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Quick ALA 2014 Midwinter Recaps

  • Really impressed by many of the teen readers who talked about and analyzed the Best Fiction for Young Adults (BFYA) list on Saturday.
  • Trying to not bring too many books home but am definitely still carrying two big bags of (mostly) 2014 Young Adult fiction — this is not just for fun any more, it’s WORK!  (It’s always WORK but this one lies heavier on my heart due to my inability to read fast… but I will brave this challenge and come out a richer person at the other end.)
  • Can’t quite believe that 3M Cloud Library is not offering a School Library Module.  Oh, well!
  • Really happy for Kathy Dawson’s new imprint with Penguin!
  • And really happy to have met a new author for Random House: Jaleigh Johnson, girl gamer tax prep accountant author of fantasy novels.
  • ALSC Membership Committee is filled with smart, funny, and intelligent people.  I’m honored to serve with them.  And the Children’s Librarian Meet-Up initiative should prove quite fun and exciting.
  • BFYA members delivered cogent analyses and I definitely felt their passion for this literature.  Bravo!
  • The Battle of the Kids’ Books meetup went well and I, as always, made a fool of myself by being too excitable and silly, as always!  There will be a group photo posted on BoB site, soon.  We are going to reveal judges starting tomorrow or Wednesday.
  • The Youth Media Awards press conference went smoothly and I quite agreed with many of the award choices.  A little sad to not see True Blue Scouts of Sugarman Swamp or The Thing About Luck on the lists.  Extremely pleased with Newbery: Flora and Ulysses; Caldecott: Locomotive; Sibert: Parrots Over Puerto Rico; CSK: P.S. Be Eleven; Schneider: Rose Under Fire; Printz: Midwinterblood.  And many other deserving titles!  Special shout out to my friend,  co-Newbery-member from 2002, Ken Setterington for winning a Stonewall honor for his Branded by the Pink Triangle.
  • Excited to get back home and continue reading Far From You. 

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More photos for today’s post

More photos for today’s post: IMG_20130702_175227IMG_20130629_141110


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July 3, 2013 · 11:08 pm

2013 ALA Personal Highlights – Part 1

The 2013 American Library Association’s Annual Conference has brought me a multitude of unforgettable moments — mostly due to the fact that I served on the 2013 Newbery Committee and this was the weekend when the publishers of the honored and winning titles treated the Committee to celebratory meals. The restaurants were all distinctly different:

Friday night: We had dinner with Macmillan and Steve Sheinkin at Gioco — located inside a prohibition era building with a speakeasy back room — where there’s a large bookcase disguising a hidden door. A perfect setting to celebrate Bomb. We received the galley of Steve’s next book: Port Chicago 50.



Saturday: Lunch with Candlewick and Laure Amy Schlitz was at Blackbird, a sophisticated French restaurant. The fares are marvelous and the presentation impeccable — much like the honored book, Splendors and Glooms, and much like the publisher itself. Laura kept us spellbound with her storytelling and her elegant thank-you to all of us.

lauraamyschlitz with blair and steve laurasigning

Saturday night: Katherine Applegate and HarperCollins took us to Everest, the restaurant on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange Building, overlooking the city lights — we saw a huge rainbow that night, much to everyone’s delight! Each member of the Committee also received a soft stuffed animal of a Mighty Silverback that wears a shirt saying, “The One and Only Ivan!

kateandelizabethwith ivans rainbow

Sunday: Lunch with Penguin and Sheila Turnage at Chicago Q, an urban BBQ place serving everything family style inside a quirky building, truly fitting for Three Times Lucky. We were given the bound manuscript and a short reading of Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, sequel to this Newbery honored book.  Can’t wait to read it!


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Liberated!!! P(post)N(ewbery)W(ithdraw)S(syndromes)!

It is done.

For the last two days, 15 of us had the most exhilarating and literarily and intellectually challenging discussions over our nominated contenders for the 2013 Newbery. Everyone was civil, thoughtful, passionate, willing to negotiate AND willing to stand firm with conviction and concrete support from the books we read and re-read. Now the winning titles, author bios and book summaries have been submitted to the Public Information Office (ALA.) I have a day at the Conference to roam the exhibit hall isles, meet and chat with librarian friends from around the country, attend a luncheon, a preview, and a dinner.

Tomorrow we wake up around 5:00 and make our phone calls to Newbery medal and honor authors at 6:00. And then we attend the Youth Media Award Press Conference — to see everyone else’s reaction to our selections.

So, I guess, not all duties are done.

But, I am LIBERATED from the reading duty of 2012 children’s books!

Then came PNWS — Post Newbery Withdraw Syndromes — What do you mean that I don’t have to take page notes on the books I am reading now? (Which is the 3rd Kiki Strike, by the way) What do you mean that I no longer have the pleasure of constantly check what I read and how I feel against the set of Newbery criteria to see its eminence, distinguishing literary qualities, delineation of plot and setting, or presentation of information??? What do you mean that I don’t need to write cryptic “reviews” about the books I read… I can name them?

TOOO MUCH FREEDOM… I … CANNOT… CAN NOT handle this much freedom….. give me rules and restrictions… Don’t abandon me….

The above was only for dramatic effects… the truth is — although this feels a little odd and I feel a little lost without the FINAL GOAL looming over my head, the liberty of being able to read books not from the U.S., books not aimed at 0-14, books not newly published, etc. and then to openly discuss them cannot be sweeter.

I look forward to everyone’s reaction to the chosen titles!


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2002 Newbery Committee (that I served on) was written up in PW. It was a great evening. Thank you, Linda Sue and Kathy, our winner and amazing chair! http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/50475-ten-years-later-a-newbery-committee-reunites.html

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February 2, 2012 · 10:40 pm

Neil Gaiman and Co. in NYC

Neil Gaiman and six other authors who contributed to the STORIES: ALL NEW TALES spoke at a lively, humorous, and thoughtful panel discussion at Teachers College and I, along with a few high school students from the Science Fiction/Fantasy Cllub (SciFan as we call ourselves) had the pleasure of being entertained and at the same time gaining some insights into these interesting authors’ minds and their creative processes.

It was well worth the 2-hour wait (playing with my new laptop and new iPad with good WiFi connection in the building) and the two hour readings and Q&As.

The authors present were: Walter Mosley, Joe Hill, Kurt Andersen, Jeffrey Ford, Lawrence Block, Kat Howard, and Neil Gaiman.  Joe Hill acted as the moderator and did a fantastic job with his wit and deadpan humor.  Each of them read a few minutes from their stories and they all sounded quite intriguing — seems like this anthology collects quite a few different genre stories: sci-fi, fantasy, and horror were the ones we heard.  The authors discussed the state of the book world in light of “main stream” literature (those we’re MADE to read in schools?) and popular, genre fictions which, in some way, are leading the field in their popularity and success.

Gaiman stressed the importance of “page turning” writing — that you’re so hooked by a story well told, it doesn’t matter which genre it is; Mosley cautioned the audience to not generalize a generation’s or a perceived group’s experience by saying “we all….” because he believes that each individual has a dramatic struggle in life that does not have to have a War or an exterior pressure (such as racial discrimination) to lend itself to create and read great stories with dramatic arcs.

Kurt Andersen explained why the apocalyptic stories are in fashion by saying that the Baby Boomers generation is getting old and dying and if they are DYING, the world, of course, in their ego-centric mind, is DYING.. What else?  That got quite a hearty collective laugh from the audience.

I have not read the collection and only imagine that the tales are not meant for a child audience but some of the short stories might lend themselves to be shared in our Club come fall.

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Children’s Literature Circle (CLC)

I’ve been running a Faculty Children’s Literature Circle for, I guess, about 10 years here at Dalton.  The purpose of the Circle is simple: to enjoy books published for children and young adults, without a curricular agenda.  We meet once a month (give or take) during the school year and have read picture books, poetry, graphic novels, fiction and nonfiction.

Once in a while, an author or an editor would drop by and talk to us.  Last spring Wendy Lamb (editor for the Newbery winning title When You Reach Me) came and listened to our discussions and met with a few students about the book and this spring Rita William-Garcia and Rosemary Brosnan (author-editor duo for One Crazy Summer) visited with us and answered some of our queries and shared with us some of their insights and process.  Two other authors came to Dalton and spoke to the students and we also prepared ourselves by reading one book from each author: Katherine Paterson and Jacqueline Wilson.

There are about twenty of us who hold quite a mixture of roles: administrators, middle school classroom and English teachers, math teachers, preceptorial faculty, theater teachers, technology department staff, and librarians from lower and middle school.  We have lively discussion and really enjoy each other’s company.

I always wanted to keep a record of what we read and what we talk about during the meetings and now I am actually going to start simply by listing what we read this past academic year in the Circle.  We met six times this year and read novels of various genres.

The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson

Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula le Guin

The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson

One Crazy Summer by Rita William-Garcia

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