Nocturnal Villains: The Antidote to Bullying

Contributed by Tracey Hecht

I remember when I was a kid that adults would often respond to my beliefs on social, human, and political positions with some version of: Well, you won’t feel that way when you grow up. I was raised in a conservative town with conservative ideals (starting, I suppose, with the belief that kids’ opinions were not of equal value!). But I remember thinking, even at the time: Oh, I bet you’re wrong about that. I bet I’ll feel exactly the same way when I grow up.

Well, I’m grown up! Or I am at least by the measures specified by the adults of my childhood, and I in fact do feel the same way on most of those issues. With the confidence of age, I might even maintain some of my positions more vigorously.

I am currently the writer of a book series for seven- to twelve-year-olds. The series has some other stuff I still like from childhood: imagination, mystery, a little bit of adventure. But in these books I also focus a lot on compassion and understanding. In particular, I extend these themes to my villains. I do this because my human, social, and political views are, at their core, founded in the belief that humans are the same. People of all gender, color and income levels—we’re not as far apart as we sometimes appear. In fact, our distance is sometimes our shared vulnerabilities and insecurities, just expressed in different ways.

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The 2015 Children’s Book Week poster is here!The official poster commemorates the 96th annual celebration of Children’s Book Week (May 4-10, 2015), the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country.
Learn how you can get your hands on...

The 2015 Children’s Book Week poster is here!

The official poster commemorates the 96th annual celebration of Children’s Book Week (May 4-10, 2015), the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country.

Learn how you can get your hands on this vibrant and engaging collectible designed by Grace Lee and celebrate Children’s Book Week at bookweekonline.com.

Eighth Annual Children’s Choice Book Awards Finalists Announced

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Every Child a Reader (ECAR) and the Children’s Book Council (CBC) have announced the finalists in the eighth annual Children’s Choice Book Awards (CCBA), the only national book awards program where the winning titles are selected by kids and teens. Young readers across the country will determine the winners in all 7 categories of the Children’s Choice Book Awards by voting online at ccbookawards.com from Tuesday, March 17, 2015 through Sunday, May 3, 2015. Winners will be announced during the 96th annual Children’s Book Week (May 4-10, 2015).

A Place at the Table

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On May 14, CBC Diversity hosted a speed-dating-style event with six authors and illustrators known for creating inclusive literature. Co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons and the Horn Book and presented in partnership with Children’s Books Boston, tables of eight to nine people spent ten minutes discussing diversity in children’s books with each of the featured children’s book creators (l to r): Anne Sibley O'Brien, Nicole Tadgell, Lesléa Newman, Rich Michelson, Susan Kuklin, and Francisco X. Stork .

Librarian and diversity advocate Sam Kane developed the following questions that formed the basis of each discussion:

  1. Why is it important that children have access to inclusive literature (books featuring a range of abilities, ages, ethnicities, genders, races, religions, sexual orientations, and socio-economic classes)?
  2. What are the barriers that may prevent diversity books from getting into readers’ hands?
  3. What are some solutions, strategies, or conversations to help shift the barriers to getting these books into the hands of children? (Think about your industry or field.)
  4. Who has access to power in your industry or field? Which voices are denied access? Why?
  5. How can we educate the gatekeepers in your industry or field? What do they need to know or believe to create bookshelves that reflect our population?
  6. How can your industry or field promote or reward excellence as it pertains to inclusive literature?

What I found most inspiring about the evening was how it brought together participants from a wide variety of fields: we had teachers, principals, librarians, authors, illustrators, publishers, agents, academics, reviewers, bloggers—all united in our desire to promote and develop books that more adequately reflect the demographics and realities of the world in which we live. By providing a space for people to connect across disciplines, the event allowed new kinds of synergies to arise.

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Speed dating, CBC-Diversity-Committee-style

We hope all of the attendees have a wonderful time tonight and leave with actionable takeaways from this interactive opportunity! 

An Ongoing Question, An Ongoing Discussion

Guest post by associate editor at Charlesbridge, Julie Ham.

When Charlesbridge decided to host a diversity panel during this week’s Children’s Book Week, the onset of planning felt a lot like editing: asking the right questions was key. Who will speak well and honestly to this sensitive subject? Will the CBC partner with us? (Yes!) How will the panel contribute to this valuable, ongoing dialogue? Who will be in charge of buying the cheese? The crackers?!

I soon became preoccupied with one question that we think will come up during the panel discussion.
 
Can authors or illustrators write about or illustrate cultures and races different from their own? 
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This question brought me back to a children’s literature graduate course I took about five years ago. We were examining Sold, a contemporary middle-grade novel about child prostitution in Nepal. We contemplated whether the author, Patricia McCormick (a white American woman), had the right to tell this story—one that falls outside her own experience and culture. As far as I could tell, no one else had written such a narrative for the middle-grade readership; I felt it needed to be told. Patricia had visited India and interviewed women and girls who had been sold to brothels, preparing herself to authentically tell this story as best she could. I felt confident that she had done her due diligence. I valued her choice to write about this subject matter and hoped her book would affect a diverse readership—a testament to the idea that the human condition—both good and bad—similarly touches all cultures, in all parts of the world. Maybe some of those diverse readers would be even closer to the book’s reality than Patricia was able to get through her research. Maybe they’d be inspired to tell their own stories. 

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