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Living in a time of unprecedented information surveillance, also lends itself to an unbelievable amount of information privilege for much of the “democratized” world. We feign emotions with character smiley faces and iconography as our communications float rapidly over a network of intangible speeds, sometimes coated with an algorithm of encryption and sometimes, not. Identity is, at best, both catastrophic and creative. So as we celebrate and converse about National Privacy Week, it is sort of interesting to think about privacy, not only in the way we might shroud our communications, but also in terms of economics, commodity and modality.
In the early 19th century, the postal system was financially demanding for some people [not unnecessarily unlike today] *and* was the scarcity of paper. Tom Standage writes in the Victorian Internet : “In the nineteenth century, letter writing was the only way to communicate with those living at a distance. However, prior to 1840, the post was expensive. Postal charges grew high in England due to the inflationary pressure of the Napoleonic Wars. Different from the way mail operates today, the burden of payment fell to the receiver, not the sender; prepayment was a social slur on the recipient. One had to be financially solvent to receive a letter. If the recipient could not afford to pay for a letter, it was returned to sender. Any reader of Jane Austen’s Emma (1815) knows that to save costs, cross writing was common — a writer turned his or her letter horizontally and “crossed” (or wrote over) the original text at a right angle rather than use an additional sheet of paper. Folded letters with a wax seal may look quaint, but like cross writing, this was also a pre-1840s cost cutting measure since that same missive, posted in an envelope, would receive double charge.”
A cost-cutting measure indeed, however, and not insignificant it created a system of visual encryption one might employ for secrecy, but also as a device of post-modernity and compositional ingenuity. In 1819, John Keats constructed a crossed letter discussing both the merit of prescriptive living for labor workers, only to be written over at an angle by his poem, Lamia, about a man who falls in love with a snake disguised as a woman. “The non-linearity of meaning is generated as an excess against the unidirectional drive of information, like the snakes that weave around the staff of a caduceus or the turbulent wake of a forward-moving ship; meaning is the snake and the wake of information.”  Quite a metaphor to create, as a perception of romanticism, in era of rapid change. Sound familiar? When in doubt, think smart, choose privacy.
We have a suite of 19th century letters in our collection of cross-writing, or “cross-hatching,” check out the images:
 Livingston, Ira. Arrow of Chaos: Romanticism and Postmodernity.
Today we're spotlighting Jessica Spotswood's novel, Wild Swans. Read on for more about Jessica, her novel, an excerpt, plus a giveaway!
Meet Jessica Spotswood!
Jessica Spotswood is the author of the Cahill Witch Chronicles. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband, and works as a children’s library associate, with...
Now available in paperback!
The Rule of Thoughts
By the New York Times Bestselling Author of The Maze Runner Series
Includes bonus content from the forthcoming prequel to the Maze Runner series, The Fever Code
Praise for the Mortality Doctrine series:
“Dashner takes full advantage of the Matrix-esque potential for asking...
Are you wondering what's new in YA today? Check out these wonderful new releases!
Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court–but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed...
Welcome! (Taken at Arapahoe Library District’s Koelbel Library)
I kicked off last month at the Illinois Youth Services Institute, in Normal, presenting on Media Mentorship with one of the co-authors of our white paper on the topic and newly elected “New to ALSC” Board member, Amy Koester, encouraging everybody in the audience (and you, too!) to tweet “I am a #mediamentor”. Congratulations to my fellow Prairie state children’s librarians who imagined and delivered a wonderful inaugural event.
Then I headed up several thousand feet to Denver, for the Public Library Association conference, the theme of which was “Be Extraordinary.” The week was absolutely that, and more, and you can discover some of the experiences there by looking back at the live blogging that several ALSC members did, including pictures from the awesome ALSC Happy Hour and from my invigorating visit, along with our Executive Director, Aimee Strittmatter, to the beautiful Koelbel Library of the Arapahoe Library District, in Centennial, Colorado.
I had an especially transformative National Library Week this year by visiting 5 libraries in 5 states in 5 days! I began at the Kate Waller Barrett Branch Library in Alexandria, Virginia, built in 1937 and named after, as its website says, “a humanitarian, social crusader and political reformer.” Then on to a building built more than three-quarters of a century later, the beautifully modern Silver Spring Library, part of the Montgomery County Public Libraries in Maryland, followed by a visit to the Tippecanoe County Public Library’s Downtown Library in Lafayette, Indiana, where the “people chairs” make for very comfy reading. Next, a stop back home at Chicago Public Library’s Hall Branch, where Charlemae Hill Rollins served as children’s librarian many decades ago. Then it was westward to the Oxnard Public Library’s Main Library in California, where it was clear upon entering their “Area Para Los Niños” that the community was having a very happy week! All of these visits to ALSC members and our libraries, along with my many others this year (which you can discover on Twitter with #ALSCtour) have made me even more amazed at the work we do and the libraries in which, and from which, we do it. Not to mention even more excited about celebrating these spaces at my President’s Program at Annual (Monday, 6/27, 1:00, Convention Center #W110A), and you can check out a quick video about it, filmed in Ms. Rollins children’s room, here:
In Santa Barbara’s fantastic new Central Library Children’s Room with ’16 Arbuthnot Chair Julie Corsaro & Senior Youth Services Librarian Gwen Wagy. #BabiesNeedWordsEveryDay (Photo by Aimee Strittmatter)
Then I was delighted to be reunited with Pat again several days later, this time in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the 20th anniversary of El día de los niños/El día de los libros, the nationally recognized initiative founded by Pat that emphasizes the importance of literacy for all children from all backgrounds. With support from ALA’s Washington Office we had a joyful morning of books (and cake!) at the U.S. Captiol along with Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Rep. Mark Takano (CA-41), Sen. Jack Reed (RI).
Congressman Mark Takano of California reads “Book Fiesta!” while Pat Mora, me, and kids from CentroNia and Payne Elementary School celebrate. (Photo by Aimee Strittmatter)
Thanks, everybody, for a delightful Día and an awesome April! I’m looking forward to May’s flowers and want to congratulate all of those who stood for election on this year’s ALSC ballot–both those who won and those whose names will I hope appear again soon!
10 Problems Only People Who Play an Instrument Understand
Do you play an instrument? Are you one of those fabulously talented people who can transform an empty room into an instant dance party? Well, we know it’s not easy being awesome, so this Top Ten List is for you! We’ve compiled a list of top 10 problems only people who play an instrument understand.
Spit valves and emptying your spit. (Eww).
What to wear to the band concert.
Messing up your solo at the band concert!
Your saxophone, backpack, and athletic gear take up an ENTIRE school bus seat.
Saying this to your friends: “I can’t come over today. I have to practice.”
Short nails (sorry violin players).
When you have to rehearse a song that you hate over and over and over . . . and over again.
A broken string at the worst possible time.
When your little brother “practices” on your trumpet.
Demands to perform at every family gathering.
What about you guys? Do you play an instrument? Let us know some of YOUR problems in the Comments below!
Today we're putting a spotlight on Azalea Dabill's novel, Falcon Flight. Read on for more about Azalea, her novels, an excerpt, plus a giveaway!
Meet Chronicle Book One: Falcon Heart!
Murder, sacrifice, vengeance ... compassion and an adventure beyond fear.
Slavers steal firstdaughter Kyrin Cieri from medieval Britain and...
"I thought you might sleep through it." The creature smiled. Saki's voice was little more than a whisper. "Sleep through what?" It leaned over. She stared into its will-o'-the-wisp eyes. "The Night Parade, of course."
The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother's village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take interest in Saki and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family's ancestral shrine on a malicious dare. But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked...and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth-or say goodbye to the world of the living forever...
In writing your story, did you ever find yourself concerned with how to best approach "edgy" behavior on the part of your characters? If so, what were your thoughts, and what did you conclude? Why do you think your decision was the right one?
Though my protagonist certainly isn’t the most “edgy” in terms of behavior, she does start the story with a pretty big chip on her shoulder.
Saki’s act of rebellion is the catalyst that sets off the main events of the plot, so it had to be significant enough to provoke consequences without losing too much sympathy for her character.
To find this balance, her motivation was the key. From the beginning, Saki is a flawed hero with a lot of internal conflict; she’s trying to manage a toxic adolescent social life and her own need for acceptance from her peers, so it’s understandable when she caves to some of that pressure and makes a few bad decisions.
Making a big mistake may seem like the end of the world to a lot of people—and Saki certainly thinks so in the story—but I decided right from the concept stage that I wanted to deconstruct that idea. A lot of the books I read growing up had a protagonist with a very strong sense of self, but Saki doesn’t have that yet. Her weaknesses are very human, and sometimes even a little petty. She’s still getting to know the person she’s becoming and that’s okay. Another key theme of the story is forgiveness, and Saki’s journey is all about second chances.
As a fantasy writer, going in, did you have a sense of how events/themes in your novel might parallel or speak to events/issues in our real world? Or did this evolve over the course of many drafts?
Writing longhand in Osaka
The theme certainly evolved as the characters found their voices, but a sense of duality was there from the very beginning: city and country, young and old, modern and traditional, humans and spirits.
Anytime these things are put side-by-side there’s a tendency to pit them against one another. Go one step further and people start to separate themselves based on these perceived qualities.
One of the major themes of Saki’s story is finding the balance. Part of her journey towards self-discovery is recognizing that she can be dynamic and adaptable, and that she can inhabit more than one world at a time. In a world that seems increasingly divided in its thinking, I believe that’s a quality we should all aspire toward.
On a more concrete level, the story speaks to the issues of age, multi-generational families and tradition. Saki understands on some level why some of the rituals her family performs during the Obon holidays are important, but until she has an experience of her own she doesn’t feel as connected to the tradition.
Younger generations worldwide are facing similar experience gaps. The world we live in now is simply not the same as the world our parents and grandparents grew up in, so unless we invest some of our time in communication there is a lot we risk losing. Fittingly, this was one of the themes that took the longest to mature.
In both fantasy and reality, understanding the past is usually the surest way to help prepare for a brighter future.
We’re just hitting it out of the park now. Fast on the heels of our last Salon with Jeanne Birdsall and N.D. Wilson (info below), this coming Saturday I managed to bring together the three kings of children’s book social media. Behold!
If you’d like to watch the discussion live, tune in 2:00 CST here. And if you live in the area, you simply have to come. Never before have these three been interviewed at the same time by . . . uh . . me. Or possibly anyone else (note to self: check if this is true).
Curious about Travis Jonker’s picture, by the way? As I recall it was made for him by video and film director Michel Gondry. You can read Travis’s piece about it here. John’s is by Dan Santat. I’m going to need to ask Colby who did his.
By the way, did you miss our last Salon last Saturday when Jeanne Birdsall and N.D. Wilson spoke on the topic of how their personal belief systems inform their writing? Good news! Not only did I record the, quite frankly, killer talk but the sound quality was a lot better than last time. Here’s the timeline of the video:
At 0:00 Nate is running a bit late but since it was a live feed I wanted to keep folks watching in the loop.
At 2:36 Jeanne Birdsall and I have a finger puppet show as we wait for Nate to show up. I have flashbacks to my sock puppet interview from 8 years ago.
At 3:30 the talk begins.
And at 12:45 I tilt the screen back a bit so that it doesn’t look like our heads are all scraping the ceiling.
1. What surprised you most while writing your latest book?
We're currently writing a book about 18‐year‐olds in their first few weeks at university, and it really surprised us how much has changed since we were at university (which was only 10 years ago!) We just missed the explosion of...
About this book:
In this Bridges of Madison County for teens, Michelle Zink weaves a magnetic tale about summer love that stays with you long after the seasons change. Rose Darrow never wanted to spend her life working on her family’s farm. But when her family is rocked by an unexpected...
"A Girl Like Me"--Zetta Elliot
When I was a child, my mother warned us against playing with Ouija boards. I had no idea what a séance was, but I knew what horoscopes were and those were forbidden, too. My Afro‐ Caribbean father rarely spoke about his childhood in Nevis,...
She received an M.F.A. from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She grew up in Kentucky and Tennessee and now lives in Indiana where she writes books for readers of all ages.
We all reach a point when writing doesn’t feel very fun. Maybe because we’ve read too many rejection letters. Or maybe because we’ve revised so much we can’t recognize our story. Or maybe because we’re under a deadline and the pressure to finish takes away all the enjoyment.
But remember why we started doing this? It wasn’t because we wanted to get rich quick. (Ha!) Or because it was the only job we could do. Or because anyone was making us write. It was because it was fun.
The art of creating story was fun. We became writers because we like telling stories—we like making up details, researching history and narrating events. All of that was fun.
Six years ago, I got serious about becoming a writer and applied to an MFA program. When I got a call from the admissions office saying, “Hey – we’re doing this intensive picture book semester and we have room for one more student. Would you like to try it?”
I thought, That could be fun. And I soon found myself immersed.
Six months of reading almost nothing but picture books. Dozens of picture books. Hundreds of picture books. Rhyming ones, silly ones, concept books, fairy tales. Biographies, bedtime stories, wordless books and—poetry.
The thing about sitting down at the library and reading through a knee-high stack of poetry books is that after reading a dozen, two dozen, I started to see really fast what makes a certain one good. I really liked the ones that were centered around a theme, with varied types of poetry and bonus little nonfiction facts sprinkled on top.
I should try to do that, I thought. Being enrolled in a class that expected me to produce many picture book drafts in a short period of time didn’t let me dwell on whether it was a good idea or not. It just demanded that I try it out. That I play with it.
And I did. It was fun to research shark breeds and learn about sharks I’d never heard of before. (Hello, cookie-cutter shark!)
I spent a lot of time on YouTube watching sharks swim and thinking about their rhythm and shape and how that would feed into a poem. It was fun to learn new stuff. And it was really fun to try my hand at writing all different types of poems.
To challenge myself to make sure the next one didn’t rhyme or the next one was a concrete poem or the next one was a haiku. Not all of the experimenting worked. But every bit of it was fun.
As writers we need to remember what drew us to this field to begin with and do whatever we can to find the fun again. Here are 4 quick ways you can find the fun in writing this week:
Be a spy. Go outside and find an animal or a plant and just sit and watch it for 10 minutes, writing down whatever comes to mind. See if you can take that and shape it into a poem when the time is up.
Play a game. Find a Mad Libs. Caption a funny photo.
Have fun with first lines. Opening sentences can be really fun to make up. Write a list of ten of them and then send the list out to your critique group. Let them vote on one that you’ll turn into a short story.
Write something that is completely out of your comfort zone. If you normally write YA contemporary, try writing a scene of a middle grade historical novel. Write the end of a story. Write in second person. Do something new and fresh that shakes it up a little in your routine.
It’s worth it to take a break from the WIP and play a little. Remembering what’s fun about writing will improve your energy level on your current project.
But that’s not why you should do it. You should do it because it’s fun.
Disclaimer: the 1990s is the decade from which I’ve heard the least amount of Prince’s music, so I have huge knowledge gaps from both the beginning and the end of that decade.
Still, it’s an absolute tour de force of restraint and tension-building. Oh, and singing. Always with the singing.
Starting off with footsteps and chicken-scratch guitar that leaves entire universes of space between every phrase, “Shy” is one of Prince’s darker fucksong stories:
After a month of just bein’ alone, he said
“I wonder what L.A.’s thinkin’”
Streets he roamed in search of a poem amongst the wild and drinkin’
When he sees cool dark skin in hot virgin white
The search was over at least for tonight
When she co-signed and then told him she was
Cool dark skin in hot virgin white
Lips say won’t but her body say might
Looks like we’re gonna take the long way home tonight
After it hits that first chorus, the chicken-scratch guitar recedes, it’s place taken by an shimmering guitar that curlicues around the rest of the song, prodding and poking it, never quite ever getting comfortable, echoing the noirish lyrics.
After a look much louder than words she said,
I passed my initiation
A friend of mine, he got killed and in retaliation
I shot the boy, huh, twice in the head
No regrets, no sorrow, I’m goin’ back tomorrow to make sure he’s dead
‘Cuz if I don’t, they’ll call me a chicken, but you can call me
Cool dark skin in hot virgin white
Lips say won’t but her body say might
Looks like we’re gonna take the long way home tonight
That uncomfortableness is echoed by the vocal, because as Prince repeats the somewhat problematic “lips say won’t, but her body say might” over and over again he starts overdubbing himself with various vocal inflections cris-crossing each other.
Shapeshifting and restless, at one point he’s sounding like Sly Stone, at another, Stevie Wonder. And I swear there’s a moment where he’s doing an Axl Rose impersonation.
“Shy” is a deeply unsettling combination of beauty and darkness, and never once does it wink at you or let you have a moment to even breathe.
Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.
They are just a few recipients of the Laura Ingalls Wilder award, presented to “an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.” First given in 1954 to Laura Ingalls Wilder, the award was originally presented every five years and has evolved; it is now given annually.
What author or illustrator do you think has made their mark on American children’s literature? The 2017 Wilder Committee is seeking your suggestions of authors and illustrators to be considered for next year’s award. Has your favorite author been recognized already? Check out the entire list of previous Wilder medal recipients. If not, let us know who you are thinking of and why!
So what exactly does “substantial and lasting contribution” mean? According to the criteria, these books “occupy an important place in literature for American children and that over the years children have read the books and that the books continue to be requested and read by children.” If you are detail-oriented or historically minded, you might enjoy exploring the definitions and criteria behind the awards. In reviewing these specifications, I can see the well-thought out process behind the awards, and it makes me appreciate the procedures that have been developed. Interestingly, the Wilder Award can be awarded posthumously, and regardless of a person’s place of residence.
Today we're super excited to celebrate the cover reveal for CURSE OF THE MOON by Beth Trissel, releasing May 4, 2016 from Wild Rose Press. Before we get to the cover, here's a note from Beth:
Hey guys! Beth Trissel waving to the gang at YABC! I'm psyched to...
Today we're super excited to present a sneak peek from James Rice's ALICE AND THE FLY, releasing May 3, 2016. Below, you can read the sneak peek and enter the fabulous giveaway!
ALICE AND THE FLY
by James Rice
Release date: May 3, 2016
About the Book
This is big. Maybe the biggest idea in the realm of children’s literature I’ve seen in years. Possibly my entire career. I don’t like using the term “gamechanger” but I can’t think of a better word in this particular case.
Okay. So imagine, if you will, a new children’s book museum. But where that term would usually invoke images of adult-centric locations, The Rabbit Hole is going to be immersive. They’re bandying about the term “Explorastorium” which gets you a bit closer to what they’re doing. Think of a children’s museum or an exploratorium, but instead of water tables and those blue bendy foam construction pieces you have kids bouncing in and out of their favorite books. Imagine you literally walk into what appears to be scenes from the book itself. You might have seen similar ideas done when museums do exhibits on famous authors of the past. When NYPL did its “The ABC of It” exhibit you found yourself in The Great Green Room of Goodnight Moon. And when there was a William Steig exhibit at the Jewish Museum of New York, you walked into a room where everything looked like it had been drawn by his hand.
An ambitious project set for the fall is the so-called Mobile Storybook. In cooperation with the KCATA, The Rabbit Hole crew would transform a city bus into the bus from “Last Stop on Market Street,” a 2015 Newbery and Caldecott winner by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson. The unveiling would coincide with the national conference of the Urban Libraries Council, giving The Rabbit Hole more exposure. The story would unfold along the route with digital animations on LED window glass, audio landscapes, and sculptures of characters inside the bus. As riders board the bus, they can pick up copies of the book to read along. They can also “check out” the books and return them at any public library. Cowdin hopes the magic bus will run on both a regular route and customized tours.
And I thought the Crossover float in Evanston’s 4th of July parade last year was impressive. Sheesh!
Even as I read about the hopes and dreams going into this campaign (“permanent features such as, perhaps, a giant version of Mike Mulligan’s steam shovel, Mary Anne, rising out of a hole, or the forest from ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ where children can swing on branches with Max”) I am filled with an odd mixture of complete joy and incredible seething envy and jealousy. It’s a good kind of seething envy and jealousy. The kind where you suddenly want to be a part of this project so badly that you’ll do anything to make that happen. Including giving money.
To make this space happen, an Indiegogo campaign is in the works. Go to their site and you’ll see video after video after video about this space. The one with the authors (Jon Scieszka, Brian Selznick, Kate DiCamillo, and more!) is particularly good.
Additionally, in this fundraiser you can purchase lots of fun things donated by many writers and illustrators, though any donation would be appreciated.
Guys, I don’t give money to anything. But I’m going to give to this. And I don’t usually tell you to give your hard earned cash to anything, but I think that this is important.
Today we're super excited to present a sneak peek from MG Buehrlen's THE UNTIMELY DEATHS OF ALEX WAYFARE, which released April 26, 2016 from Diversion Books. Check out information about the book below, the sneak peek, and a giveaway!
THE UNTIMELY DEATHS OF ALEX WAYFARE
by MG Buehrlen...
In this interview with The Open Book, guest blogger Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas, Director of Not in Our School, shares the organization’s latest video release about families and family structures. Not in Our School is part of the larger organization of Not in Our Town and focuses on empowering students to create safe, inclusive, and empathetic communities.
“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”—from “Human Family” by Maya Angelou (listen to Maya Angelou read the poem here)
At Not In Our Town, we are extremely pleased to be sharing our film, “Our Family,” with the Lee & Low Open Book Blog community. Our hope is for our film to become part of the growing collection of resources that educators are using to create identity safe classrooms where children of all backgrounds feel a sense of belonging. These classrooms should not be colorblind spaces, where differences are ignored or where students must leave their identities, stories, and experiences at the door. It is our belief that belonging is created through drawing on the diversity in every classroom as a resource for learning. And quickly, we learn that, as Maya Angelou so aptly pointed out, we are more alike than different.
LEE & LOW: What inspired you and your team to create this video focusing on family configuration and family diversity? Put another way: Why create a film about family configuration and diversity from an organization that fights prejudice, bullying, and discrimination?
Part of fostering a sense of belonging for children is creating an environment where they feel fully accepted for who they are. Even from a young age, children are aware of and have many aspects that make up their social identities. That includes: how they look, the language(s) they speak and the way they express themselves, as well as their culture, religion, race, and gender identity. Their families, a huge part of their lives, form a crucial part of their identities.
Children need to see themselves reflected in the curriculum, on the walls, and throughout their school life. They need to see others like them and they need to learn to appreciate those who are not like them. That does not always happen. My daughter announced at age four that she wanted a sex change operation to become a boy. At that time, we had no idea where she heard about this (she is now 33) because nobody was talking about transgender issues and back then. She did get strange reactions at preschool when she told people she was a boy. I remember she loved doing Mexican dancing, but when they insisted she wear the girl’s outfit, that was the end of her preschool dancing career. As she grew up we did not counter her feelings or ideas. However, now, married and openly a lesbian, she says she does not feel that way anymore, but that she always knew she was different in some way.
Some children grow up and never see a family like theirs celebrated in any way. They may be teased for being adopted, for having two moms or two dads, or for having a mixed-race family. A child whose mother has different color skin than he or she does may experience rude comments or stares. I raised my oldest daughter, who was from my husband’s first marriage. She had dark skin and we got many stares and she heard some rude remarks as people looked from her dark skin to my light skin and asked, “Is that your mother?”
We are approaching Mother’s Day. I wonder about all the children who don’t have mothers. How do they feel when their classrooms are making gifts for their mothers? (At Not In Our Town, we suggest that you celebrate Caregiver’s Day and children can honor those who care for them.)
We made this film for elementary students to see themselves reflected and hear the voices of children like themselves, and to see validation of those who might be different. They also can see how all these families can join together and be friends, and have fun. We kept the film short so teachers can show the film and then open a discussion with the students. We also have our Lesson Guide with activities for students at different grade levels to celebrate their families.
Our organization features communities of all backgrounds who come together to stand up to bullying, hate, prejudice and intolerance. We have always been proactive in seeking to create safety, acceptance, and inclusion. For this film, we partnered with a wonderful organization, Our Family Coalition, which focuses on supporting schools and communities to create acceptance for LGBTQ families. Our shared goal with the film is to support children from all kinds of families.
The best way to address hate and prejudice is by creating identity safety, and preventing hate and prejudice before they rear their ugly heads. Researchers have known for a long time that getting to know people who are different from you will reduce prejudice. New research has shown that it also will reduce implicit biases—the unconscious attitudes we all pick up from living in a society that has much underlying racial bias. According to the article, “Long-term Reduction in Implicit Race Bias,” fostering empathy is another way to reduce prejudice and implicit bias. Children can learn to be empathetic, but it will only stick if they also see empathy and acceptance expressed and modeled by all the adults in their world on a regular basis.
LEE & LOW: How can schools encourage children to appreciate their own family’s configuration and diversity?
The best way to celebrate families is to open the doors of the school and invite all the families in. Other activities include times where students invite their caregivers to volunteer or share expertise in one area or another. Also, students can write about their families, read books (like the excellent collection from Lee & Low), and use family diversity lesson plans and materials from the organizations Welcoming Schools and Teaching Tolerance. In our Lesson Guide we suggest having a Family Diversity Extravaganza where students organize an event and everyone gets involved and has fun together. When students experience acceptance of all kinds of families, they feel pride in their own families and their awareness is built for others.
LEE & LOW: What is at stake if parents, educators, and administrators do not purposely model tolerance and inclusion for children?
We are at a frightening moment in our nation’s history. While many gains have been made to promote equity in our country, our current climate and electoral process is rife with hate rhetoric. In a recent online survey by Teaching Tolerance, educators shared that many of their students—especially immigrants and Muslims—have expressed concerns or fears about what might happen to them or their families after the election. Educators also reported they have witnessed an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment in their schools.
Much is at stake for all of us if we do not make it a priority to teach empathy, and model positive attitudes towards those who are different from ourselves. We need to openly discuss and work together to find ways to address all forms of intolerance. We made our film freely accessible on Youtube in hopes that it goes viral and the voices of children are shared. PLEASE SHARE WIDELY! I close with the wise words of young Nathan, a student in our film:
“It is important to have diverse children, to have diverse families in a school so you know how to include everyone… you don’t just go to the people who are like you, you reach out and embrace everyone.” —Nathan, student, Peralta Elementary School, Oakland, CA in “Our Family”
Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas is the co-author, with Dorothy Steele of Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn published by Corwin Press. Currently as director of Not In Our School, she designs curriculum, coaches schools and produces films on models for creating safe and inclusive schools, free of bullying and intolerance at the national non-profit, the Working Group. She presents internationally at conferences and provides professional development in schools and districts. Dr. Cohn-Vargas began her 35-year career in early childhood education at the Multicultural Center in Sonoma County, California. She did community service in the Guatemalan Highlands and produced educational films for the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education. She returned to California and worked as a teacher and principal in Oakland, a Curriculum Director in Palo Alto, and as Superintendent in San Jose. In each setting, she focuses on educational equity and effective strategies for diverse populations. Dr. Cohn-Vargas and her husband live in El Sobrante, California and have three adult children. With her husband, she is developing an environmental research center on their private reserve in the Nicaraguan rain forest.
Further reading and learning from Not in Our School:
About this book:
The first novel in Colleen Oakes’s epic, imaginative series tells the origin of one of the most infamous villains—the Queen of Hearts. This is not the story of the Wonderland we know. Alice has not fallen down a rabbit hole. This is a Wonderland where beneath each smile...
Today I'm sharing a form known as ae freslige. Some say it's Irish, others Celtic. Some spell it ae freslige, other ae freslighe. There are even different descriptions of the form. Here are two I've seen.
From The Shapes of Our Singing, by Robin Skelton: The Ae Freslige may be summarised as follows: the numbers in the brackets indicating th enumber of syllables in the last word of the line: Syllables: 7(3) 7(2) 7(3) 7(2) End rhymes: A B A B
From The Poets Garret: Each stanza is a quatrain of seven syllables. Lines one and three rhyme with a triple (three syllable) rhyme and two and four use a double (two syllable) rhyme. As was stated earlier. the poem should end with the first syllable word or the complete line that it began with. x x x x (x x a) x x x x x (x b) x x x x (x x a) x x x x x (x b)
I hope you'll join me today in writing some version of an ae freslige. I love the added challenge provided in the form as escribed by The Poets Garret. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.
THIS JUST IN!
BUSTLEis celebrating the release of the
special anniversary edition
WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS (on sale today) with their exclusive feature
of the new cover!
Click here to read the feature.
This article also releases Newbery Medal-winning and Printz Honor-winning author
Clare Vanderpool’s letter, which is included in...
I’ve been doing some work with difficult characters over the last few months. Either the character in question has some pretty obvious flaws (which are part of who they are), or they do some pretty flawed things over the course of the story. Or both. It’s not that the characters I’ve been working with in my editorial practice are unlikeable, it’s that they’re human, quirky, realistic.
People are not all good, all the time. That doesn’t happen in real life, nor should it happen in fiction. But in fiction, you have to always keep in mind the idea of “relatability.” Because a character doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Like Tinkerbell needs applause, the characters in novels need readers to believe in them and relate to them in order to be real. In the publishing world, if I can’t relate to your character, as a reader, chances are, I’m not going to get too deep into the story. I may even put the story down.
But sometimes characters must do things that aren’t exactly relatable. They must be mean, or selfish. They must act in a way that hurts others, or themselves. They must get away from their own best interest.
So how do you make a character like this accessible to the reader through good times and bad?
Sounds simple, but what does that look like on the page? I’ll prescribe my magic solution: Let the character admit that they’re being a butt, and it will humanize the behavior. It will get the reader on the character’s side. Just like in real life, in fictional life, an apology or owning up to a mistake go a long, long way.
Here are some examples. If a character is being cruel to another character, they could do something like this:
“Takes one to know one!” I shouted. I was being so terrible to Brady, but I couldn’t get past him telling the teacher on me. He was supposed to be my friend.
While the reader may not agree with the behavior, at least they know that the character acknowledges it and has a reason for it. Even if that reason isn’t that valid, at least the character knows they’re in the wrong. Even if the emotion blows over soon, the character has taken the time to guide the reader through their less-than-noble feelings. The character here is being a butt, but the behavior is coming from a place of hurt. In other words, vulnerability.
If they admit that woundedness, they become more human and less of a jerk in the reader’s eyes.
The same applies to actions. Play with vulnerability and motivation there, too. For example:
I knew it was wrong to steal. That’s the first thing we learned in Sunday School. And yet here I was, sitting in my car with a brand new MP3 player, still in the box, burning in my pockets. They hadn’t even stopped me. I can sell it and help Mom with rent. I can sell it and help Mom with rent. I kept that on a loop in my head, but it didn’t make me feel any better about what I’d done.
In this example, the character has shoplifted something expensive. But they feel bad, which is one layer of vulnerability. And they did it for a noble reason, which is another. So we have two things that help sell the reader on the behavior.
The other vulnerable thing to smooth over tough-to-swallow words or actions is how they handle themselves after the fact. Does the first character apologize to Brady, even if it’s at the very end of the story? Does the second character go back to the store and pay them for the MP3 player once the financial emergency is over? Admitting their wrongs to the reader in the moment, and admitting their wrongs to others in the story: a two-pronged approach to broadcasting vulnerability.
If you have tough-to-motivate stuff in your manuscript, how might you use vulnerability to help build a bridge between the character and the reader?