I was a sophomore English major at Spelman College, spending
the afternoon in the Office of Career Planning and Development. I had started
to get anxious about not knowing what I’d do after graduation, and needed to
find an internship for that summer. People often asked me why I was working
toward an English degree if not to pursue teaching or law, and I’d say that I
just really loved to read and think about books. I had been that way my entire
I had almost browsed the entire catalog of internships when
I noticed a large envelope that was underneath a stack of papers and other envelopes.
It caught my eye because a familiar logo was printed above the return address:
the red bar of Scholastic. I was immediately intrigued because I had, like many
kids, grown up reading and loving Scholastic books. I opened the envelope.
Gene Luen Yang Lends Support to Highlight the Transformation of Libraries as 2016 National Library Week Honorary Chaircbcbooks.org
“Libraries were such an important part of my childhood, and they’re an important part of my life today. I visit my local library to research, to read, to write, and to be inspired. I’m deeply grateful for our nation’s libraries and librarians.”
— National Ambassador Gene Luen Yang @americanlibraryassoc
As an editor, I wish I had more opportunities to see first-hand
how young readers interact with the books I’ve worked on. I gauge reader
responses from sales figures, reviews, and blog posts. I also solicit blunt
commentary from my niece and nephew. But that’s about all I’ve got.
In the aftermath of the controversy surrounding A Fine Dessert and A Birthday Cake for George Washington, I wondered a lot about how
kids might respond to these particular books. And I wondered how an adult
reader would discuss these books with kids. What would I say? This got me thinking about the books I’ve edited: How might
I discuss issues like race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability in these books?
And why do these conversations matter?
I felt compelled to head into the trenches.
Armed with apprehension,
I joined the kindergarten classroom of a friend and teacher in the greater
Boston area. These were my goals:
Read one multicultural picture book that I’ve
Read one multicultural picture book recommended
by the teacher.
Discuss the books, encouraging diverse viewpoints. (This particular class of twenty-one has six
students whose first language is not English, and four students of color.)
Check my own biases by asking and answering questions
literally and objectively. (For instance, avoid discussing elements in the
text—like a soup kitchen or Arabic—using words like “good,” “different,” or
By Ashley Woodfolk, Marketing Manager, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
I love contemporary YA.
More than any other genre, it has resonated
with me most for as far back as I can remember. It seems to be the genre where,
more often than not, authors refuse to shy away from some of the ugliest and
most confusing parts of what it’s like to be stuck in that weird space where
you’re not a kid, but you’re not an adult yet either.
In the industry, as of late, we’ve
been talking much more about representation—about telling different types of
stories. And I think contemporary YA is a genre where that needs to happen more
often. You have a captive audience of teens, but also middle-graders who read
“up,” and adults who read “down.” It’s one of the most
important groups of books because these titles land in so many hands.
That said, the book that got me
hooked on YA was Deenie, by Judy Blume. I remember going to my middle
school library and having no idea what I wanted to read. I picked this book up,
funnily enough, because I’d heard whisperings about another book, Forever,
by the same author. I know now why everyone was a-flutter about Forever,
giggling and whispering to each other in the bleachers about it when they
“forgot” their gym clothes at home and had to sit out. But back then,
I had no idea. I figured, if this author wrote one good book, I’m sure
something else by her would good, too.
I appreciate that the CBC Diversity Bookshelf addresses all sorts of diversity, from ethnic to family situations and beyond. If you glance down their list of 67 topics on the Goodreads Bookshelf, there’s likely a topic that tugs at your heart.
In sixth grade my parents divorced and my mother remarried, this time to a man who was an alcoholic. Several years later, she divorced him and soon remarried — again to an alcoholic.
Despite being an avid reader, I certainly never saw my situation reflected in children’s books! Yet 11 million children live with alcoholic parents (http://www.alcoholism-statistics.com/family-statistics/). Add in those who live with parents who abuse other substances, and it’s a huge demographic that faces overwhelming situations. Often it leads to messy divorces, single-parent families, and other special needs.