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Serving on award committees is a time-honored tradition amongst children’s librarians. The award ceremonies that come after? Gravy. This past weekend I was delighted to attend the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards Ceremony, the Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium, and the presentation of the Scott O’Dell Award all in one fell swoop. To do this I had to travel in Boston. For whatever reason they did not pick up these three events and move them to Evanston for my own personal convenience. I shall have a word with the management, I assure you.
But in all seriousness, it was delightful. In particular Katrina Hedeen was delightful, somehow managing to simultaneously put out fires (metaphorical, though I’m sure she could wield an extinguisher with aplomb), calm nerves, and keep everything on schedule. She even typed up a handy little schedule which listed absolutely everything I would need to know during my time in MA.
For my part, I came to the town with two additional goals:
- Meet Laura Amy Schlitz, Sharyn November, and Jeanne Birdsall for lunch. Those of you familiar with all three individuals are probably now wondering if the heavens themselves would split asunder at the conjoining of this magnificent triumvirate. More on that in a second.
- Record an episode of the Horn Book Podcast with the multi-talented Siân Gaetano. In course of said recording, find a way to take over Roger’s job.
So there was an element of timing to this trip. Neither of these things, you see, were on Katrina’s original schedule for me. I would have to be quick, slick, and on time.
Now in any good story, there can sometimes be outside forces which throw your protagonist (notice I didn’t say “hero”) off their chosen path. In this case there was a bit of a baseball game of an important nature happening on Friday when I arrived. It didn’t slow me down much but it did mean that while most of my delightful lunch happened, I just missed Sharyn November by a hair when I had to book it to the podcast. Hence the lack of a killer selfie in this slot:
The podcast was a lot of fun. Julie Danielson, who spoke with Roger and Siân not long ago on her own episode, had advised me to eat the mic. Just devour it. Take large chunks out of it with my teeth. That really is the only way to be properly heard. I thought maybe I’d have some natural mic magnetic abilities that would allow me to draw it to my lips unbidden. This did not seem to be the case but Siân has this incredibly subtle way of drawing attention to the fact that you’re beginning to drift away while you are recording that is commendable. She’s a class act, that one. Our topic was “religion”, which should give you pause right there. I’m an odd candidate to talk about it but we had lots of interesting things to say. I’ll let you know when it’s up. They’ll be discussing VOYA on the podcast next (as is right) so I’ll be the week after that. It’s all good.
Roger, for the record, was not present at the recording since he was running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get everything in place for the ceremony that night. That meant that in addition to taking his place on his podcast (the first step, as I’ve mentioned, in my plan to supplant him on it entirely) I got to creep around his office like . . well . . a creep. And there, on the wall, was the cutest photograph of all time. I got Roger’s permission to post it here. It’s of Roger a number of years ago doing a storytime when he was still a children’s librarian. Check it out:
My plan for attending the ceremony consisted of following people who would know where we were supposed to go. This was a good plan. So I ducked into the ladies restroom to change. After a quick change we headed over, drank champagne, and I got to ogle the prizes that the winners of the Boston Globe-Horn Book receive when they win.
I don’t know if any of you have attended this particular award before. It’s Boston-based so a fair number of New Yorkers were able to travel up with relative ease. Still and all, I’d never been. As it turns out, winners of the awards receive silver bowls with their names engraved on the side. Honor winners get silver plates of much the same thing. And unlike awards like the Newbery and Caldecott, both the authors and the illustrators of each book received their own reward and make their own speeches. Pretty sweet.
As I was to learn, also unlike other professional children’s awards, the judges of the BGHB awards are placed upon the stage upon chairs that look like they hold more professional degrees than anyone whose tuchas they happen to cradle. The judges were placed in the front with Roger in the back.
Imposing, to say the least.
If a chair could disapprove of the state of your attire, this one would.
I was therefore very glad indeed that I’d opted to switch out my ratty, fluff-infested, possibly pungent black tights for my sleeker blue ones. I do not have particularly interesting legs, but at least they could claim to be colorful.
Listening to M.T. Anderson. For the record, if you find yourself on a stage sitting for long amounts of time, I highly recommend turning your legs into an interesting color. Not puce, though. Never puce.
In case you have forgotten, here were this year’s winners:
NONFICTION AWARD WINNER:
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan)
Read The Horn Book’s review.
FICTION AWARD WINNER:
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams)
Read The Horn Book’s review.
PICTURE BOOK AWARD WINNER:
Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph written by Roxane Orgill, illustrated by Francis Vallejo (Candlewick Press)
Read The Horn Book’s review.
NONFICTION HONOR BOOKS:
- Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M. T. Anderson (Candlewick Press)
- Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement written by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (Candlewick Press)
Read The Horn Book’s reviews.
FICTION HONOR BOOKS:
- The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick Press)
- Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House)
Read The Horn Book’s reviews.
PICTURE BOOK HONOR BOOKS:
- Thunder Boy Jr. written by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
- One Day, the End: Short, Very Short, Shorter-than-Ever Stories written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Fred Koehler (Boyds Mills Press)
Read The Horn Book’s reviews.
Three of the honorees couldn’t attend the ceremony. Each one sent in a nice little acceptance speech video in lieu of their actual selves. I will now proceed to rank their reasons in order of increasing extremity:
- Sherman Alexie – Unable to attend due to a prior family commitment. Totally understandable.
- Frances Hardinge – Unable to attend because she was officiating a wedding. Totally and completely understandable.
- Yuyi Morales – Unable to attend because she was donating a kidney to a complete unknown stranger simply because it was the right thing to do. This is what we call in the business the greatest, most understandable reason a person could produce for not being able to attend an event.
The speeches, as you might imagine, were lovely. Laura Amy Schlitz, for example, did hers on the floor beside mic and without notes and I could only wish Frances had been there to hear her since I think those two would have gotten along like gangbusters.
Afterwards the judges had been invited to a Candlewick dinner, so we climbed onto what appeared to be a Candlewick Party Bus and made our way to a lovely little restaurant. No idea what the name was, but it was one of those places that try to make classic dishes interesting by throwing in peculiar little touches. For example, I got the chicken and waffles, but the chicken was topped off with guacamole. Not a bad addition by any stretch of the imagination but not something you normally see.
It was that nice, blearily checking in to my hotel room, that I realized I’d left my glasses, my only glasses, in the restroom across the hall from the Horn Book offices. Pfui.
The next day was cloudy, gloomy, and just packed with that kind of nasty misty rain that drifts under your umbrella and somehow manages to soak you in a low-level sheen of wetness anyway. But it could have been blue skies and birds singing sweet songs for me. I was going to meet someone for breakfast that is, to me, quite the celebrity.
I don’t know how many of you listen to the NPR Podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. For me, it is the only way I am able to understand any of the current goings on in the pop culture world. What is Steven Universe? What happened at the Emmys this year? What’s You’re the Worst? They answer all and they occasionally have a librarian on for her expertise. Her name is Margaret H. Willison and in addition to working full-time in a library she also records the podcast Two Bossy Dames. The kicker? She knew who I was and was willing to do breakfast with me! Bonus! I’ve always admired Margaret’s aplomb on PCHH since she is able to keep up with a quick and lively crew on a variety of different topics. Thinking on your feet in this manner is an enviable skill, but she wields her tongue adeptly. And, I am happy to report, she is just as sweet, funny, intelligent, and smart as you would hope her to be.
After this, I had to get my glasses back. Long story short: I did, but Simmons may wish to consider how easy it is to bypass those doors that require cards. Some of them simply aren’t turned on. Hence my recovery of my own glasses.
Meanwhile, back at the Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium the theme of the day was “Out of the Box”. Cathryn Mercier, the Director and Professor of the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College gave the opening and welcome alongside Roger Sutton. Now if you watched Cathryn throughout the day, you would have seen her writing down a variety of different notes, longhand, on a pad of paper. These notes were then, by the end of the day, transformed into a speech that wrapped up all the pertinent points. It was extraordinary. She didn’t even transfer it all to a laptop and edit it. So well done there.
M.T. Anderson started off the day with a speech called “What’s Actually in a Box”. It may have discussed his intense dislike of Little Women. “Unboxing Nonfiction” was a panel conducted between Roxanne Feldman and Carole Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes. During the course of their talk they spoke about the dire need to break wide open “the canonical boundaries of biography.” Then Steve Sheinkin spoke on the topic of “Get Me Out of the Health Food Aisle!: Rethinking Nonfiction”. LEGOs were involved in some manner. After lunch Roger Sutton moderated “How Jazz and Picture Books Are the Same Exact Thing” with Roxane Orgill and Francis Vallejo and then I got to interview Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Fred Koehler about their book One Day, the End. Turns out, they are a hoot. As a moderator you always worry that your subjects will just give one word answers to your questions. Rebecca and Fred worked like a perfectly tuned engine. You’d think they’d been friends for years, rather than a lucky pairing of author and illustrator by an editor. We were also able to determine once and for all whether or not the girl in the book picks up the ice cream that falls from her cone and places it back on that same cone from the ground or not. Squeamish readers may not like the answer.
“Unboxing Fiction” was a truly fascinating talk conducted by Joanna Long with Laura Amy Schlitz and Rebecca Stead. We found out that both authors were descended from hired girls who married above their stations. We learned what a bundling board is, as well as chaperoned kissing parties. Oh, it was amazing stuff. I can only hope the day was recorded in some way.
Finally Cathryn Mercier gave her (longhand) final speech and this was immediately followed up with by the presentation of the Scott O’Dell Award to Laura. There was champagne and chocolate cupcakes with blue frosting. Everything, in short, that makes life worth living.
My trip to the airport would have been in an overpriced taxi. Instead, winner Francis Vallejo, his girlfriend, his mom, and his dad all drove me to the airport themselves. They not only saved me money but were lively and wonderful companions en route, and I’d be an unappreciative beast if I didn’t thank them here. We got to talk a little Detroit, which always caps off a trip well.
And a thank you to the fine and fabulous folks of the Horn Book for babysitting me, putting me up, and generally allowing me to have a wonderful time. Thank you to Roger for selecting me for this committee. To the winners for your time and speeches. And to the attendees for coming up afterwards to say you read this blog from time to time. That’s awfully nice to hear. So thank you one and all, and if anyone reading this is so inclined, do be so good as to sign up to attend next year’s BGHB Award Ceremony. It’s supposed to be the official 50th anniversary, so you know the cupcakes are gonna be good.
Last evening (May 14th, 2016), I did a search on Twitter to see what people were saying about Sherman Alexie's appearances at Book Expo and BookCon. He had some terrific things to say, like this (quoting a tweet from the Publishers Weekly account):
Sherman Alexie won't sell movie rights to his books b/c he doesn't want his books whitewashed and non-Native actors #thebookcon.
In scrolling through the tweets, I also saw one from a person who read Thunder Boy Jr.
to kids in storytime, and then had the kids pick new names. That was--and is--a primary concern for me. Last year, a cousin's little boy brought home a worksheet where he had to pick a Native American name. Here's a photo of the worksheet:
It is hard to read. Here's what it says:
What name would you choose if you were a Native American? Although Native Americans gave their children names just as your parents did for you, they were very different. They also may have many names throughout their life. The elders named the children and adults within the tribe. Some came as dreams or visions from the elder which was a sign for naming the person. Others go along with the personality or characteristic of that person. A Native American name may tell about what the person does well or wants to do, something that may have happened on the day of that person's birth, or something else that has specific meaning relating to that person. Sometimes Native Americans didn't like their names because they may have been degrading. For example: Would you like to be called Talks Too Much, Buffalo Woman, Lonely One, Lazy Elk, or No Particular Tribe? Since animals were a large part of their religious world, they were often used when naming a person. For example: Running Deer, Brave Hawk, Thunder Bird, Quiet caterpillar, Wild Cat, Sly Fox or Swimming Dolphin. Part of the nature were common too since Native Americans worshipped their land. For example: Strong Wind, Running Thunder, Lightning Bolt, Shining Sun or Happy Weather. Once the elder named the child or adult, they have a ceremonial feast and that elder and newly named person formed a bond. Now it is your turn! A Native name can say quite a lot about you! Give it a try!
Think of an animal or part of nature
Think of a characteristic about yourself
Put them together!
Write your name and a description of why you chose your name on the template. In the box, draw a picture of yourself as a Native American. Below there is a circle. Here you will create a symbol for your name. Since they didn't have an alphabet or written language they often used symbols to write their names. Make it simple! Too much detail would take too much time to write your name over and over again!
I uttered one "oh my gosh" after another as I read that worksheet (where did the author find those names, and why is "Buffalo Woman" seen as degrading?!), but let's stick with my concern: the monolithic or pan-Indian character of that worksheet. There are over 500 federally recognized nations in the United States. Amongst them is tremendous diversity of language, ceremony, and yes, naming.
None of the major review journals noted problems with the pan-Indian character of Alexie's picture book. Did others, I wondered? I went over to Goodreads to see. On April 14th, 2016, Jillian Heise, who (at the time) was teaching Native children, wrote
I see my students on these pages, most especially my favorite, with the male grass dancer regalia, and wish there were more chances for them to see themselves, and others to see them, in the pages of picture books.
I appreciate the book, and feel it is important, but wonder if it may somewhat confuse those who haven't been taught about cultural naming traditions. Might they read this and see it as a silly thing instead of the deeper meaning usually given to it? Because of that, I wish there had been an end note to add some more perspective within the larger conversation.
Kudos to Jillian! She's got the context to understand why the lack of specificity in the book is a concern.
In emails with Roger Sutton a couple of days ago, we briefly touched on my review of Alexie's book. He said "how we respect insiders and outsiders at the same time" is "a big question." I think we all want to get to a place in children's literature, textbooks, movies, etc. where we're all represented, accurately, and where students and consumers don't need help understanding the cultural, religious, history, etc. of the story or information being conveyed. In many places, for example, I've applauded Daniel Jose Older's video
asking writers not to use italics for non-English words. He's pushing the status quo in terrific ways. Given the shifting demographics in the United States, that place (where things aren't so darn white) is going to come, eventually. We're getting there.
In the meantime, for some peoples and some topics, readers are going to need some help, within the pages of the book. Thunder Boy Jr.
is a perfect example of the need for that help. I bought three copies of the 100,000 that were printed. One of them is mine, one is for Jayden (my sister's grandson), and the third copy is for his class. It is a class of Pueblo Indian children who probably have gone through their naming ceremony. We (I'm Pueblo, too) have specific ways in which we receive our names. My parents named me Debbie when I was born. A few weeks, I received a Pueblo name. I'm not going to provide details about that because ceremonies are not something we disclose. There are reasons for that, including the fact that our religious ceremonies (naming is part of that) were outlawed by the US government. Another is that people who are searching for identity and meaning in their lives gravitate to Native peoples and "go Native" in superficial ways that are harmful to Native peoples. The children in that classroom, secure in who they are (like Jillian's students), will likely enjoy the story.
As I've noted, 100,000 copies of the book were published. I'm hoping that Little, Brown (the publisher) will include a Note in the next batch, providing a "do not use this book as an activity for which kids pick a Native American name," an explanation for why that is not a respectful activity, and a bit of information about Native naming. If you've got a copy, or if you get one of the 100,000 copies, I hope the information I share here is helpful.
I'll start with some tweets I sent out this morning:
Inevitable: Tweet from someone who read Alexie's Thunder Boy Jr. to kids and then did activity where kids picked their Indian names.
Fact: Imagine being a Native kid in that class, who already has a name, given to them in ceremony, being asked to make up a new one.
Question: Would it help adult readers NOT do that activity if there was a note inside the book about Native peoples and naming?
A truth: A white teacher asking a Native kid to choose a new name harkens back to boarding schools where teachers asked Native kids to point to a blackboard to choose a new name.
That last tweet is a reference to Luther Standing Bear and what he wrote in his My Indian Boyhood
. He was Lakota. In the foreward to the 2006 edition of My Indian Boyhood
(first published in 1931), Delphine Red Shirt (she's Oglala Sioux) wrote that:
Lakota children are named at birth by their parents or by close relatives. Standing Bear's brothers' names, Sorrel Horse and Never Defeated, signified brave deeds that their father had been known for: he once had a sorrel horse shot out from under him, and he displayed heroic characteristics in battle, causing the people to remember him as never having been defeated. As Standing Bear later recalled, "In the names of his sons, the history of [my father] is kept fresh." Standing Bear's father was a leader who killed many to protect his people. Thus, like his brothers, Ota K'te (Plenty Kill) was also given a name that held significance.
Ota K'te kept his boyhood name until it changed to Mato Najin, or "Standing Bear," later in his life, according to Lakota custom. In the old tradition, he would have earned a new name through a heroic or brave deed, but by the time he reached an age when he could prove himself worthy, the Lakota people had been confined to the Pine Ridge Reservation. He took his father's name, Standing Bear, and at Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, he took the name Luther.
In his My People the Sioux
(first published in 1928), Standing Bear writes that when he got to Carlisle, an interpreter came to the room where they were and said to them (p. 138):
'Do you see all these marks on the blackboard? Well, each word is a white man's name. They are going to give each of you one of these names by which you will hereafter be known.' None of the names were read or explained to us, so of course we did not know the sound or meaning of any of them.
The teacher had a long pointed stick in her hand, and the interpreter told the boy in the front seat to come up. The teacher handed the stick to him, and the interpreter then told him to pick out any name he wanted. The boy had gone up with his blanket on. When the long stick was handed to him, he turned to us as much as to say, 'Shall I--or will you help me--to take one of these names? Is it right for me to take a white man's name?' He did not know what to do for a time, not uttering a single word--but he acted a lot and was doing a lot of thinking.
Finally he pointed out one of the names written on the blackboard. Then the teacher took a piece of white tape and wrote the name on it. Then she cut off a length of the tape and sewed it on the back of the boy's shirt. Then that name was erased from the board.
This went on for all the kids. In class when the teacher called the roll and the person whose name she called didn't stand, she'd look at the tape and make that child stand up and say 'Present.' That is how they learned what their new names sounded like, and that they should respond to the name when it was said.
All of that information is specific to Luther Standing Bear and Lakotas.
I understand that Alexie, in his classroom visits, is telling kids that the boy in the story is Spokane. Speaking as a teacher, I would love to see that in the book, and information about the ways that Spokane's name their children. At some point in the future, my hope is that the diversity within Native America will be common knowledge, and such notes won't be necessary. We aren't there, yet, and while I don't want Native writers to feel a responsibility to explain things to non-Native readers, I think it is, for now, necessary that their books include helpful notes.
Providing that information in a Note to Readers respects the writer's way of telling a story as they choose to tell it, and respects the outsiders need for more information with which to understand that story. It is one answer to Roger Sutton's question about how we can respect insiders and outsiders at the same time.
Previous posts on Thunder Boy Jr.
In a comment to his post about weeding books, Roger Sutton said that Horn Book just received the 25th anniversary edition of Amazing Grace and that the page on which Grace is shown playing Indian is gone (she's pretending to be Longfellow's Hiawatha). Here's his comment:
This is the illustration he's talking about. It was in the original version of the book, published by Dial in 1991. The author is Mary Hoffman; the illustrator is Caroline Binch:
For those who don't know the book, the main character is a girl named Grace who wants to be Peter Pan in the play her class is going to do. Other kids tell her she can't be Peter because she's a girl and he's a boy, and, that she's Black and he's White. Stung--as any kid would be--she imagines herself in all kinds of roles, including Hiawatha. That she's "by the shining Big-Sea-Water" tells us she is imagining herself as the Hiawatha of Longfellow's imagination (there was, in fact, a real person named Hiawatha).
But see how Grace "plays" Hiawatha? In a stereotypical way. She sits cross legged, torso bare, arms crossed and raised up (I don't know why so many statues show Indians with arms crossed and lifted off the chest that way), barefoot, with a painted face and stoic look. Amazing Grace
came out in 1991. In 1992, a person from whom I've learned a great deal, wrote about it. That person: Ginny Moore Kruse. In her article "No Single Season: Multicultural Literature for All Children, published in Wilson Library Bulletin 66 30-3
, she wrote:
Are the book's multiple themes so welcome that the act of "playing Indian" escaped comment by most U.S. reviewers...that critics relaxed their standards for evaluation? No, such images recur so frequently that when they do, nobody notices. Well, almost nobody but the children who in real life are Indian.
Claiming that only American Indian children are apt to notice "playing Indian," "sitting Indian style," or picture book animals "dressed up" like American Indians does not excuse the basic mistake. Self-esteem is decreased for the affected peoples, an accurate portrayals are skewed for everyone else.
This change is big news in children's literature. I'm grateful to Roger for sharing it. But let's return to his words. Roger suggested that the absence of Grace/Hiawatha in the new edition is the result of "public shaming."
Its absence can be seen as the result of public shaming---but it also be seen as a a step forward in what we give to children.
Might we say it is gone because its author, illustrator, and publisher decided that the self-esteem of Native children matters? And, maybe, they decided that having it in there was a disservice to non-Native readers, too, skewing what they know about Native peoples? Maybe they just decided it was dated, and in an effort to market the book to today's readers, that page would hurt sales.
Today, I wish I was near Ginny's hometown. I'd call her and see if she wanted to join me for a cup of tea. I'm sure it'd be a delightful conversation.
[JM] Roger Sutton has been the Editor in Chief of The Horn Book, Inc., since 1996. He is widely recognized as being among the country’s leading experts on children’s literature. So it wasn’t without a little trepidation that I asked Roger for an … Continue reading
I participated in the "Are we doing it white?" conversation at Read Roger (Roger Sutton's blog at Horn Book; Sutton is the executive editor at Horn Book; The Horn Book is highly regarded in children's literature). His 'we' is white people and the 'it' is reviewing. He references a conversation he had with librarian Nina Lindsay in which she asked if it is time to "shake up our standards" in reviewing.
At one point in the 'Are we doing it white' conversation, Roger said he would love to have more reviewers at Horn Book that aren't white, and that he is "intensely devoted" to "getting out information about cultural diversity--who's out there, what's out there, and what's NOT out there" (see his comment at 12:28). I reviewed for Horn Book in the 1990s.
I responded (at 1:56) with this:
Question for Roger:
Remember when you decided it was inappropriate for me to use the word stereotype to characterize a kid playing Indian? You decided to give the review to someone else. Later, in a review of a nonfiction book about California missions, I said the author was ignoring new research on the missions, and that review got reassigned, too.
Those were terse moments for me. I was furious. All the power was yours, and it dictated what I could or could not say as a HB reviewer. Because of those two experiences, it was not hard for me to decide to move on and focus on my dissertation. I think if you hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have left.
Would it be different if I submitted those reviews today?
His reply (at 2:29):
Debbie, how could I forget?
Actually, i *do* forget what happened with the book about the missions but remember the playing-Indian question very well. In this book, THE BIRTHDAY BEAR, two contemporary white children and their grandfather, among other activities, put on fake headdresses and pretend to be Indians.
In regard to your review of this book, nothing would be different today. You criticized it not for inaccuracy or stereotyping but because the characters in the book engaged in an activity you found objectionable. We can’t knock a book because we morally disapprove of its fictional characters’ actions. What I said then I’ll say now: I take the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights very seriously, and I believe “materials should not be proscribed because of doctrinal or partisan disapproval” with all my heart.
I haven't been able to find the review I submitted (it was written and submitted in the 1990s). I'll keep looking. Perhaps there is one in Horn Book's files. I probably gave it a 6 in my overall rating, which is "unacceptable in style, content, and/or illustration."
I wrote an article based on the rejection of that review. It includes some of the emails that were exchanged by me and Roger.
If you'd like to get a more in-depth look, I'm sharing the article as a pdf: Contesting Ideology in Children's Book Reviewing.
It was published in 2000 in a Studies in American Indian Literatures
, the journal of the Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures
As readers of AICL know, I don't recommend books where kids are playing Indian. They invariably do that in a stereotypical way. During the time I was reviewing for Horn Book, they were sending me books with Native content because they believed I had the expertise to review those books. In the case of The Birthday Bear
, Roger also felt that it should not have been sent to me because the kids playing Indian was "peripheral" to the story. It may have been to him, but it wasn't peripheral to me.
As the article and the on-going discussion at Read Roger
show, neither Roger or myself have shifted in our views on this particular incident.
Roger titled his post "Are we doing it white?"
My answer to Roger?
Yes, you are. Indeed, you do it with glee, as evident in your reply to Sarah Park Dahlen (see his comment at 3:37) where you say that you "happily recommended" a book in which kids are playing Indian.
Please read the conversation at Are we doing it white
. I appreciate the personal notes of support I've received, and I especially appreciate the work we're all doing to push back on the power structures that use that power to affirm the status quo. We're all doing it for young people who read. What they read matters.
If you are looking forward to seeing Roger at ALA wearing a lavender-colored suit (as promised recently on Facebook) — this blog post is for you.
With The Art of The Wind Rises (April 2014), VIZ Media of San Francisco has published a visually stunning companion to Japanese director Hayao Mikazaki’s visually stunning animated film. Those who have seen the film know how immersive the experience is; how you feel transported, via the lushness and detail of the animation, into Taisho-era (1912-1926) Japan — and this book both extends the experience and takes you behind the scenes to show how it was done. For lovers of the movie, it’s a dream: almost 300 pages, in gorgeous color, of concept sketches, backgrounds, character and machine designs, and film stills, all augmented with commentary on the creative process by the film’s director, its art director and supervising animator, and others.
Not to get off-topic, but the book also explains what wasn’t at all clear to me watching the film: that the main character, Jiro, is a composite of Japanese aviation pioneer Jiro Horikoshi and novelist Tatsuo Hori, two influential figures in late-1930s Japan. I’m not sure that Miyazaki pulled off this feat (merging two actual historical people to make one fictional character), but he definitely succeeded in making a movie of unsurpassed beauty — and he and his team sure did rock that purple suit of Jiro’s. (Back on topic!) Here’s color designer Michiyo Yasuda on why: “For Jiro’s suit, I chose a light purple that’s a bit on the bright side. I think nowadays, new [Mitsubishi] employees wear gray or navy suits, but that’s not very interesting, so I tried to bring out a certain freshness with a soft and gentle color.” And yes, the book includes several stills of Jiro in the suit, including one large double-page spread of Jiro as a young man, determinedly striding into the future, as his first airplane design gets its first test flight.
Will Roger’s suit measure up to Jiro’s? Those who know his natty style and penchant for purple bet yes. But all will be revealed in Vegas!
The post Of purple suits and such: The Art of The Wind Rises appeared first on The Horn Book.
By: Beth Kephart
Blog: Beth Kephart Books
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Poor Dennis Abrams of Publishing Perspectives
! He was given the task of interviewing me, and it was one of those days when I was talking too fast about, well, everything. That Dennis was able to create this beautiful profile
for Publishing Perspectives
says much about his talent for deep listening and fine cohesion. I am grateful, and I am so looking forward to the Publishing Perspectives Children's Book Conference
, to be held on May 31st at the Scholastic Headquarters in New York City, where I'll be joining Peter Brown
, John Rocco, and Raina Telgemeier on a panel Dennis moderates. Earlier in the day, conference participants will meet Pamela Paul, Jenny Brown, Roger Sutton, David Levithan, Ken Wright, Rosemary Stimola, and Erica Rand Silverman, among others.
I hope to find some of you there. And, again, thank you, Dennis.
By: Betsy Bird
Blog: A Fuse #8 Production
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, Brian Selznick
, Caldecott Award
, Canadian bloggers
, Canadian children's books
, Canadian picture books
, Dandi Daley Mackall
, Edgar Awards
, Harry Potter
, Matthew Kirby
, movie news
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, Roger Sutton
, sassy clocks
, street photography
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The laptop of my infinite sadness continues to remain broken which wrecks a certain special kind of havoc with my gray cells. To distract myself, I plunge headlong into the silliest news of the week. Let’s see if there’s anything here to console a battered Bird brain (something tells me that didn’t come out sounding quite right…).
- The best news of the day is that Matthew Kirby was the recent winner of the Edgar Award for Best Mystery in the juvenile category for his fabuloso book Icefall. My sole regret is that it did not also win an Agatha Award for “traditional mystery” in the style of Agatha Christie. Seems to me it was a shoo-in. I mean, can you think of any other children’s book last year that had such clear elements of And Then There Were None? Nope. In any case, Rocco interviews the two winners (the YA category went to Dandi Daley Mackall) here and here.
- It’s so nice when you find a series on Facebook and then discover it has a website or blog equivalent in the “real world” (howsoever you choose to define that term). The Underground New York Public Library name may sound like it’s a reference to our one and only underground library (the Andrew Heiskell branch, in case you were curious) but it’s actually a street photography site showing what New Yorkers read on the subways. Various Hunger Games titles have made appearances as has Black Heart by Holly Black and some other YA/kid titles. Just a quick word of warning, though. It’s oddly engaging. You may find yourself flipping through the pages for hours.
- A reprint of Roger Sutton’s 2010 Ezra Jack Keats Lecture from April 2011 has made its way online. What Hath Harry Wrought? puts the Harry Potter phenomenon in perspective now that we’ve some distance. And though I shudder to think that Love You Forever should get any credit for anything ever (growl grumble snarl raspberry) what Roger has to say here is worthy of discussion.
- And in my totally-not-surprised-about-this department… From Cynopsis Kids:
“Fox Animation acquires the feature film rights to the kid’s book The Hero’s Guide to Saving your Kingdom, per THR. A fairy tale mashup by first-time author by Christopher Healy and featuring illustrations by Todd Harris, revolves around the four princes from Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty. Chernin Entertainment (Rise of Planet of the Apes) is set to produce the movie. Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins Children’s Books release The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (432 pages) today.”
If y’all haven’t read The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your King
Blog: the pageturn
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The kidlitosphere was hopping this weekend with news, reviews, and commentary. Here are some of the gems we uncovered while reading through our blogroll:
- Lee Wind at I’m Here, I’m Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? went to the SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles and shared some of his favorite quotes. I loved this one from Donna Jo Napoli: “Any civilization is built on empathy. If dreadful things happen to you, you learn empathy. …And for the protected child …the safest way for them to develop empathy is through a book.” Yes.
- Oh, Roger. We adore you. Thanks so much for sharing your criticisms thoughts on the strike-through trend.
- Sarah’s YA Movie News posts on her blog GreenBeanTeenQueen are some of my favorites! She mentions the Hunger Games movie stills many of us have seen – I’m not a fan, I have to admit. Katniss and Peeta are fighting for their lives so why do they look so pretty and stagnant? And what do you make of the upcoming Snow White movies?
- Chicken Spaghetti shares a great list of picture books about New York. I’d also love to add SUBWAY by Christoph Niemann, which is one of my recent favorites that captures the energy and vitality of New York’s iconic subway system.
- Kiersten White’s blog is one of my favorite things – she is just completely charming and hilarious and silly. Sure, her book PARANORMALCY just got a director…but what Kiersten is really excited about is Saved by the Bell’s Mr. Belding tweeting about it! I would be too. I mean, it’s Saved by the Bell!
- It’s been all over the web but, just in case you haven’t seen it, these minimalist posters of children’s stories from Flavorwire are a must-see. Do you have a favorite? This is mine:
In his essay "Go Big or Go Home," reprinted in A FAMILY OF READERS: THE BOOK LOVER'S GUIDE TO CHILDREN'S AND YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE
(Candlewick 2010), Roger Sutton opines that "what reluctant [boy] readers don't want are books filled with interpersonal emotional drama...It's not that boy readers are afraid of emotions, exactly, it's that they want to feel them in service to high stakes...Boys like to think Big."
I was thinking about this in context of Robins I, II, and III.
Robin I, you will recall, was Dick Grayson. Robin III was Tim Drake.
Both Dick Grayson Robin and Tim Drake Robin are much loved by the fandom and are among the most popular characters in the DC Universe.
Robin II was Jason Todd, whom the fandom voted to kill off.
Let me address this in context of Tim Drake-Robin and Jason Todd-Robin -- both started off having to fill the shoes of Dick Grayson, but one is liked and the other, really, really not.
I think most of it goes back to Roger's statement above. Tim Drake-Robin is not insensitive -- he is concerned about his girlfriend's safety and is sometimes miffed by Batman's treatment of him and others. He, like all the Robins, is an orphan. But his emotions serve higher stakes -- the fight against evil and his ambition to become the next Batman.
Even better, he is smart, funny, likeable, can use computers, and can kick butt when necessary. He came to be Robin by figuring out that Bruce Wayne is Batman and is the leader of his generation of superheroes, a position that no one questions.
In contrast, Jason Todd's tenure as Robin was filled with overwrought emoting and Sturm und Drang
. Granted, when Bruce Wayne is your "father," a certain amount of this is justified (Dick Grayson Robin rebelled rather memorably on several occasions), but there are limits.
Now, even boy readers want a character to have emotional depth, but at some point "interpersonal emotional drama" becomes off-putting melodrama and self-indulgent navel-gazing. As exemplified in A Death in the Family
, Jason Todd-Robin was pointlessly reckless, and endlessly and annoyingly self-absorbed and whiny.
To me, this is the kiss of death for any protagonist but particularly for a boy protagonist who is supposed to appeal to boy readers.
By: Brian Minter,
Blog: First Book
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Authors & Illustrators
, Books & Reading
, Andrea Davis Pinkney
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, Judith Viorst
, kid's books
, Kyle Zimmer
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, Laura Geringer
, Leonard Marcus
, Lois Ehlert
, M.T. Anderson
, Marla Frazee
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A collection of our favorite authors and illustrators sat down to help us tell the story of First Book:
The Story of First Book from First Book on Vimeo.
And in case you missed it, there's a simply swell interview with Roger Sutton on Seven Impossible Things up and running. Apparently he could take down Seamus Heaney in a bar fight. Who knew?
Once upon a time I was on the 2007 Newbery committee and it was a lovely time. But I was a blogger and I liked to write reviews of potential contenders so as to post them on my site. ALSC, as it turned out, had not had to contend with this issue before. So it is with great pleasure that I turn your attention to a recent School Library Journal article Should Members of Book Award Committees Be Allowed to Blog? All sorts of hotsy-totsy topics come up in it. Roger Sutton's threat to quit the Caldecott committee if he couldn't blog. What happened when someone thought that Nina Lindsay was on the 2007 and not the 2008 committee. The final decision . . .
Let us all exhale a sigh of relief then. As Mr. Sutton said, "calmer heads have prevailed."
Now to go repost all my review from 2006. Oog.
Thanks to Educating Alice for the link.
It's become a bit of a problem. I used to write these online reviews, sans blog, that didn't get all that much attention. And with the exception of one YA author who shall remain nameless (he knows who he is) I never received so much as a peep of complaint from any writer over my words.
Times have changed. I've moved up in the world to this sweet library in the heart of Manhattan. I've grown accustomed to the fact that authors are going to come to my town and that I'm located a scant block or so from their editors. They say hello. We chat. It's all very pleasant. Then I sit down with one of their books, find it blah or (worse) notso hotso and therein lies my dilemma. Do I write a negative review and end up dealing with a sticky situation or be honest and deal with the consequences?
You know who's currently playing the world's smallest violin for me right now? Roger Sutton. Roger's for honesty, man. We can't go about watering down our reviews willy-nilly just because, boo-hoo, some poor author's going to feel bad somewhere. NEVER! Says he, "The author-reviewer relationship is unavoidably adversarial: one is judging the other. To have it otherwise means we should just all go work in publicity." That's a mighty good point. After all, I'm not exactly getting paid here.
I was recently blurbed on an author's website as liking a book when what I had written was a brief "What I'm Reading Now" mention saying that it was good "thus far." And the "thus", suffice it to say, didn't extend all that far after all. I'll end up writing the review anyway, of course. If I don't feel good about it, that's fine. Reviewing isn't all sunshine, kittens, and roses after all. I appreciate a healthy kick in the pants to remind me of this once in a while.
Digest /v. dɪˈdʒɛst, daɪ-; n. ˈdaɪdʒɛst/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[v. di-jest, dahy-; n. dahy-jest]:
1.to convert (food) in the alimentary canal into absorbable form for assimilation into the system.
2.to condense, abridge, or summarize.
3. to plunk together in a veritable hodgepodge.
4. to give the author of a particular blog the excuse she needs to work the word "hodgepodge" into one of her postings.
Here are some trinkets and tidbits of an especially shiny nature that I've not had time to properly digest this week. Between this and that my brain is not working to its full capacity. Fortunately that means that the brains of others work where mine has ground to a rusty dusty halt.
Less excuses. More postings.
First on the list is Roger Sutton. You all know Roger. Editor of Horn Book. Bearer of the sacred throat vinculum. This week, he mentioned
that the Horn-Book Globe Book Awards committee is beginning their deliberations and you are invited to offer your bets on who the winners might be. So exciting! I side with the commenter that suggested that A Drowned Maiden's Hair
finally get its due. Roger also done went and linked to the article Circle of Cliches
via The Daily Telegraph
. I'll have to speak more on this later this week. It talks about the words or phrases reviewers love far too much. I know that for my part there are certain comfort turns of phrase that I'll reuse more often than I really should. Give the piece a glance alongside Roger's response
Thanks to Children's Illustration
we got a glimpse of some remarkable movie posters from back in the day. Blogger Michael Sporn also offered this great bit of info:
Through Aug. 1, the Posteritati Movie Poster Gallery (239 Centre St.) lets New Yorkers escape into the past with a collection of art from fantasy films ranging from 1937’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” to modern-day favorites like “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Incredibles.”
Gallery hours are Tuesday - Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 6 p.m.
If that means I get to see posters like this 1960 Czech image of Dumbo then I'm in.
Those of you in town for Book Expo might want to consider making a side trip.The Longstockings
may have a lock on the Pippi blog name, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't shoot on over to the excelsior file to read David Elzey's view
from an adult perspective of Sweden's hitherto best-known redhead. Great opening sentence too. "Pippi scared me when I was young."
If the webcomic Questionable Content
is unknown to you, watch and learn. This one
goes out to all the librarians out there. I've never heard the term "shush" sounds so very very dirty.
And because of Mo Willems
I now know that Jon Scieszka has a new website
. It's very nice. I'm particularly fond of the map that shows Population That Wishes They Were Reading Scieszka Books
. The one thing I would change? I want that big scary picture of Jon at the top to say "Gleep" unexpectedly and without warning. Is that too much to ask?
Finally, I've been memed. I'll meme it right back tomorrow. Cross my heart.
By: Editorial Anonymous,
And another reason you need to read The Horn Book cover-to-cover.
Here he talks about the American Girl catalog as "toy porn":
Don't miss the very interesting comments on this post.
By: Julie Fortenberry
Blog: Children's Illustration
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He also calls me a boozin' blogger: Read Roger's take on the SLJ cover controversy is at Step Away from the Bar, Ladies. (Bonus points because as the former lawyer in the group, I did step away from the bar!)
Roger also shows a cover that a Horn Book subscriber objected to. While its from a few years ago, it just goes to show some of the narrowness that Teri Lesesne rants about at Professor Nana.
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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy