KidLitCon 2019

2019's KidLitCon, “an annual gathering of people who care about, and/or blog (or Tweet or Instagram or Facebook or make Videos) about children’s and young adult books, including librarians, teachers, authors & illustrators (both published and aspiring), parents, guardians, and book reviewers,” was held in nearby Providence, Rhode Island, with the theme “Reaching Readers.” On Friday, I attended my first KidLitCon as a panelist — and to connect with, and learn from, the people around me.

In her keynote speech, author/illustrator LeUyen Pham, whose family left Saigon for the U.S. when she was a toddler, recalled the role of books as her “way in” to American culture. She thanked the teachers and librarians who found books with characters she could connect to on a variety of levels, adding, “I was never handed a book about an Asian American girl because I was an Asian American girl.”

Next was “Overcoming Adversity: Creating Resilient Characters in Children’s Literature,” with authors Kimberly Newton Fusco, Leslie Connor, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Padma Venkatraman, and Rebecca Caprara, moderated by Laurie Smith Murphy. The authors answered questions about a wide range of serious issues in their work, from illness to poverty, and about the impact they hope to have on readers. Then, “Reading Strategies with Multicultural Books” included three presentations, from library media specialist Lisa Carroll, psychology professor and Diverse BookFinder co-founder Krista Aronson, and author Emma Otheguy (with moderator Lisa Rogers) about the ways children understand race and what we can do to counteract bias.

L-R: moderator Lisa Rogers; panelists Krista Aronson, Emma Otheguy, and Lisa Carroll. 

In “Not Just the Newbery: All About Awards and Best Book Lists,” Charlotte Taylor, Anamaria Anderson, and I addressed all sorts of aspects of how awards work. Charlotte is a longtime judge and organizer of the CYBILS awards; Anamaria is assistant chair of USBBY's Outstanding International Books List committee and has served on the Batchelder committee; and I’m a current member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award  committee (which honors “outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience”), with knowledge (by osmosis) of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards. So the three of us had a lot to talk about: committee composition and how judges get chosen, how books reach judges, how many books reach judges, the process of narrowing books down and choosing winners, and variations in criteria. Those present asked lots of good questions, particularly about eligibility and submission processes, and all in all, it was quite a full forty-five minutes!

Laura M. Jiménez moderated a panel on “Teaching, Blogging and Reviewing Books about Social Justice” with authors Padma Venkatraman, Lyn Miller-Lachman, and Kip Wilson. The authors talked about how their own experiences have informed their books and how historical fiction can resonate today (Kip compared the White Rose movement, which is depicted in her debut novel, to the Parkland High School teen activists).

L-R: moderator Jeanette Bradley; panelists Megan Dowd Lambert, Alli Harper, Andrea Loney, and Christian Trimmer.

Finally, I attended “The State of the Bookshelf for LGBTQ-Positive Picture Books,” with moderator Jeanette Bradley and panelists Megan Dowd Lambert, Andrea Loney, Christian Trimmer, and Alli Harper. The panelists highlighted favorites, but also discussed how much more work is needed in this area: more books featuring queer people of color, more that include queer families without necessarily centering the family situation, and as Alli said, simply more books: “we have bedtime every night.”

The next day promised a great lineup, with a keynote speech by Varian Johnson and panelists including Zetta Elliott, Oge Mora, Barbara Dee, Tui Sutherland, and Isabel Roxas, just to scratch the surface. It was great to examine the ways we reach readers from so many different angles. Thanks for the invite, KidLitCon!
Shoshana Flax
Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, associate editor of The Horn Book Magazine, is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. She is a current member of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award committee, and has served on the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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Thanks for coming, Shoshana!

Posted : Mar 29, 2019 09:06


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