Give Children the Gift of Engaging and Transporting Books #JACBA Newsletter 1Dec2017

Book Highlight: part 4

This fourth installment of our multi-part series on the 2017 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Ceremony features an introduction given by Book Award Committee Member Beth McGowan for I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, written by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley, published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, named an Honor Book in the Books for Younger Children category.

Introduction by Beth McGowan

Our first Honor Book for the Younger Children Award is I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley.

Telling the story of one of the most admirable women living in our nation today, this short biography of the Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, told with a humorous touch, focuses on RBG’s courage to regularly and vocally disagree when power enforces inequality.

Beginning with Ruth’s childhood in Brooklyn, we learn that her mother, Celia Amster Bader, was her inspiration and first taught her to resist. Rather than raise her daughter to find a husband, she raised her to, as Levy says, “go out in the world and do big things.” To facilitate the process, her mother took Ruth to a library above a Chinese restaurant where Ruth read of women heroes. And in one of Elizabeth Baddeley’s lovely illustrations, we see a reading Ruth dreaming of powerful women.

We also learn that Ruth would never forget the signs of exclusion directed at Jews, her people, or others including Mexicans and African-Americans. We see her from a young age strengthening her muscle of resistance. For example, left-handed, she resisted pressure to write with her right hand, a custom quite usual in much of the 20th century. There were other acts of resistance and persistence as well – RBG resisted domesticity: she did not want to take home economics or later learn to cook while she did want to go to law school and practice law. And so she did. We see a woman following her desire, resisting pressure to do otherwise.

Yet, coupled with these rules to effect change is a sense that civility and relationships are always essential. The book posits, as do Ginsburg’s life and behavior, that to disagree on important matters does not preclude friendship. This truth is exemplified in RBG’s relationship with Antonin Scalia, the late right wing Supreme Court Justice with whom she served for so many years. And this tolerance while disagreeing becomes in this picture book, a central tenet of democracy, of peace.

And through it all, Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley create a regular refrain for young people to hear, see and internalize – I dissent, I disagree, I do not concur. Levy couples this drum beat with another memorable phrase underscoring Ginsburg’s steadfastness “to resist and to persist”. These phrases, these central messages to children, are reproduced in the visual rhetoric Baddeley creates with words figuring heavily in the work’s imagery. Thus text and illustrations combine to help children remember and internalize a triple injunction for life – resist, persist, dissent.

For all these reasons, we happily honor I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes her Mark as a 2017 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Honor book.

Acceptance speech by Debbie Levy, Author

Acceptance speech by Elizabeth Baddeley, Illustrator


Book gifts for young readers can bring enduring delights

“My Brigadista Year” by Katherine Paterson (Candlewick Press, $15.99), ages 10-14). Katherine Paterson is known for dealing with unusual and difficult subjects with grace and complete mastery of her craft. When Fidel Castro issued an edict that his country would be completely literate within one year, it meant volunteers. When 13-year old Lora sees the recruitment notice at her secondary school in Havana, she begs her parents for permission. Although at first they are vehemently opposed, Lora becomes a brigadista in the mountains, by day working alongside the campesinos and by night, teaching. Careful research reflects the conditions and difficulties.There is imminent danger from the insurgents, who intend to stop the brigadistas. They fight back, not with guns but with pencils and paper. It’s a remarkable bit of history that Paterson serves well.

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The Same Stuff as Stars by Katherine Paterson 2003 Awardee

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson 1979 Awardee

Holiday science book guide for 2017: Give them the cosmos for Christmas

Science for kids: Feathered Dinosaurs

Feathered Dinosaurs: Paleontologists have found solid evidence that many types of dinosaurs had feathers, but you don’t often see them shown that way. Brenda Guiberson and illustrator William Low remedy that sad situation for kids aged from 4 to 8. The National Science Teachers Association praises the book for “showing feathers as a major evolutionary development, which gives evidence of the ‘connection between the feathered dinosaurs and modern birds.’

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Henry and the Kite Dragon, by Bruce Edward Hall, with paintings of William Low 2005 Awardee

Books to take the edge off a child’s winter break

“Blue Sky White Stars” by Sarvinder Naberhaus, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Ages 4 to 8. Dial Books for Young Readers. $17.99.

With a handful of carefully chosen words, this book of exquisitely painted scenes of American life and struggle interposed with images of the American flag brings new glory to Old Glory, finding tremendous meaning in the Stars and Stripes. As the flag is “woven together,” so are the linked arms of civil rights marchers; as the flag is “rising up” on its flagpole, a rocket is launching toward one of humankind’s greatest achievements, landing on the moon. The precision of the words and pictures, and the beauty of the message, make this a breathtaking ode to the nation’s greatest aspirations.

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Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson 2012 Awardee

The Village That Vanished written by Ann Grifalconi and illustrated by Kadir Nelson 2003 Awardee

Vietnam Veteran shares experiences with students

Melanie Horn and Miriam Necastro, eighth-grade teachers, are reading the novel “Inside Out and Back Again” by Thanhha Lai in their English Language Arts classes, which follows the journey of a South Vietnamese family who become refugees as Saigon falls April 30, 1975.

Vietnam veteran Patrick T. Gleason shared his story with eighth-grade students at Brookfield Middle School, just in time for Veterans Day. He works as a substitute teacher at local schools and was willing to spend some extra time with the students.

Gleason provided first-hand accounts of his experiences during the year in Vietnam and shared photos of his battalion and his uniform.

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Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai 2012 Awardee

Book Review: A Timely Novel of Anti-Progress by Louise Erdrich

Reviewer: I couldn’t help wondering what was in the pages that Erdrich cut, and whether, had this book not been brought out so quickly, the loose ends might have come together in a more satisfying way. Still, the urgency of this novel’s subject matter goes a long way to compensate for its flaws. The legal disclaimer in the small print at the front is strikingly worded and unusually definitive: “Nothing in this book is true of anyone alive or dead,” it reads. If only that were so.

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The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich 2000 Awardee

Poetry Sunday: Lauren Wolk

Lauren Wolk reads her poem “On Why I Will Never Retire with You to Tampa.”

After graduating from Brown University with a degree in English literature, Lauren worked at the St. Paul American Indian Center, writing a book on how best to assist battered women in the Native American community.

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Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk 2017 Awardee

Brainiac: Westminster gets a grant to honor the historic Mendez lawsuit that desegregated California schools

While the landmark lawsuit has been honored with a U.S. Postal Service stamp, had an Emmy-winning documentary film made about it, and seen Sylvia Mendez, the daughter of the lead plaintiffs, honored with a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, in the city of Westminster there’s not really been a public place to honor the residents and the city’s role in this important piece of history.

Until now, that is, with the announcement by the city of Westminster on its Facebook page on Monday, Nov. 20, that a new bike path will be named after the lawsuit. The Mendez Historic Freedom Trail will be a two-way dedicated bikeway along Hoover Street between Garden Grove Boulevard and Bolsa Avenue.

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Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and her family’s fight for desegregation, written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh 2015 Awardee

Is it a good idea to talk about food at the Thanksgiving table?

Cissie Swig hosted a dinner last week for legal scholar Sanford Levinson and writer Cynthia Levinson, to celebrate their new book “Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws That Affect Us Today.”

The premise of the book is that the almighty Constitution, a document forged by imperfect people and altered over the years by imperfect people, has flaws. And its imperfections – those that have allowed gerrymandering, for example, the filibuster and the Electoral College, and given the president so much veto power – have been responsible for deep problems in modern life.

The co-authors are in established fields: Cynthia Levinson writes nonfiction for young people (to whom this book is targeted).

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We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson 2013 Awardee

Literacy project gaining national attention for its success with county school children

The guest of honor at the Moonshot Moment Day of Gratitude was 2015-2016 Kentucky Poet Laureate, George Ella Lyon, who shared her poem ‘Where I’m From,’ which inspired the Moonshot Rocket’s ‘Voices: A Community Tapestry of Stories’ project.

The group, now known as the Moonshot Community Action Network (MCAN), helped shape the Moonshot Moment goal of achieving 90 percent literacy by third grade in 2018.

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You and Me and Home Sweet Home by George Ella Lyon and Stephanie Anderson 2010 Awardee

Famous, for 15 seconds or less

At the turn of the 2000s, when The Breadwinner was first published, she pledged the royalties to an Afghan women’s group. Ellis was a part-time writer back then and had been doing anti-war work in Afghanistan and writing “very unsuccessfully” for a long time.

As for the donated royalties, which is no small sum, Ellis points out that there’s more to it than that. The book has been a starting point for actions that are putting kids in schools in different places around the world. The new film carries on the awareness of the issue and a mission.

“It’s about the need we have to do something good in the world,” Ellis says. “That we can effect change, that we can be hopeful and that we can make things better.”

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The Heaven Shop by Deborah Ellis 2005 Awardee

The Breadwinner Trilogy, three books by Deborah Ellis 2004 Awardee

Parvana’s Journey by Deborah Ellis 2003 Awardee

Love to Love You, Baby

My memory of those years is loud – filled with strobe lights and “Disco sucks” being shouted by haters, alive with names like Sylvester, Grace Jones and Tina Turner, who sang and danced and hung out only inches from me. So when my beloved city tries to big-box-store and middle-ground itself into something tamer and in line with the rest of the country, I venture back to that time of sheer possibility, when Manhattan was a place people from so many different neighborhoods and classes came to. They danced beside one another, shared a joint, cheered on a black woman dropping from the sky. And I remember that the city I love is deeper, older, more beautiful than those who weren’t here then can ever understand.

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Each Kindness written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis 2013 Awardee

From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jacqueline Woodson 1996 Awardee

I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This by Jacqueline Woodson 1995 Awardee

The Jane Addams Children’s Book Award annually recognizes children’s books of literary and aesthetic excellence that effectively engage children in thinking about peace, social justice, global community, and equity for all people.

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