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How a Prelingual Deaf Child Learned to Love Books

There have been several major studies in recent decades about the benefits of reading picture books to profoundly deaf children with delayed literacy skills. Often, the kids are compared to their average-hearing peers, and, though this may be perplexing to some, their skills have not been found wanting. Cheri L....

My Father's Final Lesson - The Zena Sutherland Lecture

The idea of giving a lecture is kind of funky for me. So I will do what I always do, which is just tell you a story. Anyone who knows me knows I love my mama. But when I was thinking about what I wanted to talk about today, I...

2021 Mind the Gap Awards: The books that didn't win at ALA

Not all deserving books bring home ALA awards. The books that didn’t win.   Stalled The Old Truck by Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey     Didn't fly How to Find a Bird by Jennifer Ward; illus. by Diana Sudyka     Missed its... Chance by Uri Shulevitz    ...

O Say Can You See

While fireworks over county fairgrounds hover, as rockets whistling bang and everybody cheers,        fireflies miles away spangle a hillside field with secret slowly moving silent little stars.   Statelessly floating as on some unseen river, floating just above the ground and spinning as   the cries grow dimmer, what...

The Latinx KidLit Book Festival

The year 2020 was challenging — and will forever be associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. But there were some bright spots. The inaugural Latinx KidLit Book Festival, brought to viewers by Las Musas Books — a collective of women and nonbinary Latinx middle-grade, picture book, and YA authors — is...

Simple and Unassuming: Seeing Myself in the Story of a Bossy Rooster

You never know what it is about a book that an individual reader will connect with. It could be a character’s personality or interests. It could be the setting, a shared home. And sometimes it is something as simple and unassuming as an object. Let’s say, a box. When my...

AfroLatin@ Children's Literature, Education, and the Black Diaspora

While working as a young adult information assistant at the Countee Cullen Library, located behind the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City, I visited the James Weldon Johnson Reference Collection, on the children’s floor. The collection consists of an impressive array of Black children’s books,...

Notes from Our Backyard

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The Cinco Puntos Press office in El Paso.   Let us begin by congratulating REFORMA and all the wonderful activist librarians who have made the Pura Belpré Award such a great success. Twenty-five years! They have fought for Latinx culture in its many forms and in doing so have brought...

Memorial Day 2021: The Great Reset and Tomb Guard Values

On the evening the Centers for Disease Control announced that fully vaccinated people could essentially eschew their masks indoors and out, I was in Manhattan keeping vigil with my ailing father. As I walked north on Riverside Drive after a visit to his bedside, what struck me most was the...

Un Poquito Complicated: Spanish and the Pura Belpré Award

When the Pura Belpré Award was established in 1996, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking (REFORMA) made clear that it was intended to recognize Latinx creators “whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work...

Pura Belpré Award by the Numbers

The Award The Pura Belpré Award (PBA) has been awarded on 20 occasions: every other year from 1996 to 2008, and annually since then. Each year, there is a Medal winner in the categories of Children’s Narrative, Youth Illustration, and (as of 2021) Young Adult Narrative. Honor Books may also...

Titi Pura: A Conversation with Cristina Maduro and Lisa Fenstermacher

Anika Aldamuy Denise received a 2020 Pura Belpré narrative honor award for the picture-book biography Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré (art from which, by Paola Escobar, graces this issue’s cover). Anika spoke with Belpré’s great-nieces, sisters Cristina and Lisa, who share their personal recollections of...

What the Pura Belpré Award Means to Me

I was digging into a plate of masitas de puerco at a Cuban restaurant on 46th Street in Manhattan a couple of years ago when the doors opened and in walked Minnie and Mickey Mouse. Nothing is ever really surprising in New York, so I assumed they were on a...

Why Read Books from the Past?

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Mitali Perkins's nonfiction book for adults Steeped in Stories: Timeless Children's Novels to Refresh Our Tired Souls (Broadleaf Books) will be published in August. In it Perkins examines seven classic children's novels — Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, Emily of Deep Valley, The Hobbit, Little Women, A Little Princess, and...

Nonfiction Windows So White

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Every reader of this magazine knows that Rudine Sims Bishop’s “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors” framework has become a central part of our vocabulary as we evaluate books for children and teenagers. Indeed it is a kind of organizing metaphor in the industry-wide push for a more representative literature...

More Than a Footnote: Challenges for BIPOC Nonfiction Authors

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For as long as I can remember, I have had three loves: jazz, poetry, and history. Those passions merged in my 2000 nonfiction title The Sound That Jazz Makes — a manuscript that was rejected more than a dozen times. The book’s first review was so negative that I cried....

The CCBC's Diversity Statistics: New Categories, New Data

This is the fourth column in a series examining statistics gathered by the recently expanded database of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), a research library of the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Education. Previous columns can be found at hbook.com/tag/ccbc. Since 1985, the CCBC has kept track of children’s...

"Sometimes You Have to Lie": A Conversation with Leslie Brody

Nearly sixty years after the publication of Harriet the Spy (Harper, 1964) the book remains as fresh as ever, so it’s not surprising that Harriet’s author was just as captivating. In her new, thoroughly researched biography, Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author...

A Conversation with Literary Agents on Diversity and Inclusion

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At the beginning of 2020, Lee & Low Books released the second iteration of its Diversity Baseline Survey (DBS 2.0), four years after the first survey was released in 2015. Before the DBS was conducted, people suspected that publishing had a diversity problem, but without hard numbers the extent of that problem was anyone’s guess. Although DBS 2.0 newly includes two more areas of the publishing industry...

Writing as an Act of Defiance

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As the Vietnam War escalated in the late 1960s I marched and protested, raged and wept for our country and Vietnam. Fifty years later, we are living through another extraordinary, terrifying time. We’re being stalked by a pandemic, living under political strong-arming, in a deeply divided country. Our economy teeters...

Children's Books and Contradictions

In March 1888, New York City was in the midst of a legendary blizzard. The city had been caught off-guard, unprepared for a storm so late in the year. The trees were already blooming in Central Park, the birds were singing — and then the unexpected snow. For days, streetcars...

Profile of 2020 Coretta Scott King Book Award Illustrator and Caldecott Medal winner Kadir Nelson

Kadir Nelson is the winner of the 2020 Caldecott Medal and the 2020 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for The Undefeated, written by Kwame Alexander, who also won a Newbery Honor for the book’s text. Here, Alexander pays tribute to his creative collaborator.   I gave my father, a children’s...

2020 Mind the Gap Awards: The books that didn't win at ALA

Not all deserving books bring home ALA awards. The books that didn’t win.   Misplaced A Place to Land by Barry Wittenstein; illus. by Jerry Pinkney A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata; illus. by Julia Kuo     Adrift River by Elisha Cooper Lalani of the Distant Sea by...

A Year with Words and Pictures — but No ALA Annual

Who are we this time of year, without the organizing principle of the various celebrations of books and authors at ALA Annual? Usually, we’d be looking forward to the Coretta Scott King (CSK) Book Awards Breakfast, the Newbery-Caldecott-Legacy Banquet, the Pura Belpré Celebración; running into old friends on the exhibit...

Profile of 2020 Children's Literature Legacy Award winner Kevin Henkes

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Dudley Carlson: The farmers’ market was a riot of color. Red and green lettuces, orange carrots, blue and purple berries, and breads in rich browns and tans stretched for two blocks. At one end, a single booth held only green. Beautiful green beans were neatly bundled and stacked like a...

Profile of 2020 Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement winner Mildred D. Taylor

From the time she was very young, Mildred Taylor knew she would be a writer, and she knew what her subject matter would be. She grew up listening to the family stories told by her father and uncles as they sat by the fire or on the porch of their...

Profile of 2020 Coretta Scott King Book Award Author and Newbery Medal winner Jerry Craft

For Jerry Craft, books are the building blocks of communities. Certainly, in the year since it was published, his graphic novel New Kid has created and strengthened countless communities all on its own. The letters from teachers who say they’ve made the book a school-wide read — and the letters...

Read Jerry Craft's 2020 Newbery Medal Acceptance Speech at ALA's Virtual Book Award Celebration

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I’d like to begin by thanking the 2020 Newbery Award Selection Committee, chaired by the incomparable Krishna Grady. Thank you for the tremendous honor of making New Kid the first graphic novel in your ninety-eight-year history to receive your prestigious medal. I would also like to thank the ALA for...

Read Kevin Henkes's 2020 Children's Literature Legacy Award Acceptance Speech at ALA's Virtual Book Award Celebration

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When I found out on January 26th that I’d won the Legacy Award, I was ecstatic. However, it didn’t take me long — about an hour! — to start fretting about my speech. That’s just the way I am. I began working on my speech right away and had a...

Read Kadir Nelson's 2020 Coretta Scott King Book Award Illustrator Acceptance Speech at ALA's Virtual Book Award Celebration

Good morning, or good afternoon, or good evening, depending on when or where in the world you are reading this. As I compose this speech, I am sitting at home under a nationwide quarantine in the midst of the proliferation of a remarkable novel virus that has commandeered the attention...

Read Jerry Craft's 2020 Coretta Scott King Book Award Author Acceptance Speech at ALA's Virtual Book Award Celebration

I’d like to begin by thanking the 2020 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury, chaired by LaKeshia Darden, who gave me one of the two best near-dawn phone calls of my life! I would also like to thank the ALA for making this moment possible. This is truly an amazing...

Read Kadir Nelson's 2020 Caldecott Medal Acceptance Speech at ALA's Virtual Book Award Celebration

The year was 1999, and my very first picture book, Brothers of the Knight, was slated to be published by Dial Books for Young Readers. It was written by the actress and dancer Debbie Allen and based on a stage production of the same name that she had both written...

How Do You Solve a Problem like Nonfiction?

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As we near the close of every issue of the Magazine, the editors look at all the books being reviewed, together as a group, to make sure they’re in the “right” part of the book review section. Where will the librarians, the booksellers, the teachers, the parents for whom each...

Our Modern Minstrelsy

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The phrase literary blackface came up in popular conversation recently, when Barnes & Noble announced they were putting out a line of classic literature titles that had been reissued with “diverse” covers in celebration of Black History Month. Novels like Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, and The Secret Garden...

Revolution Kid Style Now!*: Writing Books (About Kids) That Break the Rules

As someone who writes books about kids who break rules, I keep waiting for it to happen. I’m waiting for the moment when an adult points out that the protagonists in my books are disagreeable troublemakers. These kids lie and sneak. Sometimes they do illegal things. Yes, illegal things. Twelve-year-olds!...

Books beyond buildings: Support your local bookstore and library!

For book lovers everywhere — and particularly parents across the country trying to homeschool their children right now — the services of libraries and bookstores are essential. But this pandemic has left these institutions extremely vulnerable, and they need our support now more than ever. Back in February, when we...

"Give Me a Decent Bottle of Poison": Writing a Mystery

My most recent book is a middle-grade mystery, my first. I realized, after only a few days of struggling to construct a murder, that I didn’t know how to do it. I’d written plenty of novels, but I’d always begun with a person, not the plot. The person, in this...

Disturbing the Universe: Books That Broke the Rules

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Betsy Hearne and I have been colleagues for forty years, including working together for a decade at The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. Below, we discuss some landmark rule breakers from our collective memory. —R.S. ROGER SUTTON: So here we are: two longtime reviewers remembering books that broke...

Middle-Grade Graphic Novels Make Good

In 2012 the Horn Book published a special issue on the theme “Books Remixed: Reading in the Digital Age.” Of course graphic novels weren’t new at the time; but books such as The Arrival and The Invention of Hugo Cabret, with their copious illustrations and hard-to-classify format, were spurring us...

We Need Diverse Jewish and Muslim Books: A Conversation

In recent years, we have seen a welcome increase in books that center diversity in race, class, ability, sexuality, and more. As members of religious minority groups (Sadaf is Muslim, Heidi is Jewish) — and at a time when both Islamophobia and antisemitism are on the rise (deeply troubling and...

Letter from England: Arrows -- All Pointing Upward

One of your authors who crosses the Atlantic with great success is Betsy Byars. I confess myself among her most ardent fans. The Cartoonist (Viking) has just arrived here; along with The Pinballs (Harper) it seems to me to show subtle but interesting changes going on in Mrs. Byars's work,...

Leo Edwards and the Secret and Mysterious Order of the Freckled Goldfish

In 1935, at age seven, I sent off two two-cent stamps to Leo Edwards in order to become a member of the Secret and Mysterious Order of the Freckled Goldfish. The club took its name from Edwards's book Poppy Ott and the Freckled Goldfish. For my two stamps I was...

The Birds and the Bees

Birds of a Feather. Helen’s Birds. Johnny’s Pheasant. Strange Birds. The Parrot and the Merchant. Fly! Sometimes, particular subjects take off in children’s books. Lately, bird books are soaring, and the office hivemind has noticed bee books gathering, too. See Nesting by Henry Cole and Honeybee: The Busy Life of...

Happy Anniversary: When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry...

When Sophie Gets Angry — Really, Really Angry… by Molly Bang was published by Blue Sky in 1999. It celebrates its twentieth anniversary in 2019.   Before 1999, we had picture books about hurt feelings, friendship rifts, disappointment and sadness and sulkiness; about terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days. We...

Uneasy Reading: On Keeping Company with Very Sad Books

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Third grade was the worst year ever. No, really. My parents split up that year, and my dad moved out. I know that every divorce is different, and I’m told that not all of them are as painful as ours was. I’m glad for that. Ours was brutal. My dad...

Why Do Comics Matter? — The Zena Sutherland Lecture

Why do comics matter? At the risk of sounding completely self-absorbed, I’m going to answer this question by talking about me.  I am an Asian American cartoonist. I’m going to tell you how I became these two things: an Asian American and a cartoonist. Then I’m going to tell you...

Happy Anniversary: It's Perfectly Normal

It’s Perfectly Normal: A Book About Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Michael Emberley, was published by Candlewick in 1994. It celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2019.    Intended for readers ages ten and up, Harris and Emberley’s It’s Perfectly Normal was groundbreaking when it appeared on the scene...

Black Kids Camp, Too...Don't They?: Embracing "Wildness" in Picture Books

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My mother was a Girl Scout leader, my father was a Boy Scout leader, and my brother was a Tiger Cub in the Boy Scouts. Practically from the time I could walk, I tagged along with family to scout meetings and events. When I became a Girl Scout, and eventually...

Happy Anniversary: Number the Stars

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Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1989. It won the Newbery Medal in 1990 and celebrates its thirtieth anniversary in 2019.    Thirty years after its publication, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry remains one of the best literary introductions to the Holocaust for children....

Lift Every Voice: Side B

When I was eight years old — you might say octave age — in 1971, I was a DJ playing a record, a single 45, in my bedroom. The song on vinyl I would play was side B of Michael Jackson’s “Got to Be There” — “Maria (You Were the...

Lift Every Voice: Thank You, Gusty

Funny thing is, I have never before shared this experience with anyone. It is most likely the event that had the most impact on the direction of my life. When I was young, my imagination was voracious. In the corner of one of the three rooms of our house (the...

2019 Mind the Gap Awards: The books that didn't win at ALA

  Not all deserving books bring home ALA awards. The books that didn’t win.     Rained out     A Parade of Elephants by Kevin Henkes The Field by Baptiste Paul; illus. by Jacqueline Alcántara Water Land by Christy Hale       Singing the blues   They Say Blue...

What the CSK Means to Me

I’m not a children’s librarian. I don’t even work in the children’s book field. But as an African American, an academic librarian, and a library and information science (LIS) administrator/educator, I have always known the importance of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. I began my professional career just about...

2018: The Year in Words and Pictures

Who are we? What kind of community are we going to be, do we want to be? These are the ever-more-urgent questions that were being asked — and answered — in 2018, not just by book award committees but also by professional organizations devoted to children’s books and reading, in discussions...

Lift Every Voice: My Grandparents' House

As a child, I loved to visit my grandparents. Their home was very different from ours. My grandmother had purchased it late in life with her own money, she would proudly say. In the house were cherry-wood end tables with scalloped edges and leather insets, beautiful ornate ceramic peacocks that...

Lift Every Voice: History and Stories

In addition to this year being the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, it is also fifty years since I graduated from high school. My foundational education provided very few opportunities to read books by African American writers, either for school or pleasure. Interestingly,...

Make Way for Ashley! A Birthday Tribute

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A poem written on the occasion of Ashley Bryan's 96th birthday.   What a Morning! Sing to the Sun!  Walk Together Children! Uh-Huh! Uh-Huh!  Dancing Granny’s movin’ her feet.  It’s Ashley’s day! Flying-High sweet!    It’s been said that The Night Has Ears.  Now the story’s told — his birthday’s...

2019 CSK–Virginia Hamilton Award Acceptance by Pauletta Brown Bracy

Good Coretta-Scott-King-Book-Awards-Breakfast-Sunday morning! I stand before you as the fifth recipient of the Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement in the category of practitioner and in the company of the distinguished colleagues who have come before me: Dr. Henrietta Mays Smith, Demetria Tucker, Deborah D. Taylor, and Dr....

Lift Every Voice: Seeing Stars

I’ve been marinating in childhood memories this past year as I worked to complete my upcoming memoir, Ordinary Hazards. Among the memories there were, as you might imagine, many moments that marked my path as a writer: my first poetry reading at Countee Cullen Library in Harlem, receiving my first...

Not-So-Trivial Pursuits: Wooing the Secret Holders

There is no sure-fire, never-fail road map for research. There certainly is no GPS with a reassuring British voice guiding you when you make a wrong turn (“recalculating…”). Research takes you into unexplored, wild, rocky terrain, and each book teaches you how to research that book. Sure, there are techniques...

For Eva

  Her father’s well-remembered voice came to save her. “When you’re sad, my Little Star, go out of doors. It’s always better underneath the open sky.”  — Eva Ibbotson, A Countess Below Stairs I am writing about Eva in my back garden. A bowlegged wasp is exploring the pages of my notebook, and...

A Response to Sharon G. Flake

What's odd about the direction this discussion has taken is that I agree with Sharon Flake about almost everything. Flake points out that she and many other readers of every race are much more compelled by stories of triumph over immediate, real-world trouble than by distant fantasy or lighter fare....

A Response to Lelac Almagor’s “And Stay Out of Trouble”

When you are young and black and living in the inner city — people think they know you. They like to tell you what to read, why the way you speak is all wrong and why that outfit you are wearing is not appropriate for school. Sometimes they are right....
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