarian who has helped shape the Geisel Award criteria, told the overflow crowd attending Saturday's program that publishers of beginning readers still don't seem to be getting the message. Kruse said there still are
very few innovative, inventive and imaginative books deserving of the award. She also noted that there are few non-fiction books eligible for the award and added that there is a
dramatic and serious paucity of Geisel-eligible books ... even hinting at racial and ethnic diversity.
The librarians are here! The American Library Association's annual summer meeting officially begins on Saturday, June 26. But on Friday night, Booklist magazine hosted a panel of experts talking about a fascinating topic: Graphic Novels Come of Age. Several hundred librarians attended the talk, which featured: Francoise Mouly, publisher and editorial director of TOON Books (wonderful graphic novels for beginning readers) -- Mouly also is the art director of The New Yorker and the wife of Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novelist Art Spiegelman; Mark Siegel, editor director of Roaring Brook's First Second graphic novel imprint; Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese, the first graphic novel to win the Michael Printz Award for the best book for young adult readers; and Matt Phelan, author and illustrator of The Storm in the Barn , a graphic novel chosen as Booklist's 2009 best book for youth. The consensus of the program? Graphic novels -- also called comics -- are undergoing a true renaissance and have become a driving force in children's literature.
Francoise Mouly began her remarks by saying:
I believe that, in the 21st century, one of the crucial literacy needs will be acknowledging the importance of visual literature. If we learn how to read pictures and how they affect us, it will broaden our comprehension of the world. Mouly also presented a brief and fascinating history of comics, noting how they once were regarded as reading for children and
illiterates, then became the province of disaffected adults -- and superhero fans -- in the 1980s. Today, she noted, there is a
flourishing of graphic novelists, some of whom prefer to be called cartoonists. They are not ashamed or embarrassed of being a cartoonist. Mouly noted that many of the cartoonists that she and her husband, Art Spiegelman, first published in their counter-culture comic RAW now are being published in The New Yorker. Comics have really gone mainstream, she says, pointing to the fact that comics expert Scott McCloud was asked by Google to do a tutorial -- in comics -- of how to use Google Chrome. Meanwhile, Mouly noted that, after spending much of her career to prove that comics aren't just for kids, she's now demonstrating with her prize-winning TOON book readers that comics still are for kids as well.
Mark Siegel, editorial director of First, Second, noted that his publishing company has met all of the goals it set for itself a decade ago in publishing beautifully-presented comics for kids. Siegel said that one of the most interesting -- and best -- things for him was the partnership First, Second has had with librarians. Siegel says that he was surprised that librarians were most concerned about access -- about how kids would find comics. From librarians, Siegel says that he has learned that he recipe for the broadest access is putting comics in three collections (kids, teens and adults) and splitting those collections between fiction and non-fiction. That's what we do at the Takoma Park Maryland Library.
Gene Yang, author of American-Born Chinese gave a hilarious talk noting that
I get to talk about my two favorite things -- comics and myself. Yang noted that, like Batman, he is two different people. But he noted that,
while Batman was a billionaire playboy by day and a superhero by night, I am a computer science teacher by day and a cartoonist by night. Yang also joked that he calls himself a cartoonist, but -- to his in-laws -- he's a
graphic novelist. q> In his talk, Yang detailed, with much self-deprecating humor, his long effort to become a published cartoonist, noting that his parents went through many emotions, from confused to annoyed to surprised to finally happy, when Yang was given a contract to do a cartoon series for The New York Times.
In his talk, Matt Phelan summed up the tenor of the program:
Kids are a wonderful audience, and they love comics. It's great that we are now saying, Hey, let's make comics for kids!
You can sign up online. Enter just last name, first name, age and your character's name. Then scroll to the bottom of the form to find the submit button.
Remember, you need to come in to pick up your character, story packet, and books for the first challenge.
Our 2010 Summer Quest summer reading program will officially get underway on Monday, June 21, at 7:30 p.m. Library Assistant and Summer Quest creator Dave Burbank will give some details about this year's adventure, and kids can sign up for Summer Quest by choosing a character from our stash of characters, giving their character a name, and coloring it, if they choose. The Friends of the Takoma Park Maryland Library also will offer refreshments for all. No need to sign up, just show up! This year's story starts out in the present day but the adventure will lead Summer Quest participants back in time by millions of years. As always, the story is written in second person so Summer Quest participants can feel that they are there, experiencing the thrills, chills and spills of the adventure as they accomplish the 10 reading challenges.
As the story opens, you're trying to mow the lawn that you've neglected for far too long. It quickly becomes apparent that the lawn mower just won't work -- the grass is far too long. So you find a machete, sharpen it, and start using it to hand-cut the grass. But you don't seem to be making any progress; in fact, it seems that the grass is getting longer and longer and soon is over your head. Just as you're wondering to yourself, What is going on?, you hear a low growl. It gets closer and closer and you think to yourself, Uh-oh Summer Quest 2010 has begun!
Kids -- Come make a special present for your dad and/or teacher on Monday, June 14, from 6:30-8p.m. We'll provide the materials, courtesy of the Friends of the Takoma Park Maryland Library. You provide the creativity! This program is geared towards children ages 4 and up, but younger children are welcome with full adult supervision. You must register for the program so we can make sure to have enough materials for everyone. To register go to Event registration - Takoma Park Maryland Library or call us at 301-891-7259.
Our next Bedtime Stories will take place on Monday, June 7 at 7 p.m. Come in p.j.s, bring your blanket or stuffed animal! During this half-hour program, we'll sing songs and rhymes and read some stories. It's lots of fun for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and their grown-ups. No registration necessary -- just come!