Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Midwinter Conference Highlights

The American Library Association's annual Midwinter conference is billed as a business meeting, and that's true. In fact, I was there -- it was held in Denver this year -- mainly because of my position on the Board of Directors for the Association for Library Service to Children. But's it's also a great conference for learning what books publishers are spotlighting for the spring (with a few sneak peeks at fall) and doing lots of networking with friends in the children's library world. Plus there's the biggest deal of all -- the annual Youth Media Awards announcements!

Here are just a few highlights from my time at ALA Midwinter 18:

__ First, I'm especially proud of some actions we took as ALSC Board members. First, we voted to establish a task force to explore the ALSC Awards program to, as ALSC President Nina Lindsay put it, "within the context of our core values and our strategic plan." The task force will begin with the Wilder Award, named for Little House author Laura Ingalls Wilder and given annually to an author or illustrator whose books have made a substantial and lasting contribution to children's literature. But it's time to take a second look at the name of the award, given the racism found in Wilder's books and how it reads in today's world and affects the children we serve. Here's Nina's initial ALSC Blog post about why we were considering this step; the comments to that post are particularly interesting. Here's Nina's follow-up post explaining why we voted unanimously to establish the task force to consider this issue. And here's a link to a post by Dr. Debbie Reese on her American Indians in Children's Literature blog as to why she and others see Wilder's legacy as so problematic. I look forward to hearing the task force's report, which is expected to be done in time for the announcement of the 2019 Wilder Award winner early next year.

__ On a related note, the 2018 Wilder Award recipient is author Jacqueline Woodson, the current National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and the winner of numerous awards, including the National Book Award and a Newbery Honor for her memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming. Woodson is truly a fabulous choice for this award, and I very much look forward to hearing her acceptance speech at ALA's Annual conference in New Orleans this June.

__ In the past few weeks, the issue of sexual harassment in the children's book industry has exploded as another #MeToo moment, and I'm proud of the ALSC Board's quick action to do what we can to keep our members safe. Publishers Weekly has the backstory here. A fellow ALSC Board member, Amy Koester, noted at our Monday meeting that she was approached by a couple of ALSC members wondering what is our policy for appropriate behavior at conferences. We follow the ALA's codes and conduct of ethics, but apparently that fact hasn't been made specific at the upcoming ALSC Institute in September. So Amy offered a motion to ensure that the Institute is covered by ALA's codes; we passed it unanimously. You can read more about it in Amy's ALSC blog post on the issue. I'm proud that we could be so nimble in our response to an issue of this magnitude.

__ I attended several publisher's events and heard about some amazing kids and teen books coming out this spring. I'll note just a few. First, there's Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship, which was written by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. They were severely injured in the Boston Marathon bombing; she lost both legs, he lost one. Writing this book (which doesn't mention the bombing, but instead focuses on the relationship between Jessica and her service dog Rescue) was cathartic for them. It's also a great way for kids to see how people cope with disabilities.

 Another stand-out book is Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes, in which she tackles the issue of police brutality against black males. Rhodes' book, which will be published in April, is aimed at kids ages 9-12, an important fact, since most books on this subject have been geared towards teens.

Finally, there's Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card, a memoir by debut author Sara Saedi. In this book, Saedi details her view of her family's struggle to become American citizens, even as they lived and worked here, paid taxes and participated in everyday American life.

__ A final highlight is, of course, the announcement of the Youth Media Awards. While the most famous are the Caldecott and Newbery Medals, there are many other awards focusing on difference aspects of children's & teen literature. This year, the theme of the books winning awards was -- more clearly than ever -- diversity and inclusion. Big winners included African-American wunderkind author Jason Reynolds, debut African-American author Angie Thomas, and author Derrick Barnes and illustrator Gordon James, whose picture book, Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, won both a Caldecott Honor for its art and a Newbery Honor for its text. Check out the winners here.https://www.slj.com/2018/02/industry-news/slj-reviews-yma-winners-ala-midwinter-2018/ And here's a great Publishers Weekly article on the reactions that Newbery Medalist Erin Entrada Kelly and Caldecott Medalist Matthew Cordell had to the news that they had won the most prestigious awards in children's literature.

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