Video Recording of the Ceremony
Welcome by Heather Palmer
Good afternoon and welcome to each and every one of you! I am so pleased, this afternoon, to honor the people and the stories that connect us and give us reason to gather today. It is meaningful, indeed hope inspiring, to celebrate “Jane Addams’ love for children and humanity, her commitment to freedom and democracy, and her devotion to the cause of world peace.”
My name is Heather Palmer and I am Chair of the 2017 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Committee. It has been an exciting year of great personal and professional growth for me. Today, I have the distinct pleasure of thanking the various groups and individuals who have contributed to our celebration.
First, thank you Tura Campanella Cook, President of the Jane Addams Peace Association, and to the Jane Addams Peace Association Board for sponsorship of the Award. Thanks to the Peace Education Project Committee for their work organizing the today’s program. Thanks, also, to several former chairs and committee members for their continued engagement in this work.
I’d also like to publicly acknowledge a special group of students from Mary White Ovington School who are in attendance with their teacher, Alla Umanskaya, and also the students accompanied by media specialist Jane Barrer from the United Nations International School. These are two of many student groups across the nation who read and discuss the Jane Addams books in their schools.
The Jane Addams Children’s Book Award winners and honor book titles are thoughtfully selected by a national committee. By design, the members of our diverse group reside across the United States, and our deliberations take place virtually. The members of the 2017 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Committee are to be congratulated on a job well done! This year’s committee includes 13 members.
|Unable to join us today are:
Marianne Baker from Virginia,
Kathryn Bruce from Tennessee,
Ilza Garcia from Texas,
Lauren Mayer from Washington
Ijumaa Jordan, from CA
Barbara Ward, from Idaho
|Joining us today are:
Sonja Cherry-Paul and
Jenice Mateo-Toledo from NY,
Susan Freiss from Wisconsin, and
Beth McGowan from Illinois.
From California, Julie Olsen Edwards and
Ann Carpenter, from Massachusetts
Together, these women worked very hard to commend the books that most effectively engage children in thinking about peace, social justice, global community and equity for all people. Thank you each for your careful reading, reflection, and insight.
Finally, thank you to the talented authors and illustrators who gather with us today. Thank you for believing in children and for creating life-changing books that we can place in their hands. They are our greatest hope in realizing Jane Addams’ belief that “true peace is not merely the absence of war, but the presence of justice.”
Without further ado, let’s begin the presentation of the 2017 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award.
Steamboat School: Inspired by a True Story, written by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Ron Husband, published by Disney-Jump at the Sun, an imprint of Disney Book Group, named the Winning Book in the Books for Younger Children category.
Introduction by Sonja Cherry-Paul
Steamboat School: Inspired By A True Story St. Louis, Missouri 1847, the winner in the Books for Younger Children Category, is written by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Rob Husband and published by Disney-Jump at the Sun, an imprint of Disney Book Group.
“We make our own light here,” Reverend John Meachum proclaims. His statement is a powerful metaphor that Deborah Hopkinson and Ron Husband extend across this poignant picture book to juxtapose the oppression of African-Americans with their resilience, determination, ingenuity, and activism. Inside their church, down the basement steps, and into the darkness, the children in this story attend the Tallow Candle School, led by their Reverend John. Through the eyes of a young boy, James, readers discover the importance of education and the measures African-Americans have had to take to learn. By candlelight, James and his peers learn about Reverend John’s life and the injustices he has endured as a slave and even after he earned enough money to buy his freedom. James names the essential qualities he and his peers soon see in Reverend John: “He believed in hard work and learning” and “He believed in us too.”
One day, the sheriff arrives to announce a new law: African-Americans, enslaved or freed, are not allowed to read or write in the state of MIssouri. But Reverend Meachum will not be deterred. “He’s a force like the Mississippi River itself. And like the river, he’ll find a way,” James’ mother consoles. And sure enough, he does. A steamboat, built by Reverend Meachum and anchored in the middle of the Mississippi River becomes the location for the new Freedom School. Outsmarting the racist law by holding school on the river rather than in the state, Reverend Meachum and his students can now get back to work.
With illustrations that glow as if each scene occurs by candlelight, Husband captures the theme of this book: resilience in the face of injustice. Detailed sepia tones are accented by selective uses of red and blue. The illustrations invite readers to ponder about the symbolic colors of our nation that represent freedom and the myriad ways in which for African Americans, this has been denied. Husband’s expressive illustrations and Hopkinson’s lyrical writing work in tandem to spotlight the struggle for justice and the indomitable resolve of Reverend John Meachum.
For creating a book that invites children to consider how people, especially young people, can break cycles of fear and respond creatively, nonviolently, and humanely to injustice and conflict, it is with great pleasure that we present the Jane Addams Children’s Book award, in the books for younger children category, to author Deborah Hopkinson and illustrator Ron Husband.
Acceptance speech by Deborah Hopkinson
Acceptance speech by Ron Husband
Shared by Maria Elias, book designer
Please arrange to have my acceptance speech read in my absence. May the Jane Addams Committee continue to recognize outstanding children’s literature and illustration in the years to come.
“With gratitude and pride I accept the 2017 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for illustrating Steamboat School.
I want to thank the the Jane Addams Committee for recognizing Steamboat School out of the thousands of titles that went to press this past year.
I also want to thank those who made my association with Steamboat School possible and one of the memorable experiences in my life.
-Barbara Nelson who first introduced the project.
-Ken Shue and staff at Disney Publications Word Wide in California.
-Editors Tamson Weston and Rotem Moscovich of Disney/Hyperion Publications New York.
-Author Deborah Hopkinson whose word pictures were the inspiration for my illustrations.
and my wife LaVonne for her continued love and support.
Again, thank you Jane Addams Committee for honoring Steamboat School with this prestigious award.”
Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story, written by Caren Stelson and published by Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, is the 2017 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award winner in the Books for Older Children Category.
Sachiko Yasui was six years old and playing with friends a mere half mile from ground zero when the United States bombed Nagasaki. Thousands, including Sachiko’s brothers, died within days of the blast, while others, including a younger sister and her father, slowly died from cancer. Fifty years later, after a lifetime of isolation and silence directly related to her status as hibakusha, Sachiko comes to a turning point. Drawing strength from her personal teachers of peace–her father, Helen Keller, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.–the adult Sachiko then acts courageously, tells her own story and works publicly to change the world.
Ms. Stelson’s masterful writing, thoughtful selection of quotations and of primary source photographs clearly show, rather than simply tell, what happens when violence rains down on unsuspecting, decent human beings. This documentary moves seamlessly between Japanese history and the personal story of Sachiko’s family. Expertly culling from extensive interviews with Sachiko, Ms. Stelson creates a powerful testament to the importance of peace, giving Sachiko a clear, dignified voice.
Ms. Stelson’s work directly challenges readers to heed advice that Sachiko gives:
Keep pursuing answers to these questions.
What is peace?
What kind of person should I be?
For challenging children to build pathways to peace which are sorely needed at this moment in time, it is my great pleasure to present the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award in the Books for Older Children Category to Caren Stelson.
Acceptance speech by Caren Stelson
I am so grateful to the Committee for selecting SACHIKO as this year’s recipient for the Jane Addams Book Award for Older Children. Thank you, Heather Palmer, committee chair, and all committee members for believing in the importance of Sachiko’s story. Thank you. Thank you.
There are many others involved in my SACHIKO writing journey to thank. Foremost is Sachiko Yasui for trusting me to write her story. From the bottom of my heart, I also thank the members of the St. Paul and Nagasaki Sister City Committees, particularly Dr. Takayuki Miyanishi, Sachiko and my interpreter in Nagasaki and Keiko Kawakami in Minneapolis. Thanks also go to my dear editor Carol Hinz and book designer Danielle Carnito at Carolrhoda/Lerner Publishing Group, and of course to my family. My daughter Beth is in the audience and can bear witness to my own long walk to peace as I wrote Sachiko’s story.
SACHIKO is a story born out of the ashes of nuclear war in the last days of WWII, but I always knew Sachiko’s story was about peace.
From the first time I met Sachiko in 2005 at a peace park in my home city of Minneapolis, I knew Sachiko could be one of my teachers of peace. She had so much to teach me and the rest of the world.
When I listened to Sachiko tell her story for the first time, I was stunned by her survival of the Nagasaki atomic bombing by the United States on August 9, 1945. Sachiko was a little girl, only six years old, playing house outside with her friends, when the second atomic bomb in human history detonated a half mile from where she was playing. Her survival was surely a miracle. But given Sachiko’s unimaginable traumatic experience—her resilience, her empathy for others, her determination, and her deep desire for peace are just as miraculous.
How does one survive such an apocalyptic experience of war at such a young age and still retain one’s resilience, empathy and hope?
I’d like to read you a scene from the book that may answer that question:
This scene takes place after the bombing when nine-year-old Sachiko decides to become a teacher of the war orphans in her neighborhood.
After school, Sachiko would meet a group of war orphans to teach them what she had learned in school that day. She gives each orphan a nail to use as a pencil. The orphans practice writing their names and adding and subtracting by digging in the dirt.
Here’s the poignant part of the scene:
One day Sachiko asked the war orphans, “Where were you when the bomb dropped?”
The children stared at her with empty eyes. They had forgotten. All they could remember were the people they had lost: their brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers.
What would have happened to her if she had lost Mother and Father?
Sachiko didn’t need to ask. She knew the answer.
What could she teach these children that Mother and Father had taught her? What words of her parents would Sachiko never forget? Sachiko gathered the orphans around her and began:
This is the only world we can live in.
Hate only produces hate.
No matter what the circumstances—good or bad—keep your own mind.
Never let anyone scratch your mind.
Pay attention to your teachers.
Your teachers will guide you.
Those words were primarily from her father, a man who never lost his humanity throughout the catastrophe of war and the post-war years. His words give all of us a blue print for our own paths to peace.
By the time I finished interviewing Sachiko, I realized this:
If Sachiko, as a hibakusha, an atomic bomb survivor, could find her voice for peace;
if she could reach for the world’s peacemakers such as Helen Keller, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King and study their works;
If she could speak out boldly for peace by telling her difficult story;
then we too could study peace, find our voices, and work for peace at home, in our schools, in our neighborhoods, the country, the world.
Jane Addams, the “Mother of Social Work,” first president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize winner, is credited with the quote: “True peace is not merely the absence of war, it is the presence of justice.”
If that is the definition of true peace then today we are far from peace. There is no doubt, we are living through difficult, troubled times.
If you have been paying attention to the hot rhetoric of nuclear war coming from Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea and Washington D.C., this war of words is alarming. Knowing Sachiko’s story makes the “war of words” even more frightening,
But there are rays of hope.
Just this month, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN, won the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Peace Prize committee recognized ICAN’s role in achieving the first legally-binding treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. The treaty was signed on July 7 by 122 countries just across the street at the U.N.
I applaud the work of ICAN. I also applaud the work of The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the organization which Jane Addams was its first president. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom is on ICAN’s International Steering Committee and deserves the Nobel Peace Prize too.
What can we all do for peace? That question can be overwhelming. When I’m overwhelmed, I remember Sachiko, my teacher of peace, and her story.
This is the only world we can live in.
Hate only produces hate.
No matter what the circumstances—good or bad—keep your own mind.
Never let anyone scratch your mind.
Pay attention to your teachers.
Your teachers will guide you.
I also remember this: We have no idea what the ripple effect of our efforts will be. We have to trust that what we do can make a difference, that what we do matters.
When I heard Sachiko say, “What happened to me must never happen to you,” and that meant everyone on the planet, I knew I had to write her story. I had no idea what the ripple effect of writing her story would be, but look what has happened. I am here, and Sachiko’s story and the book has gone around the world.
I’ll leave you with the words Sachiko left me—her questions that became the final words for our book.
What is peace?
What kind of person should I be?
Keep pursuing answers to these questions.
I think about those questions every day. I hope you will too.
Thank you very much.
First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial, written by Susan E. Goodman, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books, named an Honor Book in the Books for Younger Children category.
Introduction by Ann Carpenter
“The march towards justice is a long, twisting journey.” The truth of these words is brought to life with lush illustrations and moving text in the story of Sarah Roberts, a young black girl living in Boston in 1847. Denied a place at the local segregated school because she was not white, her parents fought back. It was the first American court case fighting segregation. It was the first case where an African American lawyer argued in front of a state supreme court. It was the first time an African American lawyer and white lawyer worked as a team in court.
And it was the first, of many, civil rights court cases that was lost.
It would have been easy to stop there. To give up hope. To acknowledge that now was the time for change. But Sarah’s family was not ready to stop. They could not give up hope. They knew that for change in the future, action must be taken now. Petitions were made, speeches were circulated, newspaper articles were written. People were talking, and the people could not be ignored forever. In 1855 Boston became the first major American city to officially integrate its schools.
It would be another hundred years before the same could be said of the country as a whole.
As the book so powerfully puts it, the march towards justice may take “three steps forward, one step back”, it may “slow to a standstill, waiting for a better time,” but in the end, “the march cannot be stopped.”
For showcasing how every step, no matter how tiny, brings us forward, for emphasizing that even apparent setbacks continue to reverberate and lead to change, and for doing so with compelling prose and beautifully evocative illustrations, the Committee is pleased to present the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Honor Citation in the category of Books for Younger Children to Susan E. Goodman and E. B. Lewis.
Acceptance speech by Susan E. Goodman
I can’t tell you how pleased I was when Heather Palmer called to tell me about this award. Anyone would be, of course, but especially this writer born and bred in Detroit, only a big lake away from Chicago. Someone who read Jane Addams: Little Lame Girl from the orange biography series as a kid. Someone who got her MA in a social work(ish) aspect of psychology.
But truthfully, that is not how I ended up writing The First Step. Frankly, after decades of living in my new home of Boston, I couldn’t stomach accompanying another set of guests on the Freedom Trail.
So I suggested something new-the Black Heritage Trail, a walking tour focused upon the history of Boston’s African Americans. And the moment the park ranger mentioned Sarah C. Roberts v. City of Boston, I knew I would write about it. I was amazed that I never heard of this lawsuit in which Benjamin and Adeline Roberts refused to let their daughter Sarah attend an inferior school just because of the color of her skin.
Instead they put the city on trial by filing the first legal challenge against segregated schools. Let’s put this in context. This suit took place in the 1840s. Before the Civil War. At a time when ninety percent of African Americans in the United States were slaves, and only two of the remaining ten percent even attended school.
The Roberts lost their case but luckily not their cause. With other people joining in, Boston became the first major American city to integrate its schools in 1855.
In many ways, writing The First Step was also a first step for me. I’ve written many nonfiction books, but I’d never tried to bring a historical figure to life before. And certainly not a girl about whom endless research revealed little more than her birthday and home address.
Luckily I had more knowledge of my book’s other main character: social justice.
Sometimes when writing a book, I find myself struggling to explain something to kids in terms they will understand. So I strip that fact or insight down to its core, and if I’m lucky, I also gain a deeper understanding of something I thought I knew.
Imagine writing a timeline of the history of integration for your back matter. Space is invaluable in a picture book, so you must reduce amazing events-assassinations, revolts, elections, court decisions-down to single sentences. Rereading them, you see the zigzagging history of social change, all the incremental steps made by people on both sides, fighting for their idea of what is right. One side makes enough gains that the other mobilizes and pushes back. It is a tug of war and a war of tugs that happens again and again and again.
So what did I learn-something we should know even better now than ever before? No victory is final; no advance can be taken for granted. Causes and values we hold dear need to be nurtured and supported.
And we must teach them to our children again and again and again. I am so glad that the incomparable E.B. Lewis and I were able to band together to get this message across.
Acceptance speech by E.B. Lewis
First, I’d like to thank the Jane Addams committee members for their recognition of our book First Step. I’d also like to congratulate all the award recipients for their great work! And I want to acknowledge the fantastic team at Bloomsbury: Editors Emily Easton and Sarah Shumway, who signed and saw it though the process. Creative Director Donna Mark and designer Ellice M. Lee, for overseeing and realizing the design. Publisher Cindy Loh, of course. And Beth Eller and Courtney Griffin in Marketing and Publicity.
Collectively they trusted and believed in this project, and had the foresight to see past the mass appeal titles that have become the norm in our industry. And, in this case, they’ve shown the publishing world that there’s a place for quiet stories of lesser known heroes. That books like First Step can win significant awards.
I recall when Susan Goodman first contacted me about this manuscript. I could hear her excitement and enthusiasm through the phone, as she spoke about coming across this amazing but obscure piece of history – about a young African American girl named Sarah Roberts. Sarah lived in Boston during the mid-1800’s. And Susan explained how this courageous little girl and her family set events in motion that would ultimately change and transform an unjust system. And when she finished, the reason for her call was crystal clear. This manuscript had me written all over it. So I’m both grateful and honored, to have been chosen to illustrate this important civil rights story.
Early on I embraced a quote of Mark Twain’s. He said, “the two most important days in one’s life, are the day you were born and the day you realize why you were.” I know, without a doubt, that creating art for children is my true purpose in life. And I think adults too often assume that we empower children. But, in my experience, children find and empower themselves. Our place is to simply provide loving encouragement and the necessary tools. And what better tool than a book a child comes to love. Books like those awarded here, that introduce endless possibilities, inspire imaginations and foster achievement.
I consider myself fortunate to be a part of little Sarah’s continuing living history. And I believe amazing things do come in small packages. That no matter your age, race, or color – with courage and conviction – each one of us can change the world. After all, every achievement – from small to great – begins with an initial first step.
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, written by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley, published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, named an Honor Book in the Books for Younger Children category.
Introduction by Beth McGowan
Our first Honor Book for the Younger Children Award is I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley.
Telling the story of one of the most admirable women living in our nation today, this short biography of the Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, told with a humorous touch, focuses on RBG’s courage to regularly and vocally disagree when power enforces inequality.
Beginning with Ruth’s childhood in Brooklyn, we learn that her mother, Celia Amster Bader, was her inspiration and first taught her to resist. Rather than raise her daughter to find a husband, she raised her to, as Levy says, “go out in the world and do big things.” To facilitate the process, her mother took Ruth to a library above a Chinese restaurant where Ruth read of women heroes. And in one of Elizabeth Baddeley’s lovely illustrations, we see a reading Ruth dreaming of powerful women.
We also learn that Ruth would never forget the signs of exclusion directed at Jews, her people, or others including Mexicans and African-Americans. We see her from a young age strengthening her muscle of resistance. For example, left-handed, she resisted pressure to write with her right hand, a custom quite usual in much of the 20th century. There were other acts of resistance and persistence as well – RBG resisted domesticity: she did not want to take home economics or later learn to cook while she did want to go to law school and practice law. And so she did. We see a woman following her desire, resisting pressure to do otherwise.
Yet, coupled with these rules to effect change is a sense that civility and relationships are always essential. The book posits, as do Ginsburg’s life and behavior, that to disagree on important matters does not preclude friendship. This truth is exemplified in RBG’s relationship with Antonin Scalia, the late right wing Supreme Court Justice with whom she served for so many years. And this tolerance while disagreeing becomes in this picture book, a central tenet of democracy, of peace.
And through it all, Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley create a regular refrain for young people to hear, see and internalize – I dissent, I disagree, I do not concur. Levy couples this drum beat with another memorable phrase underscoring Ginsburg’s steadfastness “to resist and to persist”. These phrases, these central messages to children, are reproduced in the visual rhetoric Baddeley creates with words figuring heavily in the work’s imagery. Thus text and illustrations combine to help children remember and internalize a triple injunction for life – resist, persist, dissent.
For all these reasons, we happily honor I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes her Mark as a 2017 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Honor book.
Acceptance speech by Debbie Levy, Author
Acceptance speech by Elizabeth Baddeley, Illustrator
We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler, written by Russell Freedman, published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, named an Honor Book in the Books for Older Children category.
Introduction by Jenice Mateo-Toledo
Russell Freedman writes:
The year was 1942 and World War II was in its third year, leaflets began to appear mysteriously in mailboxes all over Nazi Germany…. A person could not be too careful. Anyone caught with a seditious leaflet was marked as an enemy of the state and could land in a concentration camp, or worse… Neatly typed documents headed [with]… “Leaflets of the White Rose…” assailed the Nazi dictatorship as evil, denounced Adolf Hitler as a liar and blasphemer, and called on the German people to rise up and overthrow the Nazi regime.“ [but]… Who was the White Rose?…
Russell Freedman expertly utilizes eloquent prose, first hand accounts, and carefully curated black and white images to transport the reader to a time when German citizens were disappearing, when rumors of death camps were swirling, and when speaking out in public would warrant a visit from the Gestapo. It was a time when children were indoctrinated through their participation in the Hitler Youth Program, and the culture of fear and violence permeated every aspect of German life.
Yet… there was resistance.
The Scholl family and their like-minded friends were outraged by the occurrences in their country, and longed for the days when they spoke freely. They would not idly stand by and allow their beloved country to fall unchallenged into the hands of leaders who lost their humanity. No… the culture of fear and intimidation did not stop Hans and Sophie Scholl, along with other youth who attended Munich University. Instead, they met in secret to create the White Rose Student Resistance Movement that focused on publicizing Nazi atrocities and called on citizens to resist the Nazi regime. The students secretly cranked out thousands of leaflets in their hand-operated mimeograph machines and disseminated copies widely. Under the leadership of Hans and Sophie Scholl, this group of brave young students became the conscience of a nation, through printed word, when it appeared that all humanity was lost.
For creating a book that inspires young people to resist tyranny and oppression in our world, for reminding us all about the power of the printed word, and for sharing Han’s final words with us… “Long Live Freedom!”…
I present the Jane Addams Honor Children’s Book Award, in the Books for Older Children Category to Russell Freedman.
Acceptance speech by Dinah Stevenson, Editor at Clarion
Wolf Hollow, written by Lauren Wolk, published by Random House Children’s Books, named an Honor Book in the Books for Older Children.
Introduction by Julie Olsen-Edwards
Wolf Hollow, written by Lauren Wolk and published by Dutton Children’s Books, an imprint of Dutton, Random House is a beautifully written, compelling, coming of age novel set in rural World War II Pennsylvania. It is the story of the damage done by war – even after the soldiers come home; about the power of fear and bias to close the eyes of good people to what is happening around them, and of a young girl’s discovery of her own moral compass and courage.
Almost twelve-year-old Annabelle encounters almost incorrigible cruelty for the first time when a school mate, Betty, focuses on Annabelle and her younger brothers and then places blame on Toby, a troubled, homeless, World War I veteran. As false accusations take hold of the town, Annabelle’s awareness of the world’s unfairness grows and step by step leads her to act according to her deep sense of moral responsibility. Despite supportive parents and her own courageous actions, Annabelle cannot prevent a chain of tragic events, and yet still, she comes to understand her personal need to take a stand and her surprising strengths.
“At times, I was so confused that I felt like the stem of a pinwheel surrounded by whir and clatter. But through that whole unsettling time, I knew that it would simply not do to hide in the barn with a book and an apple and let events and the world plunge forward without me. It would not do to turn twelve without earning my keep, and by that I meant my place, my small authority, the possibility that I would amount to something… The year I turned twelve, I learned that what I said, and what I did mattered”.
In recognition of the beauty of the language, the power of the story, and the deep importance of the message for all of us in these troubled times, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Committee has selected this book for the Honor Award for Older Readers.
Acceptance speech by Lauren Wolk, read by Heather Palmer
Good evening. I wish I could be in New York with you. But I am in northern Maine, part of the Island Readers and Writers program, meeting with children at small, remote schools to talk about the power of words.
I’m a very lucky woman.
I would like to thank the Jane Addams Peace Association and the Award Committee for honoring my novel, Wolf Hollow. I would also like to thank and congratulate all the other honorees for their beautiful and important work. Finally, I would like to recognize the Reverend John Meachum, Sachiko Yasui, Sarah Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Hans and Sophie Scholl, and all the other heroes, both real and fictional, who stand tall in the face of oppression and show us what courage and decency look like.
We need more heroes like them. And we need more books about their accomplishments, and contributions, and sacrifices.
I did not set out to write such a book.
I didn’t sit down at my desk and decide to “effectively engage children in thinking about peace, social justice, global community, and equity for all people.”
I sat down to write a story about a girl named Annabelle and what she would do to protect an innocent man from a terrible bully.
In the process of writing her story, I also tried to honor my mother, and the farm where she grew up, and people who look after each other and stand up for each other despite the risk.
But mostly I just wrote a story.
People ask me how I was able to convey what it feels like to be small and powerless.
I give them two answers.
One: that I am blessed with a long memory. That I remember very clearly what it is to be a child. How it feels to confront difficult choices and challenges. How it feels to be confused, to lack the experience and confidence to deal with scary situations. How frustrating it is to be powerless in the face of injustice.
My second answer is that I don’t need a long memory to know what it’s like to feel small, or powerless, or scared.
I feel that way all the time now. I feel that way every time I watch the news. I feel that way every time I open a newspaper. I feel that way when a school removes To Kill a Mockingbird from the curriculum because it makes people feel uncomfortable.
But I have an antidote.
I follow my characters as they come of age, tap their deepest places, mine resources they didn’t know they had, and discover their best selves.
The beauty of writing their stories is that I, too, get to make such discoveries. I, too, get to grow and evolve. And I, too, get to feel brave, and strong, and tall.
As I said: I am a very lucky woman.
Closing by Susan Griffith
I am proud and pleased to represent the Jane Addams Peace Association at the conclusion of this 65th Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Ceremony. On behalf of the Association,
- Jane Addams and Peg Dunham
For legacies that shape the Award and today’s gathering.
- The 2017 Addams Award Committee,
For dedication and indefatigable work
- The creators of these books
For artistry and commitment to humanity
- Teachers, librarians, child advocates and activists
for bringing these books, these pathways to peace, to children and their adults.
- The young people, especially those in this room,
who deepen understanding of justice in reading these stories with open minds and hearts.
Here is my wish for us:
May the community of today’s gathering boost our spirits and soothe our souls so that we can recommit ourselves to the resistance and action needed to confront and transform present injustices.
To help make my wish come true, I conclude with a reading of a poem that has bolstered me on the mornings, afternoons and evenings that are not as bright and inspiring as today. Liberty by Janet Wong.
by Janet Wong
I pledge acceptance
of the views,
that make us America
To listen, to look,
to think, and to learn
sharing the earth