Reading the World, the Globe, and the Cosmos

In the month of August, I am blogging on WOW Currents. You can access today’s post “Inquiry into Nonfiction and Informational Global Literature Focused on Prejudice and Discrimination against Children and Teens.”

Each of the four August School Librarian Leadership blog posts are focused on professional books related to the WOW Currents posts

Along with members of the Worlds of Words (WOW) Board of Advisors, I have been engaged in a monthly professional book study of Suzanne Choo’s Reading the World, the Globe, and the Cosmos: Approaches to Teaching Literature for the Twenty-first Century. The other members of the study group regularly teach children’s and young adult literature in universities across the U.S. and in Mexico. As a library science professor who mostly teaches courses related to school librarian leadership and instructional partnerships, I have rarely had the opportunity to focus on literature per se in my teaching.

This summer, I taught “IS445: Information Books and Resources for Youth” for graduate students pursuing degrees and certifications as school librarians and children’s and teen public librarians. I joined the WOW professional book study group in order to consider ways to privilege global literature in IS445. In our course, we defined global literature as a comprehensive term that encompasses both international and multicultural literature that “honors and celebrates diversity, both within and outside the United States, in terms of culture, race, ethnicity, language, religion, social and economic status, sexual orientation, and physical and intellectual ability” (Hadaway and McKenna, 4-5).

In Reading the World, the Globe, and the Cosmos: Approaches to Teaching Literature for the Twenty-first Century, Suzanne Choo critiques pedagogical approaches to teaching literature in English: nationalistic, world, global, and cosmopolitan. My interpretation of Choo’s framework for pedagogical criticism is that it centers on approaches informed by conceptual values that are shaped by global and nation-state forces that create “global waves” that extend beyond the classroom, geographic region, world, and globe (see Figure 1.2 on page 23).

Nationalistic Approaches
Choo makes a strong case for the historical impermanence of the borders of nation-states. She notes that, in the past, we have misguidedly examined literacy texts as representative of nations of the world when national boundaries and the movement of people across them has always been dynamic. With that understanding, there have always been “interpretive communities” that have assigned meaning and value to texts, privileging some over others. Choo offers publishers, reviewers, and award committees as examples of entities/people who mediate between texts and readers. What is “beautiful” art or “good” literature has always been judged based on changing mores and values bounded by cultural considerations. In that light, readers can and must take a critical stance regarding what has previously and is currently considered the “best” texts.

Literacy educators (including librarians) also serve as mediators who select, promote, employ, and privilege certain texts for student engagement. They also intervene in readers’ motivation or deeper understanding of texts through various instructional strategies. School- or institution-level decisions also come into play in terms of what texts are sanctioned or “acceptable.” Although the number of traditionally published books that meet the needs of readers in our increasingly multicultural U.S. society are growing, they are insufficient. Today’s preK-12 students must be invited to explore the cultures and experiences of ever more diverse classmates and U.S. peers… and in the opinions of our book study members, they must also explore beyond our country’s borders.

The World
Where is the “world” view in literature? Choo argues that “a world paradigm subscribes to a belief about the good of teaching literature that is tied to the goal of world citizenship as articulated via concepts of collective taste and universal humanity” (83).

Choo offers many examples including the concept of the “ideal citizen” as penned by the late 18th-century, early 19th-center German writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. She summarizes Goethe’s world citizen as one who privileges the world over the provincial, universal over the particular, and common humanity over one’s own countrymen (73). Choo goes on to write about how this universal concept of humanity “takes over the religious function of the Absolute or God” yet is based in Christianity. In this context, there will be texts that win (are included) and texts that lose (are excluded).

She suggests (and critiques) four approaches to teaching world literature. The first approach: Teach students to read across historical time and geographical space; this was the way early world literature courses (1900–1930s) were organized. The second approach: Teach English, U.S., and global literature in English with a focus on readers reflecting on the global, political, and philosophical ideas of the time in which they were created. The third approach: Use literature to make history (facts) come alive! (I just witnessed how contemporary nonfiction and informational books can make historical/contemporary events and issues vivid.). The fourth approach: Integrate literature with other subjects through thematic units; her critique of this approach suggests a fear that literature will be marginalized by disciplinary content.

Globe
What is the difference between a “world” and a “global” literature pedagogy? Suzanne Choo captured my goal for IS445 in this quote: “The teaching of global literature is used to describe approaches aimed at promoting a global mindset in students so that they will perceive themselves and others as members of an interconnected global village” (91). Considering the current political climate in the U.S. and various European countries, in particular, the focus on human rights over citizenship rights seems timely to me.

Choo mentions the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), When it was written, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history. While the United States signed this Convention in 1995, no U.S. president has sent it to the Senate for ratification. (If you agree this is unconscionable, see next week’s post about “childism.”)

I appreciated Choo’s perspective on the differences between the flat map view of the world and the spherical reality of the Earth. She suggests that a “world” depiction of the planet suggests that parts make up the whole; while a spherical “global” view suggests the whole is made up of parts. (This resonated with me in light of the 50th anniversary of the moon walk. I was eighteen at the time and clearly remember the awe-inspiring view of the spherical Earth from space.) “Education that emphasizes spherical seeing of the human prioritizes students’ consciousness of themselves as citizens of the human race first followed by citizens of their nation or community” (96).

The Cosmos
To be honest, Choo lost me in the “cosmos” section of the book. While I found support for a shared urgency for privileging global perspectives, I did not as clearly see the cosmopolitan frame. “This idea of shared community and shared responsibility for each other and the fate of the human species is the starting point for a new kind of cosmopolitanism that might help us better transact the devaluing of our intellectual labor in the present age of neoliberal globalization” (xi). For me, the global view does result in a shared community and shared responsibility for the fate of humanity and for our planet.

In my quest to increase graduate students’ ability to build empathy through exploring diverse worldviews and experiences through nonfiction and information books and resources, I didn’t understand the need to go further than the globe. For educators and librarians who have been “schooled” in multicultural literature and education, globalizing curricula seems to me to be the next frontier. Leaping to the cosmos would be, I believe, too giant of a leap. That said, I hope to learn another perspective from my colleagues as they implement cosmopolitanism in their courses.

Works Cited

Choo, Suzanne S. 2013. Reading the World, the Globe, and the Cosmos: Approaches to Teaching Literature for the Twenty-first Century. New York: Peter Lang.

Hadaway, Nancy L., and Marian J. McKenna. 2007. Breaking Boundaries with Global Literature: Celebrating Diversity in K-12 Classrooms. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Image Credit

Altmann, Gerd. “Web Networking Earth Continents.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/web-networking-earth-continents-3079789/

Immerse Phase: Author Study and Visit

In the Open Phase of the Guided Inquiry Design (GID), educators invite learners to join the inquiry. There are any number of creative ways to do so including presenting learners with a thought-provoking inquiry question, a thorny problem, or a real-world dilemma. The goal of the Open Phase is to set a tone for the inquiry and pique students’ curiosity. (I will be writing more about how I began our whole class inquiry in a WOW Currents blog post to be published in August. In three additional WOW Currents blog posts, I will provide more information about our class inquiry process and outcomes.)

Immerse, the second phase of the GID, invites learners to explore resources to build their background knowledge, consider various perspectives on the inquiry question, and further their motivation to pursue the inquiry process. These are some possible Immerse Phase experiences: reading a book, story, or article together; viewing a video; or visiting a museum” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012, 3).

For IS 445: Information Books and Resources for Youth, I invited graduate students to explore informational books written and/or illustrated by author-photographer Susan Kuklin. I provided them with a list and starred her books that most closely align with our inquiry question. Ms. Kuklin will join our class for an online author visit this week.

Author Visits
Although I have facilitated and presented children’s/teen’s author/illustrator visits in many K-12 school libraries and classrooms, I have not had the opportunity to plan such a visit for graduate students or in an exclusively online classroom. Fortunately for me/us, Ms. Kuklin has experience and is willing to take this calculated risk with me.

In my experience, author/illustrator visits are the most successful when learners are familiar with the author or illustrator’s work. This allows them to build their background knowledge in order to deepen the questions they will bring to the author visit. It is unlikely that all of the IS 445 students will have the opportunity to ask their prepared question(s) based on one or more of Ms. Kuklin’s books or the Web-based information I provided them. Still, their minds will be prepped to engage with our guest.

Introducing an Author
Giving one or more book talks is an ideal way to introduce an author/illustrator’s work. Although book trailers can be fun multimedia presentations, in my experience they are fraught with “opportunities” for copyright violations. Authors, illustrators, and publishers are fine with book reviewers/book talkers sharing the cover of a book. The book jacket, after all, provides promotion for the title and the book’s creators. Of course, everyone involved with the book’s creation will want the review to be positive; some might even believe that any publicity—positive or not so positive—puts the book in the spotlight.

Sharing interior images or lengthy quotes from a book can put a book trailer creator or book talker who publishes reviews for Web distribution in jeopardy of copyright violations. (Sharing interior images and quotes in the face-to-face library or classroom, or online behind password protection does not violate copyright as long as the talk is not distributed.) It’s my opinion that the best way to avoid these possible pitfalls is to share the publisher’s book trailers and create DIY podcasts or video/vodcast book talks that show only the book jacket. (Here’s an example of a publisher’s trailer for our picture book Ready and Waiting for You, illustrated by Catherine Stock.  Clearly, there is no way a book trailer creator could have created a similar trailer using Ms. Stock’s images without grossly violating her copyright.)

Podcast Book Talk
To prepare graduate students for Ms. Kuklin’s visit, I shared a podcast book talk for Iqbal Masih and the Crusaders Against Child Slavery (Kuklin 1998) and connected it to the class inquiry question focused on how prejudice and discrimination affect children and teens globally. (Later in the semester, students will have the opportunity to create podcast or video/vodcast book talks of books and resources they identified for their small group inquiry projects.)

In addition, Ms. Kuklin and I will collaborate to determine the best way to introduce her to the class and launch her author visit. (I highly recommend that librarians and educators collaborate with their guests to make sure they are on the same page about the content and process of an author/illustrator visit.) Bottom line: I am excited to work with Ms. Kuklin, learn IS 445 students’ questions related to her books, and hear Ms. Kuklin’s responses!

Work Cited

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. 2012. Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

 

#AASLslm School Library Month: Global Connections

April is… School Library Month (SLM). “Every April school librarians are encouraged to host activities to help their school and local community celebrate the essential role that strong school library programs play in transforming learning.”

This year the American Association of School Librarian (AASL) chose this theme: “Making Connections at Your School Library.” The official hashtag is #AASLslm.

AASL’s SLM Committee curated an outstanding selection of resources organized into four buckets—one for each week of the month of April.
• Making Learner Connections
• Making Educator Connections
• Making Community Connections
• Making Global Connections

Congratulations Jillian Ehlers (Chair), Cynthia Alaniz, Michelle Cooper, Shannon DeSantis, Hattie Garrow, Cathy Pope, and Denise Tabscott for your fine work.

While all four of these subthemes are essential aspects of future-ready school librarianship, I want to share a new resource and an additional idea for the “making global connections” subtheme.

Worlds of Words: Globalizing the Common Core Reading Lists 

The Worlds of Words (WOW) has created global book lists that pair classic children’s and young adult literature with global books that reflect the cultural diversity of our students and our world. These fiction and informational books, organized by grade level, can support librarians’ global collection development as well as provide critically reviewed texts that can be integrated into the curriculum.

I will be spotlighting this resource in my “Intercultural Understanding through Global Literature” session at the Texas Library Association Conference on Wednesday, April 4th. During the session we will discuss the importance of critical book reviews for competent collection development and integrating global literature into our coteaching in order to help students broaden their perspectives, develop empathy, and prepare to learn, work, and live in a global society.

Antonio S. Pedreira Elementary School Library in Puerto Rico

Immersing students in another culture through global literature is one way to increase their intercultural understanding. This example connects with students who may be studying weather or natural disasters as well as those learning more about life in Puerto Rico. When Hurricane María hit landfall in September, 2017, all of the books and other resources were stored in the Antonio S. Pedreira Elementary School Library. They lost everything.

My colleague and fellow WOW Board member Carmen Martínez-Roldán, an associate professor of bilingual/bicultural education, is supporting the rebuilding efforts of the Antonio S. Pedreira Elementary School Library in San Juan, Puerto Rico. These students, educators, and families must rebuild their school library from the ground up. Carmen recently launched a GoFundMe.com campaign to support students, educators, and families in recreating their vital resources for learning.

One way to launch an inquiry and engage students in making global connections is to read books about Puerto Rico. (See the list of books in the comment section below.) If yours is a school library of plenty, reaching out to help rebuild a school library for the benefit of global classmates is a way to make global connections and a most worthwhile way to celebrate School Library Month 2018.

Wishing you the best for #AASLslm 2018!

Image Credit: Original Photograph by Judi Moreillon

Advocating for Authenticity and Diversity in Children’s Picturebooks

If I were in charge of this holiday, all U.S. students be would studying the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy of social justice. They would be reading, discussing, marching, or otherwise working in their communities to bring about positive change.

Students and classroom teachers would also have access to diverse library collections – and most especially school library collections – that provide students with books and resources that represent the diversity of human experience. Since most librarians do not have the opportunity to actually read the print resources they select before they purchase them, they must rely on published book reviews. This means that children’s and young adult book reviewers are mediators between readers and their literature.

During the month of December, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library children’s librarian who reviews children’s and young adult literature for two well-known review sources. Mary Margaret and I are advocates for diversity and live in a community where Latinx students and families are the majority in the largest school district. We walk and talk most weekend mornings and have often shared our concerns and frustrations with the content, quality, and quantity of books that reflect Latinx culture.

To formalize our blog interview conversation, we created a framework for evaluating the cultural components during our discussions. We adapted our framework from Critical Multicultural Analysis of Children’s Literature: Mirrors, Windows, and Doors by Maria José Botelho and Masha Kabakow Rudman and WOWLit’s “Evaluating Literature for Authenticity.”

Publication Practices
1. Who are the author, illustrator, and/or translator?
2. What are their backgrounds?
3. Who was the original publisher?

Authenticity in the Story
1. From whose perspective is the text written?
2. Are characters, plot, and setting authentic, or are stereotypes presented?
3. What do the review sources say, and how have cultural “insiders” responded to this text?

Authenticity in Visual Elements
1. How does the illustrator’s background or research influence the visual elements in this book?
2. What meanings are communicated through the images?
3. Do the visual elements authentically and accurately portray cultural information?

Authenticity in Sociopolitical and Historical Context
1. What kind of first-hand experience or research informs the text?
2. What current or historical factors shape the story or information in the text?
3. How are current or historical power relations reflected in the text?

We posted once each week in December on the WOW Currents blog. The links below lead to each week’s post. With each link, I have shared a comment and my biggest takeaway(s) or remaining question(s) from that week’s post.

Part 1: Goals and Process for Children’s Book Reviews
In the introductory post on December 4, 2017, Mary Margaret shared her background, how she got started as a children’s literature book reviewer, and her reviewing process. In reading this post, you will note that it was from giving a book review editor critical feedback on a particular review that resulted in Mary Margaret being invited to review for that source. She answered a call for reviewers for the other source for which she reviews.

For the most part, Mary Margaret reviews children’s picturebooks and Spanish language or Spanish/English bilingual books. She constructs book reviews in three parts: 1. the story or information, 2. illustrations for visual incongruities or strengths, and 3. cultural components of the book with her recommendation. She believes it’s her job to “to find any negative, inauthentic or inaccurate elements and point them out in (her) review.” Mary Margaret’s cultural insider knowledge for Mexican themed books gives her  a distinct advantage when reviewing Latinx themed books.

Part 1: Further Questions
1. When librarians read book reviews, do we notice whether or not cultural information is included in the review?

2. Do we consider or question the reviewer’s knowledge in terms of assessing cultural authenticity in the work?

Part 2: Publication Practices
In this post, Mary Margaret provides one very clear example of a book in which the author’s and illustrator’s cultural knowledge (or research) was lacking. In her review, she justified her “not recommended” rating with specifics from the story and the illustrations. She also shared information about the importance of language and translation in relationship to authenticity.

Part 2: Takeaway
This was my takeaway from her responses in this post: “Even though I am culturally competent in both Mexican culture and Spanish language as spoken in (parts of) Mexico and the U.S., I would not be a competent translator for a story situated in Cuban or Puerto Rican culture. It is not appropriate to assume that anyone who is fluent in both English and Spanish can effectively translate any story into the other language.”

Part 3: Authentic Picturebook Stories
Mary Margaret offers three recommendations for determining cultural authenticity. These are her suggestions for librarians/reviewers who are cultural outsiders:
1.     If there is humor in the story. Mary Margaret asks herself: “Am I laughing at or laughing with the character?”
2.     In addition to characterization and language use, she examines the plot. She asks: “Who has agency and power in this story? Does succeeding or failing, winning or losing, have any connection to a stereotype about which I am aware?”
3.     Is the story setting authentic?

Part 3: Takeaway
Mary Margaret’s question about publishing Mexican themed picturebooks is this: “’While a rural setting with a poor family may be ‘appropriate’ for historical fiction, I often wonder, ‘Where are the books with middle class Mexican children and families playing video games, using cell phones and flying to the U.S. to visit Disneyland?’”

Part 4: Authentic Picturebook Illustrations
Since Mary Margaret’s responses to authenticity in story were comprehensive, we decided to carry over the conversation about picturebook illustrations to week four (and did not have the opportunity to explore sociopolitical and historical authenticity on the WOW Currents blog). This post about authenticity in illustration is packed with information that cultural outsiders may find especially illuminating.

Since many errors in illustration are not caught by art editors, it seems that librarians will want to consult cultural insiders about authenticity in picturebook visuals. For many that may be after the fact of purchase. Still, books published with errors can be used in classroom-library lessons as examples for what not to do.

Part 4: Takeaways
Mary Margaret identified several author-illustrators whose work is culturally authentic and shows congruity between story and illustration.

Adriana M. Garcia, illustrator of Xelena González’s book All Around Us (Cinco Puntos, 2017). The story honors traditions while steeped in a contemporary setting.

Yuyi Morales’s magical realism illustrations are perfectly aligned with Laura Lacámara’s story Floating on Mama’s Song (Katherine Tegen Books, 2010).

Duncan Tonatiuh’s Mixtex illustration style provides the perfect blend of contemporary and historical elements in Salsa: Un poema para docinar/Salsa: A Cooking Poem by Jorge Argueta (Groundwood, 2015).

Continuing the Conversation

The information in this interview will be part of an article for publication that includes responses to a survey I conducted in which twenty-six children’s and young adult book reviewers participated. I will also share both the survey and this interview at the Texas Library Association Conference on April 4th in my session titled “Intercultural Understanding through Global Literature.”

And please mark your calendars. On Tuesday, January 23rd at 1:00 p.m. Central, AASL and Scholastic Books are offering a free, one-hour webinar titled: Mirror, Mirror, Who Do You See in Your Books? Reaching Diverse Readers. Read about it and consider arranging your schedule so you can participate.

References

Botelho, Maria José, and Masha Kabakow Rudman. 2009. Critical Multicultural Analysis of Children’s Literature: Mirrors, Windows, and Doors. New York: Routledge.

WOWLit.org. “Evaluating Literature for Authenticity.” http://wowlit.org/links/evaluating-global-literature/evaluating-literature-for-authenticity

Image Credits:
Collage created at Befunky.com
Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

November Is Picturebook Month

Picture Book Month was founded by author and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas and her children’s book author/illustrator colleagues. The 2017 celebration is particularly heart-felt since this is the first year of the annual event since Dianne passed away in a tragic house fire.

Picture Book Month is on a mission: “In this digital age where people are predicting the coming death of print books, picture books (the print kind) need love. And the world needs picture books. There’s nothing like the physical page turn of a beautifully crafted picture book” (http://picturebookmonth.com).

Every day in November, the Picture Book Month Web site offers a new post from a picturebook champion explaining why he/she thinks picturebooks are important. School and public librarians will want to tap into this resource, think about their own picturebook selection practices, and consider how the information on the site can serve the literacy needs of children (and teens), families, and educators.

“Picture books are books in which both words and illustrations are essential to the story’s meaning… In a true picture book, the illustrations are integral to the reader’s experience of the book and the story would be diminished or confusing without the illustrations” (Short, Lynch-Brown, and Tomlinson 50).

My article “The Mighty Picturebook: Providing a Plethora of Possibilities” appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Children and Libraries, the journal of the Association for Library Services to Children. The photograph above was published on the cover. As can happen, my article was shortened to fit into a tight space. These are the main subheadings in that article and some of the information that ended up on the cutting room floor.

Young Audiences for Picturebooks
The photograph above shows a 12-year-old sister reading to her 5-year-old brother on the eve of his first day of public school kindergarten. Ready and Waiting for You was expressly created for this very purpose—for more proficient readers to engage emerging readers in conversations about what they will experience when they begin formal schooling. Engaging in dialogic reading with a trusted reader builds literacy skills and in this case, can build excitement and help ease the fears of young children. Children who are new to school or transferring to a new school can ask and get their questions answered by a trusted older reader.

Ready and Waiting for You also aligns with kindergarten curriculum that focuses on learning about the community of school. Adult readers might notice this book emphases the need for a “village” to educate a child: a classroom teacher, principal, office staff, nurse, librarian, computer tech, art, music and P.E. teachers, custodian, and parent volunteers, too. (Does your child’s school include all of these essential staff members who help educate “the whole child”? If not, why not?)

Word Count and Book Length
Word count and book length should not be the primary criteria for book selection. Many of today’s picturebooks offer fewer words. Are some stories constrained by lower word counts or the typical 32-page limit? It is important for anyone who shares picturebooks with young children to realize their “willingness to listen to stories grows with experience, which may result in a younger child who has been read to regularly having a much longer attention span than an older child with no story experience” (Short, Lynch-Brown, and Tomlinson 51).

Visual Literacy
“The ability to make meaning from images is an essential twenty-first century skill. Visual images dominate access to ideas and information via the screens that are all-pervasive in daily life” (Moreillon 2017, 18). Studying the illustration media and techniques used by picturebook illustrators can give youth a greater appreciation for the sophistication of this artform. Picturebook illustrations can inspire students to illustrate their own texts and give budding artists ideas for a possible career in illustration or graphic design.

Reading Comprehension and Inquiry Learning
Picturebooks can serve as mentor texts for reading comprehension strategy instruction. While word count is not the sole criterion for an appropriate mentor text, picturebooks that offer complete story arcs with developed characters and compelling themes tend to contain a thousand or more words. There are many examples in my professional book Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Elementary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact (Moreillon 2013).

Using Picturebooks with Older Readers
In addition to elementary school use, picturebooks are also used in middle and high school classrooms and libraries to teach comprehension strategies and literary devices. For example, picture books by Australian author-illustrator Shaun Tan provide opportunities for educators to model drawing inferences and for students to engage in rich discussions and infer themes for Tan’s sophisticated work. One such book is The Rabbits written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan. This sophisticated picturebook addresses the historical fact that some people have used technological advances to invade, dominate, and oppress indigenous people. This text clearly portrays the power of an analogy to communicate deep meaning. Although categorized as picturebooks, Tan’s work is not intended for a young child audience.

Making Meaning as Discovery
“Picturebooks offer exceptional opportunities for literacy learning and teaching as well as pleasure reading in preK-12 schools and libraries. When authors and illustrators create and publishers publish picture books with complete story arcs, compelling themes, intriguing illustrations, and rich information, parents and families, school and public librarians, classroom teachers and reading specialists can use these authentic texts in a plethora of ways” (Moreillon 2017, 19).

Check out the Picture Book Month calendar to see which authors and illustrators are participating this year. The Web site includes links to author and illustrator pages and provides resources and activities for students, educators, and families.

Celebrate the beauty and power of this artform to shape family literacy practices, to offer children mirrors and windows on the world, and bring delight to those who read or listen to the mighty picturebook.

References
Moreillon, Judi. “The Mighty Picturebook: A Plethora of Possibilities.” Children and Libraries, vol. 15, issue 3, 17-19.

Moreillon, Judi. Ready and Waiting for You. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2013.

Short, Kathy G., Carol Lynch-Brown, and Carl M. Tomlinson. Essentials of Children’s Literature. 8th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2014.

Image Credit: From Judi Moreillon’s Personal Collection – Used with Permission

Two More Book Recommendations

stories_of_my_lifeKatherine Paterson has been a long-time favorite author of many ‘tween and young adult fiction readers. In her latest book, Stories of My Life (2014), Ms. Paterson shares her own life story and shares how she has woven the people, places, and events in her life into her novels. At the American Library Association (ALA) Conference in San Francisco in June, I picked up a “Special Librarian Preview.”

In the book, Katherine answers three most frequently asked questions of authors: How did you become a writer? Where do you get your ideas? How does it feel to be famous? When educators guide student inquiry centered on author studies, these are some of the first questions youth want to investigate. Inquirers will be delighted to find her answers and may be surprised that even though a college professor encouraged her to write, Katherine, who considered herself a mediocre writer, had no intention of pursuing writing as a career. Later, she learned that “if you don’t dare to be a mediocre writer, you’ll never be a writer at all.”

Katherine Paterson’s book Jacob Have I Loved (1980) was the first of hers I read and remains an all-time favorite. To illustrate how Katherine’s own mother influenced the character of Susan Bradshaw, Louise and Caroline’s mother in that book, Katherine tells about her own mother’s reaction when she broke her mother’s precious antique Chinese tea service: “Are you all right, darling?” Katherine claims she could not have created a character like Susan Bradshaw had she not had the example of her own mother.

Heather_MommiesAt ALA, I stood in line to ask Lesléa Newman to autograph a copy of her just released edition of Heather Has Two Mommies (2015). This ground-breaking story, originally published in 1989, about a child with two mothers has weathered many storms—from censorship challenges and inflammatory reviews—to acclaim by being read into the Congressional Record and parodied by Jon Stewart. (See the downloadable author’s note available from the Candlewick Web site.)

With the June, 2015, Supreme Court ruling in favor of the freedom to marry for same sex couples nationwide, this new edition of Heather Has Two Mommies will speak to a new generation with bright new illustrations by Laura Cornell. Librarians and teachers who are committed to children’s access to literature with diverse characters will want to be sure to add this seminal story, this new publication, to their collections.

Stories of My Life cover image courtesy of Dial Books

Heather Has Two Mommies cover image courtesy of Candlewick Press

The Marvels – A Preview

marvelsA room bursting with librarians waited with baited breath for the appearance of an amazing children’s literature hero—Brian Selznick. When he flew up the center aisle, arrived at the podium, and faced the screen, the live (!) piano music began, the curtain went up, and all eyes turned to the images from Brian’s forthcoming book The Marvels. Readers who have come to expect great works of art from Mr. Selznick will not be disappointed. (There are no spoilers in this post.)

The Marvels begins in 1766 with more than two hundred images that tell the mysterious story of a theatrical family. Spanning several generations, Brian’s drawings portray the ships and their rigging, theater stages and scenery, and tell of  sea-going adventures and land-based dramas. (Did you know that theater terms such as “crew” and “boards” were derived from sailing terminology? I didn’t. Brian taught me that during his presentation.)

When the images end, readers find themselves in 1990 reading a story based in print only. A boy named Joseph has run away from boarding school and is searching for the address of an uncle he has never met. When he arrives at his uncle’s home at 18 Folgate Street, Joseph learns family secrets and more. Finally, an illustrated-only conclusion brings the first two parts of the book together in a satisfying present-day conclusion.

During this Scholastic-sponsored book launch at the American Library Association Annual Conference in San Francisco (June, 2015), Brian shared his finely drawn art, read from the print in the book, and shared bits of his writing and illustrating process. We were privileged to peek inside his studio to see hundreds of thumbnail sketches and then more than two hundred final illustrations displayed in sequence on his studio wall. We also had the opportunity to travel to London where Brian researched and worked on the book. He shared photographs of his apartment in Piccadilly and the marvelous home of Dennis Severs at 18 Folgate Street.

We who serve the literature needs of young people (and feed our own imaginations and love of story with children’s books) are once again thankful for the wonder that is Brian Selznick. Pre-order a copy today and kick off your fall reading with an awe-inspiring book.

Image courtesy of Scholastic Books, Inc.