Opening Remarks: “Welcome from the Chair”
by Marianne I. Baker
Associate Professor, Literacy Education
James Madison University
Thank you Jan and thanks to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the Jane Addams Peace Association Board for their sponsorship. Thanks to the Peace Education Projects Committee for the work of today, and the Hastings Peace and Justice Fund for underwriting the cost of today’s celebration.
This is the 60th year of this award and in the spirit of Jane Addams, of her tireless and enduring work, so many come together to continue us on the path toward social justice. From librarians to editors to publishers to readers—you are all here to celebrate the years of ongoing and diligent work. We thank you and rejoice with you.
As you may know, committee members of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards must represent the country geographically (and in other ways) so we are scattered folks. We are missing our friends and members Ann Carpenter from Massachusetts, from Washington DC Barbara Bair, from Madison Wisconsin Susan Freiss, from Texas Oralia Garza de Cortes, and formerly from Colorado Tessa Michaelson Schmidt.
But we have with us Sonja Cherry-Paul from right here in NY, Julie Olsen Edwards from California, past chair Susan Griffith from Michigan, Junko Yokota from Illinois, Tracy Randolph from Tennessee and I hail from Virginia. We also have past chair Donna Barkman and past committee member Pat Wiser because, as all committee members know, you just cannot shake the passion of peace education through outstanding art and literature. And, as I introduced her last year THE queen organizer and executive director Linda Belle.
Winner of Books for Younger Children
The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families written by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore, illustrated by Susan L. Roth, published by Lee & Low, is the winner in the Books for Younger Children Category.
Acceptance Remarks by Cindy Trumbore, the author of The Mangrove Tree...
We’d like to show and tell you a little bit about the Manzanar Project, the mangrove tree-planting project that our book is about.
The seed for this project began long ago, during World War II, when Gordon Sato—who would grow up to be a world-famous biologist—was interned in the infamous Manzanar Concentration Camp because of his family’s Japanese heritage.
Born in Los Angeles, Gordon was a teenager at Manzanar—you can see him as the very handsome young man on the right here, playing saxophone with Manzanar’s jazz band, the Jazz Bombers. A budding scientist as a teen, Gordon figured out how to make corn grow in the desert to help feed his family.
Gordon grew up to be an award-winning molecular biologist, but he never forgot what it was like to be an underdog, treated unfairly because of circumstances beyond his control. He became interested in Eritrea’s civil war with Ethiopia, and after he retired, he wanted to help the people of Eritrea recover from the long and bloody war. Gordon thought what this drought-stricken country really needed was a crop to feed their livestock. They had very little freshwater, but they had a sea coast, along the Red Sea.
Gordon thought mangrove tree leaves would make a good crop, because he saw camels munching on the leaves that grew naturally in places where freshwater and seawater met.
So he experimented with planting mangrove trees in seawater and found that if he planted an inexpensive bag of fertilizer around the roots of each seedling, it would flourish in the salty ocean water.
And so the Manzanar Mangrove Project was born—a project that would help the entire village of Hargigo, the little coastal town that Gordon chose for his pilot project. It helped the local women, whom he trained to plant the seedlings.
It helped the goats and sheep, who had a crop to eat.
It helped the local shepherds, who didn’t have to walk so far to forage for food for their livestock.
It helped the local fishermen, because the mangrove tree roots attracted little fish, which in turn attracted big fish.
And of course the magnificent and beautiful mangrove forest—a million trees that stretch 4 miles along the coast of the Red Sea—helps everyone in the village by turning carbon dioxide into oxygen for them to breathe.
Gordon has taken the project to two more locations in Africa and continues to talk to other nations about implementing it. In his words, mangrove trees are a breathtakingly simple solution to world poverty and hunger.
— Posted with permission of Cindy Trumbore
Winner of Books for Older Children
Sylvia & Aki by Winifred Conkling, published by Tricycle Press, an imprint of Random House, is the winner in the Books for Older Children category.
Acceptance Remarks by Winifred Conkling, the author of Sylvia & Aki…
I am honored to receive the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for Older Readers. First, I want to thank Marianne Baker and the other members of the awards committee for recognizing Sylvia & Aki. The book recounts the childhood experiences of Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu during World War II and it follows an important school desegregation lawsuit that was almost lost in the footnotes of history. I am grateful for this award because it will help to bring this story to more young readers.
Librarians will shelve Sylvia & Aki as historical fiction, but it isn’t. It’s really fictionalized history. The story told in the book is true. It is based on court transcripts, legal decisions, and interviews with Sylvia and Aki, who are now in their seventies and still living in Southern California. The book is classified as fiction because I worked with the subjects to create quotes and to fill in details where memory failed. I thought about writing the story as nonfiction, but the editor – the wonderful Nicole Geiger of the former Tricycle Press – thought it would be more engaging to tell the story in a novelized format. The goal was to invite children into history, to help them imagine what it must have felt like to be 9 years old and forced into an internment camp in the case of Aki, or, in Sylvia’s case, to be turned away from her neighborhood school and told to enroll in the Mexican school on the other side of town.
For so many children, history is the story of what one group of adults did to another group of adults a long, long time ago. No kids allowed. It was my intent with this book to let history reveal itself through the story of two girls struggling with different forms of discrimination. In this book, children played the lead roles; children made history.
When I learned that Sylvia & Aki had won the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, I became curious about how Jane Addams had been shaped by her childhood. I knew about Hull House and Addams’ role in the Progressive movement, but I didn’t know what had prompted her to dedicate her life to those less fortunate. What happened in her childhood to fill her with such compassion?
This is what I found: When Jane was two years old, her mother died. Jane had severe spinal problems, probably caused by tuberculosis. She was pigeon toed, and she walked with her head awkwardly tipped to one side. She thought that she was ugly – so ugly, in fact, that she stayed several steps behind her father on the street because she worried that her appearance would embarrass him. She felt different, inferior, marginalized. She identified with the poor in a way that many of her peers did not. No doubt her compassion for others was an extension of her desire to be treated with compassion herself.
Among her many notable quotes, Jane Addams once said: “Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world.” I never had the privilege of meeting Sylvia’s father, Gonzalo Mendez, but I suspect that he may have felt the same way. He didn’t quit fighting when his children were admitted to the school near their home. At considerable personal expense, he pressed on with his lawsuit “for the benefit of all” the children in the county. His efforts led to the desegregation of schools in Orange County – and then the entire state of California. A young lawyer by the name of Thurgood Marshall took a special interest in the Mendez case, and he filed a legal brief that tested the arguments that would be used seven years later in the lawsuit Brown vs. Board of Education, which brought African-American and Caucasian and Hispanic and Asian children together in classrooms across America for the first time.
Jane Addams didn’t give up too soon – and neither did Gonzalo Mendez. Both of their stories inspire me, and I am pleased to have had a chance to bring this story to a broader audience. Thank you very much.
— Posted with permission of Winifred Conkling
Honors for Books for Younger Children
Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts about Peace, written and illustrated by Anna Grossnickle Hines, published by Macmillan, an imprint of Henry Holt, has been named an Honor Book for Younger Children.
Acceptance Remarks of Anna G. Hines, the author of Peaceful Peaces…
Peace is a wonderful, I would even say “essential”, concept, one very dear to my heart—as it is I suspect for each of you. I found it relatively easy to write about, but much more of a challenge to come up with the images of peace for this book. I needed images that illustrated the concepts, but weren’t too abstract, images that were appealing and universal, but not cliché, Images that could stand alone, but, like people in a society, could work together to create a whole, images that would not only decorate the pages, but help young readers grasp and hold their own visions of peace on so many levels.
In a society which tends to be fast paced and over-stimulating, competitive, stressful, and often hostile, it is hard for most of us to hold a vision of peace, and yet holding that vision, and acting on that vision, is crucial if we are to have any hope of making it a reality.
As I worked on the quilts for Peaceful Pieces, I wrote one more poem. . .
Sliding the fabric under the needle,
feed-dogs down, I draw lines of stitches
defining flowers, butterflies, serene scenes,
quilts for Peaceful Pieces, my next book.
I can’t help but twist my mouth, tilt my head,
hunch my shoulders in the direction I want
the stitches to go, each stitch a prayer.
Behind the hum of the machine the voices
on NPR discuss suicide bombs, starvation,
rape, increased troop levels, torture.
I stitch my quilts, tend my gardens,
send a check to Mercy Corps.
It counts, I tell myself. It all counts.
I sit in meditation on my cushion
sending loving kindness to all beings,
smile at the checker in the market,
sing to the trees, walk on the beach,
listen to the troubles of a friend.
It counts. Quantum physics says
what happens here, happens there.
Everything is sacred. Everything connected.
I stitch and tend and smile and listen and pray
and breathe. It counts.
It all counts.
I would like to thank my editor, Sally Doherty, reading these words for me, who chose to publish this book, and all the people at Holt who supported her choice and saw it through to completion.
I thank the Jane Addams committee for selecting Peaceful Pieces for this honor, and am hopeful that this selection will enable it to reach even more readers.
Thank you to all involved with the Jane Addams Peace Association, for your work in continuing to hold and spread the vision of peace established by your founder.
I would also like to thank the creators and publishers of the other books honored today for their contributions to the cause of building a more just and peaceful world.
every story, every poem,
every stitch, every brushstroke,
every book, every child,
every act of kindness, every peaceful word,
every peaceful thought, every prayer counts.
They count because we are all connected.
The more conscious each of us is of peace, justice, equality, community, the stronger that connected consciousness grows.
When enough of us spend enough time, enough energy
in peaceful thoughts, words, and deeds
peace will prevail.
— Posted with permission by Anna G. Hines
Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend, written by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Bettye Stroud, illustrated by John Holyfield, and published by Candlewick Press, has been named an Honor Book for Younger Children.
Honors for Books for Older Children
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson and published by Baltzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins, is named an Honor Book for Older Children.
Inside Out & Back Againby Thanhha Lai, published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins is named an Honor Book for Older Children.