By Susan C. Griffith
|Thank you, Ann, and thanks to the Jane Addams Peace Association and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom for sponsoring these awards that, for the 56th year, honor Jane Addams – her activism, her pacifism and her philosophy. As Chair of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Committee, I would like to acknowledge: Ericka Schlenkermann for her music, the JAPA Board for their special efforts in providing books for purchase and signing, the editors, book designers and publishers whose work brings us the books we honor today, past chair Donna Barkman for her wise counsel and guidance over the years.|
And, of course, all the members of the award committee, six of whom are here with us: from Massachusetts, Ann Carpenter, from New York, Sonja Cherry-Paul, from Washington state, Eliza Dresang, from Virginia, Marianne Baker, and from Tennessee, Pat Wiser.
Other members—from Texas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, California and Washington, D.C.—are listed on your program and send their best wishes to us.
In 1971, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award winner was a biography of Jane Addams herself—the book, Jane Addams, Pioneer for Social Justice was written for children by eminent biographer Cornelia Meigs. In this book, Meigs brings to life Jane Addams, the progressive and activist who both led and followed in her work for social justice at beginning of the twentieth century. In the book’s opening pages, though, Meigs makes a point about Jane Addams that many people do not realize. Meigs tells us:
Some of . . . [Addams’s] . . . efforts were devoted to what she conceived on her own initiative, some were brought [to her] by [the] able and often indispensible support of the work of others. In one field, however, there was no one before her. This was in her challenging belief in the rights and needs of young people . . . She was firm in her conviction that one of the greatest things wrong with the society of her day . . . was the neglect and misunderstanding of what youth need[s] in its difficult and troubled progress to maturity (1-2).
The historical record affirms what Cornelia Meigs says. Among other accomplishments, the record shows that Addams and Hull-House residents were responsible for “[n]early every major piece of social legislation . . . having to do with the well-being of children from 1890 to the New Deal . . . (Elshtain, 2002, p. 122).” It also shows that, in her private life, Addams supported nephews and nieces, sometimes paying for their school fees, often housing them at Hull-House, and always offering undivided attention and encouragement through correspondence.
|The record also shows that in 1909, Addams published The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets—the book she named as the favorite of all her publications. It is here that she connected nurturing imagination in youth to building democracy and community. Here, she exposed the popular, one-dimensional “cheap nickel dramas” of her day as pacifiers that hoodwinked youth into accepting the harsh conditions of their lives. And, it is here, that she concludes: . . . “for youth is so vivid an element in life that unless it is cherished, all the rest is spoiled (Lagemann, 140).”|
And so, as the first step in our celebration of this year’s Addams Award Winners and Honor Books, I ask us, in spirit of Jane Addams, to begin with a round of applause for children, their imaginations and the stories we honor today.
By Susan C. Griffith
October 16, 2009
Addams, Jane. The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets. With and introduction by Allen F. Davis. Urbana and Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, [1912}, 1972.
Elshtain, Jean Bethke. Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy . New York: Basic Books, 2002.Lagemann, Ellen C. On Education/Jane Addams. New York: Teachers College Press, 1994.
Meigs, Cornelia. Jane Addams, Pioneer for Social Justice. Boston: Little Brown, 1970.
Winner of Books for Younger Children
Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai, written and illustrated by Claire A. Nivola, Frances Foster Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, is the winner of the 2009 Jane Addams Children’s book award in the Books for Younger Children Category.
In a beautifully rendered story-telling style, Claire Nivola’s account of the life of Wangari Maathai enriches the collection of Jane Addams Award books by demonstrating how stewardship of the environment can effectively promote the causes of peace, social justice, world community, and gender equality.
Returning to Kenya from the United States after receiving undergraduate and master’s degrees in biology, Wangari Maathai found that her homeland had changed dramatically in the five years of her absence. Small farms had become large plantations and tree stumps littered the landscape; people had forgotten to take care of the land while using the land to take care of people.
Wangari’s commitment to rectify this situation led to her establishment of the Green Belt Movement, a challenge to the people of Kenya, especially the women, to plant trees from seedlings that thrived where they lived. Wangari became a teacher – and although she focused on organizing women, she enlisted everyone from school children to prisoners. To a group of soldiers she said “You hold your guns. . . but what are you protecting? The whole country is disappearing. . . “
he artistic style that Claire Nivola brings to the telling of these events includes broad double-paged panoramas, picturing first the devastation of the Kenyan landscape, then the careful planting and reforestation. However, with a perfect blend of long shots and close-ups, she also zooms in to show details of Wangari Maathai as teacher and humanitarian. Nivola is to be commended especially for her study of and accurate rendering of the colors and patterns in both clothing and landscape.
|As a result of Wangari’s efforts, more than 30 million trees have been planted in Kenya. In 2004, for her environmental stewardship and community leadership achievements, Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Maathai shares a distinction with Jane Addams, the first woman to receive this distinguished award.|
To Adrian Nivola, Claire Nivola’s nephew who is here to receive the award on her behalf and who is an artist himself, and to Claire Nivola, I offer congratulations from the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Committee in recognition of the masterful literary, artistic, and humanitarian contribution made by this year’s winner in the younger children’s category, Planting the Trees of Kenya.
— Eliza T. Dresang
Ocotber 16, 2009
Acceptance Remarks by Claire A. Nivola, the author and illustrator of Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai…
It has become customary to thank everyone, no matter how remotely related to a project, and I could reach back beyond my family and the young children in my life today who inspire me, to the trees I loved as a child, the ones I climbed, picked fruit from, or watched mesmerized from my bedroom window. But I am going to keep this simple and thank the person who deserves my gratitude the most: Frances Foster, my editor and friend. Many people do not consider being a good editor as much an Art and special talent as authoring and illustrating books. But those of us who have worked with Frances do.
Now to the weighty questions of peace, social justice, and global community. Though Wangari Maathai’s tree planting movement has mobilized and empowered many rural women in Kenya, and through its grassroots efforts, encouraged activism and holding the government accountable – all excellent things – it’s initial impetus was environmental. When I first heard Wangari Maathai interviewed on National Public Radio, I recognized in her narrative a parable that any child and, hopefully, any adult could grasp: we are depleting the natural resources we need in order to survive. I wrote her story very much as she told it herself – the land of plenty of her girlhood wrung dry by the time of her return to her homeland – a primordial story of Paradise lost, our environmental story. When I read my book to a class of school children, up came a hand: “Why are the women cutting down all the trees they will need to cook with and heat their homes?” In answer I could ask in return, the big question: “Why are all of us, doing what we are doing to the earth that sustains us?”
To me, the crisis of the environment is The Challenge that underpins all others. On one frightening level, if our ecosystem collapses, all other burning issues of the moment, no matter how urgent, will be irrelevant. On a more potentially hopeful level it gives us, the global community, a fundamental choice and offers us a possibility. Will we be divided, hoarding and warring over diminishing resources, excluding refugees who flee from submerged and parched areas, submitting to states of emergency and forgoing hard-won liberties? Or will we pull together, as do the women in Wangari Maathai’s story, take responsibility for our shared part in the calamity, work together for the common good, and strive to make life for all of us viable on this planet.
With gratitude to the Jane Addams Peace Association for its good work, I thank you for the honor of this award.
— Posted with permission of Claire Nivola
October 16, 2009
Winner of Books for Older Children
The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom, written by Margarita Engle and published by Henry Holt and Company, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing, is the 2009 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award winner in the Books for Older Children Category.
Free verse poems representing four distinct voices intertwine Cuban history, Engle’s own family story, knowledge of herbal medicine, and historical fiction to create a searing evocation of resistance to slavery and occupation in Cuba in the late 1800’s.
Rosa, born a slave and healer, responds to the bloodshed and cruelty that surround her by healing compatriots and enemies alike. She, her husband Jose, and Silvia, a child they heal and nurture, commit to peace with each herb they gather, each wound they dress and each spirit they soothe.
In and out of a decade of war and heartbreak, Rosa and Jose tenaciously persist in creating peace wherever they may be. This vision of a just world created from peaceful actions is the legacy they pass on to young Silvia. It is Silvia’s voice that rings out in conclusion of this many-layered, remarkable novel:
I feel like a child again.
The war is over—
I am free to smile
I admit that I feel impatient,
Peace is not the paradise
It is with great pleasure that we present the 2009 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award in the books for Older Children Category to Margarita Engle.
–Susan C. Griffith
October 16, 2009
Acceptance Remarks by Margarita Engle, the author of The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom…
Thank you. ¡Gracias, y gracias a Dios! I wish to express my deepest appreciation to the Jane Addams Peace Association, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, my wonderful editor Reka Simonsen, marketing wizard Tim Jones, and everyone at Henry Holt/ Macmillan Publishers.Special thanks to the brilliant translator Alexis Romay for his work on a bilingual paperback version of The Surrender Tree.
Writing is an exploration.No matter what I set out to write, I always end up discovering that I have explored some aspect of freedom, whether social, emotional, or spiritual. The Surrender Tree is the story of Rosa la Bayamesa, a 19th century freed slave who chose to spend her life hiding in jungles and caves during Cuba’s thirty years of war for independence from Spain. As a wilderness nurse, Rosa used wild plants to heal the wounds and fevers of soldiers from both sides. During the last few months of those three decades, when Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders charged into the chaos, she also healed the Americans.
In The Surrender Tree, I tried to ignore traditional assumptions about wartime heroism that have been repeated over and over, until no one really knows whether they are true. I found diaries, and tried to discover the daily heroism of ordinary lives, hoping to distill a complex historical moment down to its emotional essence. What did it feel like for a young person to live at that time, in that place? How did Rosa find hope, and learn to share it with others? I believe that the beauty of history can be found in true tales of shared hope. That is where the poetic tranquility is hidden, even in wartime. ¡Paz! Peace!
— Posted with permission of Margarita Engle
October 16, 2009
Honors for Books for Younger Children
The Storyteller’s Candle / La velita de los cuentos was written by Lucia Gonzales and illustrated by Lulu Delacre. The publisher is Children’s Book Press. Lulu called yesterday with regrets. An illness keeps her with her family, and her friend and collaborator, Lucia, will accept the honor for her.
These two wise Latinas have given us the story of a third wise Latina, Pura Belpre, the first Puerto Rican librarian in the New York City system. All three employ the richness of spirit, strength, and compassion which imbued the life of Jane Addams’s life of service.
This book—and its creators—show how a great lady inspired children, ultimately generations in her sixty-year career, by reflecting their heritage through the magic of stories, some from her own childhood, others that she created. The Pura Belpre Award, which honored Lucia in 1996 for The Bossy Gallito, recognizes Latino writers whose work celebrates the Latino experience.
Lucia, Lulu, and their subject, Pura, are integral parts of a cornerstone of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award. Their evocative story and art help children and adults appreciate and respect the cultures of all peoples. Both our honorees bring a richness of diversity to us as we gain pleasure and knowledge from the heritage passed on to Lucia in Cuba and Miami and Lulu in Puerto Rico, with Argentinean parents and a grandmother from Uruguay.
This special story is told through the eyes of Hildamar and Santiago, whose family recently arrived in New York from Puerto Rico. They miss their homeland’s warm weather and familiar language. Their story is told in English and Spanish. Lulu Delacre set the period—1930—with sepia tones, which she overlaid with color as the story progressed. Her goal of enlarging Lucia’s text through art is clear also in her use of archival photographs from the New York Public Library for details of the time. For example, Pura Belpre’s popular 115th Street Library is replicated perfectly in her illustrations. Particularly interesting is Lulu’s use of the January 6, 1930, issue of the New York Times which appears throughout the book and entices readers of all ages to re-visit many times, looking out for still more of these treasures.
We meet Hildamar and Santiago on a sidewalk comprised of a Times passenger list of a steamship arrival from Puerto. The wallpaper in the kitchen is a news story from San Juan, and church pews are backed with wedding announcements.
The children are, of course, drawn to the library, but the adults fear a language barrier. In fact, Titi Maria tells them that “libraries are not for noisy niños like you,” and “We don’t speak English and the people in there don’t speak Spanish.” After a school story time by Pura, in English and Spanish, and her startling statement that the library is for everyone, the children insist on this treat and the adults join them as they hear a story in Spanish and English that Grandmother had often told of a beautiful cockroach and a gallant mouse. They all blow out the storyteller’s candle which ensures that their wishes come true. Soon the entire community is involved in this wonderful place as Pura proposes celebrating the holiday they had all longed for: Three Kings Day. Everyone pitches in to make costumes, stage curtains, even the stage. The big night arrives. The community gathers in the warm library where Lulu’s newsprint wainscoting gives weather news and snow is seen through the windows.
The three kings magically appear. Hildamar and Santiago give stellar performances, and all help blow out the storyteller’s candle.
Our honorees, Lucia Gonzales and Lulu Delacre follow in Pura Belpre’s footsteps as they create books which celebrate their heritage and work hard promoting bilingual education so that another generation may know its roots and all children appreciate the value of diverse cultures.
I’d like to add that Lucia demonstrates yet another Jane Addams kind of strength: She has courageously opposed those in her community who support the Miami Dade County School Board’s withdrawal of Vamos e Cuba/Let’s Visit Cuba because of what it does not show. Although young children do not grasp the concept of government and do not study about Castro and communism, the book, which focuses on daily life and customs such as fiestas, has been withdrawn. I know that Jane Addams would join Lucia in her stand against this censorship.
On behalf of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Committee, I am pleased to present the honor for illustrating The Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos
For Lulu Delacre to her friend, Lucia Gonzales.
Author of The Storyteller’s Candle
Again representing the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Committee, I am also pleased to present the honor for writing this wonderful story to its author, Lucia Gonzales.
— Pat Wiser
October 16, 2009
Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad, written and illustrated by James Rumford, is a Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.
Ali lives in modern Baghdad. Like many young boys, he enjoys soccer, rattling his parents with his music, and dancing. But he has another passion as well: calligraphy. The beauty of this ancient art and the silent music it creates as his pen sweeps across the page are a source of joy in his everyday life. They are also a source of comfort during the frightening times of war he and his family now face. Ali’s art is his solace just as it was hundreds of years ago for his hero, the almost-legendary calligrapher Yakut. Ali’s story of learning calligraphy connects with Yakut’s story to highlight the long tradition of literacy and art in Iraq; his boyish moments at home and at school connect him to child readers in the today’s world.
|Lush illustrations feature intricate patterns and textures expressive of Iraqi culture. Each page is a multi-layered visual field that flows with the gliding, leaping movement of exquisite Arabic calligraphy.
Ali’s peaceful, hopeful response to the war that surrounds him encourages us to make the effort to create peace in the world. His simple statement:
“It’s funny how easily my pen glides the long, sweeping hooks of the word HARB—war . . . how stubbornly it resists me when I make the difficult waves and slanted staff of SALAM—peace . . “
suggests that building peace may not be easy.
Neal Porter, editor for Silent Music, accepted the honor citation for Jame Rumford
In recognition of the excellence of this work and its resonant themes of the power of literacy and the need to actively work for peace, the committee is pleased to present the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Honor Citation in the Books for Younger Children Category to James Rumford.
— Ann Carpenter
October 16, 2009
Honors for Books for Older Children
The Shepherd’s Granddaughter by Anne Laurel Carter, is published by Groundwood Books. This novel, as described by its author, “is a fictional rendering of a complex situation.” Told through the voice of Amani, readers gain insight into her life and that of her extended family living in a Palestinian village on land that has been home to her ancestors for generations prior to the arrival of Jewish settlers.
Even as a six-year-old, Amani is formidable. Despite attempts made by her family to force her to go to school, Amani is determined to tend to the family flock of sheep and olive groves near her home, for these are the actions of her beloved grandfather, Seedo, whose footsteps Amani intends to follow. Amani later realizes that education is vital to her ability to communicate with Jonathan, the Jewish visitor from New York, the rabbi – friend of Amani’s father, and even with the Israeli soldiers whose violent actions threaten not only the family’s land and sheep, but also their lives.
This story poignantly unfolds to reveal the challenges Amani and her family face to continue to live nonviolently as Jewish settlers continue to take over the land. Readers are able to take a rare glimpse into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from a Palestinian perspective. In a poem Amani writes in school, she resolves, “My name, Amani, means wishes but I have only one. My blood is mixed with the soil of our land and I will never leave.” Readers are moved by Amani’s struggle to preserve her heritage and the legacy of her grandfather’s accomplishments, while greater forces oppress and occupy. Her resilience is palpable. Her perseverance for peace, profound.
|Ann Laurel Carter’s work is beautiful, courageous, and provocative. What children in the Western World most often learn of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is from an Israeli point of view, perpetuating the stereotype of all Palestinians as violent terrorists. Ms. Carter tackles this controversial subject with grace and hope. The relationship between Amani and Jonathan affords readers the ability to envision a peaceful outcome if opposing parties engage in dialogue – an essential first step toward bringing about a resolution to conflict. The Shepherd’s Granddaughter teaches readers that it is important to hear and to be heard.||
The Jane Addams Literature Circle for Girls read The Shepherd’s Granddaughter and wondered about the symbolism of the wolf. Perhaps, the wolf represents the danger that comes from avoidance and misunderstanding. Perhaps, it represents the strength and determination of the Palestinians as it too, struggles to survive. While there is so much to admire about Ms. Carter’s work, the true beauty lies in the way it makes you think –the questions it brings to mind long after the story ends. It is my great pleasure to present a Jane Addams Children’s Book award honor citation in the category of Books for Older Children to Anne Laurel Carter.
— Sonja Cherry-Paul
October 16, 2009
Ain’t Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henr, written by Dr. Scott Reynolds Nelson along with Mr. Marc Aronson and published by National Geographic, is a quest, indeed, where the search behind the songs of John Henry becomes a discovery of thousands of missing African American men. Research and history as compelling as any current discovery pulls the reader on the unfolding journey as well, and gives meaning to the lyrics and a voice to the men who worked the railroads under unbearable conditions.
The story begins with a researcher, stuck. Needing to present his research on men working on the railroad, he didn’t know what to write until the postcard he’d seen a thousand times before showed him a new clue. We follow that clue throughout the book. Throughout prison records, vintage photographs, current photographs of an explored railroad tunnel, census reports, diagrams, song lyrics, newspaper clippings, and period art. We learn that during the Reconstruction of the South, penitentiaries were filling up with black men. In October of 1866 there were three black prisoners for every white while by January of 1867, there were 10 blacks for every white. One such incarcerated man was named John Henry. Sentences were long. One way to escape the terrible prison conditions was to be rented as railroad workers, only to find themselves in a more dangerous situation. Discoveries pave the way for more discoveries, and the findings are riveting, but naturally lead to more questions. Readers can continue their own quest with the plethora of back matter provided.
For Ain’t Nothing But a Man, history that displays racism and injustice, readers learn the startling truth, the value and thrill and even dismay of careful research, the power of discovery, and the life-saving messages of danger delivered through song to break the cycles of fear. I am so pleased to present this 2009 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Honor Citation Dr. Scott Reynolds Nelson and Mr. Marc Aronson.
— Marianne Baker