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Leonard Marcus

Mark Your Calendars: Talking Book Bans with Elizabeth Acevedo, Ashley Hope Pérez, and More

By Appearances, Community work
OK, book lovers. Mark your calendar for Monday, Dec 6, 7 pm Eastern. That's when Elizabeth Acevedo (The Poet X, Clap When You Land), Ashley Hope Pérez (Out of Darkness), librarian and author Angie Manfredi (The Other F Word), and Gordon Danning from the National Coalition Against Censorship will chat with me about their experiences with the growing number of book challenges and bans. You can access the full press release here. Virginia has been a hotbed of challenges in recent months as Michael Paul Williams wrote about this past week in the Richmond Times Dispatch. Challenges are nothing new. (For a great historical perspective, you can check out historian Leonard Marcus's new book, You Can’t Say That.) Chances are that, before long, a challenge will come to a school near you. How will you respond? I'm grateful that James River Writers, one of our state's best-known writers' organizations, has stepped up to host this conversation. You probably know JRW from their annual writer's conference, but they do lots of programs to support writers, in both craft and in community-building. As part of their mission, together we've planned a free-flowing chat that will touch on some key topics, including basic definitions of bans, challenges, and censorship. Why are we seeing so many challenges, even for books that have been in circulation for a while? What are the underlying issues for parents, authors, teachers, librarians, and readers? How can school and library communities best prepare for these difficult conversations? What are fair boundaries...
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Wild and Unruly Anthologies Coming Your Way *

By Appearances, young adult
Anthologies are hot right now, and I have a couple of pieces appearing in two that will appeal to both YA and adult readers. One that you'll want to order now in preparation for Banned Books Week 2021 (supply chain problems being what they are) is You Can't Say That: Writers for Young People Talk About Censorship, Free Expression, and the Stories They Have to Tell, edited by Leonard Marcus (Candlewick Press, July 2021.) There are few children's literature historians with Leonard Marcus's credentials, and in this starred collection of interviews with more than a dozen contemporary authors, he delves into society's impulse to censor what's unfamiliar or uncomfortable – all in the name of protecting children.  You'll find personal stories shared by people like Angie Thomas, R.L. Stine, David Levithan, and Robie H. Harris, to name just a few. We all had the chance to talk about why we wade into difficult terrain and how that has looked for each of us.  I'll be discussing the book this week with Leonard through the American Writer's Museum on August 12, 7:30 pm EST/ 6:30 CT.  Hope you can tune in and get a taste for what's in store. The second anthology is Wild Tongues Can't Be Tamed: 15 Voices from the Latinx Diaspora, edited by Saraciea Fennell (September 14, 2021, Flatiron), whom you may know from her many accomplishments as the founder of the Bronx Book Festival and as part of the leadership at Latinx in Publishing. The collection is garnering lots of...
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Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away Wins the 2021 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature

By Awards and news, picture books
On Friday, Hollins University, here in Virginia, announced that my picture book, Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away, has won the 2021 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children's Literature. The honor book this year is Christian Robinson's You Matter (Atheneum 2020). I'm delighted to be honored with Christian whose work I so admire. And I  am so grateful to the many friends and colleagues who sent sweet messages my way as soon as they saw the news on social media. Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away has enjoyed success beyond what I could have ever predicted - which goes to prove that, in publishing, your career includes so many things that you can't control. I wrote the book remembering my childhood friends, and I was sure it would be turn out to be a quiet book that would resonate with a core of readers. What I didn't know, of course, was that Covid 19 would upend our lives and make us long for our loved ones in new ways. I didn't know that kids might need an emotional roadmap on how to stay connected with friends. I didn't know that Jumpstart's "Read for the Record" would come along and bring the story to millions of kids. The medal is a beautiful honor also because it's named for Margaret Wise Brown, who graduated from Hollins in 1932, and went on to write Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and other children’s classics before she died suddenly, doing a can-can kick that caused an...
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Who Are You to Say? Why I’m part of a censorship panel at Bank Street College

By Appearances, Community work, The Writing Life

If you care about kids and the books they read, maybe you can make room in your schedule for a half-day conference on censorship this Saturday at Bank Street College in NYC. I’m no stranger to dust ups about what’s inside my books, sadly – mostly in the form of soft censorship. Just shy of an out-and-out challenge, it means that barriers are thrown between the reader and the book. Barriers like being disinvited to schools. Or having the title of my book changed to dollar signs for the s’s in ass. Or requiring parental notes to read the novel. Or simply not carrying the novel in the library, despite its recognitions by the ALA and other reputable sources. And I’m guessing that someone will find plenty of reasons to oppose my latest historical fiction novel, Burn Baby Burn, too, for its mention of contraception, Planned Parenthood and maybe even foul language. I’ll need my brain and my crocodile skin, so this conference actually comes at a good time for me. What’s especially appealing to me about this particular conference is also this:  As the conversation about diverse representation deepens, new and compelling controversies have erupted. The only solution that makes sense? Think, learn, and talk. Here’s the set up for the day: We’ll be given a brief look at the history of censorship in books for young readers by the eminent children’s book scholar, Leonard Marcus. The panels that follow will consider how authors come to these stories to begin with; the…

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RJ Palacio and Me: Compassion Fans and old BFFs

By Appearances, The Writing Life

You never forget your childhood best friends. There’s something sacred about that special someone who shared sleepovers and ran races in the school yard  just to see who was fastest. Or, as in my case, acted out Greek myths and enjoyed the mysteries of the Jew’s harp. This Saturday, I have the extreme pleasure of reuniting with my grade school best friend,  RJ Palacio, whose lovely book WONDER, is a # 1 New York Times Bestseller and is on just about everyone’s favorite list.We’ll be at La Casa Azul, noon – 2 pm, to talk books, compassion, and friendship. Raquel and I grew up in Flushing, Queens, about a block from each other. We were in the same class and were generally inseparable, until middle school dispersed us and we lost touch for nearly 30 years. But Raquel and her family left an imprint on me that has lasted to this day. Her parents, Neli and Marco, extended affection and time my way like surrogate parents. When I think of my happiest days as a kid, I invariably think of our times together. Watching Neli comb out Raquel’s hair with the help of a dab of Breck cream conditioner; weekends feeding goats at the Catskills Game Farm; my first ride on roller coasters at Six Flags Great Adventure; and visiting Niagra Falls. All of those good times – and countless others – were with Raquel. If anyone had told us all those years ago when we were  playing kickball that…

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