Check out my recent interview with Dr. Shawnta Barnes on her show EdGems. We chat about libraries as rich resources, book banning, audio books and more!
Warrior Girl Unearthed – Releases May 2nd
May 2nd is the Book Birthday of Angeline Boulley’s next thriller, WARRIOR GIRL UNEARTHED. Be sure to head out to your local bookstore or pick up a copy from a Black-owned online retailer like Brain Lair Books through their Bookshop page or through a Native-owned bookshop like Birchbark Books.
I can’t wait to give my mind and spirit some rest this summer. I look forward to picking up books I haven’t had time to enjoy due to a busy school year.
Bookish things? Yes, Bookish things!
I haven’t been blogging but I have been doing bookish things, my friends.
On April 8th, at Mystery to Me Bookstore in Madison, WI, I had the pleasure of hearing Kevin Henkes speak about his new book THE WORLD AND EVERYTHING IN IT. It was a lovely talk and he is a lovely person. My friend Caitlin and I noticed how the children in the audience were completely engaged the entire presentation. He talked about his craft, brought some process paintings and read his new book aloud to us. He even signed my childhood copy of OWEN! Check out my review of OWEN here. 🙂
On April 24th, I had the pleasure of seeing Tommy Orange speak at the Madison Public Library Central branch about his book THERE THERE. It was another wonderful talk and he is very kind person! I especially enjoyed how he talks about the craft of writing and the sovereignty of Indigenous nations. I was so happy to hear his love and respect for Toni Morrison. It was such a great chat.Continue reading
My 2022 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury Experience
Back in June of 2022 I wrapped up one-year of service on the 2022 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury. We were tasked with the responsibility of reading through children’s books published in 2021, for ages 0-18, that were written or illustrated by Black creators. The purpose of the award is to highlight books that “reflect the Black experience.” As any Black person knows, that is a difficult task, as there is no one “Black experience.” This is something we had to discuss time and time again as we broke down every book that made it to our final discussion list.
If I’m to be honest, for most of 2021 I struggled with making sure I gave my full time and attention to this award. Life doesn’t stop just because you’re on a book committee! Anyone who has served on a book committee knows how much work it takes to read, review and judge books for the purpose of an award. It was no easy task reading everything from baby board books to Young Adult literature. I was confident in my ability to review, evaluate and clearly discuss books, though. I know kids books. I understand the complex interplay between quality illustration and text. But the challenge for me was time management; I wanted to give each book a fair shake. For anyone looking to join a book awards committee, especially one for ALA, find comfort in the fact that you have your committee to fall back on. There’s a reason why we give feedback, share thoughts, deliberate and discuss. Life is bound to get in the way of reading and sometimes you just can’t give your all to every book. That’s why you have other people to fill in the gaps. I’m so grateful for my committee. We did the damn thing. We poured our hearts into our discussion and chose our winners with care, consideration and pride.
I’ve done this book-deliberation-thing twice now, in two very different ways, and there are pros and cons to both. If you look back through this blog, you’ll see that I was on the 2020 Caldecott Committee. For that process, since it was before COVID shutdowns, deliberation was done the old way, in person, in a big room where we were sequestered for an entire weekend. Because my committee experience for CSK (Coretta Scott King) was well into the COVID 19 pandemic, we shifted to a new virtual deliberation model. In January 2022, just a few weeks before the virtual Midwinter Conference, our committee “met” via Zoom for several days. There was lots of talking, laughing, reflecting, snacking and stretch-breaks. In some ways it mimicked the in-person deliberation experience (both were exhausting) and in other ways it was completely foreign. For example, we couldn’t pass the books around the table like we did with Caldecott. We weren’t able to go out and get lunch and dinner together. We had to have all our books ready at our tables/desks to pull out when discussion time was ready. By the way, major kudos to our Jury Chair Jason Driver for leading us through the virtual deliberation format with grace and ease. We were all so tired but also deeply energized by the end as we looked at our slate with pride and joy.
New Picture book about Surya Bonaly?!?
Super excited that there’s a new picture book about Surya Bonaly in France! It will be translated to English next year. I grew up watching Surya skate and I can’t wait to read this book & share it with little ones.
Wonderful! Check out her Instagram page for more information.
What’s an Abortion, Anyway?
“No matter how someone has an abortion, everyone should be able to decide the way that is best for them.”
This lovely book arrived in my inbox a while ago & now is the time to share it with you.
What’s An Abortion, Anyway? is a picture book for children age 8+ that helps fill a gap in kidlit that’s existed for far too long. Children’s literature can be used to create comfortable & necessary conversations between a child, caregivers and teachers. This book is a helpful and beautiful resource to guide children in thinking about reproductive rights and the experiences of those who have abortions.
What I love about this picture book is that it is straightforward, pretty and thoughtful. Carly Manes takes great care with her words to ensure that the inclusive language of the book shines & reassures. The words “people” and “persons” are used throughout to remind readers that cis gender women are not the only people who get pregnant and have abortions. This is an important detail. The book, overall, has an extremely chill and comforting vibe, which is achieved through careful choice of words, sparse layout of the spreads and bright and earthy colors. Manes takes the time to delve into the importance of feelings and choices when describing what people who have abortions experience.
Manes also goes into some of the “whys” of the decision to have an abortion. These types of conversations help children explore empathy. This is so crucial when growing small humans. This picture book is a “science book” but it’s also a “feelings” book. Clear communication and allowing space to explore emotion is crucial in helping kids understand what abortions are about and why they are important.
The spreads of this picture book are open and welcoming. Emulsify does a gorgeous job of expressing emotion through color, line, body language and white space. The use of white space in this book draws the eye towards the blocks of text and to the illustration, inviting quiet reflection. In another thoughtful detail, the illustrations of people in this picture book are all based on people who have had abortions. I love this.
As you read the book, you’ll notice a thin, curved line & bright sparkles that joyfully zip through every spread. This illustrative detail adds levity and a feeling of connectedness as the reader flows through the book. I also especially love the spread where a dark-skinned person with bright pink cornrows stands on the left side of the page while a health clinic sits on the other side, a wide expanse of road connecting them. I believe this scene might depict the experience of many people who have abortions; it is often a contemplative journey. Emulsify really packs a lot of storytelling into this particular spread through excellent use of space & vivid color.
What’s an Abortion, Anyway? is a joyful and important book for youth. It opens up the discussion of abortions in a respectful and beautiful way that children will be able to connect to. I’m glad that this book exists in our world and that the talents of Carly Manes (abortion doula) and Emulsify (artist, cultural worker and organizer) combined to produce this picture book.
This book was the result of lots of support and love through the website Kickstarter. If you’d like to purchase a copy, check out the Kickstarter link here & the website here.
Take good care, everyone! Let’s keep sharing loving, supportive and empathetic literature with our youth.
Recommended for: Ages 8+
Great for: Family, Community, Abortion, Healthcare, Friendship, Discussion, Empathy, Reproductive Rights
Book Info: What’s an Abortion, Anyway? by Carly Manes/Illustrated by Emulsify, 2021 Kickstarter
On the Eve of the Youth Media Awards…
I woke up today in the mood to write a quick blog post. Tomorrow (click here) at 8am CT, we’ll celebrate another round of excellent children’s literature & so I’ve been thinking about what touched me/left an impression over the last year. I know a little bit about the rigor and dedication that goes into serving on Caldecott Committee. After a year of reading and an entire weekend of debate (and snacks) in Philly, my 2020 committee chose THE UNDEFEATED for the gold & BEAR CAME ALONG, GOING DOWN HOME WITH DADDY & DOUBLE BASS BLUES for honors.
I’ve been thinking about this year’s committee all year, especially since they’ve served in a way unlike ever before, virtually. I want to thank them for their hard work and passion for children’s literature & I can’t wait to see what they choose as the most “distinguished” “picture book for children.”
Now, I have to tell y’all my reading has been…not great over the last year or so. But based on the books I did get to read in 2020, I really loved these, so here we go:
My 2021 Caldecott GOLD Prediction:Continue reading
Grandma’s Tiny House
Grandma’s Tiny House beautifully affirms Black family-love while being a super clever counting book. It reminds me of Just a Minute! by Yuyi Morales and that’s a pretty remarkable book!
The story begins with Grandma sitting in her very tiny house, waiting for her HUGE family, friends and neighbors to roll through. Dish by dish, pot by pot, all her guests bring delicious treats (mostly soul-food classics) to share. But very quickly, they run out of space until one of her granddaughters has a GREAT idea that’ll keep the party going (without it being a tight squeeze)!
There’s so much to love about this book. First of all, JaNay Brown-Wood’s rhyme is wonderful; simple and strong, with great read aloud/story-time appeal:
SEVEN cool uncles stroll up in a line, / with EIGHT jugs of lemonade, ice-cold and fine.
Long Time, No Write!
*blows dust off website*
It’s been a while. Sheesh. I’ve been very, very busy doing some really cool stuff that I’ll share with you RIGHT NOW. 🙂
- I was appointed to the 2020 Randolph Caldecott Committee!! **AHHHHH** Anyone who’s been following my blog a while knows how passionate I am about picture books. This is a dream, y’all. And to be APPOINTED?! I’m SO grateful and EXCITED. Thank you ALSC for seeing my hard work and believing that I can do a great job on this committee. I can’t wait to spend 2019 reading and reflecting on EVERY ELIGIBLE PICTURE BOOK PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES! I’m also looking forward to excellent discussions with my committee members! This will mean I can’t blog about any 2019 book with illustrations next year but I hope to blog about older books.
- In July, School Library Journal published our article NATIVE YA: FOUR NATIVE AMERICAN AUTHORS DISCUSS THEIR STORIES AND MESSAGES FOR TEENS. I had the privilege of interviewing Dawn Quigley, Joseph Bruchac, Cynthia Leitich Smith and Eric Gansworth on the topic of Native Young Adult Lit! There’s also a Native YA booklist at the end of the piece, parents, teachers and educators!
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy
Black boys have bones and blood / And feelings
Black boys have minds that thrive with ideas / Like bees around a hive / Black boys are alive with wonder and possibility / With hopes and dreams
This is a gorgeous collection of tanka poetry inspired by the brilliance of black boys, the poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens, the poetry collection Twenty-Six Ways of Looking at a Black Man by Raymond R. Patterson and Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s essay collection Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man.
Medina celebrates black boyhood through thirteen thoughtful & resonant poems. Readers are also treated to artwork from thirteen of children’s literature’s top black illustrators. Many of the poems in this collection were originally paired with photographs of residents of Anacostia, Washington D.C., a historically black neighborhood originally home to Nacotchtank Native peoples.