Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Numbers Are In

Every year around this time for the past 30 years, the CCBC has published the number of books by and about people of color. We started doing this in 1985 when our Director, Ginny Moore Kruse, was on the Coretta Scott King Award Committee and knew that there were only 18 books eligible for the award that year. We were so shocked at that number that we decided to document it in our annual publication, CCBC Choices.

That number got around. Most people knew there weren't many books being published by Black authors and illustrators; they just didn't know the number was that small.

The next year it was the same -- 18 again. After that, it almost doubled, and started going up a bit each year until it peaked in 1992. Since then it has plateaued.

Before too long we were being asked for the number of books by and about American Indians, Asians/Asian Pacific Americans, and Latinos, and we started keeping track of those numbers, too. CCBC librarian made a graph that shows the progress (or lack thereof) since 2002.

 Looking at this graph you can see what I mean when I say the numbers have plateaued. Some years the numbers go up, only to go down again the next year.

This year we saw an increase in the number of books about Africans and African Americans, Asians/Asian Pacific Americans, and Latinos. the number of books by and about American Indians increased by two. It'll be interesting to see if next year the lines on our graph continue rising upward.

In the meantime, you can look at the statistics on more detail on our website: Children's Book by and about People of Color Published in the United States.  This year for the first time, we've decided to post our list of the authors, illustrators, and titles we've documented. Just click on 2014 to find the link to the lists for African American and American Indian (The list of Asian and Latino books are coming soon.)

Over the next several weeks we'll be blogging about these statistics, discussing some of the questions and observations that have come up, and talking about how we collect our data. Please post any questions you have here.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Book of the Week

Gone Crazy in Alabama

by Rita Williams-Garcia

Published by HarperCollins, 2015
304 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-221587-1

Ages 8-12

In the third and final volume about the Gaither sisters, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are sent to rural Alabama to spend the summer of 1969 with their grandmother, Big Ma, and her mother, Ma Charles. Before putting them on the Greyhound bus, their father tells them: “The South’s not like Bed-Stuyvesant and you can’t get more southern than Alabama. … Once you cross the line from North to South all of that black power stuff is over.” At 12, Delphine is old enough to understand the important difference in social mores and feels she is capable of keeping her younger sisters in line as Pa instructed her to do. But 10-year-old Vonetta is ready to strike out on her own, enjoying the attention of Ma Charles and her half-sister and life-long rival, Aunt Miss Trotter. The two elderly sisters haven’t spoken to each other in years and dramatic Vonetta is only too willing to serve as a conduit between them, as they pass information and insults back and forth, taking advantage of Vonetta’s twin skills of mimicry and showmanship. The sisters’ daily trips across the creek to the Trotter home ultimately offer them insight into their own family history, and an understanding of their family’s place within a specific rural Southern setting, all of which seems more than a little crazy to Delphine. And this all lays the groundwork for some much-needed family unity when a tragedy strikes. The witty dialogue and singular characterizations that were hallmarks of the first two volumes, One Crazy Summer and P. S. Be Eleven continue here. And like its predecessors, this novel offers insights into social history as it was lived by several strong African American women, who each took different paths during a pivotal time of change.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Book of the Week

House of Purple Cedar

by Tim Tingle

Published by Cinco Puntos Press, 2014 (c2013)

336 pages

ISBN: pbk. 978–1–935955–24–5

Age 14 and older

In 1967, Rose is an old woman looking back on her childhood in Skullyville, Oklahoma, in 1897, in a novel that moves back and forth between Rose, her family and Choctaw community, and residents of the nearby town of Spiro. Among them is the marshall, a man who is despised by Choctaw and whites alike. His cruelty is often random, as when he strikes Amafo, Rose’s grandfather, at the train station one day. Amafo turns the other cheek, and in doing so finds allies among some of the whites in Spiro while leading his community away from confrontation. Tim Tingle writes beautifully and deeply about love and forgiveness as antidotes to violence and hatred in a novel that also doesn’t ignore hard realities. Sometimes bringing the truth into the light isn’t enough; sometimes you have to fight back with violence. This is illuminated not only through what happens to Rose and her community but also through the lives of several women in Spiro, one of them the marshall’s wife, who has endured his beatings for years. The power of family, of community and connection, and of love and compassion to transcend divides — among individuals, across cultures, between the living and the dead — is profound and hopeful in a story that is, above all, about the human heart. The tense plot unfolds through characters drawn with astonishing depth and subtlety, their actions and interactions richly revealing. Solace for Rose’s community is also found in both Christianity and in spiritual experiences imbedded in their culture, the two seamlessly reconciled in their lives.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Friday, February 13, 2015

Listen, Slowly to This Interview

Yesterday afternoon I heard an amazing interview on NPR's All Things Considered with author Thanhha Lai, who won the National Book Award and a Newbery Honor for her first novel Inside Out and Back Again (HarperCollins, 2011).

Lai has a new book coming out next week on February 17, called Listen, Slowly, and NPR's Rachel Martin talked to her about the inspiration for the story and about her use of language in the book. Martin observed that the voice is significantly different from the one used in her first novel, Inside Out and Back Again, which was written in prose poems. Lai described the voice in her new novel as the 12-year-old character thinking in "snarky English." Parts of the dialogue are in italics to signify that Vietnamese is being spoken. It's the first language of the girl's grandmother and while she understands it, she doesn't speak it.

Lai expands upon this by talking about her own "bilingual mind" and how she wanted to play with this concept in her book. Listen, Slowly sounds amazing, and I can't wait to read it. I'm placing my order for it with my local independent bookstore, A Room of One's Own, today so I can get the book as soon as it comes out.

If you missed the interview, there's a transcript online. You'll also find a link at the top of the page to the actual audio interview. I really encourage you to take the time to listen to it. It's great to hear Thanhha Lai's own voice.
Want more about this author? Check out her page at TeachingBooks.net

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Book of the Week

Tap Tap Boom Boom

by Elizabeth Bluemle

Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Published by Candlewick Press, 2014

32 pages

ISBN: 978–0–7636-5696–6

Ages 3-7

“Sky grumbles. Rain tumbles. Big weather — you’d better … get under umbrella! BOOM BOOM.” A rainstorm in the big city on a summer day means the appearance of umbrellas, a mad dash for the subway, and a spontaneous, generous-spirited gathering belowground. “The storm above makes friends of strangers. We laugh under cover at thunder and danger.” The visual storytelling accompanying the narrative enables readers and listeners to follow a number of individuals as the storm breaks, booms, and eventually moves away. A delight to read aloud, there is ample opportunity for enthusiastic participation with the repetitive onomatopoeia, while the finely crafted rhyming phrases create a satisfying narrative arc. “We wave good-bye. ‘So long! Keep dry!’” Honor Book, 2015 Charlotte Zolotow Award  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Book of the Week

Brown Girl Dreaming

by Jacqueline Woodson

Published by Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin, 2014

336 pages

ISBN: 978–0–399-25251–8

Age 10 and older

“And somehow, one day, it’s just there / speckled black-and white, the paper / inside smelling like something I could fall right into, / live there — inside those clean white pages.” Jacqueline Woodson’s childhood unfolds in poems that beautifully reveal details of her early life and her slow but gradually certain understanding that words and stories and writing were essential to her. Her older sister was shining smart. One of her brothers could sing wonderfully. She would come to realize words were her smart, her singing, her special thing. Woodson writes about growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, and then Brooklyn, New York, living with family members who were full of love and expectation, from her grandparents to her mother to her siblings, aunts and uncles. She sometimes felt she stood out — a northerner in the south; a southerner in the north; a Jehovah Witness knocking on doors. Experiences that shaped her came from within and beyond her family: “Don’t wait for your school to teach you, my uncle says, / about the revolution. It’s happening in the streets. “ And later, “This moment, this here, this right now, is my teacher / saying / You’re a writer, as she holds the poem I am just beginning.” Ten poems titled “How to listen” reveal another essential element of her story because she is also that: a listener, a recorder, an observer, writing something down even when she doesn’t understand it and trusting that “The knowing will come.” An album of black-and-white photographs and an author’s note round out this exquisite, quietly inspiring volume.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center