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2016 Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards

Congratulations to the 64th Jane Addams Children’s Book Awardees Susan Lynn Meyer, Eric Velasquez, Lynda Blackmon Lowery, Elspeth Leacock, Susan Buckley, PJ Loughran, Edwidge Danticat, Leslie Staub, Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, R. Gregory Christie, Jonah Winter, Shane W. Evans, and Marilyn Hilton.

Jane Addams Board

Jane Addams Peace Association Board Members


Award Presentation

Winner of Books for Older Children

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March by Lynda Blackmon Lowery as told to Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley, illustrated by PJ Loughran, and published by Dial Books an imprint of Penguin Group LLC, is the Winner in the Books for Older Children category.

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March is the thrilling and moving account of Lynda Blackmon Lowery’s experiences as the youngest member of the Selma to Montgomery March, one of the iconic moments of the Civil Rights Movement. Using many of Lowery’s own words and written in an extremely accessible style, the narrative makes clear the courage it took to march repeatedly, especially given the lingering effects of violence protesters suffered. These narrative details underscore the triumph of the marchers and their mission.

We are deeply honored to have Lynda Blackmon Lowery, her two co-authors Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley, and illustrator P.J. Loughran with us today to receive the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award 2016 Winning Commendation for Older Readers. Together this team of writers and illustrator masterfully assisted Lynda in telling a very personal and historically pivotal story in Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom.

attendees

 

Lynda was the youngest marcher in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Astoundingly, she had been jailed nine times before that occasion as she and other African American children marched and protested for voting rights. Lynda speaks in a clear and straightforward voice conveying that as a young teen she felt secure in the arms of her supportive family and community, but that her community was surrounded and oppressed daily by racism, the injustice of Jim Crow segregation, and the denial of the right to vote. Lynda was drawn to and inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. on his visits to Selma and eagerly did her part to bring about change. History coincided with Lynda’s life dramatically as she approached her 15th birthday. There was a heightening atmosphere of danger associated with the young people’s nonviolent protests. Lynda herself endured imprisonment in a jail sweatbox and was only released when she passed out. Upon leaving courthouse after this experience, she learned of the death of Jimmy Lee Jackson at the hands of the police, an event which lead directly to the first march across Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday. Lynda was there in that brutal fray, was beaten, and needed 35 stitches. She tells all this in an understated manner, though the events state clearly enough that tremendous fear was met by tremendous courage. Lynda’s story shows us, young and old alike, what it can mean to participate in nonviolent protest when the police become violent. Tragically this story is all too current as we call for an end to police brutality toward black and brown lives today.

At this juncture in her memoir, Lynda’s straightforward telling enters new and significant terrain. She opens the door to understanding the emotional trauma that can result from the kind of treatment she endured, exposing to young readers the further wages of racism and violence. Despite her injuries, Lynda was determined to rejoin when a second march was organized and managed to gain her father’s permission by promising to stay with several older women who would also be marching. The second morning out, Lynda arose to find three white National Guardsmen outside her tent, men who were there, in fact, to protect the marchers. But as she says, “In my eyes they looked exactly like the white troopers who had beaten me on Bloody Sunday. I started screaming and I couldn’t stop….” Lynda’s telling is honest, clear eyed, and filled with empathy for her younger self. May the precedent she sets here be followed with many such stories acknowledging trauma with insight and wisdom for young readers.

Lynda does reach Montgomery and the march’s goal was reached as well! The Voting Rights Act was passed just five months after she returned to Selma. The right to vote and represent oneself is a core value in every fiber of this story.

Lynda’s historic memoir is valuable beyond measure in and out of the classroom.The illustrations include photos of the events Lynda recalls, as well as vivid full and partial page drawings by PJ that lend the book a graphic novel aspect. Coauthors Elsbeth and Susan excelled in helping Lynda speak with immediacy and authenticity and creating text that is compelling and accessible to a wide range of readers. The combination of all these factors— history brought alive, readers of a range of reading abilities brought into the middle of the Civil Rights Movement, engaging text and illustrations—add up to a book of value beyond measure in this middle grade teacher’s eyes.

To quote one of our selection committee members, “Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom is a powerhouse of a book. Its simplicity is deceptive. The more you look at it, the better it gets, the more depth and importance it gains.”

I am proud to announce that the winner of the 2016 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for Older Readers is Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group, written by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, Elsbeth Leacock and Susan Buckley, and illustrated by P.J. Loughran.

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

Acceptance Remarks by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, the author and subject of Turning 15 on The Road To Freedom

Lynda Blackmon Lowery (far right)

 

I want to thank the Jane Addams Peace Association, for this awesome honor, and Elspeth Leacock, Susan Buckley, my friends and co authors, my family for their support, our agent Charlotte Sheedy, and Lauri Hornik our Editor, and God for this awesome favor He has given me.

Turning 15 On The Road To Freedom, was a long time in the making. My mother died when I was 7 years old, leaving a husband and 4 children ages 7 through 2. Older family members said she wouldn’t have died if she hadn’t been colored. That was the first time I had heard about segregation. I made a vow in my 7 year old heart. When I got big I would make sure nobody else would ever have to grow up without a mommy because of the color of her skin.

I did not know getting big meant the old age of 13! That’s when I first heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak for the first time. Dr. King was talking about the right right to vote, and getting that right nonviolently. Dr. King said, ” You can get anybody to do anything with Steady, Loving Confrontation.” I heard him the first time he said it, but when he said it a second time it was like he called my name ” Lynda, you can get any to do anything with Steady, Loving Confrontation” I said, “Oh, yea that’s how I’m going to change things.” I then went to as many non violent trainings I could. By the time I was 15, I had been in jail 9 times. On March 7, 1965, (known as Bloody Sunday ) I was close to the front, the 19th row. We were stopped by Alabama State Troopers, behind them were the Dallas County sheriff’s deputies, and posse. They attacked with tear gas and beating us down instead of up. I received 7 stitches over my right eye and 28 in the back of my head.

I marched with Dr. King and thousands of others on March 9, 1965 also known As Turn Around Tuesday. We were stopped at the foot of the Edmund Pettis Bridge again. Dr. King went down on one knee ,prayed, and we went back to the church, Brown Chapel A. M. E. Church. On March 21, 1965, I was one of a thousand or more that left Brown Chapel, heading to Montgomery, Alabama. Only 300 were allowed to complete the 54 mile March and my name was 1 of the 300. On the second day of the march I turned 15 years old. Thus the title Turning 15 on The Road To Freedom.

Again I say, thank you for this honor.

attendees

 

Acceptance Remarks by Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley, the authors of Turning 15 on The Road To Freedom

SUSAN

On behalf of Lynda, Elspeth, and myself, we wish to thank the Jane Addams Peace Association deeply for this award. Jane Addams said “True peace is not merely the absence of war; it is the presence of justice.” The struggle for justice is at the heart of Lynda’s story, so we are especially honored to be here today.

ELSPETH

We became a threesome 10-12 years ago when Susan and I first “met” Lynda through a phone call (aside to Lynda: thanks go to your sister, Joanne Bland)

That was for our first and shorter version of her story in a larger book. It was then we began to make presentations with Lynda, and got to see her impact first hand. We witnessed her find the one student out of the crowd who needed help and really connect with them. Later teachers would tell us that Lynda turned that student around—a student they feared for.

I brought a dear transgender friend to hear Lynda speak. This is years ago so when we arrived at a church my friend wavered and grew fearful that she would not be welcome. As we stood there, troubled, Lynda arrived and immediately linked her arm through Antoni’s and swooped her up the steps and through the door. I am still in awe of this moment—and so is my friend.

In Selma when someone troubled is up on the Edmond Pettus Bridge the police call Lynda. In one story she talked a young man out of jumping a second time by threatening to arrest his girlfriend as a menace to the community—making him laugh.

As we marveled at Lynda’s powerful empathy, determination, love, and bravery in the face of terror, it hit us: we can work together to bring this larger story to young adults everywhere.

SUSAN

So we started out on an adventure together by interviewing Lynda on the phone in what turned out to be 35 hours of asking questions and listening and learning. There were subjects so painful to remember, that Lynda couldn’t even talk about them at first, but over time her remarkable story emerged.

Then Elspeth and I began our own journey, to turn this oral history into a book. We wrote it one way and wrote it another way, but it was only when we really channeled Lynda’s voice, her pure story, that we knew we had a book that all three of us loved. At that point we set out on another journey with our wonderful agent, Charlotte Sheedy, our spectacular editor, Lauri Hornik, and the whole team at Dial Books for Young Readers.

Perhaps the best journey of all, for us, though, has been traveling around the country with Lynda and watching her transform readers from fourth graders to adults as she shares her story and tells them that they can be historymakers just like her. From our first presentation, at the Library of Congress, to today’s ceremony, it has been a life-changing experience for us all.


Winner of Books for Younger Children

New Shoes

New Shoes written by Susan Lynn Meyer, illustrated by Eric Velasquez and published by Holiday House, is the Winner in the Books for Younger Children category. New Shoes depicts Ella Mae, who after being dismayed and humiliated by a common shoe store practice of the 1950’s that forced African Americans to trace their feet rather than try on shoes for size, hits upon an alternative that offers dignity and respect. She and her cousin, Charlotte, after collecting used shoes, polishing them, then scrubbing or replacing their laces, open a shoe store for the black community where finally everyone is allowed “to try on all the shoes they want.”

Susan Lynn Meyer and Eric Velasquez with the young ladies who were the inspiration for the cover art of New Shoes

 

I am so lucky! I get to present the winner in the Books for Younger Children Category. Our winner, New Shoes, was written by Susan Lynn Meyer, illustrated by Eric Velasquez and published by Holiday House.

What I love about this book is that it explores how creativity can expand freedom even in as constrained a reality as the Jim Crow South. Our heroine, Ella Mae, is used to having hand me downs. But for the first time in her life, her mother is going to buy her a new pair of shoes.

Unfortunately when she goes to the shoe store with her mother, she learns that while white folks can try on shoes before they buy them, African Americans must trace their feet on paper to check for proper size. This common practice humiliates and upsets Ella Mae and spoils the pleasure of her new shoes. So with her cousin Charlotte, she hits upon an alternative that offers dignity and respect to her community. She and her cousin work for their friends and neighbors, cleaning and babysitting, to be paid PRIMARILY in used shoes. (BTW, my husband pointed out that whether consciously or not, Meyer evokes the shoe drives actually run by the Black Panthers in this time period.) Then the girls polish the shoes, scrub or replace their shoelaces, making the shoes look like new. Their collection and preparation allows the girls to open a shoe store for the black community where finally everyone is allowed “to try on all the shoes they want.”

This story of the initiative and power of two girls is enhanced by Eric Velasquez’s illustrations, painted from live models of true cousins. For me, as I read and looked at the pictures, I felt the love and pride of Ella Mae’s mother in her daughter that gave the child great ego strength. While familial love and pride is not explicitly discussed in the text of the book, Velasquez inserts them, making them front and center. Here is Mom, holding her daughter. In the face of that nasty salesman, Mom literally has her daughter’s back, empathizing with her daughter while urging Ella Mae to conform to bad rules to keep her safe. This empathetic gesture confers its own dignity. Furthermore, the depiction of these girls, perfectly turned out in spite of their life of hand-me-downs, gives us a sense of the esteem in which their families hold them. The images also transport us back to the era of the late fifties and early sixties. (They remind me a good deal of the Dick and Jane and the advertisements of the era, but with deep color and more lovely skin tones!)

This story of agency teaches children another piece of the historic humiliations inflicted by Jim Crow. But it is also takes readers beyond the time of Jim Crow. None of us is wholly free. We all need to creatively access freedom in the little corners of life in order to resist oppression. This may involve raising our children in dignity and love when a larger world would deny them this or opening a shoe store where everyone can try on shoes.

Thank you so much, both Ms. Meyer, Mr. Velasquez and Holiday House for this simply wonderful book.

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

attendees

 


Acceptance Remarks by Susan Lynn Meyer, the author of New Shoes

Thank you so much.

I am deeply honored to receive this award for our book, NEW SHOES.

I would like to thank:
1) The Jane Addams reading committee—I have done this kind of work and I know what a vast labor of love it is!
2) Everyone at Holiday House, especially my editors, Sylvie Frank and Grace Maccarone.
3) My agent, Erin Murphy, who placed the manuscript with Holiday House.
4) My great collaborator on this book, artist Eric Velasquez.
5) And lastly, Eric’s models, who posed for the paintings in NEW SHOES, some of whom are here today: Jordan, who posed for Ella Mae, Amani, who posed for Charlotte, and Leigh Burton, who posed for Ella Mae’s mother!

Susan Lynn Meyer and Eric Velasquez

 

This award is especially meaningful to me because Jane Addams is one of my heroines. When I heard that NEW SHOES had won this award, I had just been reading a memoir in which Jane Addams appears, Hilda Polacheck’s I CAME A STRANGER: THE STORY OF A HULL-HOUSE GIRL. (This was research for a new novel that I am in the process of writing about a Russian-Jewish immigrant girl at the turn of the century, a novel in which a settlement house plays an important role.) Hilda Polacheck’s memoir is about a Polish-Jewish girl whose family came to Chicago in 1895. Polacheck writes about her experiences at Hull House, the settlement house Jane Addams founded, and about how important Jane Addams and Hull House were to her in helping her find work, in enriching her life with evening classes and social events, and even in advancing her education. Even though Hilda had not been able to finish high school, Jane Addams recognized her intelligence and helped her go to the University of Chicago for a year with a scholarship, as well as a loan to help her family cover the costs Hilda usually covered with her wages.

Hilda Polacheck writes:

I told them what Miss Addams had said about a loan, how my tuition would be free, how my life would be changed.

“This can happen only in America!” Mother said.

“Yes,” I said, “because in America there is a Jane Addams and a Hull House.”

Polacheck, Hilda Satt. I Came a Stranger: The Story of a Hull-House Girl. Ed. Dena J. Polacheck Epstein. (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois P, 1989), p. 87.

I want to say a word about the way I came to write NEW SHOES. I was in the process of doing research for my most recent novel, SKATING WITH THE STATUE OF LIBERTY, which is set in New York in 1942 and is about a friendship between a Jewish boy whose family has fled Nazi-occupied France and an African-American girl he meets in his New York City public school, Joan of Arc Junior High. I wanted to find out what kind of segregation practices these two children would have encountered in the North in the 1940s. The answer is—plenty. They would have run into segregation in movie theaters, restaurants, and department stores, as well as segregation in employment and housing. While learning about this subject, I came across a fact I was startled to discover that I hadn’t known before, that well into the 1960s, in many shoe stores around the country, black customers were not allowed to try on shoes. I started thinking a lot about that, and it preyed on my mind, thinking about what it would have felt like to be a child encountering that form of discrimination for the first time, and also about what it would have felt like to be the parent of a child encountering that form of discrimination for the first time. The hardest thing about writing the book was figuring out what two young girls could do in the face of that injustice. It took me several years (and 32 drafts!) to think of the right ending for the book.

Thank you again so much for giving NEW SHOES this award. I feel deeply honored that our book is being recognized as in the great tradition of the work of Jane Addams.


All Honor Books

Honors for Books for Younger Children

Mamas Nightinggale

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation written by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Leslie Staub, and published by Dial Books For Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group LLC, is an Honor Book in the Books for Younger Children category. Saya is a young Haitian-American girl whose mother has been incarcerated as an illegal immigrant. Night after night, Saya listens longingly to recordings of her mother’s songs and bedtime stories. As she and her father await a decision on her mother’s immigration status, Saya finds a way to share her story in hopes of making the family whole again.

As immigration battles rage across the U.S., and far too many children go to sleep yearning for a parent in prison or in a faraway country – oh how we have needed this heartbreaking, loving, sweet, sweet book.

Saya’s Haitian mother lover her daughter “anpil, anpil” very, very much. From the prison where she waits for papers to allow her to stay in the U.S. she sends Saya cassette tapes of songs and stories to comfort her and keep her strong.

Saya’s father writes letters to judges, newspapers, legislators but no one ever writes him back. Then, one day, Saya writes her own letter to the newspaper – and it is published. She is interviewed on T.V. and many people hear her story. Finally, they go to court – and Saya’s mother comes home to her family.

With vibrant illustrations, as tender as they are exuberant, this book of a family’s love and courage is a recipient of the Jane Addams Honor Award for Younger Readers.

Remarks by Julie Olsen Edwards, Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards Committee member

Acceptance Remarks by Edwidge Danticat, the author of Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation 


Lillians Right to Vote

Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, and published by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, is an Honor Book in the Books for Younger Children category.Elderly Lillian’s walk up a hill to vote is reminiscent of her people’s climb toward freedom and is marked by memories of them, from her enslaved great-grandparents to those who fought and died during the civil rights movement. When Lillian places her finger on the button at the polling station, we understand that the act of voting is sacred, honoring the sorrows, sacrifices, and triumphs of her people.

Shane W Evans and attendees

Shane W Evans and attendees

 

Ms Lillian has lived for a hundred years and has seen a lot of history. As she slowly walks up the hill to her polling place she remembers her ancestors and the freedom fighters that came before her that made her life and being able to vote possible. She begins recalling how her great-great-grandparents were sold into enslavement on the courthouse steps where only “rich white men” were allowed to vote.

Each step she takes moves her through history. Recalling how after emancipation and the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment of the US Constitution her Great-Grandmother Ida accompanied her Great-Grandfather Edmund to vote even though women weren’t allowed to vote yet.

As Ms. Lillian continues her steady climb, she recalls how her relatives were denied the the right to vote through poll taxes and various tests that were impossible to pass. She remembers as a little girl going to vote with her parents and being chased away by an angry mob. As an young adult she was denied the right to vote by a constitution test, again no one could pass the test.

With her cane to aid her, she climbs higher, energized by the marchers of the Civil Rights Movement despite being met with violence. Knowing that protesters and leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King fought and sacrifices for her civil rights including her right to vote.

She arrives at the polling place, entering the building she recalls the date of August 6, 1965, the day President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.

“And she knows full well she would not be standing here today were it not for the people who died… for her right to vote. Lillian touches her finger to the lever. And because she is a citizen of the United States of America, protected by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

This book was inspired by a real person Lillian Allen who lived in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. She was 100 years old in 2008 when she voted for President Obama and she was an active in encouraging her community to vote. The illustrations, show not only the history of African Americans gaining the right to vote and the hope of every American to fully participate in our democracy.

Shane W Evans

Shane W Evans

 

For creating a book that shares history of the resistance and civil rights, the 2016 Jane Addams Children’s Book Committee awards the Honor Citation in the category of Books for Younger Readers to Lillian’s Right To Vote, published by Schwartz & Wade Books, written by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Shane E. Evans.

Remarks by Ijumaa Jordan, Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards Committee member

committee members

 


The Book Itch

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, and published by Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., is an Honor Book in the Books for Younger Children category. Fueled by determination and belief in the power of words to change lives, Louis Michaux opened the National Memorial African Bookstore in 1930’s Harlem with a handful of books, a storefront, and little capital. Up to and throughout the Civil Rights era, that bookstore became a gathering place for black intellectuals and activists, including Malcolm X and Langston Hughes. This nonfiction picture book shares the courageous story of a bookstore and its founder as they empowered a community.

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie spotlights the power and importance of a true Harlem treasure: The National Memorial African Bookstore. With riveting storytelling and illustrations that capture the mood and tone of this gathering place and time period, readers come to understand that bookstores are invaluable spaces that are about much more than selling books.

R. Gregory Christie

R. Gregory Christie

 

This story is narrated through the eyes of Lewis Jr. who spends time in his home away from home; a “House packed with all the facts about the Blacks all over the world.” This home is The National Memorial African Bookstore, owned by his father Lewis Henri Michaux. Lewis’ father, nicknamed “the professor,” is renown in Harlem, the home of his beloved bookstore and the community he serves. It is here where young Lewis learns about the power of words. It is here where young Lewis learns what it means to be an activist. He helps his father on weekends and in the summer; he pushes a cart filled with books for sale through the community calling “Knowledge is power. You need it every hour. Read a book!” and he helps to raise a platform outside of the store for rallies. In these ways and more, young Lewis participates in the curation of African American history, culture, and the process of creating a space for discourse on the pursuit of freedom and justice.

The National Memorial African Bookstore, also known as “The House of Common Sense and the Home of proper Propaganda” was a haven for all – from Muhammad Ali to Malcolm X to the women, men, and children of Harlem and beyond. Nelson writes, “All kinds of people come to 2107 Seventh Avenue – kids and grow-ups, black folks and white folks, writers and politicians, artists and teachers.” All were welcomed by Lewis Michaux to talk, listen, and to be informed. R. Gregory Christie’s illustrations capture the vibrancy of the people and the bookstore. Gold, magenta, and emerald hues demonstrate the richness of African American culture and they reflect the pulse of the time period and the work for equality led by Michaux and his patrons.

When Malcolm X is killed, young Lewis learns a painful but invaluable lesson; that ideas are powerful– so powerful that they can invoke fear and hatred by others. He learns that the most courageous among us are willing to sacrifice their lives for freedom and truth.

The timeliness of this book is significant. As bookstores, small and large, are closing across the nation, The Book Itch is a reminder of their great value to communities. We are reminded that a bookstore is a house of ideas – those that are bound and shelved and those that are shared freely by the people who gather within them. Further, with continued gentrification of Harlem resulting in rapid changes of its landscape, capturing the rich history and cultural contributions of this place is essential. The Book Itch also demonstrates for young readers that activism is multi-dimensional work. Readers can trace the Black Lives Matter Movement of today to the issues raised during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 60’s to understand that racial injustice is pervasive and persistent.

Just like Lewis Michaux, Sr., Muhammad Ali, and Malcolm X, young Lewis embodies the characteristics of an activist. He is an observer, a listener, a thinker, and a curator of stories who reads books and reads the world to examine the way life works for African Americans. Readers discover that just like young Lewis, anyone who has an “itch” for something they care deeply about can be an activist, too.

It is my pleasure to present the Jane Addams Children’s Book Honor Award to author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrator R. Gregory Christie published by Carolrhoda Books, Lerner Publishing Group for The Book Itch: Freedom’s Truth and Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore.


Honors for Books for Older Children

Full Cicada Moon

Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group LLC, is an Honor Book in the Books for Older Children category. Full Cicada Moon tells in vivid free verse the story of twelve-year-old Mimi who dreams of being an astronaut. It is 1969, and Mimi’s family has just moved from sunny California to frosty New England. Their new community doesn’t know what to make of this family of mixed African-American and Japanese heritage. Mimi especially struggles with her feelings of alienation, but with the help of her parents, she learns how to stand strong in her sense of self and to bring about change in the community.

Mimi’s loving family includes a Japanese mother and a black father – a combination that has never been seen before in the small Vermont town her family has just moved to in 1969. From the beginning Mimi has to navigate a world that gives her no place to be (there is no racial box for her to check on the school form – only “other” which is the same as “insignificant”).

 

Similarly, her heartfelt ambition to become an astronaut is dismissed out of hand by school personnel who believe that women’s roles are clearly defined – and “scientist” is not within those definitions. An uncomfortable environment and microaggressions about being “a credit to her race” do little to help Mimi feel as though she has a space in this new school, or in this town where even her staunchest friends are unable to invite her into their homes.

But Mimi is not without resources. Told she must take home ec instead of shop, she stages her own quiet resistance, and is surprised to discover that she has launched a school-wide movement. Many other girls want to see the rules changed as well, and many boys are thrilled by the chance to take home ec.

Legal changes can be quick, but true social change takes time. Mimi patiently but firmly insists that she is worthy of acceptance, that the minds of the community need be willing to accept differences, and slowly those changes take root. Mimi’s courage and struggles are instantly identifiable. She is not trying to solve national problems or create global change. Instead, we see the power that an individual can wield, responding to injustice to influence a community in important and long-lasting ways.

In a free verse format that is both nuanced and accessible, author Marilyn Hilton gives us a moving story looking at racial prejudice, biracial identity, and stereotypes about gender roles in so many different ways and so personally, with a character who is growing realistically and gaining agency.

For showing us that it’s not a matter of what you are, it is a matter of who you are, we are pleased to present the 2016 Jane Addams Children’s Book Honor Citation in the category of Books for Older Readers to Full Cicada Moon, published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group, written by Marilyn Hilton.

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

Acceptance Remarks by Marilyn Hilton, the author of Full Cicada Moon

I’m so grateful for the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Committee for recognizing Full Cicada Moon as a children’s book that promotes peace. It was an honor to have written a book that, as quoted from your mission statement, “fosters a better understanding between the people of the world toward the end that wars may be avoided and a more lasting peace enjoyed.” Thank you very much.

I also want to thank my editor, Namrata Tripathi, for her tireless effort to help bring this story to life; Katharine MacAnarney, publicist at Penguin, for all her work in introducing this book to the world; and my agent, Josh Adams, who supported this book from the beginning.

Mimi Yoshiko Oliver, the protagonist of Full Cicada Moon was, of course, fictional, but she seemed so real to me as I wrote her story. She’s someone I wish I’d known when I was young—strong, courageous, optimistic in the face of opposition, and steadfastly effecting change—one step at a time—where she saw injustice. Mimi is someone I aspire to be, and through her story I hope children and adults alike will be inspired by her to be change-makers and peacemakers in this world that so desperately needs such minds and hearts.

Thank you again for honoring Full Cicada Moon.

JAPA Board

JAPA Board

 

 

All photos and speeches used with permission.