Remembering Francisco X. Alarcón, Honoring Walter Dean Myers & Mindful Histories of American Slavery in Children’s Books JACBA Newsletter 25Jan2016

Remembering Friend, Mentor and Poet Francisco X. Alarcón

“Thank you for everything, Francisco,” I said as we parted ways. And I like to believe that he understood what I meant by everything: for his exceptional example as a teacher, a writer, an activist, and a mentor. As I move forward on my journey, I know I’m a better person because I learned from people like him how to respect my communities and how to love myself. by RIGOBERTO GONZÁLEZ

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Poems to Dream Together=Poemas Para Soñar Juntos by Francisco X. Alarcón 2006 Awardee


Reynolds, Kiely Win WNDB’s Debut Walter Award

The inaugural Walter Dean Myers Award for outstanding children’s literature in the YA category has been given to All American Boys (S&S/Atheneum/ Dhouly), written by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. All American Boys is the story of two teens, one white, the other black, and the aftermath of an act of police brutality upon one that is witnessed by the other, who flees the scene. We Need Diverse Books’ Walter Award committee announced the winners on Wednesday morning.

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Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam by Walter Dean Myers 2003 Awardee
Now Is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom by Walter Dean Myers 1992 Awardee


Meet Jacqueline Woodson, author of “Brown Girl Dreaming”

The recipient of numerous awards, Woodson is also the author of more than 30 books for all ages, including Miracle’s Boys, From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun, Locomotion, After Tupac & D Foster, Feathers, and Show Way.

Woodson will make a lively presentation and take questions from the audience, followed by a book sale and signing.

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Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson 2013 Awardee
From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jacqueline Woodson 1996 Awardee
I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This by Jacqueline Woodson 1995 Awardee


The Thread Live: 2016 authors announced

The Thread’s 2016 season of author interviews has been announced: Four writers will bring discussions of science, faith and family to the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, beginning in February.

May 9: National Book Award winner Louise Erdrich on “LaRose”

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The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich 2000 Awardee


Celebrating Where I’m From

“I believe that writing belongs to everybody,” George Ella wrote in a recent Creative Commonwealth article about the project. “It’s about getting what’s in your heart and head on paper so that you can understand yourself, so you can save what’s precious to you, and so you can share it if you want. We all have a trove of memories related to where we’re from.”

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You and Me and Home Sweet Home by George Ella Lyon and Stephanie Anderson 2010 Awardee


Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at the New York Historical Society

Author, playwright, and filmmaker Calvin Alexander Ramsey will read his story, Ruth and the Green Book. Calvin Alexander Ramsey is the proud recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major for Justice Award.

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Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend written by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Bettye Stroud, illustrated by John Holyfield, 2012 Awardee
Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey with Gwen Strauss and illustrated by Floyd Cooper 2011 Awardee


Scholastic Halts Distribution of ‘A Birthday Cake for George Washington’

“We do not believe this title meets the standards of appropriate presentation of information to younger children, despite the positive intentions and beliefs of the author, editor and illustrator,” it said in a statement.

While defending the team that produced the book, the publisher said that without more historical background, “the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn.”

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George Washington slave book pulled after criticism

Author Ramin Ganeshram and illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton had written about the historical context in notes accompanying the story, but were criticised for not having included it in the main narrative.

Editor Andrea Davis Pinkney said in her own blog post on the subject that while “the topic of slavery is one that must be handled with the utmost care”, the book “presents an important slice of American history … On several occasions, the book comments on slavery, acknowledges it, and offers children and adults who will be sharing the book ‘a way in’ as they speak to these issues.”

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Andrea Davis Pinkney’s Statement

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney 2011 Awardee
Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride by Andrea Davis Pinkney & Brian Pinkney 2010 Awardee

Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s Statement

We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton 2014 Awardee


13 (Honest) Books About Slavery*

Here are 13 (mostly) (sic) honest books for young readers that will help them confront the unpalatable truth of slavery, and celebrate the ingenuity and strength of those who resisted, escaped and survived.

Moses, A reverent retelling of Harriet Tubman’s brave work on the Underground Railroad, written by Carole Boston Weatherford with luminous illustrations by Kadir Nelson.

Dave the Potter: This meticulous book by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier, celebrates his genius while reminding us that it was no protection from the inhumanity of being “owned.”

Sojourner Truth, like Harriet Tubman, is a great historical figure for kids to start reading about early on. This vibrant picture book by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney celebrates the strength and resourcefulness of Truth in playful, engaging language.

Henry’s Freedom Box: A retelling of the true story of Henry “Box” Brown, written by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, this gorgeous picture book shows Brown’s heartbreaking separation from his wife and children, who are sold to new owners, and his determination to escape by any means.

A saga stretching for generations, Walter Dean Myers’ The Glory Field follows one family from its first ancestor kidnapped and sold into slavery up until five generations later, now free from slavery but still suffering deeply from its wounds.

The protagonist of Christopher Paul Curtis’ Elijah of Buxton is the first person born free in a small community of escaped slaves north of the Canadian border. But unexpected events draw him south, and slowly he begins to discover the truth of the enslaved life his family escaped, and how desperately he values his own freedom.

*Title edited by Webmaster to give a more accurate reflection of the article’s contents.

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Birmingham, 1963 by Carole Boston Weatherford 2008 Awardee
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson 2012 Awardee
The Village That Vanished written by Ann Grifalconi and illustrated by Kadir Nelson 2003 Awardee
Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. written by Doreen Rappaport with artwork by Bryan Collier 2002 Awardee
Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney 2011 Awardee
Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride by Andrea Davis Pinkney & Brian Pinkney 2010 Awardee
Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam by Walter Dean Myers 2003 Awardee
Now Is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom by Walter Dean Myers 1992 Awardee
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis 2006 Awardee
The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis 1996 Awardee

Since 1953, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award annually acknowledges books published in the U.S. during the previous year. Books commended by the Award address themes of topics that engage children in thinking about peace, justice, world community and/or equality of the sexes and all races. The books also must meet conventional standards of literacy and artistic excellence.


A national committee chooses winners and honor books for younger and older children.

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