Tuesday, November 25, 2014

More Than Numbers

Last week KT Horning tweeted that it would be a great year to be on the Coretta Scott King Award Committee because of all the outstanding novels by African American authors that have been published so far in 2014.  At the time, I'd just finished novelist Teresa E. Harris’s terrific debut book, The Perfect Place (Clarion), and had also been thinking about what a great year it’s been for longer books in general by African American authors.

It’s late November, and we are still waiting for many 2014 books to come into the CCBC (we moved in August, complicating our deliveries), but I've listed below what we’ve documented so far in terms of fiction and longer non-fiction we’ve received by Black authors (yes, we count picture books, too, we just aren’t listing them here):

  • Barber, Tiki & Ronde. Extra Innings. Paula Weisman Book / Simon & Schuster
  • Colbert, Brandy. Pointe. G. P. Putnam’s Sons
  • DePrince, Michaela. Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina. Alfred A. Knopf
  • English, Karen. The Carver Chronicles: Skateboard Party. Illus Laura Freeman. Clarion Books
  • Flake, Sharon G. The Unstoppable Octobia May. Scholastic
  •  Freeman, Shannon. The Public Eye: A Port City High Novel. Saddleback
  • Giles, Lamar. Fake ID. Amistad /  HarperCollins
  • Harris, Teresa E. The Perfect Place. Clarion Books
  • Hegamin, Tonya Cherie. Willow. Candlewick Press
  • Johnson, Alaya Dawn. Love Is the Drug. Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic
  • Magoon, Kekla. How It Went Down. Hentry Holt
  • Mitchell, Don. The Freedom Summer Murders. Scholastic Press
  • Moore, Stephanie Perry and Derrick Moore. All In / Stand Firm (Grovehill Giants Series). Saddleback
  • Moore, Stephanie Perry and Derrick Moore. Real Diva/Man Up (Grovehill Giants Series). Saddleback
  • Moore, Stephanie Perry and Derrick Moore. Scream Loud / Quiet Strength (Grovehill Giants Saddleback
  • Moore, Stephanie Perry. Make Something of It (The Sharp Sisters). Darby Creek / Lerner
  • Moses, Shelia P. The Sittin’ Up. G. P. Putnam’s Sons
  • Myers, Walter Dean. On a Clear Day. Crown Books
  • Neri, G. Knock Out Games. Carolrhoda LAB
  • Patrick, Denise Lewis. A Matter of Souls. Carolrhoda LAB
  • Pinkney, Andrea Davis. The Red Pencil. Little, Brown
  • Reynolds, Jason. When I Was the Greatest. Atheneum
  • Stoudemire, Amar’e. Standing Tall And Talented: Most Valuable. Scholastic
  • Woods, Brenda. The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond. Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin
  • Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin
I haven't read them all, but besides The Perfect Place, some of my favorites from the list above include The Crossover, Kinda Like Brothers, The Madman of Piney Woods, How It Went Down, The Knock-Out Game, Love Is the Drug, How I Discovered Poetry, and Brown Girl Dreaming.  These and several others from the list above are already on our ever-growing compilation of books we’ll be including in CCBC Choices 2015, the most recent edition (still under construction) of our annual best-of-the-year list, which will be finalized by mid-January.

It’s not just the Coretta Scott King Award Committee, but all of us who are charged with reading, evaluating, and recommending books for children and teens, whether it’s through award committees like the King, Newbery, Printz and others;  through best-of-the-year lists; through reviews; or in other ways, who benefit when there are more books to consider by African American authors and all authors of color. If we take our work seriously, we know that finding great stories and great books of information that also, critically, speak to specific cultural experiences and reflect culturally diverse perspectives, is essential to the larger world of kids and books and reading, regardless of the criteria for a specific award or list.

So as we talk about numbers, which is an important dimension of the discussion about diversity and publishing, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the terrific books by people of color that are published each and every year. At the same time, it's important we understand that the more books by people of color that are published, including books by new authors and illustrators like Teresa E. Harris, the better the outcome for everyone—publishers, librarians, teachers, and, of course, young readers.

Do you have a favorite new book by an African American author from the list above? Or are you aware of other 2014 books by African American authors we haven’t yet received that we can look forward to reading?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Book of the Week

Shh! We Have a Plan

by Chris Haughton

Published by U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2014
40 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7636-7293-5

Ages 3-7

Four wide-eyed hunters are trying to catch a bird in a net. Make that three hunters; the fourth—and smallest--member of their party just wants to be friendly (“Hello, birdie.”). The group’s comical, not-so-stealthy pursuit of the bird features one failed attempt after another, with a pattern emerging as the youngest one greets the bird, the others shush their small companion (“We have a plan”), and then counting to three before they pounce….on nothing as the bird has already flown away. The spare, droll narrative is set against marvelous visual storytelling. The stylized illustrations are in shades of deep blue with black and white, against which the brightly colored red bird stands out. Young readers and listeners will be reciting along and laughing out loud, with the delight heightened by two big surprises as the story draws to a close.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Book of the Week

Kinda Like Brothers

by Coe Booth

Published by Scholastic Press, 2014
256 pages
ISBN: 978-0-545-22496-3

Ages 9-13

Eleven-year-old Jarrett and twelve-year-old Kevon are thrown together when Jarrett’s mom becomes a temporary foster parent to Kevon and his two-year-old sister. Jarrett is sometimes resentful of how much time his mom spends taking care of other children, but they’re usually babies and toddlers that he genuinely likes. This is different. Kevon is cool in a way Jarrett isn’t, inviting easy admiration from other kids. In Jarrett’s mind, that makes Kevon a potential threat socially, not to mention someone with whom he has to share his room. Meanwhile Kevon resents the implication that he can’t care for his sister—a responsibility he’s used to--and worries about his mentally ill dad. He has no time for Jarrett’s jealousy. Author Coe Booth’s characters are likable, genuine, and flawed in all the ways that make us human. Adults and kids alike in her story are well-rounded and wonderfully real. The two boys’ have good hearts but their treatment of each other ranges from bright moments of generosity to indifference to cruelty. The larger community—from Jarrett’s mom and her boyfriend to teachers at school and adults at the community center--strives to make a difference in the lives of these boys and other children, preparing them for a world that is not always fair or just. But for Jarrett and Kevon to make peace with one another they must let go of anger and hurt, and acknowledge the bond that has developed between them in spite—or because—of everything.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Friday, November 14, 2014

First Annual CCBC Bowl!

Last Friday was the first annual CCBC Bowl, a trivia contest sponsored by the Friends of the CCBC as a Friend-raiser.  Congratulations to winning team "Wild Things!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book of the Week

Book cover

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold

by Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by Rick Allen

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
29 pages
ISBN: 978-0-547-90650-8

Ages 6-10

Tundra swan, snake, snowflake. Bees in their hive, a vole under snow, the fly-high raven and the earth-bound wolf. The lives of these and other creatures in winter are the subject of poems by Joyce Sidman that crackle with cold and sing with warmth. “We scaled a million blooms / to reap the summer’s glow. / Now, in the merciless cold, / we share each morsel of heat, / each honeycombed crumb…. / Deep in the winter hive, / we burn like a golden sun.” (From “Winter Bees”) Sidman’s evocative, lyrical poems are paired with brief factual information written to resonate with an illuminating the imagery by showing how it is drawn from what the poet knew about each of her subjects. Gorgeous, stylized linoblock and digitally rendered art by Rick Allen is an elegant backdrop to a lovely and inspired collection. (MS)  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Book of the Week

Brother Hugo and the Bear

by Katy Beebe
Illustrated by S. D. Schindler

Published by Eerdmans, 2014
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5407-0

                                               Ages 5-9

Brother Hugo is a medieval monk with an overdue library book he can’t return: It was eaten by a bear. The Abbott sends him to another monastery to borrow their edition of St. Augustine, and gives him the charge of copying it. It’s a long journey there and back, and an even more laborious process writing the manuscript out by hand, illuminating the letters, and, finally, sewing the pages together. But his fellow monks help him prepare everything he needs: sheepskin, goose quill pen, the ingredients for different colored inks. Finally the task is complete, and he must return the original to the monks at Grand Chartreuse. But who’s that lumbering along behind him? Katy Beebe provides an engaging and fascinating look into the world of medieval manuscripts in a story delightfully imagined and told. S. D. Schindler’s pen-and-ink illustrations are wonderfully detailed and a perfect fit. Terrific notes illuminate the author’s inspiration and research for the story, and the illustrator’s twenty-first century process that in many ways, he notes, is not unlike what Brother Hugo might have done hundreds of years before.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center