Don’t get me wrong. Sarah Warren is a talented author with a bright future.
I just love seeing a breakthrough title, proof that a newcomer has arrived. I know that such “new” titles represent years of refinement and sacrifice. The finished product is something the creator will never forget. Neither should we. Such is a title like Dolores Huerta. Such is an author like Sarah Warren.
Sarah, what’s right right now about children’s literature?
We have advocates! Minnesota Reading Corps prepares hundreds of tutors to serve in early learning and elementary education sites across the state. These awesome volunteers are dedicated to developing early literacy skills. They are just dying to introduce kids to good books. There’s nothing more fun than watching a tutor read to a group of students. She will highlight vocabulary, bring in props, ask questions, raise discussions, describe pictures, extend learning with art, music and movement and generally make a big, fun fool of herself to make sure kids fall in love with our stories. Books are amazing learning tools, but if grown-ups don’t make them useful they can get lost in the shuffle. Minnesota Reading Corps tutors help bring children’s literature to life!
What can be done to make that “good” better?
Storytellers can communicate with educators, tutors, librarians and social justice organizations to find out how our audience is growing and changing. The more accessible we can make our stories, by encouraging translation, by being thoughtful about our word choices and by adding back matter that will enrich themes and “teachable moments,” the more valuable our books become to a broad range of students. I teach in a dual language, High Five classroom. We serve at-risk communities. I am grateful for books that provide images that my kids can identify with. A book does not have to be overtly multicultural to be inclusive. My students can’t read words yet, but with the help of explicit illustrations they can retell stories independently by describing the pictures to each other. They can bring books home and tell the stories to parents who cannot read English. I am thrilled when the text leaves room for, or encourages, dialogue and gets us sharing, chanting, and making up our own stories. When I discover a story that helps all my kids develop into confident, joyful readers it’s the biggest treasure on earth.
Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers is Minnesota native Sarah Warren’s first book (illustrations by Robert Casilla). Sarah is a Head Start teacher and has served the young children in her community for over 10 years. Sarah received a Legacy Award from the YWCA of Minneapolis Children’s Center for her work supporting their mission: Eliminating Racism/Empowering Women. In 2007 she was honored as a “Cultural Caregiver” by the Minnesota Women’s Consortium. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from St Olaf Collage and a Master of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Lesley University. She lives in Minneapolis. (Photo by CT Ryan Photography)
That’s author-illustrator Claudia McGehee. Her picture books like A Tallgrass Prairie Alphabet, Where Do Birds Live? and A Woodland Counting Book are scratchboard beauties. Her writing does more than share her knowledge of nature. Even better, she shares her love.
What’s right about children’s literature?
I love that we’re currently creating many titles with impassioned environmental messages. Picture books especially are helpful bridges in connecting young readers to their ecological heritage. The emphasis on experiencing nature is critical, as parents and children spend more time online and less time outdoors. Literature and landscape are both strong forces in my life, as I suspect they are for many of us. My own work’s dual mission is to make books that children enjoy and that also encourage the discovery and celebration of nature. A hope is that one leads to the other, “from page to pathway” so to speak. The more kids read and learn about the environment, the better the chance they will grow up helping to protect our wild places.
What can be improved?
I would like to hear more discussion on how we can help parents nurture young readers in the digital age. Kids need reading role models in their lives. I see more and more missed reading opportunities, as caregivers are commonly engrossed in social media and texting while on outings with their children. I frequently witness stroller-wielding parents glued to their cell phones, even in libraries! Recently, while writing in a coffee shop, a woman and her pre-schooler settled in a booth close to me. Mom unfolded her laptop, and then handed a tiny pink game player to her daughter. For 45 minutes, no communication was made between the two. They both were in their own worlds. How much richer this time of parent-child togetherness could have been if Mom had whipped out a traditional picture book (or an e-book) and explored the pages together with her child.
I applaud the many new and exciting ways we’re now able to tell stories; let’s encourage parents to themselves unplug and share these stories alongside their children. I hope as we keep up with new technologies, we also pay attention to how the love of reading will be passed on to future generations.
Claudia McGehee is the author/illustrator of several non-fiction picture books on natural history. Her distinctive scratchboard style can also be found nationally in museum exhibits, packaging, greeting cards, and magazines. This summer, illustrations from her Tallgrass Prairie Alphabet (University of Iowa, 2004) were reproduced 8 feet high as part of the permanent exhibits at the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan, Kansas. Claudia shares special tidbits of her creative life on her blog.
Pick up one of his shrewd, wry and clever works. Do it carefully.
A great book is a tough read-aloud. It’s not easy to share something that offers multi-layered joy on every page.
Each of his works are best served twice. Read it first for yourself, then aloud to them, to double the fun.
Peter, what’s good right now about children’s literature?
With the unprecedented number of creative people making books for young people, we have a dazzling variety of creative minds pushing the medium in every direction, continually reinventing the book, and covering every subject imaginable. There has never been a better time to be a reader of children’s literature. That’s what’s right with children’s literature right now.
What could make that “good” better?
Sometimes I feel that authors and illustrators have to drag their publishers into the 21st century, against their will. In order to continue the development of children’s literature, I’d like to see even more risk taking by major publishers. There is a treasure trove of classic books covering a wide variety of subjects, and I believe we have to constantly prove to readers why they should read our new books, rather than exclusively reading those classics. We can’t prove ourselves by rehashing old ideas, we must constantly experiment.
Peter’s NY Times Bestselling books have earned him numerous honors, including two E.B. White Awards, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book award, and a Children’s Choice Award for Illustrator of the Year. His titles include The Curious Garden, Children Make Terrible Pets and its follow-up You Will Be My Friend! His next book, Creepy Carrots!, written by Aaron Reynolds, is available in bookstores this week.
Peter’s website is: www.peterbrownstudio.com
In her new picture book Hatchlings, she introduces readers to just-born dinosaurs. She relates every creature to today’s objects any kid would know. A beach ball. A kitten.
Simple, yet profound. Less is more.
What’s right right now with children’s literature?
There are more ways for a young reader to curl up with a good book today than there have ever been. Paper books still thrive and, in my opinion, they always will. But electronic options are making it possible to bring books of all kinds into a vibrant new portable era. Kids on airplanes can now play hand-held video games, or they can read affordable new digital books to pass the time in intellectual explorations beyond Mario and brain teasers. Those new expanding options, and the writers and publishers who bring them to life, are what’s so right with children’s literature.
What can be done to make that “good” better?
I once interviewed the great Bruce Coville who said boys were not reading because of the “good taste patrol”—people disconnected from what boys want, but keenly aware of and distracted by what they want them to want. In the decade since he made his point, things have gotten so much better, as my body of work would indicate. More and more publishers are braving the books boys and reluctant readers in general want to read, crafted by authors who respect those kids and their desires. But I think our industry and the readers we hope to reach would be even better served if that circle was broader. I know we’re headed in that direction, and that’s a very, very good thing. I am proud to be a part of that.
For the past two decades, Kerry Milner Halls has specialized in writing carefully researched, high interest nonfiction for young readers. She started writing for magazines and newspapers, publishing more than 1,000 articles and reviews in Highlights for Children, Dig, Ask, Boy’s Life, Guidepost for Kids, Guidepost for Teens, Teen PEOPLE, Fox Kids, the Denver Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Booklist, Book Links, Kids Reads, Teen Reads, and more. Ten years ago, she switched to writing books for young readers heavily influenced by her magazine career including Dinosaur Mummies, Albino Animals, Tales of the Cryptids, Mysteries of the Mummy Kids, Dinosaur Parade, Saving the Baghdad Zoo, In Search of Sasquatch, Alien Investigation, and her latest, Hatchlings: Life-Size Baby Dinosaurs. Tiger in Trouble is her next release, due in October of 2012 from National Geographic, followed by her second fiction anthology for Chronicle Books, Ripperology, in the fall of 2013 and Ghosts, more nonfiction for Millbrook in 2014. She does between 40 and 60 school visits a year, and makes her home in Spokane, Washington, with two daughters, two dogs, too many cats, and a four-foot rock iguana named Gigantor. She also works part-time as novelist Chris Crutcher’s personal assistant.
As a kid (or even now…), do you think about the wonder about standing in front of the multiple mirrors in the clothing store? The reflected reflections make for a multitude of what was once one person, just by looking deeper and deeper into the mirrors.
Such is the wonder of author-illustrator Jessie Hartland.
I traveled both space and time when reading her latest picture book, Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child. Her deceptively-simple illustrations will entwine any reader who just can’t turn the page—yet. With each reading, new discoveries beckon. I can’t wait for her newest “graphic biography.”
Jessie, what’s right right now about children’s literature?
I like the innovative, new—never before seen—kinds of books coming out.
I love Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck.
Mixes of picture-book, chapter book, and wordless picture-book.
I like what Toon Books is doing for early-readers. Hi-quality art and writing.
What can be done to make that “good” better?
I’d like to see more of the above and oodles of new and unusual graphic novels and graphic biographies.
Her artwork has appeared in numerous publications in the U.S. and abroad. She has designed window displays for Barneys and Bloomingdale’s; painted murals at a Japanese amusement park; and illustrated ceramics, watches, packaging and all sorts of other things.
Her limited-edition giclee prints and original gouaches are for sale at Blue Bench in New York City and Gallery 125 in Bellport, NY.
In addition, she has written and illustrated several children’s picture books. Clementine in the City, about a traveling poodle, was published by Viking in 2005. Night Shift, from Bloomsbury, came out in fall of 2007. More recently, from Blue Apple are How the Sphinx got to the Museum and How the Dinosaur got to the Museum. Just published by Random House is Bon Appetit: the Delicious Life of Julia Child, a graphic biography.
Jessie is currently working on a graphic biography of Steve Jobs.
To learn more, visit www.jessiehartland.com