Category Archives: Field Reports

Nameless City by Hicks – RWW Review

I’d like to draw attention to this thoughtful review of Erin Hicks’ graphic novel Nameless City over at Reading While White blog, I could not bring myself to reading most of the book, because of my own strong emotional (mostly adverse) reaction the raised concerns explored by Angie Manfredi in her review.  I did not speak up about this title because I strongly believe that one cannot critique a book without reading the book in its entirety and closely examining its many components.  (I felt the same about Ryan Gaudin’s The Walled City and Richelle Mead’s Soundless, both “inspired” and “loosely based” on an exoticized old China without the authors’ true understanding of the very real, and very much “living” culture or paying tribute to the long established literary tradition in this particular country.)

 

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The Odyssey Experience!

This past year, I had the extreme pleasure of serving on the Odyssey Award Committee for the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults.

The following are actual numbers of time spent by me on this Listening Odyssey – including unfinished listening and also re-listening, not including note-taking or review writing and posting on the private conversation online bulletin board.

Minutes Listened: 40000
Hours Listened: 667
Days (24 hours) Listened: 27.8
Weeks (24 hours/7 days) Listened: 4
Months (24 hours/7 days) Listened: 0.9
Work Days (8 hours) Listened: 83.4
Work Weeks (8 hours/5 days) Listened: 17
Work Months (8 hours/5 days) Listened: 4

So it is with great pleasure and relief that we unveiled our selection on January 23rd. For more detailed information, please check out the official website.  I love every single one of these titles TO PIECES!  Each does something magical to enhance the already wonderful original text.  All four deserve to be listened to and be read.  I also love how we have different age brackets represented — and an outstanding Graphic Novel adaptation in the midst!

Anna and the Swallow Man written by Gavriel Savit, narrated by Allan Corduner, from Listening Library, won the Gold medal.

The three honored titles are:

Ghost written by Jason Reynolds, narrated by Guy Lockard and produced by Simon and Schuster Audio.

Dream On, Amber written by Emma Shevah, narrated by Laura Kirman and produced by Recorded Books.

Nimona written by Noelle Stevenson, narrated by Rebecca Soler, Jonathan Davis, Marc Thompson, January LaVoy, Natalie Gold, Peter Bradbury, and David Pittu, and produced by HarperAudio.

 

 

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Salla Simukka, Finnish Author

At a small event hosted by the Consul General from Finland, introducing best-selling author Salla Simukka from Finland, I learned a little about Nordic Noir and Finnish Weird.

Simukka’s takes the lines from Snow White as the three titles of the trilogy: As Red as Blood, As White as Snow, and As Black as Ebony, but this is not a fairytale retelling or fantasy.  Rather they are gritty, dark, and intense crime novels for teens.

I also learned that in Finnish, the third person pronoun has no gender differentiation, so a reader of the Finnish original would have little clue as to the gender of the love interest of the main character.  (And in book 2, the full identity is revealed and it is probably going to be a surprise for most readers!)

These books’ English editions have been available in the States since 2013 but now are getting a re-release (probably some editorial revision as well) starting January 2017 by Random House/Crown Books for Young Readers.

Salla had a conversation with her U.S. editor Phoebe Yeh (WNDB) discussing her writing style and views. She’s eloquent and full of energy.

Hopefully we will see more and more translated contemporary work from other countries to enrich young people’s understanding of the world and empower them to be true global citizens.

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Kadir Nelson’s New Yorker Cover: A Guessing Game

This image is the cover of this week’s New Yorker Magazine — by artist and children’s book creator Kadir Nelson.  It’s almost unbearably ironic that this issue comes out during a week of highly publicized, video-recorded, social-media plastered images of black men killed by the police with apparently little or no justifications and five policemen gunned down by an irate sniper at a peaceful rally for racial equality. I saw this image posted by friends on facebook and read some of the comments beneath this picture and found out how differently this picture could be interpreted by different viewers.  Someone thought that the father in the picture feels desolation and is not having a fun day at the beach; while others see this as family and harmony.  Someone questioned why there are clouds reflected in the sunglasses, and I immediately thought that the comment maker was criticizing the image.  This showed how I presumed and assumed others’ intents and how I definitely need to change the way I post on social media to build understanding and not alienation.  The comment maker wrote back to say that there might be a “hidden message” in those reflections and I can see that now — and have started to wonder, what do those clouds reflected in his sunglasses mean?

Art is like that.

So many possible interpretations.  I have a few thoughts in mind — what are yours?

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2016 ALA Annual at Orlando, Final Recap

In between the ALSC Awards and the Odyssey Award presentations, I attended the ALSC Membership Meeting and were updated on what this Division has been working on all year. I also joined everyone to celebrate the presentation of the professional awards. Distinguished Services Award recipient Pat Scales is a former school librarian and past ALSC President and she so deserves this Award for her 38 years of and continuing services to children, the library profession, and to ALSC.  Other awards and grants and this year’s recipient information can be found on this page.

ALSC Office also has gathered all the award acceptance speeches in one easily accessible page.

 

Of course, the Conference was not just about media and professional wards, it was also about professional development and teaching and learning from each other with many workshops and sessions going on in the Convention Center.  To get a broad sampling of all the offerings and what ALSC conference attendees gleaned from this Conference, visit ALSC’s 2016 Annual Conference Blog Roundup page.

Finally — but truly NOT leastly — I thoroughly enjoyed the two meetings on Saturday and Sunday (5 hours and 2 hours long respectively) with my fellow Odyssey Audiobook Award selection committee members.  We’re from many different parts of the country, with different professional duties, varied audiobook listening and evaluating experiences, and distinct personalities — and I met each and everyone of other eight members for the first time at Annual and felt completely grateful for everyone’s diligence, insights, and good humor.  I can’t wait to see everyone and have those meaty discussions about each audiobook we have all carefully listened to at Midwinter (in Atlanta)!

 

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2016 ALA Annual at Orlando – Recap, Part 2

Following the CSK Awards breakfast were ALSC awards celebrations on Sunday and Monday.  ALSC (Association for Library Services to Children) is the administering body for many well known (and some lesser known but equally high quality) Youth Media awards.   Youth Media = books, videos, and audios.  Newbery and Caldecott are the two longest standing American Children’s Book Awards, of course, but then there are also: the Belpre for Latina/o Book Creators, Batchelder for Books in Translation, Arbuthnot Lecture, Wilder Lifetime Achievements, the Sibert for Nonfiction, the Geisel for Beginning Readers, the Carnegie for Videos, and the Odyssey for Audiobooks.  All of the 2016 winners and honorees were publicly celebrated on these two days.

The Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder banquet is always an elegant and happy affair with more than 1,000 in attendance, well crafted speeches, and a long receiving line that pushes the event way past midnight if you choose to hang around (or don’t have a choice because you work for the publishing companies!)  The three acceptance speeches are printed in this month’s Horn Book Magazine: Newbery, Caldecott, Wilder.  I also took a couple of snapshots and posted them at the end of this post.

Each year, I have also routinely attended the Monday morning award presentation of Sibert, Geisel, Batchelder, and Carnegie since ALSC started hosting this celebration and have always come away awed by the richness and dedication of writers, artists, editors, producers in creating high quality works that powerfully impact young people’s lives!  This year was no exception.  The bonus reel for me was meeting David Adler, the 2016 Geisel Award winner for Don’t Throw It To Mo.  Adler has been a beginning readers author for almost half a century and his Cam Jansen series held special significance in the Feldman household: it marked my daughter’s journey from a pre-reader to a completely independent reader back in 2006.  I had to take a picture with Adler and told him that it was Cam Jansen that made my daughter a true reader.  He humbly replied that if it were not his series, some other beginning readers would have done it, too.  But I must beg to differ here — it is because Adler not only understands text cadences for very beginning readers, but he also understands that perhaps a young and bright minded girl would want to see herself reflected in some way in the stories she encounters so there is a connection between the act of reading and the reader herself.   No, it had to be Cam Jansen and not just “some other series.”

Here’s David Adler with his much deserved Geisel Medal!

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For the first time, this year I also attended the Odyssey Award for audio book production presentation Monday Afternoon and it was simply fabulous.  We were treated to a humorous Infographs slideshow documenting the total minutes the Committee spent listening, the yardage of yarn knitted, the sacrificed one must make (not spending time with the family, not watching football on TV, not reading print books, etc.,) and the number of headphones used to their bitter-ends and many other Odyssey Committee Only Experiences!  We then were treated to the amazing live performances and speeches from the voice actors and musicians!  I especially adored the impassioned speeches by the performers and producers that sheds light on what a labor of love and how much expertise it is needed to produce a single good audiobook.

My biggest take-away from this event is that even though Odyssey is for audiobook Production and not for the Content of the original text, these two are indeed deeply intertwined.  Jayne Entwistle, the reader for The War That Saved My Life, told us that she was so deeply moved by the book and its characters, she cried multiple times at the studio while recording this book.  She teared up and pretty much sobbed just to recall how much she loved this text.  Her narration and character acting showcase not only how highly skilled she is but also why there is a certain kind of genuine gravitas and presence that a lesser text would not have inspired: the skills would still have been there, but the not-at-all-easily-quantifiable, extra LIFE would not have.  Attending this event, I gained added insights for my own task in being part of the selecting committee of the 2017 Odyssey award winners — hope to see many people joining us at this really lovely event next June in Chicago!

 

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Betsy Bird in her Caldecott/Newbery Winners library catalog cards dress especially made for the Banquet.

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The long receiving line that kept us way past midnight.  (I went out with friends old and new for a late night snack of root beer floats and apple pies that lasted until 2:00 a.m.  Feeling very indulgent, of course! Pictures are on someone else’s phone!)

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2016 ALA Annual at Orlando – Recap, Part 1

When it dawned on me that attending the American Library Association’s 2016 Annual Conference meant that I would be in Orlando not even two weeks after the massacre in Pulse Club, I felt a sense of powerlessness and loss.  Was there something I could do to make it clear, at least to myself, that I mourn the victims (not just this year, not just the LGBTQ+ community, bur all innocent lives lost to the easy accessibility assault weapons)?  Was there some way to mark the weekend in some small ways to remember the victims and to remind all those around me to continue fighting for gun control? When ALSC (Association for Library Services to Children) president Andrew Medlar posted on the members listserv that there was going to be a Memorial Service for Pulse Victims, along with other volunteer opportunities, I felt so grateful.  Thanks to ALA’s GLBT Round Table for organizing this memorial, I could at least show my respect and support for the causes.

Saturday, June 25, at 8:00 a.m., hundreds gathered in the convention center’s Chapin Theater – we listened to impassioned speeches about the work still needs to be done, including a short talk delivered by special guest Congressman John Lewis.  His powerful remarks reminded all of us the importance to ACT.

Here’s a segment of his talk, captured in close caption:

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We then stood in silence when all 49 names scrolled on the large screen — reminding us how many of them were so young and how many of them were of Latino heritages.  As a community of librarians whose goals are to better our communities with literature, literacy, and community activism, the words I heard from the GLBT Round Table chairs (both present and former) at this memorial strengthened my conviction and commitment to continue such work as a member of the Round Table.

I also belong to another Round Table at ALA: EMIERT – Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table which administers the Coretta Scott King Book Award each year to “outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.”  Every year, during the Annual Conference, the CSK Award Breakfast on Sunday (at 7:00 a.m.) is always a rousing, powerful, and moving event.  I look forward to it and always know I will be in the strong embrace of like-minded librarians and book makers and will be exposed to significant speeches.  This year was no different.

CSK speeches are from all winners and honorees.  We had the great pleasure to hear from these book creators:

Rita Williams-Garcia, Bryan Collier, Ronald L. Smith, Ekua Holmes, Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely, Ilyasah Shabazz, Kekla Magoon, R. Gregory Christie, Christian Robinson, and Jerry Pinkney for Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement.

Each speech was different, some humorous, some somber, yet all were true and inspiring. Many young folks were in the room and I saw their heads bobbing in agreement throughout the speeches, affirming the power of words and the promises to keep doing important work.  I teared up multiple times: of course, that’s not a unique phenomenon.  I attend the CSK Breakfast to celebrate and to have a good cry and to renew my faith in advancing equity and social justices through the power of literary works that channel the power of their creators.

A few of the texts of the speeches are printed in the Horn Book: Rita Williams-Garcia for Gone Crazy in Alabama, Bryan Collier for Trombone Shorty, and Jerry Pinkney for his Lifetime Achievement recognition.  (Just keep in mind, in the LIVE version of these speeches, things said are not always the same as the printed text, and the deliveries… oh the deliveries — that do make a huge difference!)

But this year, there was also the un-prepared and oh so smooth and sincere speech by Jason Reynolds, a love song to his mother, who was IN THE HOUSE!  And the exhilarating, eloquent calls to action by Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X.  Ronald Smith’s reminder that not all African American authors must or do write about realistic, historical, African American lives but they should own the full range of literary genres and themes, fantasy, science fiction, and beyond.  Christian Robinson’s love for his Nana was evident; Kekla Magoon’s sense of responsibility was energizing; Ekua Holmes is not only a wonderful artist, but an impressive public speaker — I can’t wait to hear and see more from her!

I wish everyone could have been there listening to Bredan Kiely’s on-the-verge-of-tears-oh-no-I’m-actually-sobbing-as-I-lisetn-to-this highly self-aware and conscientious white, sis-gender, straight, privileged male (as he declared in his speech for All American Boys, co-authored with Jason Reynolds) author whose heart is on his sleeve and who shares his vulnerability without qualm.  (Have you read Gospel of Winter yet?  No?  Go get it!  It was the 2015 Top 10 Best Fiction for Young Adults!)  I really would love to see all of the speeches in print somewhere (since Horn Book only publishes the winners’ speeches).

Not only in print, actually!  I want video recordings so others can witness Jason Reynolds’ raw power when he declaimed his long, audience-jumping-up-from-their-seat-to-give-a-standing-ovation spoken word poem [which is published on the brand new CSK blog, entitled Clap Clap.]

[Since posting earlier today, Sam Bloom, a member of this year’s CSK Award Jury has sent me the link for a partial video of Jason’s speech posted by Patricia Enciso.  Click on the image to watch it!]

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Here are just a couple more snapshots of that auspicious morning which will forever imprint in my mind, same as last year and all the years before.

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