Promoting Peace

Margarita Engle, author of The Surrender Tree 


Margarita Engle, author of The Surrender Tree


This might seem like a strange title for an almost-post ALA blog entry, but thoughts of how to promote peace have been swimming around my mind for the past few days. One of my favorite parts of ALA is the exhibit hall; every publisher imaginable converged in one location! What a dream. It was great walking around and seeing all the new children’s and young adult books for 2009 and those planned for 2010. However, I was greatly saddened that while many of the books were advertised with signs reading, “Kirkus Starred Review!” or “Notable” or “Newbery,” etc., only one book was labeled as a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award winner. There were even some publisher reps who didn’t know what the JACBA stands for when I asked if they had any books we might consider for 2010.

I met Margarita Engle, author of The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom, this morning and told her I was on the Jane Addams committee. She broke into a smile, immediately arose, and came around the table to give me a hug. She said, “I’m so glad your committee consider this a book about peace, and not war.” The Surrender Tree received many awards, among them both the Newbery Honor and the Pura Belpré Medal. Interestingly, the Henry Holt & Co. website lists many of its medals but not the Jane Addams.

Why is this?

I really hope that in the coming years, our committee will work very hard to promote peace, tolerance, and social justice through excellent books for young people. At the same time, I hope more publishers will put our JACBA stickers on their covers, place a JACBA bookmark or sign by the winners, and talk up those books with potential buyers and readers. I hope educators will use these books in their classrooms and libraries. And I hope that young people will be excited to read these books, and excited about the possibilities of living and experiencing and promoting peace and social justice in their own lives.