Speaking with other educators – especially librarians – is one of the rewards of being a writer of children’s books!
In September, I spoke at an ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) National Institute in Indianapolis and met hundreds of librarians from the Midwest, other authors and illustrators. ALSC is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children.
This year’s Institute was the kick-off for the 75th Anniversary Celebration of the Caldecott Award which along with the Newbery Medal is the most important recognition for excellence in children’s literature. So of course, it is one of my favorite anniversaries to celebrate!
At ALSC I was on a panel about writing non-fiction books for children with my friend and collaborator Bryan Collier and April Pulley Sayre who writes wonderful read-aloud books on natural history.
Bryan is both an award-winning illustrator and author. Our project together, Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King Jr., won numerous awards. It is read in classrooms across North America each year to honor Dr. King on his holiday and to celebrate Black History Month. Bryan wowed me with his latest journey and collaboration with Laban Carrick Hill – Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave.
In this book, Laban Carrick Hill and Bryan captured the dignity and artistry of a man named Dave—an artist, potter, and poet, who lived as a slave in South Carolina in the 1800s. Dave taught himself to read and write at a time when this was an act of sedition and resistance. He embedded short poems and couplets in his beautiful yet practical alkaline-glazed stoneware:
“I wonder where is all my relation
friendship to all–and every nation”
–August 16, 1857
Dave’s story confirms my deep belief that there are so many “not-yet-celebrated” people that kids must learn about, and it’s our job to find them. Writing Beyond Courage I discovered many stories of heroism among Jewish resisters during the Holocaust whose names are unknown to most people.
On the panel, I spoke about Helen Keller and Jewish resistance. I spoke about courage. I talked about the “unknown” people in history who find their voice, who find determination under harrowing circumstances. And, I re-affirmed that my mission and our job as educators and writers are to “demolish stereotypes” and to find the hidden history behind events.
I also made a new friend — April Pulley Sayre. If you don’t know her work, April writes about natural history. Her read-aloud books entrance all ages. Read Rah, Rah, Radishes! : A Vegetable Chant, and laugh. Then plant some next spring!
Join me to celebrate…