Drag Queen Story Hour for Pride Month

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On June 30th, I attended Cincinnati Library’s very first Drag Queen Story Hour at our Northside Branch! It was a fun way to end Pride Month in Cincinnati and was very well attended for being Cincinnati’s first go at this fast-growing library trend. If you want to learn more about Drag Queen Story Hours, click here.

After a bit of a wait (she was getting ready in the bathroom), Ms. Amaya made a glamorous appearance, read two stories and sang songs with everyone. After she put on her special reading glasses, she began with the Todd Parr classic, It’s Okay to Be Different and later read A Peacock Among Pigeons. In between stories we got moving & shaking to songs like “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and “The Hips on the Drag Queen (Go Shake Shake Shake).” Northside Library did an great job with this event. They made sure to have a table with books available for check out. A few featured books were I am Jazz, Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress and George, three books that discuss identity and trans youth. They even had a craft table at the back of the room where kids decorated and bedazzled crowns to take home.

The mood in the room was happy and vibrant. Everyone was smiling, dancing and having fun. I had a conversation with an author friend (who recently attended a Drag Queen Story Hour in her neighborhood) about whether or not Drag Queen Story Hours are as subversive as they’re advertised to be, especially if kids don’t understand what they’re experiencing. At our story hour, the kids ranged in age from infancy to 6 or 7 years old. There wasn’t any discussion, by library staff or Ms. Amaya, about what exactly a Drag Queen is or what Pride Month celebrates. Drag Queen Story Hours can be enhanced by parents having discussions with their kids about Drag Queens, performance, queerness, inclusivity, and identity. This might help fill in gaps of understanding, introduce new concepts and maybe even inspire questioning kids in attendance.

Drag Queen Story Hours are perfect events for libraries because libraries are community centers & welcoming spaces for all types of people. They’ve always been centers for learning and growth. These story hours are a welcome addition to more inclusive programming for children & families nationwide!

Maybe find a Drag Queen Story Hour in your area?

I hope you had a great Pride Month 2017! 🙂

Finding Community at the 2017 Kweli Conference in NYC

 

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This Cincinnati girl hopped on a plane and became a New Yorker for a few days!

On April 8th, I woke up bright and early and took the train to downtown Manhattan for the Kweli: Color of Children’s Literature Conference. As I walked down the massive hallway of The New York Times building and rounded the corner, I saw conference organizer, Laura Pegram’s smiling face and I knew I was at home. I felt immediately welcome and energized for a day of connecting with authors, illustrators and publishing industry professionals. My friend/debut author Traci Sorell found me right away and gave me a huge hug; it was so great to finally meet her in person!  Continue reading

ALA Youth Media Awards: Predictions!

 

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The ALA Youth Media Awards (Monday, January 23rd) are upon us and it’s time to share my predictions! This is always fun. 🙂

I have more faith in my picture book predictions; my middle grade (and young adult) reading this year has been abysmal! The awards I’m covering reflect this and I didn’t choose awards that are specifically for YA books though I did make a few YA predictions for other awards.

If you haven’t guessed already, Caldecott is my favorite, so I spent a lot of time thinking about this award. I even attended a Mock Caldecott at Cincinnati’s Main Library (which was a fun experience).

I picked awards that I had confident & informed guesses about and I tried my best to research and read as many books as I could. I’m certain that I’m leaving a lot out! We’ll see what I miss on Monday! Please feel free to tell me if a pick is ineligible and leave your thoughts in the comments.

So…let’s start, shall we? MY WINNERS ARE:

 

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Image Credit: Simon & Schuster, Ashley Bryan

 

CORETTA SCOTT KING (AUTHOR) BOOK AWARD: FREEDOM OVER ME by ASHLEY BRYAN

HONORS: DON’T CALL ME GRANDMA by VAUNDA MICHEAUX NELSON & illustrated by ELIZABETH ZUNON

AS BRAVE AS YOU by JASON REYNOLDS

GHOST by JASON REYNOLDS

 

freedomincongosquare

Image Credit: Little Bee Books, Carole Boston Weatherford/R. Gregory Christie

 

CORETTA SCOTT KING (ILLUSTRATOR) BOOK AWARD: FREEDOM IN CONGO SQUARE illustrated by R. GREGORY CHRISTIE & written by CAROLE BOSTON WEATHERFORD

HONORSRADIANT CHILD by JAVAKA STEPTOE

IN PLAIN SIGHT illustrated by JERRY PINKNEY & written by RICHARD JACKSON

WHOOSH! illustrated by DON TATE & written by CHRIS BARTON

 

two-naomis

Image Credit: Harper Collins, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich & Audrey Vernick

 

CORETTA SCOTT KING/JOHN STEPTOE NEW TALENT AWARD: OLUGBEMISOLA RHUDAY-PERKOVICH (for the middle grade novel TWO NAOMIS)

~*~

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Image Credit: Simon & Schuster, Margarita Engle

 

PURA BELPRÉ AUTHOR AWARDLION ISLAND by MARGARITA ENGLE

HONORSBURN BABY BURN by MEG MEDINA

 

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Image Credit: Abrams, Duncan Tonatiuh

 

PURA BELPRÉ ILLUSTRATOR AWARD: THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR by DUNCAN       TONATIUH

HONORS: CANTICOS: LOS POLLITOS by SUSIE JAMARILLO

MAYBE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL illustrated by RAFAEL LÓPEZ & written by ISABEL CAMPOY & THERESA HOWELL

MARTA BIG & SMALL illustrated by ANGELA DOMINGUEZ & written by JEN ARENA

 

~*~

 

wolf-hollow

Image Credit: Penguin Random House, Lauren Wolk

 

JOHN NEWBERY MEDALWOLF HOLLOW by LAUREN WOLK

HONORS: AS BRAVE AS YOU BY JASON REYNOLDS

PAX BY SARAH PENNYPACKER

THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON BY KELLY BARNHILL

 

~*~

theyallsawacat

Image Credit: Chronicle Books, Brendan Wenzel

 

RANDOLPH CALDECOTT MEDAL: THEY ALL SAW A CAT by BRENDAN WENZEL

HONORS: RADIANT CHILD by JAVAKA STEPTOE

BEFORE MORNING illustrated by BETH KROMMES & written by JOYCE SIDMAN

FREEDOM IN CONGO SQUARE illustrated by R. GREGORY CHRISTIE & written by CAROLE BOSTON WEATHERFORD

THUNDER BOY JR. illustrated by YUYI MORALES & written by SHERMAN ALEXIE

~*~

somewriter

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Melissa Sweet

 

ROBERT F. SIBERT INFORMATIONAL BOOK MEDAL: SOME WRITER by MELISSA SWEET

HONORS: GIANT SQUID by CANDACE FLEMING

WE WILL NOT BE SILENT BY RUSSELL FREEDMAN

SACHIKO: A NAGASAKI BOMB SURVIVOR’S STORY by CAREN STELSEN

 

~*~

 

 

STONEWALL BOOK AWARD (MIKE MORGAN & LARRY ROMANS CHILDREN’S AND YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE AWARD): WORM LOVES WORM written J.J. AUSTRIAN & illustrated by MIKE CURATO

GIRL MANS UP by M-E GIRARD

 

~*~

cryheart

Image Credit: Enchanted Lion Books, Glenn Ringtved, Charlotte Pardi, Robert Moulthrop

 

MILDRED L. BATCHELDER AWARD: CRY, HEART, BUT NEVER BREAK written by GLENN RINGTVED, illustrated by CHARLOTTE PARDI and translated by ROBERT MOULTHROP

 

~*~

we-are-growing

Image Credit: Disney-Hyperion, Laurie Keller

 

THEODOR SEUSS GEISEL AWARD: WE ARE GROWING by LAURIE KELLER

HONORS: HORRIBLE BEAR! written by AME DYCKMAN & illustrated by ZACHARIAH OHORA

                  THUNDER BOY JR. written by SHERMAN ALEXIE & illustrated by YUYI MORALES

                  THIS IS NOT A PICTURE BOOK by SERGIO RUZZIER

~*~

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Image Credit: Harper Collins, Aaron Philip & Tonya Bolden

 

SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARD: THIS KID CAN FLY: IT’S ABOUT ABILITY (NOT             DISABILITY) by AARON PHILIP (and TONYA BOLDEN)

 

 

 

 

Children’s Diverse Books Matter!

Y’all!!!!  🙂

On Saturday October 15th, in Cincinnati we had the Books by the Banks festival and…I was on a panel!

Cincinnati librarian Sam Bloom invited me (thanks again, Sam!) to join him and authors Greg Lietich Smith & Zetta Elliott on a panel about the state of diverse children’s books. Education Librarian Edith Campbell was in the audience.

On the morning of the festival, we squeezed next to each other at a small table in a small room…but the feeling was warm and inviting. There were about twenty people in attendance and Sam began the panel by asking us about the newly released infographic about diverse books. The white child in the infographic has lots of mirrors and sees himself in every type of role; even a rabbit sees itself more than the children of color and the Native child. Though Sam had a few questions to guide us, the panel was mostly open discussion with a few audience members chiming in.

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Click to view in more detail!

Zetta had really important points about how the system needs to be changed. She said we need more people of color in publishing who will speak up and we need more people of color engaging in community based publishing/self-publishing! I talked about the importance of #ownvoices. We have more books with children of color on the covers but still not enough authors of color. Sam asked me about my interactions with white customers in my bookstore; how often do they turn down diverse books if they’re offered to them? I said that very often diverse books don’t make it to the check out. Greg Lietich Smith said that he feels that publishing is too centered in expensive New York City and people from upper classes (usually white) are the ones who can afford to be there and take unpaid publishing internships.  Zetta and Greg both believe we need more regional publishing. Zetta also touched on the need for reparations in the kid lit community. Read more about that here. We also talked about the makeup of kid lit awards committees.

At the end of the panel, we agreed that it went by much too quickly! It’s always fun talking about diverse books and this was the first time I’ve talked about them in a professional setting. I even gave a shout out to one of my favorite black girl books, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters!  ❤

Good times. Can’t wait to do it again.

Self Affirmation. Black Books. Black Lives

A friend of mine wrote a post on his Facebook about being tired of feeling like he has to put on a smile while black men, men who look like him and his brothers, are being killed. This “performance” is exhausting. Most people of color know it well; we put it on in mostly white spaces. We put it on even if we’re grieving, even if we’re exhausted, even if we’re scared for our lives.

It’s a kind of desensitization yet hyper-sensitivity. It’s also depression. I know I’ve felt it. It’s most acute the moment we hear another black person has been killed by the hands of law enforcement for little to no reason. Another reason to believe that our lives really don’t matter and that this system is not built to protect us. Not long ago we were chattel. Black parents continually worry about not only their own lives but the lives of their children; white parents don’t have to worry about their children getting gunned down by police for the color of their skin and perceived aggressiveness.

While existing in this space as an educator, as a lover of books and as a black woman, I occasionally think thoughts like “Well who gives a fuck about diverse books when there are black bodies in the streets?? Is it really that important?”

It is. Self affirmation is strength and books have power. To escape this world & get lost in a book (even if only for a few minutes) can be a form of healing for families of color. Seeing a kid in a book that looks like you is empowering. That’s what we need, more empowered kids of color.

Representation matters now more than ever.

Conflicted

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child releases soon and the world is once again engulfed in Harry Potter Mania. People are starting to freak out, my bookstore is preparing for a Midnight Release, we have a cute display up and fans are getting that magical feeling again. This is the excitement that J.K. Rowling so brilliantly created for us; we’re anxious to return to the world of Harry Potter and see where she takes us next.

Except…I can’t get over how J.K. Rowling continues to ignore Native voices.

These voices are speaking up about her cultural appropriation in Magic in North America. I wrote a bit about it here, around the time the first chapter was released on Pottermore, and though it’s been months, Rowling has been silent. No engagement and no dialogue. Her only response so far to this problematic piece of writing has been to block a Native person on Twitter.

There’s a very bitter taste in my mouth. I’ve been trying to re-read the series in anticipation of the new book and I just…can’t right now.

One great thing about the internet and social media is that it’s a powerful platform; Native authors and academics are discussing J.K. Rowling’s work and major news outlets have amplified their voices. This is a big deal.

I’ve also been thinking about the lines between respect, fandom and criticism of authors/illustrators. Sam Bloom wrote a really good piece about Lane Smith’s book A Tribe of Kids, “playing indian” and critically examining an author’s work. Authors make mistakes and they can also learn from them. Especially in children’s literature, it’s important to listen to criticism because THIS IS ABOUT THE KIDS. When you’re writing about/alluding to cultures that aren’t your own, you have the responsibility to be respectful.

With great power comes great responsibility, J.K. Right?

Brown Girl Writer & Dreamer at My Local Library

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Image Credit: Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin Random), Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson strode into Cincinnati’s Main Library on June 18th to talk to us about her book Brown Girl Dreaming. Her walk is confident, she wears a nose ring and wore a shirt that said “Black is Beautiful.” She began with a quiet bang by reading from her book Each Kindness and then kept it very real. Not long ago, the Cincinnati Library board unanimously decided not to change their insurance to cover gender confirmation surgery for long time employee, Rachel Dovel. Woodson was honest with us, she said it was difficult for her to be in the space as a gay, out, woman of color who cares about equality. Though she was happy to talk to us, she was also frustrated that the library didn’t support Rachel & equality.

“I stand with Rachel” she said.

I respect and admire her strength in supporting another woman who continues to be strong in the face of opposition.

The next hour was her reading from Brown Girl Dreaming, anecdotes about her two kids and their short attention span, comments about living in Brooklyn, reflections on parenting and her confusion about how to pronounce Chillicothe, Ohio. >_< The mood was comfortable; the crowd wasn’t as big as I hoped it would be but the people in attendance were engaged. I was very happy to see young brown girls in the audience. In the very front row sat a few young white girls who followed along in their copies of Brown Girl Dreaming while Jacqueline read aloud to us (she’d announce what page she was on) and two of the girls had really great questions at the end.

It was a really nice event; I even asked a question about diverse books and her hopes for the future (how could I resist??) and when she signed my book, I got to talk to her a little more. She’s such a cool person!

I wish you the best Jacqueline! Thanks for stopping by Cincinnati, speaking to us and sharing your light.

 

P.S. If you haven’t read Brown Girl Dreaming yet…get on it! 😉

Za Za Zoom! Za Za Zoom! ~ With Hervé Tullet

 

On May 20th I attended a reading, workshop and book signing for the dynamic (and VERY kind) Hervé Tullet. Hervé is a New York Times Best Selling Author of children’s books that encourage imagination and creativity. He stopped by the Columbus Museum of Art for a few days to work with families and children. I was happy to see so many multicultural families at the workshop!

I hit the road early Friday morning with my friend Claire to make it to the event on time. Hervé began by setting his books on the edge of the stage for the children to see then bent over to pick up a book to read. He entertained us with his funny sounds and movements. In addition to his books Press Here, Let’s Play! and Mix It Up!, he read some of his books in French! If he made a funny sound, we repeated it but he had us do this over and over again until he was satisfied! Because many of his books are interactive, he chose children to help him read them to the audience. My favorite moment was when he read his book The Game of Shadows. Suddenly he got a “phone call,” cued the lights to turn off and used his cell phone to shine a light though the cardboard cut-outs of the book. The light made eerie shadows on the auditorium ceiling and the kids loved it! I was smiling and laughing gleefully throughout the entire experience.  😀

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Next we walked upstairs (like a happy herd of families + artist) to paint under his instruction. Long strips of white paper were taped on the floor with cups of paint and paintbrushes beside them. He instructed us to paint a dot, paint a bigger dot, paint a circle, paint dots in the circles and move, move, move! It was like a collaborative art project-musical chairs and in the end we created a beautiful field of flowers, together. I overheard one child say “Oopsie!” as he painted a flower but his mother said to him “That’s alright; you can’t make any mistakes.” That interaction stood out to me because it represents the message of Hervé Tullet’s art and books; have fun and enjoy!!

The last part of the event was a book signing where Hervé beautifully signed a copy of Press Here for me. For every family, he pulled out his paint markers and dabbed, dotted and listened intently as he vigorously created beautiful art inside their books. I was pleased to learn that every family got a free copy of his book Art Workshops for Children.

Now that I’ve met Hervé Tullet, I’m even more excited to share his books with the world because I know where he comes from. His spirit is beautiful. I hope that many families and classrooms can experience the excitement, wonder and energy that he tucks inside his books. Get painting (and reading)!

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Merci beaucoup for a great day of painting, fun and laughs, Hervé!

Yo Illustrators…I Love ya!

Why is it soooo hard to search for books by illustrator? Sure I can search Google but it’s a problem when databases and computer programs have no “illustrator” option for search.

The other day a customer came into my bookstore asking for books illustrated by C.F. Payne. There’s NO way to search our inventory by illustrator (there IS an author option, of course). How messed up is that? So I struggled to quickly find 1) The books C.F. Payne’s illustrated (quite a lot) and 2) which ones we had in store! I was talking to author/illustrator Sarah McIntyre about this problem and she said that in general, it’s hard to get data on illustrators and the industry is very behind…#PicturesMeanBusiness! They really do. >_<  There’s no denying the necessity of a skilled illustrator to sell books so why are we so behind in crediting them/making it easier to find (and buy) their work?

When the average customer walks into a bookstore or library, they’re drawn to the illustrations of a book first. Most people don’t follow authors/illustrators; they just want a good book. But when people do find an illustrator they enjoy, it should be easier to serve them and get them the books they need.

Here’s an excellent post from Sarah MacIntyre’s blog on book metadata. Please check it out!

http://jabberworks.livejournal.com/713698.html

Harry Potter and the Goblet of NOPE!

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Image Credit: Pottermore/Warner Brothers

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET of NOPE!

Dear JK Rowling,

Alia here.

There’s no denying you’re one of the most brilliant minds of our era. You’ve created worlds that we get lost in and complex characters that we love dearly. But with MAGIC IN NORTH AMERICA, something went wrong.

Maybe it’s that you’re not from North America? But surely you did your research into the complexities that are the native peoples of this continent…Maybe it’s that you didn’t grow up constantly bombarded by stereotypical images of native people on TV, in movies, as Halloween costumes, etc.? Maybe it’s because you didn’t go to school here and didn’t receive an incomplete history of native peoples that basically stops after “First Contact” & “Thanksgiving” and ignores modern native people? Perhaps…

There are real issues here. You’re dealing with real people, cultures, traditions and religions and with that comes a lot of responsibility. Native people are already heavily stereotyped around the world as “Magical Beings” and now…they’re in your magical canon! Not only do you refer to them as a monolithic group (there are hundreds of nations in the US alone), you *seem* to imply that native wand-less magic is powerful but not as refined as European magic (due to the power of a wand).

I encourage you, Ms. Rowling, to respond to native academics, fans, etc. who are asking you tough, but important questions. Debbie Reese, Dr. Adrienne Keene and many others have tweeted at you. Herehere & here are some EXCELLENT articles that delve into your work from a native perspective. This one is excellent as well. I ask you to check out Debbie Reese and Dr. Adrienne Keene’s websites in general. Just look around. They do great work.

Let’s get this discussion going and please let us know who you consulted for this project because we’re SUPER CURIOUS. (at least I am…)

Representation Matters.

It really does and yes, anyone CAN write a story, but I’d hope they LISTEN and learn as much as possible before releasing it to the world, especially when you’re dealing with living people, religions, and NATIVE KIDS. There’s a long history of misrepresentation, exploitation and stereotyping of native peoples.

MAGIC IN NORTH AMERICA is problematic and we await your response…

Sincerely,

A Fan

**SIPS TEA (out of the Goblet of Fire)**