by Donna Barkman
Thank you, Ann. And welcome to each of you for taking time to honor the spirit of Jane Addams and the books that are receiving awards in her name in this, the 52nd celebration of the awards. As chair of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards committee, I would like to acknowledge first Loretta Simonet and Curtis Teague, a folk duo here from Minneapolis, Beth Puffer from the Bank Street Book Store and the entire book awards committee. Our awards committee is spread across the country, so not everyone is able to join us. Here with us today, however, are members Ginny Moore Kruse, of Madison WI, whom many of you know as the previous chair; Susan Griffith, of Mt. Pleasant MI, newly serving on the committee, and Deborah Taylor, of Baltimore MD, who is joining the committee for next years’ selections and deliberations. (I had the easy trip: 30 miles!) People often ask about service on the committee. Just who are we and how do we get here?
As you know, there are dozens of children’s book awards and, to go along with them, dozens of children’s book awards committees. The Jane Addams Award is unique in not only looking for books that promote peace, justice, world community, and equality of genders and all races, it asks of course that its members be familiar with the field of children’s books and have contact with children. Additionally it expects that we be activists, that we belong to WILPF and commit to its concerns, and that we have an awareness of the world around us. There are no specifications, of course, for this activist stance, although, in this time of emergency, of urgency, our members are engaged more than ever in working for peace and justice in a variety of ways. I spoke on the phone with one member recently who might be described as apoplectic about the current political situation and is talking to colleagues and friends and neighbors in every venue she can find about her convictions, an action she has never before taken. Other committee members echo her concerns and behavior. Another of our members, from Tennessee, who planned on being with us today, chose instead to go to Florida to help to insure citizens there access to the polls and to demand that their votes be counted.
Yes, our committee, like others, reads hundreds, maybe thousands, of book reviews, then reads hundreds of books, and then spends three-plus months in lively online discussion to come up with a list we can vote on. We are lucky to have so many strong contenders each year, a testament to the commercial health and social commitment (and risk-taking) of publishers, editors, authors, and illustrators – and we thank you! So we do our awards-work with gratitude, integrity, and enthusiasm And we attempt also, as best we can, to improve a world and a country that is foundering, as it seeks balance and truth. We know the books about to be honored here, and the many fine books that didn’t make it to the winners’ circle, will inform and inspire our children to strong, reflective, active and socially productive lives. So here we go.
October 22, 2011
Winner of Books for Older Children
Out of Bounds: Seven Stories of Conflict and Hope, the winner in the Books for Older Children Category, is written by Beverly Naidoo.
South African apartheid and its aftermath are experienced and challenged, decade by decade, by young, courageous protagonists whose portrayals cross races, classes, and genders.
Acceptance Remarks by Beverly Naidoo, the author of Out of Bounds: Seven Stories of Conflict and Hope…
I am delighted and deeply honoured to receive the Jane Addams Book Award for my short story collection Out of Bounds. Two years ago I had the great pleasure of visiting the Jane Addams Peace Association to accept an award for my novel The Other Side of Truth. The images I retain from that fine occasion allow me to imagine your gathering today. I know that you are in a room just across the road from that line of fluttering flags outside the United Nations. I also know that you are a gathering of people who believe in the power of literature to scatter seeds of peace through words…that you believe in words digging for truths that others hope to bury, whether by bulldozers, bombs, bombast – or just plain indifference.
The seven stories in Out of Bounds cover my lifespan as well as that of Apartheid in South Africa, and into what is now called ‘post-Apartheid’. With one story for every decade, the collection forms a retrospective for me. It is a way of looking back at different points in time through my young characters and their families who are caught in dramas that reveal the impact of wider political events on their lives.
The South African writer and Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer has defined the term ‘witness literature’ as ‘a genre of circumstance or time and place’. If we are open to it, literature has the power to take us imaginatively into the other. Vividness of detail can bring the world of the story alive and meanings can travel across time and place. While the stories in Out of Bounds are irrevocably South African at particular points in time, I hope readers will engage with universal elements in each of them. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu articulates in his Foreword: “There is a beast in each of us and none of us can ever say we would never be guilty of such evil.”
My opening story ‘The Dare’ is set in 1948, the year the Nazi-supporting white Afrikaner Nationalists wrested political power from white South Africans of British descent. Racism was already deep within the land before the ‘Nats’ (as the English called them) came into government and established Apartheid as official policy. In my story Veronica, an English-speaking child, is shocked by an example of everyday brutality and racism. But when offered the opportunity of silent complicity, she takes its.
In ‘The Noose’ – set in 1955 – my 10-year-old narrator experiences the shock of his father being ‘racially reclassified’ with all its implications for breaking up the family. 50 years later in the UK, the winding dispirited queues of people outside the Nationality and Immigration Department in London remind me of the old Johannesburg Pass Office. I expect you have an American equivalent.
In ‘One Day, Lily, One Day’, Lily is the child of white activist parents in 1960 engaged in resistance to apartheid and who enjoy friendships that cross the colour line. How does Lily make friends at her all-white school where other children’s parents have labelled her family as ‘communists’? How do young people today, whose parents are known ‘dissenters’ in our societies, negotiate their own friendships and values?
In my 1976 story ‘The Typewriter’, set in the heat of the student uprisings, 11-year-old Nandi witnesses scenes that are all too familiar to today’s young Palestinians. Nandi learns about politics – and the personal price of resistance to injustice – at an age we feel our children should be carefree. In ‘The Gun’, set during the 1980s State of Emergency, we see Esi’s growing rejection of his father’s subservience to the white boss. We sense how trapped he feels until the moment he grabs a passing opportunity to turn the tables. The dice is cast. To the white community, from this point on, he will be simply another ‘terrorist’.
Fences loom large in my final two stories. In ‘The Playground’ – the story from 1995 that I have adapted into a stage play, currently running in London, the fence still separates black from white. The new democratic government has passed a law banning discrimination in school admissions. Mama is determined that Rosa will now benefit from the facilities reserved only for white children. With talk of white resistance to the new law, Rosa is terrified. In addition to white hostility, some black children are calling her ‘Whitey’. But Mama says someone has to be first… and she is right. Hennie van Niekerk, the white child whom Mama has looked after since he was a baby, is also faced with a challenge when Rosa enters his school. What courage does it take – whether you are on Rosa or Hennie’s side of the fence – to be a pioneer for human decency?
The fence in ‘Out of Bounds’, set in the year 2000, is erected by Rohan’s dad to protect the ‘haves’ from ‘have-nots’. He and his neighbours, including the first black African family to move in amongst the Indians on Mount View, hope that higher walls and fences will protect them. But the squatters keep coming closer. There is nowhere else for them to go. It is poverty – and the tolerance of poverty in a society and world rich in resources – that has brought the squatters to cling to life on the edge of a hill and to come knocking on the doors of the home owners at the top. It is poverty – and the tolerance of poverty – that induces young men from the squatter camp to lurk in the shadows, eyeing the wealth behind the electronic gates, seeking ways to enter. Rohan’s parents and their neighbours are not innocent in this situation. Rohan is not innocent. No one is.
I would like to quote from the final words of my address to the first International Board on Books for Young People Congress held on the African continent, in Cape Town, a few weeks ago:
In our fractured, volatile world with its dehumanising wars and conflicts, walls reveal a poverty of imagination. We need to have the courage of both young Solani from the squatter camp and Rohan from within his security fence. As a fiction writer, I don’t have solutions for the mess into which unrestrained greed, power and violence have led us. But I do know that resorting to more gated communities, higher walls, and reliance on force and arms, does not ensure safety. Without imagination – and the ability to imagine each other – we are all brutalised and lose essential attributes of our humanity.
Thank you again for this wonderful award and endorsement of my own efforts to engage imagination and to continue making journeys across the fence. The act of writing is an act of hope that words can still make a difference.
My warmest greetings to my fellow prize winners and to you all.
22nd October 2004
Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez, written by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Yuyi Morales. Harcourt Children’s Books.
“Single file they continued, covering an average of fifteen miles a day. They inched their way through the San Joaquin Valley, while the unharvested grapes in Delano turned white with mold. Cesar developed painful blisters right away. He and many others had blood seeping out of their shoes.”
This is a march that has become a legend. Led in 1965 by Cesar Chavez from Delano to Sacramento where he and the marchers hoped to get government help, this first strike by migrant workers and its successful conclusion are the heart and the guts of this book: Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez. Yet there’s much we probably didn’t know about Chavez that Kathleen Krull and Yuyi Morales sympathetically detail in the opening pages: Cesar, whose family was from Mexico, grew to ten years old on the their prosperous ranch in Arizona where his extended family worked hard and enjoyed starry skies and their exuberant storytelling culture. So shy he ran from school, quiet, patient, stubborn, yet hardly a leader, his life changed when drought forced his family from their ranch to become day laborers in the fields of California.
In his twenties, he could no longer bear the injustice the laborers suffered and determined to overcome his shyness and work for change. “In a fight for justice, he told everyone, truth was a better weapon than violence. ‘Nonviolence,’ he said, ‘takes more guts.’ “ …..”One night, 150 people poured into an old abandoned theater in Fresno. At this first meeting of the National Farm Workers Association, Cesar unveiled its flag—a bold black eagle, the sacred bird of the Aztec Indians.
La Causa was born!
Krull’s text is suspenseful and engaging, while Morales’ illustrations are stunning in their brilliant and appropriately stylized presentation of the feelings, relationships, situations and settings, perfectly integrated with the narrative. They have presented a true hero with whom child and adult alike can identify and a hero who can, and we hope will, inspire child and adult alike to the courageous righting of wrongs.
October 22, 2004
Acceptance Remarks by Kathleen Krull, the author of Harvesting Hope...
As a biographer, primarily of the “LIVES OF” series, I am always on the lookout for juicy life stories about people with terrific hair. More seriously, I am attracted to dramatic underdog stories about people who are socially significant, but unfairly neglected– heroes who kids need to know about but that most of them don’t. These thoughts came together in the idea of doing a biography of Cesar Chavez for young people.
I well remember Chavez’s struggles during the 1960s, the spotlight he put on the harsh lives of grape-pickers—and I was shocked to discover most kids hadn’t heard of him. In my earliest computer searches for what was out there about Chavez, I kept running into the boxer Julio Cesar Chavez, who I’m sure is very nice but not a great American civil rights leader. When I found out how little was published for younger readers about this hero of the 1960s, I was more motivated than ever to try to write about him in ways they could understand.
All kids can relate to injustice. And the people who pick our fruits and vegetables have the longest hours, lowest wages, harshest conditions, shortest life spans, and least power of any group of workers in America. How can one person try to change such a system? The key to Chavez, I believe, was his opposition to violence: “Nonviolence takes more guts,” he said—and this was a sentence I felt would grab kids’ attention. It means using truth and imagination in the fight against powerlessness. The peaceful march Chavez organized from Delano to Sacramento was a brilliant example of his nonviolent techniques. Actually, my original title for the manuscript was “Fighting Without Violence,” and it is thanks to Deborah Halverson, an editor at Harcourt, that this inauspicious title segued into Harvesting Hope. Many, many drafts later, this became a story about hope.
Thank you to everyone at Harcourt, especially my editor, Jeannette Larson, for being so meticulous and for finding the perfect artist for this story. I will always be in debt to Yuyi Morales for her exquisite paintings and her shining spirit. All of us are on the same page, using literature to promote peace, tolerance, and hope. It doesn’t get any better—to be on the same page as you, the people in this room. As much as I would dearly love to be at the ceremony tonight, at this moment I am talking about this book to schoolchildren in San Jose, California. Thank you so much to Donna Barkman and the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Committee for this meaningful recognition of our book.
Acceptance Remarks by Yuyi Morales, the illustrator of Harvesting Hope…
In the spring of 2001 I received in the mail a manuscript for my consideration. The text, written by Kathleen Krull, told the story of Cesar Chavez. It would be a children’s picture book, and I was the artist asked to create the illustrations.
Some would say I might have been a great match for the project; after all Cesar Chavez had been Latino, brown, Spanish speaker, just like me. But, as I prepared to accept the assignment, I realized that a journey of learning lay in front of me, because, until then, I knew almost nothing about Cesar Chavez.
You see? I grew up in Mexico, where in our textbooks at school Cesar Chavez was nowhere to be seen. However, we knew about a certain Cesar Chavez, that’s right; though we didn’t learn about him in school. Instead we saw him in our TV, where we found out that he was tough, brave, and a great fighter, for he was a Mexican Boxer.
Knowing so little, when I first arrived to the USA and I ventured into the streets of the Mission neighborhood in San Francisco, it puzzled me to see that a big avenue was named after a Pugilist.
If I wanted to tell the story of Cesar Chavez, the leader, I was going to have to learn about him.
In the library I found books that told me about his life. In the Internet I found pictures and text that would help me understand his work. On the road, I met people who worked or marched along Cesar, and I also met others who worked in the fields, still struggling under the fiery son, to earn a few dollars to bring home at the end of the day.
The Making of the illustrations of Harvesting Hope lasted from one summer until the next spring. And, as I tried to grasp and recreate in drawings who Cesar Chavez was, he seemed to have entered my home and unwearyingly camped at my side, by my drawing table. For long days I studied, with my pencil and eraser, with my brushes and my colors, the shape of his eyes, the tenderness of his face, the determination of his presence, the strength of his beliefs.
I was hard at work the day of September 11th . For me, like for most of us, the world seemed to have stopped. I didn’t think I could bring myself to keep on working while we mourned.
Yet, my deadline was tight, with no more days to spare. I had to push myself to go back to my drawing table and finish the book. I went back to it unwillingly, drained, uninspired. But as began to work again, I found myself blessed. My days started and ended with Cesar Chavez.
I made paintings that showed him growing up and joining the migrant work force after his family lost their ranch. I painted Cesar working in the fields along with his family earning, all together, as little as 30cents for the day’s work. I painted Cesar at school wearing a sign that a teacher had hung on him that read, I AM A CLOWN. I SPEAK SPANISH.
And then I painted Cesar believing that things could be better for him, for farmworkers, and for the world. I painted Cesar crisscrossing California again, this time to talk to people about joining his fight for change. I painted Cesar overcoming his shyness to speak in public, saying that, in their fight, truth was a better weapon that violence.
I painted Cesar organizing a Huelga, a strike, against one of the vineyard owners, and a march from Delano to Sacramento, more than three hundred miles, to ask for the government’s help.
I painted Cesar and the marchers walking in single file while students, public officials, religious leaders and people form everywhere joined them. And Cesar tending his blisters while the unharvested grapes in Delano turned white with mold.
Then I painted Cesar and the officials from the Grape Company signing the first contract for farmworkers in the history of the USA. The marcher’s and thousands of other citizens celebrating the victory at the steps of the state capitol. At the big fiesta Kathleen’s text reads, “speaker after speaker, addressing the audience in Spanish and English, took the microphone. “You cannot close your eyes and your ears to us any longer,” cried one. “You cannot pretend we do not exist.”’
“The march had taken its toll. Cesar’s leg was swollen and he was running a high fever. Gently he reminded everyone that the battle was not over: ““It is well to remember there must be courage but also that in the victory there must be humility.””
In those days, as I painted to tell the story of Cesar Chavez, his spirit carried me. If I didn’t learn anything else about him, at least I understood that Cesar was a real hero, and I learned to loved him like a friend, or a relative—an uncle that had come one day to my house, the summer before, and like a good tio, once he came to visit, he stayed, and never left.
Honors for Books for Younger Children
Girl Wonder: A Baseball Story in Nine Innings, written by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Terry Wideners. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, An Anne Schwartz Book.
“Girls can’t throw. Girls can’t play baseball.” Was that coach ever wrong!
Deborah Hopkinson’s entertaining Girl Wonder: A Baseball Story in Nine Innings proves that a girl can have “Strike Out” as her middle name — and live up to it. Terry Widener’s bold drawings of a skeptical coach, a brave girl, and delighted fans, bring this stereotype-busting story alive for children and adults.
Atheneum Books for Young Readers published this book about Alta Weiss, who was, as our younger readers remarked, “a real person.” Deborah, who grew up a Red Sox fan, researched Alta’s life and turned it into Girl Wonder, a story of courage in the face of great odds. She fascinates readers with her story of this young woman whose father made a bale of hay into a target for his six-year-old daughter, who then pitched her way onto a semi-pro team.
Terry uses humor, great facial expressions and striking picture angles to bring the narrative alive for girls and boys. Kids quickly spot — and enjoy — the illustrator’s technique of marking story divisions as innings with symbolic ball and bat.
Our committee found that kids “get it” when the coach, a cynical character who plans to cash in on curious fans watching an inept female pitcher, finally yells, “Didn’t I always say she could do it?” Deborah’s writing and Terry’s pictures show a brave person overcoming prejudice as the team’s sexism wears away after Alta shows her “best stuff” against the other team. Deborah and Terry give life to the drive and ambition of a girl almost 100 years ago as they let us watch the feisty Alta on the pitcher’s mound with her cap pulled down, ready for business. “Get ready, wind up, let ‘er fly!”
Deborah, an Addams Honor recipient in 2000 for the important children’s history of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, A Band of Angels, and for this year’s Shutting out the Sky, has written another children’s book which brings the past alive. Terry’s illustrations put us in a small stadium in 1907 cheering for a “girl who CAN throw.” A “girl who CAN play baseball.” A girl, Alta Weiss, who as an adult became a physician, the only girl in her 1914 class. But for us and the children who love this book, Alta will forever be a pitcher, cracking her gum instead of being a lady, throwing knuckleballs to a surprised batter — truly a girl wonder.
October 22, 2004
Luba: The Angel of Bergen-Belsen, written by Luba Tryszynska-Frederick, illustrated by Ann Marshall. Tricycle Press.
Near the end of World War II in the Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen, a miracle occurred. Not a miracle that descends inexplicably from the heavens. But a miracle sparked and nurtured by the compassion, commitment and ceaseless work of one woman, Luba Tryszynska-Frederick. Like a blade of grass that pushes through concrete, Luba, with the network of supporters she inspired, fought through crushing brutality to save the Diamond Children—fifty-four daughters and sons of Dutch diamond cutters abandoned one December night in a field outside Luba’s barracks.
Published by Tricycle Press, Luba: The Angel of Bergen Belsen tells this story of a woman, who, while suffering the loss of her own child, was able to see someone else’s children as her own. Subtly and superbly crafted by writer Michelle MacCann from Luba’s own oral telling, the book follows Luba in and out of grim days where, to keep back the lethargy of hunger and ravages of sickness, she bargains for food for the children. Illustrations by Anne Marshall highlight telling details: the tattoo on her arm that Luba must keep hidden, the half slices of bread given up by the children to surprise Luba with a red birthday scarf and the huge overcoat Luba wears to hide the salami, soup, and bread she cadges for the children.
Framed with excellent historical notes about WWII, MacCann’s narrative brings us to the present in its epilogue—here, fifty years later, Luba is reunited with the children in Amsterdam and is given the Dutch Silver Medal of Honor for Humanitarian Service. Luba’s story is, in MacCann’s words, “a light for humanity even now, showing that strength, dignity and hope can take root in even the darkest places.”
With esteem and appreciation, we would like to recognize Michelle MacCann for telling Luba’s story and helping us all to see that each and every one of us is, indeed, someone else’s child.
Susan C. Griffith
October 22, 2004
Honors for Books for Older Children
Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Caseby Chris Crowe. Phyllis Fogelman Books/Penguin Books for Young Readers.
Every nation has shameful episodes that are hidden or denied for years forgotten, once the glare of the media has dimmed. One such event in this country is the violent and gruesome murder, lynching, of a 14-year-old Black boy from Chicago, on a summer visit to Tallahatchie County, Mississippi in 1955. His brutal death is described in meticulously-researched detail, in text and photographs, in one of our honor books: Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case, by Chris Crowe and published by Phyllis Fogelman/Penguin Books.
In his introduction, Chris says “Though his death and the trial of his murderers received national press coverage, my parents recall nothing at all of the case. But parents can’t know everything, so school should have introduced me to this landmark civil rights event, but it didn’t” Yet, his murder helped to catalyze the civil rights movement.
This book will correct the void in our collective memory. It offers a careful and objective chronicling of the complex reports of the events leading up to the abduction and murder of Till who was accused of flirting with a white woman. It provides a clear calendar of the tangled legal aftermath, as the perpetrators twist and turn to avoid apprehension and indictment. They are, of course, found not guilty.
And now for the hero, Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till Bradley. She refused to let her son’s murder go unnoticed. She contacted the media and she insisted that her son’s mutilated body be placed in an open casket, so that the world could witness this atrocity. Soon the trial, she told reporters, “When something happened to the Negroes in the South, I said, ‘That’s their business, not mine,’ Now I know how wrong I was. The murder of my son has shown me that what happens to any of us, anywhere in the world, had better be the business of us all.” And Chris adds, “It still is the business of us all.”
Chris, thank you for this powerful and important book. The Jane Addams Committee is pleased to present to you an Honor Award for Books for Older Children.
October 22, 2004
Shutting Out the Sky: Life in the Tenements of New York 1880-1924 by Deborah Hopkinson. Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.
Shutting Out The Sky: Life in the Tenements of New York City 1880-1924 is an exemplary work of nonfiction. In it, Deborah Hopkinson dramatizes the intensity, suspense, hope and squalor in the real lives of five young immigrants who worked where and whenever they could find a job.
Underscored by powerful photographs of the era, Hopkinson’s words bring depth and context to the oppression faced by the children we see playing casually next to a dead horse, smutty-faced from handling newspapers or hunched over a kitchen table making artificial flowers.
Without romance, yet with hope, Hopkinson encompasses a range of immigrant experiences—from that of a mother who “lived in constant fear from the uncertainty of life” to that of a twelve year old girl who climbs to the top of her tenement, sees the sky and reflects “the sky is the same everywhere. There is only one. Perhaps, Mother . . . or someone at home is looking this very moment.”
For bringing us the true stories of young immigrants and showing us that the sky still connects us all, we recognize Deborah Hopkinson for her book Shutting Out the Sky: Life in the Tenements of New York City 1880-1924, published by Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.
Susan C. Griffith
October 22, 2004
The Breadwinner Trilogy, three books by Deborah Ellis, published by Groundwood Books/Douglas & McIntyre. The Breadwinner, Parvana’s Journey, and Mud City are connected realistic novels of children in contemporary Afghanistan, orphaned and displaced by war. As refugees in their own ravaged country, the courageous protagonist in each story displays her own special enterprise and perseverance.