Friday, January 17, 2014

Ambassador Kate

Sunrise today was at 7:51, Sunset will be at 4:48.  It's foggy, overcast and gray.  No bright colors except for that rampaging hummingbird, a flash of scarlet as he twists at the feeder.  Everything is dun and fir, gray and bark. Most of the birds are the same quiet dirt colors, the ivy is a brighter dull green.  It's cold, and even with the curtains all open, it feels like the shadows are shimmying for more space.  Spring is on its way, though, and the daphne blossoms, the bits that didn't freeze and drop off, are pinkening right up.  I think it's finally time to get rid of the sticks that are all that remain of the huge coleuses (coleii?) on the porch and find something a little more festive to put in those great big pots on the porch.  This time of year is why I leave the Christmas balls in bowls and hanging in the windows, just a little extra shine when the sun isn't out.

Yay for Kate DiCamillo!

This is Kate!
Last  July I got an invitation to be part of the committee to choose the next Ambassador for Young People's Literature.  Yes, I know, isn't that just the epitome of cool?  I went to New York at the end of August, stayed by myself in a little hotel on the edge of Times Square, and spent a couple of hours in the cozy, book filled offices of the Children's Book Council with the rest of the committe: a couple of librarians, a couple of teachers, a bookseller (ME!), and the current Ambassador, WALTER DEAN MYERS!  Be still my heart!  It was a heady couple of hours, let me tell you. The following list is who was on the committee.
  • Walter Dean Myers, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, 2012-2013
  • Luann Toth, managing editor, Book Review, School Library Journal
  • Rene Kirkpatrick, Eagle Harbor Book Company, Bainbridge Island, Wash.
  • John Sexton, assistant library director, Greenburgh Public Library, Elmsford, N.Y.
  • John Schumacher, teacher-librarian, Brooks Forest Elementary, Oak Brook, Ill.
  • Cathryn M. Mercier, director, Center for the Study of Children’s Literature; director, M.A. Children’s Literature and M.F.A. Writing for Children degree programs; English professor, Simmons College, Boston
There is nothing, NOTHING, like being in a room with other people who do what you do but differently.  The room vibrated with excitement, being there to talk about books and authors...Nothing is like that.  Well, I guess there are other people in other jobs who get that feeling, but hey, it's BOOKS!  AND AUTHORS!  And people who KNOW about books and authors! I sat next to John Cole, director of Center for the Book, and had a nice talk about Nancy P. and our Center for the Book.  I think I remember that he has connections to the area; it would be nice to take him on a little tour of all our lovely bookstores and libraries.  I can't tell you how honored I was to be a part of this group.

It didn't take very long to get our long lists down to a short list; not that it was easy, we were just serious about getting it done.  There was discussion about what we thought the ambassador should be and do, information we each held came to the table, and Kate rapidly came to the front of the list.  Done and done!

Kate's platform for the next two year period is "Stories Connect Us", something that all of us who work with children and books often say.  Stories allow us to step into others' shoes, to become empathetic, to test ideas before trying them.  We become better people for them.  I can't wait to hear more from her.  Oh, the video link below is an interview with her on PBS where she says stories are stories, that people should read what they love, that there shouldn't be adult books and children's books, just books.  Love that, Kate.

Okay, now, I have to tell you about Walter Dean Myers.  I have been a fan of his from my first children's lit class at U of O where I read Fallen Angels, and fandom only increases.  I remember sitting on the curb outside the U of O bookstore on a break, drinking a coffee and reading - crying and laughing at the same time.  Sitting across from him at the CBC office, drinking in the experience, hearing about his two years of being the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, was inspiring.  He spent his time going to schools, going to juvenile detention facilities, convincing people that Reading is NOT an Option. He says, "Children who don't read are, in the main, destined for lesser lives. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to change this."
    This is Publisher's Weekly's article about Kate and the Ambassadorship
    The following is the PBS Newshour video with Kate.  Sorry, I can't upload the video here, you'll have to do it yourself:

    If you haven't had a chance to read Kate DiCamillo's newest book, Flora and Ulysses, please head to your nearest independent bookstore and get a copy.  You will love it and then you can share it with your kids and they will love it.  If you don't have a local bookstore, give me a call, and we'll take you in and make you a part of the Eagle Harbor Books community!

    Flora and Ulysses is the story of a lonely little girl, divorced family, a sad dad and a recently vacuumed-up squirrel who now has superpowers. Flora reads a lot of comics and has been reading the Terrible Things Can Happen to You! series and is beginning to think in word bubbles.   Their adventures begin when she rescues the squirrel from the vacuum disaster and Ulysses discovers the typewriter and types, "Squirtel".

    Flora's been unhappy and with the discovery of a super-powered squirrel sidekick, she begins to find reasons to reach out to other people and reconnect to the world.  With Ulysses' zen-like sensibilities, his exuberance for life and the ability to express it via typewritten poems, they make a dynamic duo until her mom tells her dad to take the squirrel out, and not out as in let him go, but out in the New Jersey-Sopranos way.  Much hilarity ensues and many hearts are expanded.  Truly a laugh out loud story but one with phrases and bits that you'll re-read and then share with your partner over breakfast burritos while they say, "Uh, huh?"  because they have no idea of what you just went through.  Ages 7 and up.  (Candlewick.  Available now.  HC, $17.99.)

    PS  F&U is also illustrated by K.G. Campbell, in black and white spot illustrations and some entire comic book style scenes, a perfect companion for Kate's words. 

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