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Field Notes: The Day the Book Banners Came for Us

When our head of youth services came up to me one Thursday afternoon this spring and said, “I want to show you something,” I thought it was going to be something normal for the mid-sized suburban public library I run in Henrietta, New York — like a clogged toilet or...

After the Call: Something Magical

What did winning the Newbery Medal mean to me? It has taken some time to wrap my head around this question. The Last Cuentista won the Newbery Medal! I’ve texted my editor, Nick Thomas, a few times with, “We won the Newbery” and “Did that really happen?” just to help...

After the Call: Nothing Short of Life-Changing

In 2021, "the call" was a Zoom call. Photo: Tae Keller. As soon as the 2021 Youth Media Awards were announced, I started hearing from other writers, from friends, from family: The Newbery will change your life. This felt fairly accurate, considering I hadn’t slept for thirty-six hours, I had...

After the Call: I Get It Now

More than two years later, I still find myself trying to comprehend the magnitude of how my life changed on January 27, 2020. The most baffling question being, “How did this kid who hated to read grow up to win ‘the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children’?” I...

After the Call: A Literary Life

When I won the Newbery Medal for Merci Suárez Changes Gears in 2019, I stepped — starstruck and trembling — into a hundred-year history that included many of the books that had helped me grow up. The seal is our community’s highest honor, one that feels unreal, that boosts your...

After the Call: On the Bookmark

In late 2018, I visited my local library to satisfy a very specific book mood. I wanted a rich, immersive, pitch-perfect middle-grade novel. I strolled to the children’s section and scanned the shelves. But there were so many choices! I needed a vetting process. Recommendations, maybe. I went to the...

After the Call: The Luckiest Guy in the World

Before I won the Newbery Medal, my dream had already come true. I was a published author. The quiet, melancholy stories I was always writing late at night, in my shared Brooklyn apartment, were turning into real-life books. The kind you could buy at a bookstore. Or check out from...

After the Call: A Chance to Take Root

This is a plaque at Zoo Atlanta honoring Ivan, the western lowland gorilla who inspired The One and Only Ivan. (The young woman is Ariana Greenblatt, who played Julia in the movie.) Children from all over the world visit this spot because they know Ivan’s story. And they know his...

After the Call: What Would Miss Volker Say?

Gantos with daughter Mabel after his Newbery win. Photo courtesy of Jack Gantos. I was very pleased to receive the Newbery Award and Scott O’Dell Award for Dead End in Norvelt. In the book, Miss Volker warned of the corrosive, anti-democratic tactics of fake news and advised ­Norvelters to beware...
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