Truth, Humor, and Golden Storytelling: The Riches of Children’s Literature #JACBA Newsletter 17Nov2017

Book Highlight: part 2

This second installment of our multi-part series on the 2017 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Ceremony features an introduction given by Book Award Committee Member Ann Carpenter for 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.

Thank you.

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.

Thank you.

Children’s Books Promoting Peace Honored at 2017 Jane Addams Award Ceremony

With the international flags of the United Nations fluttering in the background, the Jane Addams Peace Association presented the organization’s 65th annual book awards in a ceremony at the UN Plaza in New York City.

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Truth, Humor, and Golden Storytelling: Bank Street Book Festival 2017

The Bank Street Book Festival, an annual gathering of authors, illustrators, educators, and other children’s book professionals was held at Bank Street College of Education in Manhattan on October 28. The event featured a full day of panel discussions on topics relating to children’s literature and a keynote address from author Carmen Agra Deedy.

Deedy commented on the wisdom behind humor: “The king’s fool has always been the most powerful person in the kingdom,” she said. The fool knows that humor is mined from painful, strange, and “crazy places… We’re always looking for funny because life can be so hard, so excruciating at times.” Humor is sometimes the only way to ameliorate the pain of life’s “little wounds.”

Deedy delivered a rousing and emotional keynote address. She spoke about how small events in the life of a child can have enormous impact, shaping that child into a lifelong reader, for example, or-in her case-a storyteller.

“Sometimes we see the trajectory of a child’s life,” she said. “And we see that all they need is to turn a degree or two this way and they’ll miss the wall. Sometimes, they fly.”

Deedy’s keynote was a fitting finale to a book fest filled with humor, personal reflections, and insights into where and how the stories that most move us are made.

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The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy 2001 Awardee

Acclaimed Children’s Author Brings Civil Rights Era to Life in New Book, “Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961”

From the award-winning author of “Black & White,” comes the latest in Larry Dane Brimner’s 200 books for young readers. The retired educator has featured both fictional and real people from history in his many books. Although aimed at middle school readers, “Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961” is nonfiction, and it is a revelation for all ages.

School Library Journal also recommends “Twelve Days in May”. “Brimner, author of several other books about civil rights in this era, knows the material well and presents a straightforward narrative … VERDICT: An essential part of civil rights collections and a worthy addition to all nonfiction shelves.”

Among Brimner’s other Civil Rights books written for middle school readers: “Birmingham Sunday” was a Jane Addams Children’s Honor Book, an NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor Book, and a Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book of the Year. “We are One” was a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Winner.

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We Are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin by Larry Dane Brimner 2008 Awardee

Birmingham Sunday by Larry Dane Brimner 2011 Awardee

Picture books help children tackle life

‘In Your Hands’ By Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Brian Pinkney, Atheneum Books, 32 pp., $17.99, Ages 4-7

Carole Boston Weatherford brings forth this sentimental picture book about an African American mother praying for her newborn son, Omari, as he moves from infancy into adolescence. The mother knows those precious moments of cradling him and holding his hand won’t last. She turns to a belief in God to help soothe her concerns about his place in the world. “I will pray that the world sees you as a child of God … that you will be viewed as a vessel to be steered rather than feared.” The book is beautifully illustrated by Brian Pinkney, who has received two Caldecott Honors and the Coretta Scott King Award for illustration.

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Birmingham, 1963 by Carole Boston Weatherford 2008 Awardee

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney 2011 Awardee

Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride, by Andrea Davis Pinkney & Brian Pinkney 2010 Awardee

Why Angelina Jolie’s New Movie ‘The Breadwinner’ Is Just Like A Modern ‘Mulan’ – EXCLUSIVE CLIP

No genre does girl power quite like animation. And The Breadwinner, a new film produced by Angelina Jolie, is looking to add to that legacy. The animated movie, based on the young adult book by Deborah Ellis, tells the story of Parvana, a young girl growing up in Afghanistan who decides to prented to be a boy to help her family survive after her father gets arrested by the Taliban.

However, it would be a mistake to say that The Breadwinner is just Mulan set in Afghanistan, because The Breadwinner does something Mulan did not, and that is to set the narrative about misogyny and sexism in modern times.

In fact, the film itself is a step forward when it comes to women’s equality in the film industry. In addition to boasting Jolie as a producer, The Breadwinner was written by women – Ellis adapted her original book with co-screenwriter Anita Doron – and helmed by a female director, Nora Twomey. Such strong female representation behind the camera is rare in Hollywood, especially when coupled with a female-driven story. The Breadwinner is something of a Hollywood unicorn.

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The Heaven Shop by Deborah Ellis 2005 Awardee

The Breadwinner Trilogy, three books by Deborah Ellis 2004 Awardee

Parvana’s Journey by Deborah Ellis 2003 Awardee

2 New Books Look at Motherhood in the Age of Apocalypse

Louise Erdrich’s Future Home of the Living God (Harper).

The Handmaid’s Tale-like setup provides a fresh, eerie canvas for Erdrich’s enduring themes: the “collage of dreams and DNA” we inherit and pass on to our children, the normalization of appalling cruelty, and a certain human irreducibility that persists in spite of it all.

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The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich 2000 Awardee

Christopher Paul Curtis: From Factory Worker To Children’s Book Author [AUDIO]

Finding your true calling can take years, even decades. Children’s book author Christopher Paul Curtis found his calling in his 40s. After spending more than a decade working at a Detroit car factory, he began writing young adult fiction about the African-American experience. He was the first American man to win the Newbery Medal literary prize.

We talked with Christopher Paul Curtis ahead of his appearance Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. at Holy Trinity Parish Episcopal Church in Decatur.

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Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis 2008 Awardee

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis 1996 Awardee

Free Vienna Event: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Biographers
Two biographers will discuss writing about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Vienna bookstore.

Mary Hartnett and Debbie Levy will talk about the delights and challenges of writing about Ginsburg and share little-known stories.

Levy is the author of New York Times best-selling children’s book “I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark.” The book the 2017 Sydney Taylor Book Award and 2016 National Jewish Book Award. Levy is a former lawyer and newspaper editor and has written several award-winning nonfiction and fiction books for young people.

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I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, written by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley, 2017 Awardee

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

Irish woman collaborated with Angelina Jolie on new animated film

Twomey worked at Brown Bag before setting up Cartoon Saloon with Young and Moore. When she came across the novel The Breadwinner, she endeavoured to bring it to the screen in a journey that has taken four years.

“Deborah Ellis has a wonderful way of writing about challenging subject matters in a way that’s not sentimental, but at the same time is quite respectful of the audience she’s writing for.

“I read it in an evening, absolutely fell in love with the character of Parvana and the fact that she was flawed. This very human character in very extraordinary circumstances.

“In some senses her life was very alien to mine, but in other senses there were things that I understood very well, in terms of the family dynamic and how much she loved her father. These little things that we all understand.”

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The Heaven Shop by Deborah Ellis 2005 Awardee

The Breadwinner Trilogy, three books by Deborah Ellis 2004 Awardee

Parvana’s Journey by Deborah Ellis 2003 Awardee

Fall’s evening light presents new art viewing opportunities

On Nov. 10, the Wells Gallery showcases the work of E.B. Lewis in the exhibit “Freedom Outlaws.” A painter of distinguished realism, Lewis is the featured artist at the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center Museum, a museum opening in March 2018. Lewis paints images of the residents and major leaders in the Niagara Falls area who contributed to the significance of the Underground Railroad.

Paintings of historical figures aren’t new, but Lewis, painting in watercolor, imbues them with a vitality and spirit that is seen in the subjects’ faces. Capturing images of historical figures is a giant task that, to me, appears overwhelming and daunting. But Lewis’ paintings, on display in their original form at The Wells Gallery, are a treasure of living history and a poignant, colorful addition to gallery.

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First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial, written by Susan E. Goodman, illustrated by E. B. Lewis, 2017 Awardee

Each Kindness written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis 2013 Awardee

Night Boat to Freedom, written by Margot Theis Raven with pictures by E. B. Lewis 2007 Awardee

Renamed Justice High Honors 3 Landmark Figures

With the renaming of J.E.B. Stuart High School to Justice High School, the Fairfax County School Board made a statement that they intend to right the wrongs of the board from nearly 60 years ago.

The name Justice is a concept term meant to honor three individuals who were highlighted by the community – Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, civil rights activist Barbara Rose Johns and war hero Louis G. Mendez, Jr.

The next figure, Barbara Rose Johns, was 16 years old when she led a walk out of the all-Black Moton High School that she attended in Prince Edward County. Tired with the segregated and unequally maintained facilities compared to those of her white neighbors, Johns led a walkout and strike in 1951. That led to the lawsuit for an integrated school system that was eventually bundled under Brown v. Board.

“She played a direct role in the desegregation of our neighborhood,” Ken Longmyer, father of a Stuart alumnus and one current student, said. “She was one of the great American heroes.”

Though Johns advocates are lukewarm on the board’s decision to opt for Justice instead of specifying one individual.

Not one of the 20 Fairfax County high schools is named after a woman or a person of color – Longmyer believed that these two criteria had merit for the new name.

Shareem Annan, the Fairfax County NAACP Youth Advisor, thinks that naming the school after Johns would have allowed the county to make a decisive statement about the courage and leadership of women and girls while simultaneously disavowing one of the relics of the county’s segregationist past.

Furthermore, the role Johns played in racially integrating Northern Virginia, let alone the entire Commonwealth of Virginia and to a greater extent, the country as a whole, is why Longmyer believes the civil rights activist alone would’ve been a worthy recipient of the renaming honors at the new school.

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The Girl From the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the advent of the Civil Rights Movement by Teri Kanefield 2015 Awardee

Edwidge Danticat announced as winner of $50,000 Neustadt International Prize for Literature at OU

“Danticat experiments with form and structure and frequently references the literary history of Haiti and the Caribbean” the release notes. “She paints scenes of immigrant life in New York and Miami with fresh details and palpable familiarity.”

Robert Con Davis-Undiano, World Literature Today’s executive director, said in the release that Danticat is a “master writer whose newest work promises even greater heights.”

The Neustadt Prize is the first international literary award of its scope to originate in the U.S., the release states, and is one of the only international prizes available to poets, novelists and playwrights.

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Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation written by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Leslie Staub 2016 Awardee

Challenged books show the controversy in American society

According to research conducted by The New School in New York, exposing children to literature can teach them to be more empathetic and better equipped to process their own emotions. The extensive research pulled from five studies used varied reading materials and 86 to 356 children. The participants who read non-fiction had little or no change in their ability to perceive other’s emotions. The greatest change came after a group read excerpts from works of literary fiction, such as “The Round House” by Louise Erdrich.

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The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich 2000 Awardee

What Katherine Paterson Thinks We Can Learn From Cuba

Paterson’s latest work draws from a period she didn’t know very much about. She had traveled to Cuba once and had fallen in love with the landscape and the Cuban friendliness. But when she told her friend Mary Leahy (sister of Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy), who had been the director of Central Vermont Adult Basic Education, she learned about Castro’s 1960s campaign to eradicate illiteracy. To do so, an army of volunteers fanned out across the island nation, spending a year teaching reading and writing. In return, they were offered free schooling, both at the high school and university level. The idea captured Paterson’s imagination and her research led her to her latest novel.

Instead, she sees the swirl of history as a natural place for the drama of this coming of age story to unfold.

“We don’t always like to hear good things about our enemies,” she says. “But I think the world would be a better place if we did.”

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The Same Stuff as Stars by Katherine Paterson 2003 Awardee

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson 1979 Awardee

Louise Erdrich discusses her new novel, ‘Future Home of the Living God’

“I wanted to explore what a public creature you become when you’re pregnant, how everybody puts their hands on you, you’re vulnerable to an extreme degree when you’re pregnant.” Cedar’s flight and her adventures are, Erdrich acknowledges, an epic journey with an expectant mother at its center – and when was the last time you saw that?

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The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich 2000 Awardee

Katherine Paterson’s latest book for kids is inspired by real-life history

Paterson first learned about the brigidistas in 2015, when she was getting ready for a trip to Cuba to attend an international books conference.

“I didn’t know anything about the campaign,” she said. So she read a book about it, then watched the 2011 documentary “Maestra,” which tells the story of nine women who volunteered for the campaign when they were young girls.

“I was so inspired by these women and by what they did,” Paterson said. “They all praised that year as a turning point for their lives, when they found out what they could do when they realized they could be strong people and accomplish things.”

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The Same Stuff as Stars by Katherine Paterson 2003 Awardee

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson 1979 Awardee

Architect, author and artist building home in Malvern

Ashok “Art” Davar infuses his architectural designs with a European flair, as is fitting for a man who grew up in Europe and India, the son of an Indian mother and French father. Davar, who now divides his time between Paoli, England and India, is building a house in Malvern to serve as his U.S. home.

Another Davar book, “The Wheel of King Asoka” won the Jane Addams Children’s Book award in 1978.

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The Wheel of King Asoka written by Ashok Davar 1978 Special Recognition Awardee

The Jane Addams Children’s Book Award annually recognizes children’s books of literary and aesthetic excellence that effectively engage children in thinking about peace, social justice, global community, and equity for all people.

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