Catching Up

sparky & Tommy

I said in my recent post about the word “exotic” that I would recap my thoughts from the Children’s Literature Association conference, but things have piled up since then! Apologies to my readership.

So instead, I will post links to an ongoing conversation that includes my good friend Dr. Thomas Crisp – I figure this sort of makes up for the lack of a ChLA post because we hung out at ChLA ^.^

These four conversations, among many, are really interesting to read consecutively. I hope you’ll read them in depth, but basically here’s an incredibly bare bones outline: Aronson states that creating children’s literature awards for which one criteria is that the author be a member of the community that the award reflects actually results in books being recognized for qualities outside of the book itself. Pinkney responded to Aronson, and I’ll just quote her: “Little is being taken from white writers who cannot receive a CSK or Pura Belpré Award, but denigrating these awards because of their criteria takes something significant from the members of communities who can win these prizes. Attacking these awards insults the creative talents of those who have won these prizes and the committees who work so hard to select the winners for their works.”

Mind you, Aronson and Pinkney had this conversation in 2001.

Fast forward to 2010, when Ellen Wittinger writes an article in The Horn Book Magazine that even though she is an author of both LGBTQ and straight stories, because she identifies as straight, she is no longer eligible for the Lambda award – and she’s sort of whining about it.

Arthur Levine, editor of Arthur A. Levine Books (Harry Potter! Lisa Yee! Scholastic!), commented on her article, stating:

I think it’s a good, valid, and fair thing for any group to establish an award that recognizes the contributions of people in that group. I also think that it’s a fantastic thing to encourage the production of literature that reflects the true diversity of our culture, and speaking for myself, from a multiple-minority perspective, I’m only concerned with how real, how authentic the characters (and their settings) FEEL to me, which has more to do with the writer’s skill and empathy and sensitivity than anything else. (In other words, Ellen, you’re exactly gay enough for me!)

I guess, from my perspective as an editor and a reader, I also see, in practical terms, how far we have to go before our literature even begins to reflect the complex world of TODAY, let alone the comfortably integrated, harmonious world I wish my child to see.

And then my good friend Dr. Thomas Crisp commented on Levine’s blog:

I think it is outrageous for Wittlinger to claim that “as a straight author I am at a disadvantage when it comes to announcing my books to their intended audience.”

Wittlinger claims that “I was just too darn gay for that town.” The problem was that her books were too gay. It’s clear that her sexual identity was widely known–even the head librarian states he notified the district office that she was married to a man and had two children. She was not too gay–that treatment was not about her, it was about her books. LGBT authors face this discrimination about their books and about who they are as people. Wittlinger identifies half her novels in print as having LGBT content, which means that half her books depict normative sexual identities: she can be invited to schools and libraries on the basis or recognition of those books.

Well said, Thomas, well said.

I’m really interested in following this conversation because I’ve recently stepped down from serving on the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award committee (because I’ve served 4 years and need to focus on writing, not because I don’t love the award!), which has absolutely no stipulation about an author’s background or insider/outsider anything, and have already served one year on the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association’s Literary Awards committee. APALA’s goal is “to honor and recognize individual work about Asian/Pacific Americans and their heritage, based on literary and artistic merit” and our guidelines state, in contrast to the Coretta Scott King and Pura Belpré stipulations, that “Works must be related to Asian/Pacific Heritage, not necessarily written by or illustrated by an Asian/Pacific American. The individual must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident” (bold emphasis mine). When I realized this, I was really sad because I would like for our award to honor both a member of our community and the stories we tell. It’s not about being essentialist, but about honoring those in our community who may not be recognized by society at large – which is still mostly white.

Anyway, I’ve given you a tiny snapshot, and the conversation is still going over at Levine’s blog, (including responses by Wittinger herself) so please take the time to read through the comments. And enjoy the photo – I hardly post photos, but I couldn’t resist on this one!

Social Justice in Children’s & YA Literature Reading List

You asked for it! These are the books I’m teaching summer 2010 in my Social Justice in Children’s & YA Literature course. I welcome your feedback.

Course Overview

Students in this course will learn how to select, read, evaluate and analyze depictions and aspects of social justice and injustice in children’s and young adult literature. Through various genres of literature intended for both the child and adolescent reader, students will develop an informed awareness of the complex perspectives, uses and boundaries of literature and will learn to recognize and analyze how adolescent and children’s literature depict stories related to social justice, tolerance, equality and social change.

We will engage in a variety of teaching/learning methods to cover the course material, including but not limited to: lecture, small/large group discussions, independent and group projects, written and oral presentations.

Course Objectives

  • To gain an understanding of the history of social justice-related children’s literature;
  • To become familiar with a range of authors, works, genres and media depicting social justice issues for youth;
  • To gain experience in discussing, evaluating and promoting children’s literature/resources that depict social justice issues;
  • To learn strategies for connecting young people with social justice literature;
  • To identify and discuss literary and societal trends and social justice issues (war, refugee, migration, class, gender, etc) represented in materials for youth.

By successfully finishing this course, students will be able to select, evaluate, and recommend a variety of materials depicting social justice issues for young audiences.

Reading List

  1. Alarcon, Francisco X.  Animal Poems of the Iguazu.  Children’s Book Press, 2008.  ISBN 978-0892392254
  2. Anderson, M.T.  The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I:  The Pox Party.  Candlewick Press, 2006.  ISBN 978-0-7636-3679-1
  3. Barakat, Ibtisam.  Tasting the Sky:  A Palestinian Childhood.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.  ISBN 978-0374357337
  4. Bausum, Ann.  Denied, Detained, Deported:  Stories from the Dark Side of American Immigration.  National Geographic Books, 2009.  ISBN 978-1426303326
  5. Bausum, Ann.  With Courage and Cloth:  Winning the Fight for a Woman’s Right to Vote.  National Geographic Children’s Books, 2004.  ISBN 978-0792276470
  6. Brannen, Sarah S.  Uncle Bobby’s Wedding.  Putnam, 2008.  ISBN 978-0399247125
  7. Boyne, John.  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.  David Flicking Books, 2007.  ISBN 978-0385751537
  8. Bruchac, Joseph. Sacajawea.  Graphia, 2008.  ISBN 978-0152064556
  9. Burg, Ann E.  All the Broken Pieces.  Scholastic, 2009.  ISBN 978-0545080927
  10. Cali, Davide and Serge Bloch.  The Enemy.  Schwartz and Wade, 2009.  ISBN 978-0375845000
  11. Carlson, Nancy Savage.  The Family Under the Bridge.  HarperCollins, 1989.  ISBN 978-0064402507
  12. Choldenko, Gennifer.  Al Capone Does My Shirts.  Puffin, 2006.  ISBN 978-0142403709
  13. Cottin, Marena.  The Black Book of Colors.  Groundwood Books, 2008.  ISBN 978-0888998736
  14. Curtis, Christopher Paul.  Elijah of Buxton.  Scholastic, 2009.  ISBN 78-0439023450
  15. Engle, Margarita.  The Surrender Tree.  Square Fish, 2010.  ISBN 978-0312608712
  16. Gonzalez, Lucia.  The Storyteller’s Candle.  Children’s Book Press, 2008.  ISBN 978-0892392223
  17. Haskins, Jim.  Delivering Justice:  W.W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights.  Candlewick Press, 2008.  ISBN 978-0763638801
  18. Hoose, Phillip.  Claudette Colvin:  Twice Toward Justice.  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2009.  ISBN 978-0374313227
  19. Lester, Julius.  Let’s Talk About Race.  Amistad, 2008.  ISBN 978-0064462266
  20. Lester, Julius.  Sam and the Tigers.  Puffin, 2000.  ISBN 978-0140562880
  21. Lloyd, Saci.  The Carbon Diaries 2015.  Holiday House, 2009.  ISBN 978-0823421909
  22. Lord, Michelle.  A Song for Cambodia.  Lee & Low Books, 2008.  ISBN 978-1600601392
  23. Lowry, Lois.  The Giver.  Delacorte Books, 2006.  ISBN 978-0385732550
  24. Lyon, George Ella. You and Me and Home Sweet Home.  Athenuem/ Richard Jackson Books, 2009.  ISBN 978-0689875892
  25. Mahy, Margaret.  The Seven Chinese Brothers.  Scholastic, 1992.  ISBN 978-0590420570
  26. Messinger, Carla.  When the Shadbush Blooms.  Tricycle Press, 2007.  ISBN 978-1582461922
  27. Mochizuko, Ken.  Baseball Saved Us.  Lee & Low Books, 1995.  ISBN 978-1880000199
  28. Myers, Walter Dean.  Autobiography of My Dead Brother.  Amistad, 2006.  ISBN 978-0060582937
  29. Nivola, Claire A.  Planting the Trees of Kenya:  The Story of Wangari Maathai.  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008.  ISBN 978-0374399184
  30. O’Brien, Anne Sibley.  After Gandhi:  One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance.  Charlesbridge Publishing, 2009.  ISBN 978-1580891295
  31. Park, Linda Sue.  When My Name was Keoko.  Yearling, 2004.  ISBN 978-0440419440
  32. Perkins, Mitali.  Rickshaw Girl.  Charlesbridge Publishing, 2008.  ISBN 978-1580893091
  33. Pinkey, Andrea Davis.  Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride.  Hyperion, 2009.  ISBN 978-0786807673
  34. Ryan, Pam Munoz.  Esperanza Rising.  Scholastic, 2002.  ISBN 978-0439120425
  35. Sanchez, Alex.  Rainbow Boys.  Simon Pulse, 2003.  ISBN 978-0689857706
  36. Shea, Pegi Deitz.  Tangled Threads:  A Hmong Girl’s Story.  Clarion, 2003.  ISBN 978-0618247486
  37. Tingle, Tim.  Crossing Bok Chitto.  Cinco Puntos Press, 2008.  ISBN 978-19336932
  38. Tohe, Laura.  No Parole Today.  West End Press, 1999.  ISBN 978-0931122934
  39. Weatherford, Carole Boston.  Moses:  When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom.  Hyperion, 2006.  ISBN 978-0786851751
  40. Woodson, Jacqueline.  From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun.  Scholastic, 1995.  ISBN 7807300599
  41. Wright, Bil.  When the Black Girl Sings.  Simon Pulse, 2009.  ISBN 978-1416940036
  42. Yep, Laurence.  The Traitor (1885):  Golden Mountain Chronicles.  HarperCollins, 2004.  ISBN 978-0060008314
  43. Yoo, Paula.  Shining Star:  The Anna May Wong Story.  Lee & Low Books, 2009.  ISBN 978-1600602597


Lots and lots of good news lately. First, we (and by we I mean me, my awesome graduate assistant, and a host of dedicated Asian Pacific American librarians) have been working super hard on the ALA Family Literacy Focus APALA children’s literature bibliography! It’s coming along pretty well, and I’m excited to see our final product.

Second, APALA has announced the winners of the 2010 APALA Literature Awards! The official announcement is posted at the ALA website. Congratulations to the winners! Tofu Quilt is my personal favorite 🙂 Yay for literacy!

And third, today I gave a presentation at my university’s first Scholars’ Circle, an event where faculty are invited to share their research projects. I was totally nervous because it was the first time I’ve shared my dissertation research with the larger faculty, but I got great feedback and made some good connections.

All in all, it’s been a great week. I love my job.

Newberies, Caldecotts and More!

The ALA Awards were announced this morning!!! Check out the official ALA press release and the ALA blog announcing the winners.  Here’s a preview of some of the 2010 winners:

John Newbery Medal for most outstanding contribution to children’s literature
“When You Reach Me,” written by Rebecca Stead, is the 2010 Newbery Medal winner. The book is published by Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books.

Four Newbery Honor Books also were named: “Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice” by Phillip Hoose and published by Melanie Kroupa Books/Farrar Straus Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group; “The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate” by Jacqueline Kelly and published by Henry Holt and Company; “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” by Grace Lin and published by Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers; and “The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg” by Rodman Philbrick and published by The Blue Sky Press, An Imprint of Scholastic Inc.

Randolph Caldecott Medal for most distinguished American picture book for children
“The Lion & the Mouse,” illustrated and written by Jerry Pinkney, is the 2010 Caldecott Medal winner. The book was published by Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers.

Two Caldecott Honor Books also were named: “All the World,” illustrated by Marla Frazee, written by Liz Garton Scanlon and published by Beach Lane Books; and “Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors,” illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Joyce Sidman and published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults
“Going Bovine,” written by Libba Bray, is the 2010 Printz Award winner. The book is published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House.

Four Printz Honor Books also were named: “Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith” by Deborah Heiligman, published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group; “The Monstrumologist” by Rick Yancey, published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Group; “Punkzilla” by Adam Rapp, published by Candlewick Press; and “Tales of the Madman Underground: An Historical Romance, 1973” by John Barnes, published by Viking Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group.

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults

“Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal,” written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, is the King Author Book winner. The book is illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, published by Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.

One King Author Honor Book was selected: “Mare’s War” by tanita s. davis and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award
“My People,” illustrated by Charles R. Smith Jr., is the King Illustrator Book winner. The book was written by Langston Hughes and published by ginee seo books, Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

One King Illustrator Honor Book was selected: “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” illustrated by E. B. Lewis, written by Langston Hughes and published by Disney – Jump at the Sun Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group.

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award
“The Rock and the River,” written by kekla magoon, is the Steptoe winner. The book is published by Aladdin, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.

Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement
Walter Dean Myers is the winner of this first-ever Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. The award pays tribute to the quality and magnitude of beloved children’s author Virginia Hamilton. Myers’ books include: “Amiri & Odette: A Love Story,” published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic; “Fallen Angels,” published by Scholastic Press; “Monster,” published by Amistad and HarperTeen, imprints of HarperCollins Publishers; and “Sunrise Over Fallujah,” published by Scholastic Press.

Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award honoring a Latino writer and illustrator whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience

“Book Fiesta!: Celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day; Celebremos El día de los niños/El día de los libros,” illustrated by Rafael López, is the Belpré Illustrator Award winner. The book was written by Pat Mora and published by Rayo, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Three Belpré Illustrator Honor Books were selected: “Diego: Bigger Than Life,” illustrated by David Diaz, written by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand and published by Marshall

Cavendish Children; “My Abuelita,” illustrated by Yuyi Morales, written by Tony Johnston and published by Harcourt Children’s Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; and “Gracias Thanks,” illustrated by John Parra, written by Pat Mora and published by Lee & Low Books Inc.

Pura Belpré (Author) Award
“Return to Sender,” written by Julia Alvarez, is the Belpré Author Award winner. The book is published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books.
Two Belpré Author Honor Books were named: “Diego: Bigger Than Life,” written by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, illustrated by David Diaz and published by Marshall Cavendish Children; and “Federico García Lorca,” written by Georgina Lázaro, illustrated by Enrique S. Moreiro and published by Lectorum Publications Inc.

“Speaking Out,” by Nikki Grimes


Moses, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Moses, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

From “Speaking Out,” Nikki Grimes’ article in The Horn Book:

I’ve met a good many people who have served on Caldecott committees over the years, all lovely men and women, to be sure. A few of them I’ve even had the pleasure to call friends. I appreciate their tireless service to the children’s book community. But I have one burning question for Caldecott committees, past and present: if this nation can manage to put a black man in the Oval Office, why can’t the Caldecott committee see its way clear to give the Caldecott medal to an individual artist of African descent?

Read the rest of the article here.

Someone sent out this link on Child_Lit and asked for thoughts. I had read it already, a couple days ago, when it was posted on someone’s blog. My response to the Child_Litter was:

I was very sad that Moses did not win the Caldecott Award in 2007, and although I love Henry’s Freedom Box, I’m a little more understanding of Hugo Cabret’s win in 2008.

Related, I wish Laurence Yep had won the Newbery award for Dragowings. I also feel it’s “time” but the tricky thing is that we don’t want to award them because it’s “time” but because their work for that year is truly deserving (which, I think, Moses was.)

I’m looking forward to hearing other people’s responses to this article.