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Editorial: “Get Up from the Chair!”

Welcome to our seriously special issue on the theme of “making a difference.” With a deep sense of history and purpose and interconnection (how many times is Virginia Hamilton cited?), and with some thirty contributors, from Susan Cooper (on Ursula K. Le Guin) to Dhonielle Clayton (on Hamilton’s Willie Bea) to Kevin Henkes (on the Horn Book’s own Barbara Bader), this issue is one of the richest ever.

But let’s begin at the beginning. In our lead article Horn Book editor in chief Roger Sutton interviews his University of Chicago library school classmate Dr. Carla Hayden, now Librarian of Congress — the first woman and the first African American to so represent our nation. In the course of their wide-ranging conversation they touch on a core tenet of librarianship: when patrons ask for help, don’t just point them in the general direction of what they need — move out from behind the desk and take them where they need to go. Literally, connect the patron with the book. Literally, “Get up from the chair!”

That line has stayed with me because, as central as this approach is to librarianship, metaphorically it has much larger implications. “Get up from the chair,” make a difference in the world — this issue is full of people who have done just that. Seventy-five years ago, Ashley Bryan was a nineteen-year-old soldier serving overseas in WWII. Being Ashley, he made art the whole time. We are thrilled to present some of that remarkable work in a stunning layout designed by Horn Book creative director Lolly Robinson, with text by Nick Clark, director of the Ashley Bryan Center. Today, the artist is turning some of his WWII sketches into large, full-color paintings (see page 58); at ninety-four, he is still getting up from the chair.

Dr. Jonda C. McNair and Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop (whose iconic concept of mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors is implicit throughout this issue) write about The Brownies’ Book, W. E. B. Du Bois’s trailblazing early-twentieth-century literary magazine for children, emphasizing its continuing impact on contemporary African American children’s literature. New books such as Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut exemplify the magazine’s objectives in its celebration of “black boy joy,” pride, community, and aspiration (and see Crown author Derrick Barnes’s “Book That Changed My Life” essay on page 35).

Kekla Magoon’s “Writer’s Page” column extols the need for “ordinary” heroes. If you take away only one thing from this issue, let it be Kekla’s message that “we can all be part of something bigger.” In the children’s literature field alone, there’s so much we can do. Volunteer your time or donate books to schools, libraries, clinics, shelters. Give to literacy organizations such as Reach Out and Read (see page 39;; First Book (; Reading Is Fundamental (; Barbershop Books (; Liberation Library ( Get up from the chair — because the time for passive acceptance of the status quo is over. Whether it’s #OwnVoices or #WeNeedDiverseBooks or #MeToo or #KidLitWomen — and beyond — it’s time to stand up. I say this with the full understanding that many among us have never had the luxury or privilege of sitting down. We all need to stand up and speak out, as Yuyi Morales, in her gorgeous cover art, exhorts (“Let’s make our voices heard/Hagamos que nuestras voces sean escuchadas”).

One more thing: as Jon Klassen reminds us in his deconstruction of the genius of picture-book creator Pat Hutchins, children don’t stay little for long. The children of today are the adults who will run the world tomorrow, and we have the chance and the obligation to help them grow up to be healthy, literate, compassionate, and responsible citizens. To quote Lin-Manuel Miranda: “Tomorrow there’ll be more of us.” More of us to stand up and make our voices heard. More of us to make a difference.

From the May/June 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Making a Difference.

Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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