2015 Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards

Congratulations to the 63rd Jane Addams Children’s Book Awardees Duncan Tonatiuh, Teri Kanefield, Jennifer Elvgren, Fabio Santomauro, John Hendrix, Deborah Wiles, and Margarita Engle.

Jane Addams Book Award Selection CommitteeJane Addams Book Award Selection Committee

Opening Remarks & President’s welcome to JACBA ceremony

Good afternoon and welcome to the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award ceremony, honoring the 2015 award-winning authors and illustrators. Welcome to the guests of honor, their family members, friends and publishers; all friends and supporters of the Award; and students, librarians and teachers. I also see author and playwright Calvin Alexander Ramsey, winner of our award in 2011 for Ruth and the Green Book, in the audience. We are happy to have everyone here, and wish we had a larger space to accommodate more students.

I am Tura Campanella Cook, president of the Jane Addams Peace Association board, which sponsors the Award. The Jane Addams Peace Association was founded in 1948 “to foster a better understanding between the people of the world toward the end that wars may be avoided and a more lasting peace enjoyed.” Since 1953 we have honored the ou

tstanding children’s books promoting peace and justice with the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award.We know that our work has been successful when it is inspires thought and action. All of the students here have studied the winning books and are prepared with questions and comments! In addition, a group of students with their librarian, Alla Umanskaya, of PS/IS 30 Mary White Ovington in Brooklyn, developed a project inspired by last year’s presentation on Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education by Elizabeth Suneby, illustrated by Suana Verelst. They wrote letters to Zabulli Center’s students expressing their admiration. They organized a fundraising campaign to support Ms. Jan’s school and will be having a Skype meeting with Razia Jan later this month. We want you authors and illustrators present to realize how far-reaching your wonderful books are!

Hidden from the spotlight, a national committee of devoted children’s literature experts selects the Award winners each year. They work long hours to maintain the excellence for which the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award is known. Please welcome to the podium the selection committee co-chair, Ann Carpenter.

— Tura Campanella Cook, president of the Jane Addams Peace Association

Award Presentation

Winner of Books for Older Children

The Girl From the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the advent of the Civil Rights Movement As a part of this year’s award ceremony on October 16 at UN Plaza, New York City, I had the opportunity to introduce Teri Kanefield author of The Girl From the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement and to present her with the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for the 2015 winning book for older readers. We were deeply honored to have Barbara Rose’s sister, Joan, and her daughter, Terry, with us for the event as well. Teri conveyed, with Joan and Terry’s heartfelt agreement, how glad Barbara, a school librarian herself, would have been to know that her story was the winner of a children’s book award on the themes of peace and social justice. We are grateful to Teri for bringing forward Barbara’s little known story so engagingly and accessibly for middle grade and older children—really for all of us.

Barbara Rose Johns was a 15 year old black high schooler in rural Virginia in 1950 when attending class in tar paper leaky roofed “temporary” schools, while white students went to their well appointed brick school, felt just plain unfair. Barbara was blessed with a favorite teacher who received Barbara’s complaints and asked her what she, Barbara, could do about it? She had been exposed to wide reading and forthright family members who aided in her seeing with clarity the injustice of white supremacy. And Barbara was a girl who could freely imagine and deeply pray. Still, all these factors accounted for, Barbara was an extraordinary young woman in her own right…extraordinary in her vision, her leadership, and her firm resolve. Barbara conceived of and organized a peaceful boycott of the whole black student body. This action lead ultimately to the NAACP taking the case to the Supreme Court, asking for not better and equal facilities but for full integration as a part of Brown vs Board of Education in 1954.

Susan Freiss, Barbara Rose Johns’s sister Joan, and her daughter Terry, and Teri Kanefield

Susan Freiss, Barbara Rose Johns’s sister Joan, and her daughter Terry, and Teri Kanefield

Yes, 15 year old Barbara’s actions contributed directly to the historic end of segregation in US schools,and had terrible repercussions for Barbara, her family, and her community as the white community struck back in an effort to maintain the status quo—effort that included cross burning, intimidation, threats, likely arson, and ultimately closing all public schools in the county for 5 years in defiance of the Supreme Court’s order to integrate.

Teri Kanefield has brought forward an extraordinary and important young black woman leader’s story, someone even Civil Rights historians had largely ignored, someone whose story longed to be told. She began researching Barbara’s life 14 years ago and, with persistence, saw the story to publication. Through photos capturing the time and place and carefully considered writing about Barbara and her family’s background, events leading up to and including the walkout, and the repercussions of the action, Teri brings us Barbara Rose Johns’ quiet boldness, a boldness that so clearly invites and challenges young people today —in fact, all of us— to imagine and follow through with the question “what can I do?” For this we are immensely grateful.

Remarks by Susan Freiss, Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards Committee member

Acceptance Remarks by Teri Kanefield, the author of The Girl From the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the advent of the Civil Rights Movement

I’d like to begin by thanking the Jane Addams Peace Association and the members of the awards committee for this honor.

I also have a special thanks to give today to Barbara’s sister, Joan, and her daughter Terry, who are here in the audience.

Thank you for trusting me to tell your family’s story.

In the year 2000, I stumbled on the story of Barbara Johns while reading the history of Brown v. Board of Education, the case that desegregated schools in America.

Teri Kanefield and students

Teri Kanefield and students

I thought, this is amazing. A sixteen-year-old girl basically started the American civil rights movement. Four years before Rosa Parks caught the attention of the nation, this young girl led a walkout of her high school. It was the first time in American history that nonviolent protest had been used to bring about racial equality.

To my amazement, nobody I knew had ever heard of Barbara Johns. I talked to a professor who taught African American history at a local community college. She had never heard of Barbara Johns. I talked to a law school classmate who considered himself an expert in civil rights, and he had never heard of Barbara Johns.

A lot has happened in the past fifteen years. The Moton Museum in Farmville opened its doors and began working to get the word out. There is a monument on the capitol grounds in Richmond honoring Barbara and her classmates.

You’re probably thinking, “She started writing this book fifteen years ago? What is she, in the slow group?”

I’ll say this about the fifteen years it took to get to this moment: I’ve never had writer’s block. I have, however, had a lot of publisher’s block. After many years, my manuscript finally hit the desk of Howard Reeves at Abrams—whose name you already heard a few times today. He was the editor who didn’t say no. The format of this book, the photographs and layout, was his creative vision.

Now the year is 2015, and people have heard of Barbara Johns. In the spring I was approached by the Travel Channel. They were covering the story of the monument honoring Barbara Johns and they wanted to interview me for their program.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from the Smithsonian Museum, asking if I could help them track down some photographs of Barbara for a new exhibit.

So Barbara Johns made it to the Smithsonian.

I’d like to conclude by mentioning that Barbara was a civil rights leader, a lover of books, and later in life, she became a school librarian.

I think if Barbara could speak to us now, she’d say if there is any award she’d most like to have associated with her story, it would be a children’s book award in the name of Jane Addams for a book that promotes peace and social justice.

— Posted with permission of Teri Kanefield

Winner of Books for Younger Children

Separate is Never EqualWhat would you do if you were told that you did not belong or that you were not allowed to attend a particular school because of your background? In 1943, nine year old Sylvia Mendez and her two brothers went with their aunt and three cousins to enroll at the 17th Street School in Westminster, CA located close to their home. When the Mendez children were denied admission because of their Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage and the color of their skin, they were told that they had to enroll at the Hoover school, the town’s run¬down “Mexican School” with fewer resources, located ten blocks away.

Mendez’s father Gonzalo and his wife Felicita were appalled by such blatant discrimination that they took action by organizing the community to fight for equal rights. As Sylvia’s mother said, “Cuando la causa es justa, los demás te siguen” – When you fight for justice, others will follow.” The groundbreaking Mendez vs. Westminster civil rights case helped to dismantle the segregation of schools in California, and its victory laid the foundation for the historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case.

Susan Griffith

Thank you to Duncan Tonatiuh for writing about this important historical moment for young readers. With his signature artistry and meticulous research, he masterfully tells the story of Sylvia Mendez and her family. It begins with Sylvia being bullied on her first day as an integrated student at her new school then provides background information about the family’s fight for justice. Duncan Tonatiuh draws from actual court testimonials and personal interviews to ensure accuracy and authenticity.

For providing readers with this compelling true story about the fight for desegregation, and for sharing the important message that everyone, regardless of their background, has the right to stand up for social justice, invoke change, and make a positive contribution to society, Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation has been named the recipient of the 2015 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for Young Readers.

Remarks read by Susan Griffith, written by Mary Napoli, Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards Committee members

Violinist Ericka Shlenkermann

Acceptance Remarks by Duncan Tonatiuh, the author of Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and her family’s fight for desegregation


— Posted with permission of Duncan Tonatiuh

All Honor Books

Honors for Books for Younger Children

Our children are being taught through the media that war is an exciting adventure in which killing and dying are easy clean and morally right because the other side is evil. As this is fantasy, children don’t learn about the awful physical realities of war: nor about the humanity of others. Without a counter narrative, that false vision of war will remain hegemonic. So sensitive adults must teach children EARLY about war and its realities. But how, how do we teach the realities of war to young children without terrifying them and leaving them hopeless and frightened?

John Hendrix and Beth McGowan

John Hendrix and Beth McGowan

One way of accomplishing this task is to read to John Hendrix’s Shooting at the Stars: the Christmas Truce of 1914 published by Henry Abrams Books for young readers. Hendrix introduces the war briefly in front matter and then moves into his narrative, told in the form of a letter from Charlie, a young British man fighting in the trenches, to his mother. The letter format allows the reader to share an intimate sense of what trench warfare meant, describing the mud, the food, the damp and the cold: while the illustrations show us the trenches and no man’s land. When Charlie speaks to his mother of the Christmas truce, we understand how courageous it was for German soldiers to initiate a truce, how courageous it was of the English to accept one. We feel amazed that the men on each side reached out to each other to stop the killing, share food, bury the dead, and play a game of soccer. The illustrations show how the blighted landscape of war becomes less bleak when lit by the good will truce represented in delicate Christmas trees. The lovely landscape of basic human contact is interrupted by bureaucratic authority: a general who tells the men to get back to fighting. And the healing images of the truce contrast starkly to the portrait of the general who orders the soldiers back to fighting. As one of my colleagues remarked, looking at that portrait, one almost feels the spit fly off the page. But the men, though they obey the general, refuse to shoot at the men with whom they have just shared a moment, but shoot only at the stars – thus the title.

The book leaves us sorrowful, upset. We wish as the men did, that they did not have to go back to fighting. We wish as they did, that they could just go home. We want it all to stop. And we need our children to feel this sorrow, this upset, if war is to become a thing of the past. For all these reasons, we are happy to honor John Hendrix and Abrams Books for young readers for the book Shooting at the Stars.

John Hendrix with students

John Hendrix with students

— Beth McGowan, Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards Committee member

Whispering TownIn a Nazi-occupied village young Anett quietly lets her neighbors know that there are “new friends” at her house – a Jewish boy and his mother hiding from persecution from the menacing Nazi soldiers on every street. Despite the danger to everyone involved, this Danish village displays courage, and above all, compassion as they work together to secretly provide necessities for the refugees until they can be smuggled to Sweden. But on the night the boat arrives, clouds block the moon, and it is too dark to see. Anett quickly comes up with a plan and rallies the entire village to whisper from doorway to doorway, allowing the small Jewish family find their way to the boat and navigate to safety.

Keeping the focus of the story on the rescue efforts of the Danish resistance creates a perfect balance of danger and kindness for young readers first encountering this historical period. The Whispering Town is a first introduction to both the injustice of persecution and the strength of resistance, where compassion and altruism are able to triumph over intolerance. The exciting solution involves not just Anett and her family, but the entire village, showcasing both the value of individual initiative and the power of a community united for good.

Author Jennifer Elvgren, Illustrator Fabio Santomauro, and committee member Ann Carpenter

Author Jennifer Elvgren, Illustrator Fabio Santomauro, and committee member Ann Carpenter

Like the text, the illustrations, done with primarily with somber colors and red highlights finds the balance between creating a mood of foreboding, while also, ultimately, one of hope and optimism. Even the youngest readers and listeners can understand that there is real danger here – and yet never be overwhelmed, for there is also hope as well.

For creating a book that revels in the power of collaboration, compassion and kindness, that showcases the altruism of a community, the 2015 Jane Addams Children’s Book Committee awards the Honor Citation in the category of Books for Younger Readers to The Whispering Town, published by Kar-Ben Publishing, written by Jennifer Elvgren and illustrated by Fabio Santomauro.

— Ann Carpenter, Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards Committee member

Acceptance Remarks by Jennifer Elvgren, the author of The Whispering Town

I would like to thank the Jane Addams Peace Association, Ann Carpenter and the Jane Addams’ Children’s Book Award Selection Committee, and especially Marianne Baker for choosing The Whispering Town as a Jane Addams Honor Book. I am deeply honored. This book would not be possible without Kar Ben Publishing, Joni Sussman, Judye Groner, and Fabio Santomauro. To them, my deepest gratitude.

I would also like to thank my family for their unconditional support –– my husband Erik, my daughters Lizzy and Sophie, and my son, Will, who could not join us today. He’s home in Virginia at school wrestling with some scary trigonometry problems this afternoon.

I usually get asked how I came to write about such a big topic in a picture book. Somewhere around late elementary, early middle school, my grandmother gave me her copy of The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, and my mother gave me a copy of The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. From a young age, I pondered the bravery of those hidden and the bravery of those who protected the hidden.

I carried this interest in Holocaust literature as I grew. Around 2009, I read Ellen Levine’s nonfiction book Darkness over Denmark: The Danish Resistance and the Rescue of the Jews. One Jewish boy recollected his father trying to find the Gilleleje harbor on a moonless night while villagers stood in doorways whispering directions.

As I read this, a storyboard unfolded in my mind. The Whispering Town’s title came first, followed by the characters. Anett appeared, then Carl. As they began to move through the story also set in Gilleleje. I imagined a hiding place, bravery, friendship and hope.

It became imperative for Anett to bring comfort to Carl and his mama in their cellar hiding place in the form of visits, good food and books. When Anett came face to face with Nazi soldiers at her own door, I knew she had to dig deep and be calm and collected so that she did not give away her friends in the cellar.

Facing a moonless night, I wanted Anett to be part of the solution, arranging for a chain of whispering voices to guide Carl and his mama to the harbor. The hope of escape and reuniting Carl with his papa in Sweden sealed Anett’s and Carl’s friendship forever.

For these young readers, I wanted to portray danger, not horror. I intended this book to be the start of a lifelong discussion of the Holocaust, focusing initially on kindness and bravery. I am hopeful that this award will introduce this book to new readers who will start new conversations.

Once again, thank you.

Fabio Santomauro and student

— Posted with permission of Jennifer Elvgren

Honors for Books for Older Children

Silver People: Voices from the Panama CanalSilver People: Voices from the Panama Canalis a work of art. Written by Margarita Engle and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, this historic novel in verse transports readers to the Panamanian jungle in the first years of the 20th century. Entranced by the americano recruiter’s clinking coins and false promises, a 14-year old Cuban boy has lied his way to Panama with thousands of other islanders for the purpose of digging a canal to link the world’s two largest oceans. It takes only a few days before he is struck with regret, having been introduced to the realities of the back-breaking labor, deplorable living conditions, wholly segregated organization and unjust pay scale for workers in the Canal Zone. In this story, we bear witness to innocent people who have been caught in a dangerous situation over which they have no control, and to the flora and fauna that is disrupted by the digging of what is widely proclaimed as the world’s 8th Wonder.

Healther Palmer and Margarita Engle

Ms. Engle’s Cuban-American roots, her studies in biology and agronomy, her thorough research and masterful writing are the perfect blend for this story. Her vibrant verse provides an informative, detailed picture of the Panama Craze, yet leaves ample room for readers to imagine life deep in the jungle. Her poems offer readers an unimpeded view of:

  • the contrasting realities of this jungle, called the land of many butterflies by indigenous people, and known as the land of boiling mud, raging sun, and furious fevers to the islander workers.
  • the ease with which the delicate balance of an ecosystem can be completely and shamefully destroyed in the name of innovation.
  • the necessity to seek and proclaim multiple sides of every story

As a committee, we were moved both intellectually and emotionally by Ms. Engle’s work. First, we admire her masterful approach to treating perspective. She has dug deeper than the information shared in the typical American history book, basing characters on documented historical records and personal interviews with descendants of silver people, and sharing insight into the viewpoints of the native peoples who call the jungle their home, the imported workers, and the creatures of the rainforest.

We appreciate the way in which Silver People expands children’s awareness of social justice issues such as civil rights, race, ethnicity and class to other lands, peoples and cultures. We find the timing of this novel to be extraordinary – it not only marks the centenary of the completion of the original canal, but also raises awareness of what is to come with the current day canal expansions in Panama and additions in Nicaragua.

Of particular note is the way in which Ms. Engle has succeeded in leaving readers with a glimmer of hope while writing about this unarguably dismal episode in our history. Indeed, if we strive to send forth young people that are able to understand human needs with compassion, find creative solutions to social injustice, and accept responsibility for the future of all people, we must model the art of “offering hope” in devastating circumstances.

Margarita Engle signing books for students attending the ceremony

Thank you for tackling with such grace a calamitous and regrettable chapter of our history. Thank you for telling the largely uncelebrated story of the silver people, and for sharing it in a way that is engaging and accessible to readers of varying abilities. Our committee believes that Silver People will leave a lasting impression on young readers, and is delighted to name it an honor book for the 2015 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award.

— Heather Palmer, Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards Committee member


With Revolution, Deborah Wiles provides a unique format for young readers – one that seamlessly blends fiction and non-fiction to vividly present the complexity and context of one of the most tumultuous times in the history of the United States. Using photographs, quotes, speeches, and other primary sources, Wiles documents the Civil Rights Movement and provides a comprehensive foundation of the political, economic, and social climate for African-Americans and Whites during the 1960’s. These stunning and provocative documents are interspersed throughout the book providing readers with the historical context for the complex and compelling fictional story that Wiles crafts.

It is the summer of 1964 in Greenwood, Mississippi and 12-year-old Sunny is head-over-heels for the Beatles. She and her best friend send messages to each other between their neighboring houses using a bucket and a pulley rope. They name a tree “George”, and it is their special place to meet and contemplate life. And life is complicated for Sunny. Her mother has left and her father has remarried. Her stepmother has a teenaged son, Gillette, and a young daughter. Meemaw, Uncle Parnell, and Uncle Vivian round out Sunny’s immediate family and play significant roles in her daily life.

When Sunny and Gillette are caught sneaking into the town’s swimming pool one night, they also cross paths with Raymond, a 15-year-old African–American boy. Their paths continue to cross throughout the novel, and it is Raymond who illuminates for Sunny the true meaning of separate and unequal. The activists that come to Greenwood that summer, who are referred to as the “invaders” by the White townspeople, inspire Raymond. He watches the adults around him organize and strategize for the movement and is compelled to action, despite his age. Although the majority of the novel is told from Sunny’s point of view, Raymond’s perspective is crucial. It is through Raymond’s eyes and heart that readers feel the frustration, anger, and fear of African-Americans in the town – those who are afraid to take action, those who did, and the consequences for all.


Revolution is not a book that can be read passively; readers become researchers pouring through primary sources to put the pieces of a troubling puzzle together while being completely immersed in the lives of the characters. This multigenre approach brings the complexity of the civil rights movement directly to young readers’ fingertips and extends their understanding well beyond the oversimplified, uncontroversial narratives that attempt to obscure the realities of racism and White resistance. Revolution underscores the work and circumstances of individuals, activists, and groups such as Ella Baker, Medgar Evers, Bob Moses, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee as well as many others presented within the pages of this book. Readers discover how the act of voting was the fuel that propelled the movement.

Recently, issues of race and racism have been part of the national conversation due to numerous events that mirror those that occurred during the civil rights movements. Revolution positions readers to better understand our collective past and to make use of lessons learned as a mobilizing force to battle racism and discrimination today.

Revolution is published by Scholastic Press and it is my great pleasure to present the Jane Addams Children’s Book Honor Award in the category of Books for Older Children to author, Deborah Wiles.

— Sonja, Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards Committee member

Acceptance Remarks by Deborah Wiles, the author of Revolution

Thank you so much. I am deeply honored to be here.

Before I knew there was a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, I knew there was a Jane Addams. I knew about Hull House. As a child, I had big dreams, and I wanted to do something useful in the world.

My first books were published in 2001, and I became the first children’s writer-in-residence at James Thurber’s childhood home in Columbus, Ohio. There was a work element attached to the residency, and – partly because I had admired Jane Addams for so long – I asked to work at the Southside Settlement House, teaching personal narrative writing to young people, their parents and caregivers, and the staff at Southside.

This was my first experience teaching in a settlement house. It connected me to the days of my teenaged life when my big dreams took drastic left turns and I became the mother of two small children, living in an old clunker of a car, and collecting bottles on the side of the road to return for the deposit, so I could buy milk for the baby.

There would be many years, many injustices, and many helping hands across many different cultures before I could turn my life around, give my children a safe and stable home, and turn to writing stories about the children who have big dreams and need safety, stability, forgiveness, understanding, compassion, and love.

Which, as we all know… is all children. All shapes, sizes, colors, persuasions, abilities, and lives. Including Sunny and Gillette and Raymond in REVOLUTION.

Deborah Wiles

Deborah Wiles


Thank you to the Jane Addams Book Committee for recognizing REVOLUTION, and thank you to Jane Addams herself, who was such an amazing pioneer of social justice in America.

I write about social justice as a way to understand what it is… and isn’t. As a way to come to terms with my life… and to challenge the world. As a way to have a voice in offering young readers – and their grown-ups – another way to look at their lives and the lives of others.

Writing is my activism. I write about social justice as a path to peace.

REVOLUTION – which is book two of a trilogy of novels about the 1960s for young readers (COUNTDOWN is book one) – is my attempt to understand the summer of 1964 – Freedom Summer – in the United States, and the civil rights movement, through the eyes of the children who lived it. I was one of those children, and I didn’t understand what was happening in my world. It scared me. And it excited me, too – I could feel the change that was coming, and I knew it was good.

I wanted children to see this world, taste it, touch it, feel it, hear it, and so I created a documentary novel – along with COUNTDOWN, the first of its kind – with photographs, song lyrics, newspaper clippings, poetry, advertisements, propaganda, and other ephemera of the time, in scrapbook sections that are interspersed within the narrative.

I wrote four opinionated biographies of the time – LBJ, Bob Moses (the architect of Freedom Summer), Dorothy Height and Polly Cowan (the architects of Wednesdays In Mississippi), and Cassius Clay, who became Muhammad Ali.

This mixing of fiction, non-fiction, and biography was a brand-new way of delivering story to young readers, and I’d like to thank my publisher, Scholastic; David Levithan, my editor; and Phil Falco, designer, for taking the risk with me to publish something new and different and ground-breaking, to reach young people, to ask them to think critically about their history, and to invite them to become part of the work ahead, part of the change we want to see in the world.

Deborah Wiles

Deborah Wiles, Sonja, and students


It is so gratifying to have REVOLUTION recognized by the Jane Addams Peace Association and Book Award Committee. My fondest goal is to live up to the ideal that Jane Addams herself set, for “faith in new possibilities and the courage to advocate for them.”

— Posted with permission of Deborah Wiles

book sales


All photos used with permission