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1. Seeds of Inspiration: Books for Children and Young Adults about Wangari Maathai

'Seeds of Inspiration: Books for Children and Young Adults about Wangari Maathai' - Mirrors Windows Doors article

Wangari Maathai - photo credit: Martin RoweWhat better way to introduce MWD’s new theme, ‘Branching Across the … Continue reading ...

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2. The National Book Festival is Next Weekend

NationalBookFestivalThe National Book Festival is next weekend, September 21st and 22nd, on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Here are some highlights that the organizers sent to me specifically for kids:

  • "Famous authors. Children’s and teen authors Katherine Paterson, Holly Black, Kadir Nelson, Katherine Applegate and award-winning children’s book illustrator Rafael López are just a few of the award-wining authors who will discuss and sign their latest books.
  • Kid & family-friendly activities.  Kids can take a nationwide tour of our nation’s literacy initiatives in the Pavilion of the States, Saturday only at the 2013 event.
  • “A Book That Shaped Me” Summer Writing Contest: The contest encourages rising 5th and 6th graders to reflect on a book that has made a personal impact on their lives. The context is administered through local public library systems in the Mid-Atlantic region. Top winners will be honored at this year’s National Book Festival.
  • Library of Congress resources.  Inside the Library of Congress Pavilion, children of all ages will enjoy learning about all the exciting resources our nation’s oldest federal cultural institution has to offer—everything from learning how to research their family’s genealogy to what it takes for a song to be cool enough to make the National Jukebox’s cut." 

And here are the logistical details:


The Library of Congress’ 2013 National Book Festival—an annual celebration of books, reading and literature co-chaired by President Obama and Mrs. Obama.  This DC tradition gives book lovers of all ages a rare opportunity to interact with and get their books signed by their favorite authors.

For more information and a complete list of authors, visit www.loc.gov/bookfest.

When:  Sept. 21 & 22

9/21: 10am – 5:30pm
9/22: noon – 5:30pm


The National Mall, between 9th & 14th Streets
Washington, D.C."

Are any of you planning to attend the National Book Festival? I'd like to go someday, but it's too far to justify for me unless I happen to be on the East Coast anyway. 

Wishing everyone who does attend happy reading, good weather, and many author sightings. 

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Salisbury University Maryland USAFarewell Maryland USA – loved every minute here.

Really enjoyed talking to the students at Salisbury University – they’re going to be wonderful teachers.

Loved the professors and their welcome

Loved the beautiful grounds of the university with its mix of old and new buildings, artworks and parklands

Loved the Peace display and act of kindness at the university – I wrote on the wall of course

Loved the Green Earth Book Award = Kadir Nelson is a favourite US illustrator – check out his stunning book MOSES.

Loved the international book displays – and of course the Australian and New Zealand component – with books by my friends like Deborah Abela and Prue Mason – glad to see my JACK books there and Butterflies.

Library Salisbury University MarylandKadir Nelson display at Salisbury Uni , Green Earth Book Awrd for children's literatureMarylandSusanne Gervay lecturing at Salisbury Uni MarylandLoved the hospOld Tom by Leigh Hobbs with Professor Ernie Bond at Salisbury Uni Marylanditality of Professor Patricia Dean & Professor Ernie Bond.

THANKYOU – and I’m flying to Seattle today to begin my new writing tour – I Am Jack and No to school bullying.


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4. Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson

Keep reading… Author Sharon Robinson Check out Sharon Robinson at www.sharonrobinsonink.com Illustrated by Kadir Nelson Check out Kadir Nelson at www.kadirnelson.com   Publisher Scholastic Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2009) ISBN-10 0545052513 ISBN-13 978-0545052511

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5. Reading the World Challenge 2011 – Update 1

It’s not too late to join this year’s Reading the World Challenge if you haven’t already – just take a look at this post for details.

In our family we have all joined together and read picture books set in Mongolia, which is our current focus on PaperTigers. I had to hunt around a bit but we came up with a good selection. I’m not going to go into a great deal of detail here as they are all gathered up in my Personal View, Taking a step into children’s books about Mongolia. We have really enjoyed delving into the culture and heritage of Mongolia and these picture books have been read all together and individually.

One bedtime Older Brother read Horse Song: the Naadam of Mongolia by Ted and Betsy Lewin (Lee and Low, 2008) to Little Brother – quite a long read and they were both engrossed. Watching them from the outside, as it were, I came to an added appreciation of the dynamics of Ted and Betsy’s collaboration, both in the energy of their shared enthusiasm and participation in the events surrounding the famous horse-race, and also of being struck by a busy, crowded scene one page and then giggling at the turn of expression on an individual study’s face the next.

And I’ll just share with you Little Brother’s reaction to Suho’s White Horse, which you can read about in a bit more detail in my Books at Bedtime post earlier this week:

It was a moving story. The governor made me angry because he broke his word and was cruel to Suho and his horse.
[Listening to the musical version played on the Mongolian horsehead fiddle, the morin khuur] Once you know the story, you can tell which part of the music is telling which part of the story. How do they make that music with just two strings? It fills me with awe.

I also read The Horse Boy: A Father’s Miraculous Journey to Heal His Son by Rupert Isaacson (Viking, 2009), an amazing story of a family’s journey to Mongolia in search of horses and shamans to seek healing for the torments that were gripping their five-year-old autistic son’s life: as Isaacson puts it with great dignity, his “emotional and physical incontinence”. If you have already read this humbling, inspiring book (and even if you haven’t), take a look at this recent interview three years on from their adventurous journey. Now I need to see the film!

And talking of films (which we don’t very often on PaperTigers, but I can’t resist mentioning this one), The Story of the Weeping Camel is a beautiful, gentle film that takes you right to the heart of Mongolian life on the steppe. Who would have thought a documentary film about a camel could be so like watching a fairy tale? Don’t be put off by the subtitles – our boys love this film. Take a look at the trailer –

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6. HarperCollins Children’s Books at ALA Annual

We’re in ALA Annual Countdown Mode here in the office – it’s only one week away!  Dozens of boxes have been filled with galleys and we can’t wait to share them with you.  However, while galleys are certainly a huge incentive to come by Booth #1315 to say hi, we also want to offer up our OUTSTANDING list of authors and illustrators signing in our booth during the conference:


5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Veronica Roth (DIVERGENT)


9:00 am-9:30am
Carolyn Mackler (TANGLED)

9:30 am – 10:30 am
Alex Flinn (CLOAKED)

10:30 am – 11:00 am
Bobbie Pyron (A DOG’S WAY HOME)

11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Kadir Nelson (HEART AND SOUL posters)

11:30 am – 12:30 pm
Katherine Hannigan (TRUE…(SORT OF))

12:00 pm – 12:30 pm
Patrick Carman (DARK EDEN galleys)

12:30 pm – 1:00 pm
Katherine Hannigan (BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA)

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm


9:00 am – 9:30 am
Bob Shea (I’M A SHARK)

9:30 am – 10:30 am
Christopher Myers (WE ARE AMERICA)

10:30 am – 11:30 am
Rita Williams-Garcia (Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Author Winner for ONE CRAZY SUMMER)

11:30 am – 12:30 pm

1:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Claudia Gray (FATEFUL)

1:30 pm &

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7. Review of the Day: Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
By Kadir Nelson
Balzer and Bray (an imprint of Harper Collins)
ISBN: 978-0-06-173074-0
Ages 9-12
On shelves now

Humans tend to be a highly visual species. When folks tell you not to judge a book by its cover, that’s an optimistic sentiment rather than a rule. People like to judge by covers. Often we haven’t time to inspect the contents of all the books we see, so the jackets bear the brunt of our inherent skepticism. With this in mind, Kadir Nelson has always had an edge on the competition. If the man wants to get you to pick up a book, he will get you to pick up a book. You often get a feeling that while he doesn’t really care when it comes to the various celebrities he’s created books for over the years (Spike Lee, Debbie Allen, Michael Jordan’s sister, etc.) when it’s his own book, though, THAT is when he breaks out the good brushes. Nelson wrote We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball a couple years ago to rave reviews. Now he’s dug a little deeper to provide us with the kind of title we’ve needed for years. Heart and Soul gives us a true overview of African Americans from start to near finish with pictures that draw in readers from the cover onwards. This is the title every library should own. The book has heart. The pictures have soul.

An old woman stands in front of a portrait in the Capitol rotunda in Washington D.C. Bent over she regards the art there, recounting how it was black hands that built the Capitol from sandstone. “Strange though . . . nary a black face in all those pretty pictures.” Looking at them you would swear black people hadn’t been here from the start, but that’s simply not true. With that, the woman launches into the history of both our nation and the African Americans living in it, sometimes through the lens of her own family. From Revolutionary War soldiers to slavers, from cowboys to union men, the book manages in a scant twelve chapters to offer us a synthesized history of a race in the context of a nation’s growth. An Author’s Note rounds out the book, along with a Timeline, a Bibliography, and an Index.

Kadir Nelson, insofar as I can tell, enjoys driving librarian catalogers mad. When he wrote We Are the Ship some years ago he decided to narrate it with a kind of collective voice. The ballplayers who played in the Negro Leagues speak as one. Normally that would slip a book directly into the “fiction” category, were it not for the fact that all that “they” talk about are historical facts. Facts upon facts. Facts upon facts upon facts. So libraries generally slotted that one into their nonfiction sections (the baseball section, if we’re going to be precise) and that was that. Now “Heart and Soul” comes out and Nelson has, in a sense, upped the ante. Again the narrator is fictional, but this time she’s a lot more engaged. The Greek

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8. Kadir Nelson Talks with Roger

kadir headshot Kadir Nelson Talks with RogerRoger Sutton: Your new book, Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, weaves together historical facts—about slavery, the Emancipation Proclamation, real people like Rosa Parks and Dr. King—with the stories of the relatives of your fictional narrator. It must have been quite complicated to do. What was your entry point?

Kadir Nelson: Initially it was overwhelming; it was a huge amount of history to cover. The narrator was the key to distilling it, because she could make it very intimate. I wanted to tell this great American story as if it were a story, not a series of facts. When I began, I thought the book would be narrated by this ancient voice from across the ocean, maybe an ancient African spirit. It was very broad and nebulous, but as I started to shape the voice, it became something more specific, the voice of an African American woman who was a little over a hundred years old. I found that she could talk about people in her family — not only herself, but her grandfather, great-grandfather, her ancestors. I figured I could have these relatives touch different parts of American history. She could talk about the last slave in her family, for example, and how when he became free he fought in the Civil War and then went out West as a buffalo soldier. Later the family would all move up from the South to the North, the Great Migration. She could have relatives in the great World Wars, and she could talk about her personal experience as an African American experiencing the civil rights movement. I could address the significance of it all in a very intimate, personal way. I wanted the book to read and feel like this narrator, this elderly woman, was inviting a young child to sit on her lap, saying, “Let me tell you this story as I remember it.”

RS: What I like is that you don’t make her into Forrest Gump. She doesn’t run into all these historical people. Just enough to be convincing, to sort of ground her in history. But you don’t get a lot of unlikely “so then I was walking down the street and I saw Rosa Parks coming in the other direction.”

KN: Right. And I made a choice not to show the narrator’s face, except when she was a little girl, as a photograph. You see her from behind, and you see her hands at the end, but she’s part of that anonymous group of people that we don’t hear or read about. But her and her family’s contributions to the formation of the country and to the character of America are just as important as those by people we do read about.

RS: In researching this book, what was the most interesting or surprising thing you discovered?

KN: When relatives and friends talked about the last slave in their families, they knew their names or they could describe them. My aunt’s aunt remembered that the name of the last slave in her family was Pap. I was so pleased that she remembered his name. And it was such a great name. Very sweet. Hearing those personal accounts really helped bring that part of history alive for me.

RS: Did you find that writing this book gave you a new connection to your family?

KN: It helped to open up a dialogue, because in African American culture, details about slavery were not shared openly or willingly very often. I addressed those historical taboos because they’re a blemish on our national character. You hear it over and over again, that this was a country that promoted its freedoms, yet a large part of the population was enslaved.

RS: It’s also an integral part of the history. It’s not like we were a great country but had this nasty habit of slavery. As your book points out, in many ways, slave

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9. 2012 ALA Youth Media Awards Winners Announced!

Earlier this morning the American Library Association (ALA) announced the 2012 youth media awards winners. A full list of the winners can be found here.

Highlights from the list include:

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature: Dead End in Norvelt, written by Jack Gantos.

Two Newbery Honor Books also were named: Inside Out and Back Again, written by Thanhha Lai; and Breaking Stalin’s Nose, written and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin.

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children: A Ball for Daisy, illustrated and written by Chris Raschka.

Three Caldecott Honor Books also were named: Blackout, illustrated and written by John Rocco; Grandpa Green, illustrated and written by Lane Smith; and Me … Jane, illustrated and written by Patrick McDonnell.

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults: Kadir Nelson, author and illustrator of  Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.

Two King Author Honor Book recipients were selected: Eloise Greenfield, author of The Great Migration: Journey to the North,  illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist; and Patricia C. McKissack, author of Never Forgotten,  illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon.

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award: Shane W. Evans, illustrator and author of Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom.

One King Illustrator Honor Book recipient was selected: Kadir Nelson, illustrator and author of Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.

Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement: Ashley Bryan.

Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award honoring a Latino writer and illustrator whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience: Diego Rivera: His World and Ours, written and  illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh.

Two Belpré Illustrator Honor Books were selected: The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred illustrated by Rafael López, written by Samantha R. Vamos; and Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match /Marisol McDonald no combina, illustrated by Sara Palacios, written by Monica Brown.

Pura Belpré (Author) Award: Under the Mesquite written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall.

Two Belpré Author Honor Books were named: Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck written by Margarita Engle; and Maximilian and the Mystery of the Guardian Angel: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller, written by Xavier Garza.


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10. Jack Gantos Wins the Newbery Medal

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos has won the prestigious John Newbery Medal at the American Library Association’s annual youth media awards.

A Ball for Daisy illustrated and written by Chris Raschka won the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children. In addition, the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults went to Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley.

Finally the Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults: went to  Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. The rest of the ALA winners follow below…


New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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11. Jack Gantos Wins the Newbery Medal

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos has won the prestigious John Newbery Medal at the American Library Association’s annual youth media awards.

A Ball for Daisy illustrated and written by Chris Raschka won the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children. In addition, the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults went to Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley.

Finally the Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults: went to  Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. The rest of the ALA winners follow below…


New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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12. African American History Month

By Nicki Richesin, The Children’s Book Review
Published: February 11, 2012

In celebration of African American History month, I discovered some especially moving books to share with The Children’s Book Review. Fighting for justice and equality through solidarity and courage, these books uncover the truth of the African American experience whether it’s during the time of the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Movement or even today.

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans

By Kadir Nelson

In truly stunning paintings, Nelson follows the trajectory of the African-American experience in all of its harrowing and haunting glory. Beginning with slavery and ending with the civil rights movement, he gently describes the events to enlighten and as he explains in his gentle prologue, “make some things known before they’re gone for good.” You’ll find more details on Nelson’s remarkable book in these two stories from NPR and The New York Times and additional notes from the publisher. (Ages 8-11. Publisher: HarperCollins)

When Grandmama Sings

By Margaree King Mitchell; illustrated by James E. Ransome

It’s almost incredible to recall that Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong were not allowed as audience members in many of the theaters where they performed sold-out, standing-room-only shows. In Mitchell’s story, a small-town woman with a magnificent voice decides to bring her granddaughter along on tour. Although they are harassed, refused service and even payment from one stage manager, Grandmama keeps singing to inspire and bring people together with courage and the power of her conviction. (Ages 5-9. Publisher: HarperCollins)

We March

By Shane W. Evans

In this eloquent book by Shane W. Evans, author of Underground, he recounts the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. His bold illustrations depict families as they make their way to the Lincoln

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13. the perils of first-person history

It's Nonfiction Monday! And I'm talking about two more books that were on the Cybils short-list for MG/YA nonfiction, one of which I really liked, and one of which I really hated.

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball Kadir Nelson

This is a beautifully illustrated book about Negro League baseball. It won the Coretta Scott King honors for artwork and writing and it won the Sibert.

I'm still fuming.

I mean, it wasn't my favorite for King illustrator--it wasn't even my favorite Kadir Nelson book this year (I really liked his work in Abe's Honest Words) but I can understand why it won. I have much greater issues with the writing. I think it's an interesting story and kids will respond to the everyman first person narration, even though I find it fundamentally flawed. Not overjoyed with the writing winning an award, but also not surprised.

I am, however, extremely upset that it won the Sibert. There is NO WAY this book should be held up as a good example of nonfiction for kids.

Let's take another look at those illustrations. Many (possibly all) are based on real photographs. Yes, Nelson is an amazing painter and he breathed new life into those photos but... using paintings instead of photographs when they're obviously available? It makes the book less accurate, because instead of looking at real evidence, we're looking at an artistic interpretation of it.

And oh, the writing. History should NEVER be in first person if the author wasn't involved in the history. I know who Kadir Nelson is, and even I found myself asking at one point if he played for the Negro Leagues. Also, in taking the everyman approach, it makes the text confusing. When discussing how rough the players played, Nelson often says "they" or "them" but he's still in first person, so it sounds like these rough players weren't Negro league players--it sets up a horribly confusing us/them dichotomy.

Now yes, this first person narration makes the book vastly more appealing to kids, it's fundamentally not true and should not be held up as an example to strive for. How would you cite that in a paper? Can you imagine quoting something like this in a research project? How would you explain that yes, your quotation is in first person, but the person talking doesn't really exist? Will kids even realize that Nelson wasn't a baseball player? I had to go back and say "wait, what?" several times, and I consider myself to be a stronger and more experienced reader than most children, especially when it comes to history. And before you say that kids don't need to cite things and write research papers, yes, yes they do. And maybe not everything is a valid source, but if are going to give it an award for what children's nonfiction should be, then it should be a valid source. I don't lower my standards of nonfiction when it comes to stuff written for kids.

Nelson could have written a great and readable book in third person, but no. He chose something that makes his book less accurate, less true, and confusing to understand.

Also, there was no shout-out to the women who played in the leagues. No mention of them whatsoever.

Overall, yes, kids will really like this book. Yes, the pictures are beautiful. BUT! This is NOT what nonfiction for children should be. I'm dismayed that the Sibert committee thinks it is.

Ain't Nothing but a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry Scott Reynolds Nelson

Now this is how you do history in first person. Scott Reynolds Nelson (not to be confused with Kadir Nelson, whom I discussed above) is a historian and was studying the man behind the myth presented in songs about John Henry. This can be told in first person because it's about Nelson's own story, his research process as he tracks down the real story.

Nelson shows how historians get ideas and clues from a lot of different areas and objects--not just letters and records, but postcard pictures, song lyrics, and maps. The reader learns a lot about the research process, but also reconstruction, prison labor, and how the railroads were built.

The design is super kid-friendly. My only complaint is a personal one. Nelson needed to look at some records at the archives that were closed. While he does explain all the reasons why records might be closed, his frustration paints the archivists kind of like bad guys. I understand not getting the records you need and how frustrating that is, but, as a trained archivist, I have a little more sympathy for the record keepers than Nelson does. :)

After reading the book, I had to listen to this on repeat for about an hour.

Round up is over at Miss Rumphius Effect.

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14. Creating An Extraordinary Picture Book Panel: Kadir Nelson

Arthur Levine is hosting this panel and asks: What makes a picture book extraordinary?

Kadir Nelson: "The art has to be excellent, the story has to be excellent, and work well together. The art and pictures have to speak to a personal truth and a universal truth."


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15. EVE BUNTING Highlights from "Creating an Extraordinary Picture Book" panel

EVE BUNTING: "Creating An Extraordinary Picture Book" with Eve Bunting, Melinda Long, Kadir Nelxon, Arthur Levine

Good morning! Welcome to Day 2 of the conference!

Arthur Levine of Scholastic is moderating an insightful panel with picture book authors Eve Bunting, Melinda Long and author/illustrator Kadir Nelson about what makes an "extraordinary" picture book.

To remind myself, I broke down the word "extraordinary" to these words: EXTRA ... ORDINARY. So to me, an "extraordinary" picture book goes BEYOND the "ordinary" and has something "extra" to it that makes it not only beyond ordinary but has that "extra" factor that makes it a future classic... and timeless.

The Extraordinary Eve Bunting spoke from her heart when asked what makes a picture book "extraordinary." She said "the heart" is what makes a picture book extraordinary. "I always ask myself when I finish writing a book - is it worth saying?" she told the audience. She stressed that if there is true "emotion" in your writing, that's what elevates your book beyond the ordinary.

When asked by Levine, "What makes YOUR book 'SMOKY NIGHT' (illustrated by David Diaz) extraordinary?", Eve gave this eloquent and moving answer:

"SMOKY NIGHT, illustrated by David Diaz, is 'extraordinary' because it won the Caldecott. The art was what won the Caldecott, but I also think the story was strong. It came from my emotions. I was in Los Angeles when the riots happened (in 1992). From our house, we could smell the smoke. I immediately thought of a child seeing the looting and hatred going on in Los Angeles, and if something jolts me in a way that it makes me ashamed or sorry or sad or happy, that's a book I want to do. So when I personally smelled that smoke and heard the noise and read about what was happening, I felt so much sadness and shame that people, as one famous person said, 'can't get along.' People should be able to get along no matter what their color or ethnicity. Unfortunately we will have more nights like the smoky night I was describing, so I believe this book was worth saying."

She added: "I need to have that jolt o emotion, that gets me going. I can't put it out of my mind, I think about it and it's a catharsis for me to put it down."

She also said that winning awards is not always the criteria for making an extraordinary book. "'Terrible Things' was published in 1980 but it's still published and still getting letters from kids who read it. I feel it's not always necessary that books win awards to be closest to your heart."

The panelists continued to discuss the craft of writing and illustrating their books and their own process to creating books. Keep reading for more blogs from our SCBWI TEAM BLOG to find out what the others had to say!

When asked if the authors had a special place to write, one author talked about longing for a "clean, well lighted space." Eve Bunting said: "I have a clean, well-lighted space now, but when I first started writing, I had an attic bedroom that no one used. It was dusty and dirty but it had a door and it was away from the children. I told them unless it was a fire or if they were hemorrhaging to leave me alone." (The audience laughed.) "I had a sign from a hotel that said 'Privacy Please' that I hung on the doorknob. But it didn't work. The kids would come to the bottom of the stairs, waving a sneaker and crying, 'I lost a shoe!' But now that they've flown the coop, now I have a clean, well-lighted space that's now my own."

Another fantastic panel at the SCBWI National Conference, and this blog was to provide with you with a taste of some of the jewels of wisdom offered by Eve Bunting. Again, I highly recommend joining SCBWI and attending the conference (full-time or part-time) because what we are blogging about only covers the tip of the iceberg. Imagine what else you will discover when you come to our next conference!

Posted by Paula Yoo

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16. Creating An Extraordinary Picture Book Panel: Kadir Nelson

It helps to have a good editor, says Kadir, especially when he's not writing the text of a picture book. It's good to have support as he works in solitude. He likes the fresh eye of an editor to look at his sketches or his manuscript.

He's telling us about sending a manuscript to his agent, something that he'd been working on for months. He asked his agent (Steven Malk), "does this stink?" Steve, he said, didn't tell him is was bad, but, in his tactful way, told him he needed to keep working on it, and that there were gems in his work. He like to have the encouragement to help him get from B+ work to A+ work.


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17. The "What Makes An Extraordinary Picture Book" Panel in Progress

1000 people listen raptly to Arthur A. Levine, Eve Bunting, Kadir Nelson, and Melinda Long!

posted by Lee Wind

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18. Creating An Extraordinary Picture Book Panel: Kadir Nelson

With any book that I do, the most important thing for me is to be relaxed, says Kadir. "I spend a lot of time stalling."


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19. Creating An Extraordinary Picture Book Panel: Kadir Nelson

Arthur asks the panel to talk about their own books: which ones are extraordinary?

Kadir Nelson on Moses: He related to and connected to Harriet Tubman by thinking of his grandmother. She inspired him to do extraordinary work.


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20. LA bits

Greetings from sunny L.A., and the SCBWI conference here at the Hyatt Century Plaza, where you'd never know how sunny it is because it is eighteen degrees in the basement ballroom. Here is your "Oh, thank God, it's not only me" moment for the day.

Kadir Nelson is a genius. He is very good-looking. He is a baseball fan. He's a fellow client of Writers House. And he is a picture book person. So there are a lot of reasons to love Kadir Nelson. But the latest is this:

In a panel this morning on picture books, Arthur Levine asked Kadir, Eve Bunting, and Melinda Long what specific set of circumstances enabled them to create their best work. Kadir Nelson said he needed to be relaxed. So, he said, "I spend a lot of time stalling. The bathtub might need to be washed. Maybe a few games of Scrabble need to be played."

This justification of my tendency for procrastination from someone I admire will derail my good writing habits for a month at least. Sigh.

In other news, I have met a ton of great folks, had a revelation about my new picture book, sold a bunch of copies of TWO OF A KIND, and it is possible that I had dinner with Keanu Reeves last night.*

Next year, you should come.

* And by "with" I mean "near." But I am sure he is blogging about me today too.

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21. The Brilliant Kadir Nelson, Melinda Long,Eve Bunting at LA SCBWI Conference

Kadir Nelson illustrates with ‘Personal truth and a universal truth’ - his beautiful illustrations counter racism. I bought his book ‘Change has Come - an artist celebrates Our American Spirit’ with the words of Barack Obama.

Melinda Long’ multi million best selling picture book writer of ‘How I Became a Pirate’ says ‘I write to appeal to kids and adults.’

Eve Bunting hugely successful picture book writer says ‘that jolt of emotion gets me going.’ She loves her picture book Smoky Night illustrated by David Diaz.

These creators spoke to a packed audiecne of authors and illustrators.

Kadair Nelson and Susanne GervayChris Eboch and Suzanne Morgan Williams USA authors

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22. Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Book Awards in DC

Children's Book Guild Luncheon 2009Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a luncheon held by the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC. Established in 1945, the Children’s Book Guild (of which I am a member) is a professional organization of authors, illustrators, and specialists in children’s literature.

The luncheon was held in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. The speakers were author and editor Andrea Davis Pinkney, honorary co-chair of the 40th birthday celebration of the Coretta Scott King (CSK) Book Awards, and Guild member Deborah Taylor, the current chair of the award committee. Pinkney and Taylor talked about the history and winners of these prestigious awards, which recognize outstanding children’s books by African Americans.

As an added bonus, Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author and illustrator Kadir Nelson also attended the luncheon, as did Sharon Robinson, author and daughter of baseball legend Jackie Robinson.  Nelson and Robinson brought along copies of their gorgeous new book, Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson.  It was truly an inspiring event for all of us!

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23. 2010 Children’s Choice Book Awards

The Children's Book Council hosts the Children's Choice Book Awards. The favorite book finalists for this year were determined by close to 15,000 children and teens. I highly recommend checking out these books!

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24. Trees, leaves and sandwich boards

Sometimes I love the books I read with my daughters because of the delightful, uninhibited play they inspire. Other times I love the books we read together because they engage us with something bigger; they cause us to reflect upon our actions and the world around us and encourage thoughtfulness and care. Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli and Kadir Nelson is a recent find that has done both these things for us.

Photo: Charmainezoe

Mama Miti is an enduring story with fable-like quality about a woman who loves trees. She knows which trees are good to harvest for firewood, which trees are best for building with, which tree leaves have medicinal properties as well as the trees which provide food for both people or animals and she happily shares this knowledge with the women she meets. In doing so, these women, armed with knowledge (and saplings!) are able to build better homes and communities, to provide more for their families and to build a more sustainable future – in fact all the things I try to do in my own small way.

It’s a fantastic book for stimulating discussion with your kids about plants and trees around you and what uses they have, what you can harvest from them, and why we might want to ensure that we continue to have plenty of trees and plants around us.

It’s a brilliant book for encouraging you to keep faith in the idea that small changes will eventually add up to something substantial that makes a difference.

It’s an inspirational book for anyone, but particularly girls wanting to read about amazing, strong women – it is actually a biography of Wangari Muta Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. I left out this fact till now as Mama Miti is one of those non-fiction books which probably provide librarians with a puzzle – should it be shelved with literature, perhaps amongst picture books for slightly older children, or on the non fiction shelves (Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca which I reviewed here is another such dilemma posing book). Mama Miti is definitely a story that can be enjoyed for its writing and resonance first and foremost – the revelation that it is actually a true story about a real woman only further delighted M (and me!)

Kadir Nelson’s illustrations are amazing – yet another reason to love this book! He has created artwork primarily using scraps of African cloth, providing his illustrations with great visual texture which reward repeated, detailed observation. The use of African fabrics paradoxically really roots Napoli’s t

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25. Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli; Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli with illustrations by Caldecott Honor Winner, Kadir Nelson, is about the great Nobel Peace Prize winner, Wangari Muta Maathai, from Kenya. I have written about her on my blog before because this is one woman that I just REALLY admire, and I think her story is important to share with children. She helped Kenyan women and children by suggesting they plant trees and getting back in touch with nature. She educated herself and then went back to her country to show girls that they can too educate themselves and work for the common good. If anyone deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, it’s certainly Wangari.

This book is a little different than Seeds of Change by Jen Cullerton Johnson

in that Mama Miti focuses mostly on how women came from all over Kenya to ask Wangari for help. Her advice was to plant certain types of trees to take care of the problems the women were having. If the woman complained of a lack of food, Wangari told her to plant a tree and gave her seeds. If the woman complained of the cattle being sick, Wangari told her to plant a certain type of tree with leaves that cure disease. Mama Miti shows how nature can really provide and make a difference, and how strong women can also take care of themselves–especially with a little guidance from someone as knowledgeable and loving as Wangari Maathai.

This book also has wonderful illustrations by Kadir Nelson and resources and author’s notes in the back as well as a glossary of Kikuyu terms, which are used throughout the book.

Why share Mama Miti with your students or children? Use this book to start a discussion about how people can take care of themselves and maybe with a little help–it reminds me of the organization, Heifer International. You can also talk about the importance of planting trees and taking care of nature as well as going green tips. This book can also bring up a history lesson about how much people used to rely on nature, crops, and so on in the past when there weren’t grocery stores to visit or farmers growing food for all of us. You can also use this book to teach about a strong and wonderful woman who can be a role model for young girls all around the world.

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