Shooting Star, being challenged in Oklahoma. The book was challenged for inappropriate language, but McKissack asked "What is it that we're afraid of?" and urged everyone not to be afraid of language or ideas. He quoted Robert Cormier, saying:
There are no taboos. Every topic is open, however shocking. It is the way that the topics are handled that's important, and that applies whether it is a 15-year-old who is reading your book or someone who is 55.And McKissack definitely got it right when he said (I'm paraphrasing here) that, while parental involvement in what kids read is paramount, communities need to let librarians do their jobs. Parents can and should be involved in selecting materials for the kids to read, but librarians are trained to select books and materials for the entire community. Let us do our jobs!
He ended with a quote from Judy Blume, who said something just perfect for your Banned Books Week displays:
...it's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.With Banned Books Week coming up at the end of this month and the Humble, Texas fiasco fresh on our minds, it was the perfect talk to start off our conference. Thanks, Fred!!
Jack Gantos, author of the Joey Pigza books and A Hole in My Life (among other books), had us all in stitches with stories of his family and his path to becoming a writer. He talked about how reading a book is such a special experience because the story becomes part of you, part of who you are. The books become YOUR books. And, honestly, I was laughing too hard to take many notes, so all I'm going to say is that he's a fabulous, funny speaker and if you ever get the chance to hear him or invite him to your school or library, DO IT.
Beth Galloway, a 2006 Library Journal Mover & Shaker, who talked about about gaming in the library. From board games to card games to video games and role playing games, Beth talked about the literacy connections and programming possibilities with gaming in the library. Games are not only a way to have fun with your library patrons, but they require literacy and math skills, as well. Playing video games requires kids to use the scientific method by trying different methods to reach a goal until they are successful. Have you ever thought of video games like that?
Beth encouraged librarians to invest in gaming equipment and use it for regular programs. It's a great return on investment. Think about how much you spend to book a performer at your library. For less than $500, you can get all the equipment you need to run many, many programs and bring in many, many kids! She's got the slides and handouts available on her blog, so make sure you check them out if you're interested in gaming at the library or wondering where to start.
(We have a Wii and we've done a few gaming programs for the teens at my library, but I admit to being intimidated by video games since I don't play them much myself. Whenever I find myself intimidated by something, though, I think that means I ought to do it, so maybe this will be the Year Abby Learns About Video Games...)
April Sayre. I love, love, love her chant books about animals (Trout, Trout, Trout: A Fish Chant, etc.) and many of her other books. You know how I love nonfiction, so I was really psyched to hear what she had to say. Well, I'm happy to report that she's a wonderful speaker, as well. She shared with us her family's tradition of keeping oral histories and said that the voice in nonfiction literature is "the voice of discovery" and encourages us to ask questions. An author's nonfiction voice often doesn't have to be fancy, but just has to "get out of the way of the wondrous". (I'm quoting from my notes here! I hope someone will correct me if I've got it wrong!)
April shared with us the path of her book Meet the Howlers from its inspiration on a family trip to Panama, through many, many edits (and hundreds of emails!) to its final publication. I love learning about an author's process, so this was right up my alley. April also shared with us many photos and videos she's taken of plants and animals in the natural world. It's quite obvious that she loves nature and loves writing about nature to share its wonders with children. I am very happy to report that she's got two more chant books on the way - one about vegetables and one about fruits (!!) and she gave us a sneak peek at a book about squirrels due out in 2012. It looks fabulous!
So, the keynotes were great, and there's much more, but I'm beat, so tune in tomorrow for recaps of the four breakout sessions I attended, including programs on El Dia de los Ninos/El Dia de los Libros, Guys Read, using art (not crafts!) in your programs, and programming for 'tweens!
(Also, I apologize for the lack of original photos. I brought my camera, but my camera's not so good, so I took one horrible picture of Fred McKissack, Jr. and then promptly deleted it and forgot about my camera for the rest of the time.)