Saturday, August 01, 2009

In the footsteps of giants

I'm going to New York next week to help select the new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and I'm taking names. Here are the criteria:
Author or illustrator of fiction or nonfiction books
U.S. citizen, living in the U.S.
Excellent and facile communicator
Dynamic and engaging personality
Known ability to relate to children; communicates well and regularly with them
Someone who has made a substantial contribution to young people’s literature
Stature; someone who is revered by children and who has earned the respect and admiration of his or her peers
Most important, he or she will have to follow in the big clown-shoe footsteps of Jon Scieszka. Who do we like? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

[Update: Thank you for all the suggestions and discussion. An announcement of the new Ambassador will be forthcoming later in the year. Your comments were very helpful as the committee deliberated.]

129 comments:

Gwenda said...

Daniel Pinkwater! (Though I've no clue if he'd be interested.)

Or, failing that, Kathi Appelt.

Susan Mello said...

Mo Willems!!!

Carol said...

I don't know how often all of these folks communicate with children, but here are some ideas.

Jacqueline Woodson
Alma Flor Ada
Mo Willems
Kevin Henkes
Jane Yolen

chellej said...

What age group does the ambassador target? Christopher Paul Curtis is great.

Depending on your definition of "substantial contribution", Rick Riordan, if only for his ability to get kids enthusiastic about reading.

Anonymous said...

Chris Crutcher. He's ideal, triple A in every one of your required areas. And since Jon was appealing to younger kids LAST year, an author of appeal to middle and high school readers would be perfect THIS year. Chris Crutcher, hands down.

Laurel said...

I second Daniel Pinkwater. Huge personality. Famous through NPR as a "voice for books" and not just as an author. Appeals to many kinds of readers, at many ages.

Alternately, I'd suggest Shannon Hale, as an author who appeals to the older readers and younger readers alike, has a web presence, lots of personality, and is a woman!

TYRaines said...

I vote for Mo Willems.

Anonymous said...

I'll second Chris Crutcher. Because of his background he can not only speak to young people, he is an outstanding voice on their behalf. He has dealt with the challenge of censorship, and he can talk about a kid's right to read to read freely.

IANCC
(I am not Chris Crutcher, really)

Jeanette Larson said...

I second Rick Riordan. As a teacher he knows how to reach kids and he is a wonderful, warm person.

Anonymous said...

I think it's interesting how many of the suggestions for nominations are for men, considering what a small percentage they make up of the children's literature field.
Just sayin.'

Anonymous said...

I would also nominate MT Anderson, who might run screaming from the idea, I don't know. He is brilliant-- not only in his writing, but in his comments about his own work and others. He certainly has a dynamic and engaging personality and is an excellent and facile communicator. I just don't know if he works much with kids. If it were a matter of being a Children's Literature Laureate, instead of Ambassador, I'd say Anderson in a heartbeat. And I'd really rather have a Laureate, actually. Someone who would be able to affect some change at the level of grown-ups, not just someone who makes a lot of school visits and encourages kids to read.

anon 1:32

Kurtis said...

All excellent choices, but if I could pick from the names dropped already, Pinkwater would be the one.

And just to add a new name to the discussion: Jerry Spinelli.

VOYA said...

Definitely, Chris Crutcher.

Anonymous said...

Can't we have Jon again??

Barring that, I would vote for Sara Pennypacker.

Anonymous said...

One vote for David Macaulay. Less madcap fun than the great J.S., but with apologies to Pinkwater and Willems I don’t think you can go for big laughs and big personalities two ambassadors in a row, anyway. Macaulay’s respect for his subjects and his audience is top drawer. There’s an intelligence and curiosity and visual appeal in his books that allows them to work not only for young readers, but for all readers, and so his work could get a nice cross generational conversation going. Also the nonfiction and information emphasis would zig nicely to Scieszka’s zag. And he’s just such a damn good bookmaker. He thinks of the whole book, and it shows, and in a time when the book is sometimes described as a sort of neutral delivery device for content, no different really than a Kindle or eReader or what have you, his books testify to how wonderful the book as object can be, and what it can uniquely do, what a page turn can do for a story, what a well designed page looks like, and so on. He’s articulate, intelligent, and would do the field proud.

miscellany said...

I cast my vote for Mo Willems as well.

Sharon said...

I vote for Christopher Paul Curtis.

Anonymous said...

Linda Sue Park

Franki said...

Love all of the suggestions. Would definitely be thrilled with Mo Willems:-)
How about Lois Lowry? She has always been a champion for children's books.

Jennifer Schultz said...

How about Jennifer Holm? You've got the huge popularity with kids (Babymouse) as well as the critical recognition (Our Only May Amelia, Penny From Heaven).

Anonymous said...

LOIS LOWRY for her range and concern, Though David Macaulay would be great, too.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:41

I see your point, but who is your nominee? I think Shannon Hale would be fabulous. I don't know enough about Jane Yolen have an opinion, though I admire her work.

Susan Cooper? Is she eligible?

Anon 1:32

ladydisdain said...

I would really like to see a woman or a minority or a minority woman, please. Please not a white man two years in a row.

Kate DiCamillo is probably my number one choice, but any of the following would be super awesome:

Linda Sue Park
Jacqueline Woodson
Nikki Grimes
Jane Yolen
Lois Lowry
Judy Blume
Katherine Paterson
Walter Dean Myers
Christopher Paul Curtis
Jerry Pinkney

Jennifer Schultz said...

Oh, all of these are great ideas. I would have a hard time choosing.

Anonymous said...

ladydisdain,

That's a great list, thanks!

I can never think off the top of my head like that.

Anonymous said...

everyone seems to be limited to people they met last week - so TRENDY! How about someone who has lasted without the hoopla? Another vote for Lowry and/or Macaulay. (Though Pinkwater is great too)

Anne Ursu said...

I second the Kate DiCamillo nomination. She's an amazing communicator, and the picture Roger posted recently could be a "hand-off."

Anonymous said...

Rick Riordan is awesome with kids. He would be my choice!

Jenny said...

Kate DiCamillo would be fabulous. Mo Willems would also be wonderful. Cynthia Rylant appeals to a pretty diverse range of readers. Christopher Paul Curtis is amazing, too.

Jan said...

I agree with the idea that given the number of females in the children's literature field, following Jon with a woman would be fair.

I was glad to see my first pick, Kate DiCamillo already on the list.

My colleague suggested Judy Blume and I think she has really earned the honor, too.

jb said...

Daniel Pinkwater! LOVE HIM!

IF he says no, Judy Blume or Lois Lowry.



Sorry, Mo & Kate, I'm not buying it. Maybe in 10 years.

ReadingTub said...

I think it is turn for the ladies to take the crown ...

Jane Yolen, hand down!

literaticat said...

Ooooh this is tough. I say Daniel Pinkwater, though I admit I am totally biased because I am his agent. As such, of course, I think that everyone should give him honors and prizes and shiny medals and crowns to wear. (There is a crown involved, right?)

But... then again, I can't imagine ANY writer wanting to do all the schlepping around that our current Ambassador does. When would they have time to write?

So actually, I vote: KEEP JON. He's the only person with the energy for it!

Elsworth said...

How about:
Maurice Sendak
Faith Ringgold
Tomie dePaola
Vera Williams
Todd Parr
or Rosemary Wells?

lkmadigan said...

Richard Peck!

Anonymous said...

SHANNON HALE because she's awesome and HILARIOUS in person.

Anonymous said...

Marla Frazee
Andrew Clements
Jane Yolen
Cynthia Rylant
Christopher Paul Curtis
Linda Sue Park
Mark Crilley
Katherine Applegate

Teacherninja said...

Does s/he have to be American? Neil Gaiman would be great and has written on many different levels and could attract more than just people already in "in the loop" James Kennedy would be funny (funny seems important), Carmen Deedy (would be the BEST! automatic love from the librarians and storytellers and is funny, and not a gringo...), John Green (funny and winning, writes YA but is familiar with kids lit. as well), Daniel Pinkwater (obviously), Jane Yolen (has written just everything), David Shannon (is funny and engaging), Tommie dePaola (great pick), Mo (natch), Jarrett J. Krosoczka (again w/the funny), Dav Pilkey (wonderful).

campbele said...

Mitali Perkins would be a wonderful ambassador.

Anonymous said...

Laurie Halse Anderson

Elsworth (again) said...

Okay, I have a few more suggestions and then I'm going to stop (but this is really fun to think about):
Marc Brown
Chris Van Allsburg
Byrd Baylor
Steven Kellogg
Judith Viorst
Russell Hoban (although I think he currently lives in England)
James Howe
E. L. Konigsburg

Anonymous said...

Megan Whalen Turner. She is charming, relates well to both kids and adults, and her Queen's Thief books appeal to a wide range of ages.

Anonymous said...

Katherine Paterson-- she's had a long career, is dedicated to children's books and literacy, is an amazing and graceful speaker, and has a natural ability to connect with kids.

Anonymous said...

If elected, I will not serve--not that I do not meet all the criteria spectacularly. The thing is, I prefer not to have contact with the adults connected with children's literature, except the ones who use bad language...like my agent.

Daniel Pinkwater

Anonymous said...

Megan McDonald. She is magic with kids.

Anonymous said...

KATHERINE PATERSON, please. No one deserves it more. Substantial contribution to children's literature? Stature: respect and admiration of peers? etc.? Excellent and facile communicator?

You bet.

Katherine!

leda

Wendie O said...

Jane Yolen
Linda Sue Parks

Anonymous said...

ooh, what fun to be a kingmaker! but who else is on the selection committee? is this a children's book committee? slj? Junior lit guild? how many judges? maybe you are a solo judge?

Julie Larios said...

Katherine Paterson would be the perfect choice - she meets every single one of your criteria. I've seen her bring a huge crowd to its feet, cheering what she had to say about kids books. And she does this with grace and intelligence - just what's needed in an ambassador.

Babs for Books said...

I second (or third) Mo Willems. He's a hoot and a wonderful communicator. Some of his books are so original and creative.

Linda Urban said...

Katherine Paterson
Linda Sue Park
Laura Amy Schlitz

Brenda Ferber said...

Judy Blume, of course!

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see POETRY recognized.
I'd love to see someone like J Patrick Lewis receive such an honor. Not only is great working
with childen, he has done such a
wide variety of work, including
several outstanding picture books.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone done more for children
than Lee Bennett Hopkins over his
50 years of working with and for children?

Rachael said...

Another vote for Kate DiCamillo or Daniel Pinkwater.

Probably too much travel and such for Ashley Bryan, but man, would he be great.

Anonymous said...

Kimberly Willis Holt--she has a wide range of fans and appeals to many. Plus she is a National Book Award winner!

Anonymous said...

Jack Gantos!

Anonymous said...

A woman please. Let's allow our industry a step into the modern age.

Also a long term person who has paid their dues to earn this title. Let the newbies stand in a line behind them and await their turn. No pushy pushy here.

NO to Mo! Have you ever met him in person? Made a very rude remark the first time I did. Will never will talk to him again without an apology. Do not put the ASS in ambassador.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:34

I don't think the job should go to the person who has waited the longest in line. It should go to the person who can do the job best-- and for that reason, I think a newbie might not be best for the job. I also think the newbies are a bit too busy for the job.

It depends on what the job is supposed to be. If the jobholder is an Ambassador to the Children and is going to be going on a million school visits and encouraging reading programs and inspiring librarians-- then it may as well be someone like Rick Reardon, fairly new but high profile.

If it's someone who is supposed to have instantiate the best of literature for children--not just great reading, but great writing -- and someone who is supposed to go argue with the powers that be on behalf of children and literature--then pick someone like Katherine Patterson.

What did Jon Sciezka do in the job? Does anybody know?

And I'd like to hear more about how the Ambassador gets picked.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 9:13 asked, "but who else is on the selection committee? slj? Junior lit guild? how many judges? maybe you are a solo judge?"

I think we can safely assume that if Roger is on the committee, the Junior Lit Guild will have some input. They sign his paychecks, after all.

Most of the names listed above are wonderful, but many are in their seventies or older and may not have the energy or desire to do the extensive traveling required for this position.

Anonymous said...

Mordicai Gerstein has a wonderful body of work--humane, beautiful, funny. With kids, he's gentle and completely alive--and he listens to every word a child says. And he's sane enough not to let the publicity ruin him.

Roger Sutton said...

Putting myself in Mr. Pinkwater's good graces, here's a big fuck you to troll@12:00PM. One employer or another has been signing my paychecks for 35 years. Maybe you will get a real job someday, too.

The website linked in the post has not updated the names on the selection committee but we are: Rita Auerbach, Betty Carter, Diane Roback, Angela Sherrill and me, with Ambassador Scieszka advising. I was told to come to the meeting with several possible names, and that's all I know.

Anonymous said...

The gloves are off! It's strangely satisfying. That was a trolling sucker punch, indeed, and deserved to be called out as such. Though the idea that this is all a rigged game, possibly with the Freemasons and SLJ huddled together offstage, is amusing in its own right.

Maggie Falls said...

I'm casting my vote for Katherine Paterson. Humor, grace, wisdom, and an ability to connect with readers young and old ... oh, and she can write terrific books. Sounds like an ambassador to me.

fibercontent said...

Hmmm.

I immediately thought of Jack Gantos (for his range, humor, energy and dedication to the field...and for his work with the prison population)



Kate DiCamillo has shown serious dedication to libraries and children and her books are written for many ages.

Vera Williams is amazing with children.

Jacqueline Woodson has the range, personality and ability to speak to all sorts of folks.

I do wonder how you will balance the accomplishments and talents of the possible ambassadors with their abilities to serve. Some of the names mentioned live outside the US for a good part of the year or are very very busy writing and speaking already.


I hope you and your talented committee have a ball with this enviable task.

Anonymous said...

I do know who Roback is, but otherwise am at a loss. Who are those other ladies? (I mean, of course, occupations and/or affiliations)
Clearly an interest in books - which is what I've brought to this "dialogue" - doesn't qualify me to ask questions. Do you have an entrance requirement or screening process?

Elizabeth said...

I had planned to log on just to say, c'mon, you guys, we need someone who will get TV coverage etc and using a name I've never heard of (which applies to a few of the names above) or, I'm sorry to say, a poet, won't cut it. A major purpose of this position is to garner publicity for the cause and books we have all devoted our lives to. And a lot of people, I'm sorry to say, turn off when they hear the word poetry. Couple that with the people who turn off when they hear "children's books" and you are defeating the purpose of the role.

But now I want to say, Anon 12:00, what you wrote is both hugely obnoxious and hugely uninformed. Though it does make me laugh that you think that the corporate bosses at Roger's parent company would even know the names of most of the candidates for the Ambassador. But you haven't followed Roger's work at all if you suppose he lets others tell him what he should think. It's Roger's conscience that informs his actions, and he can only be swayed by reasonable argument from those he respects. Roger wouldn't be swayed by personal gain anyway, but you know nothing of how our field works if you think there's any pressure on this committee from their bosses.

I would like to tell you what I think of you, and now, well, being a Christian woman -- I can't say it!

Signed,

Elizabeth Law

shellieek said...

Daniel Pinkwater would be fun. I also find Brian Selznick to be a real swell guy.

Roger Sutton said...

Daniel said way back in the comments that he didn't want anything to do with us.

Minutiae said...

My choices:
Judy Blume or Chris Crutcher
Best wishes. This is a tough selection and a tough job.
Sincerely,
Cathy Norman

Anonymous said...

LOVE Mo Willems
also,
Peter H. Reynolds
Jon J Muth

Anonymous said...

I assumed that wasn't Pinkwater, but maybe it was. I noticed the Troll, but didn't feed it. It was the comment about the job going to someone who'd "paid his dues," that got a rise out of me.

I suppose the intersection of the two sets-- "those who you want to have the job" and those who are willing to take it" would be very small.

Good luck with that.

11:50

MJH said...

Roland Smith - incredibly engaging


T Hager

Anonymous said...

My word! Comments like 'a poet
won't cut it!' One over 70 won't
have the energy? Who are you people?

I am a poet, can cut it, am over
70 and have more energy than half
the people I know. It's not that
I am nominating myself, it's just
that I'm a wee perpelxed at such
idiocy!

Lee Bennett Hopkins

Elizabeth said...

Lee, I'm the person who said a poet won't cut it, and I said why. The reason we have an Ambassador is to trumpet the cause of children's literature. And, as I said, many people already turn off when they hear "chidlren's literature." And many people turn off at the word "poetry." We want someone who will draw new converts, and I will be honest and say someone who is advertised and introduced as a "children's poet" is going to not be an immediate slam dunk at drawing attention to our cause. I am saying this as someone who considers Bill Martin Jr. and Shel Silverstein to be two of the people who made the greatest contribution to our field in the last 50 years.

In other words, I'm talking about where I perceive American popular interest to be, not about personal preference. And so, though I didn't say it before, having someone who is "mediagenic" would be a good idea, too.

--Elizabeth Law

Anonymous said...

Jack Prelutsky didnt' fare well?

SDL said...

Wow, the idea of Roger consulting JLG on who to vote for would be hilarious if it wasn't so insulting.

I'd go for Christopher Paul Curtis if the living in Canada thing isn't a problem. He's certainly made substantial contributions and The Watsons Go to Birmingham and Bud, Not Buddy are both popular with kids. I do think varying the type of author is important in reaching different groups of kids, plus he's a good speaker and charismatic.

stacy said...

I second (or third, or whatever) Laurie Halse Anderson. She reaches teens where they are, and she's done a lot for awareness of rape and eating disorders and other issues that affect teen girls. The letters she gets from teens (she posts them to her blog occasionally, and she's talked about them at appearances I've attended) are just amazing, the ability she has to touch lives.

I don't envy the choice you'll be making, Roger--a lot of the names here are great picks, except that some of them I worry might already be too busy to take on the duties. Shannon Hale, for example, is awesome, but she regularly gives up some travel and speaking arrangements to make sure to have enough time for her young family (her two children are still preschool age) and still be able to write. So while I'd root for that choice, I worry that she'd turn it down.

Katherine Paterson is another great choice. She is just delightful. Her wonderful books have also been controversial in the past, and that can get conversations going.

To echo many above, I do hope that this year it might be a woman or a minority or a woman from a minority--so often in this industry men get recognized as outstanding and loveable for being just as awesome as the everyday women who dominate the industry, not just because they're outstanding and awesome but because as men they're rare in this industry. It'd be great to see some of the women who have been dedicating their lives to great children's literature be honored similarly.

Anonymous said...

the volume of responses makes it all too clear what really matters in the chbk world: PRIZES!!! (or erhaps I should say TITLES)

WINNING ISN'T EVERYTHING - it's the only thing

Anonymous said...

I nominate :

Lee Bennett Hopkins
J Patrick Lewis
Jane Yolen
Jerry Spinelli

Cynthia Rylant does not like to travel and speak or interact with the public, so as much as I like her work, that's not an option.

No consideration should be given at all to whether a white man is
chosen again, for instance, or
'a minority please,' etc. This should be decided upon merit
and criteria. Period.

Elaine Marie Alphin said...

I'm all for Jane Yolen - she speaks and writes with humor and wisdom, and appeals to boys and girls of all ages, and, just to put the icing on it, she is a poet as well as an accomplished storyteller. If she doesn't feel like doing the traveling to accomplish all the interacting necessary (and she is a dynamite interactor with readers of all ages!), then I think that Linda Sue Park, Lois Lowry or Katherine Paterson would all be wonderful choices.

Sorry, guys - nothing against men who write for children and teens, but there are a lot of women who do so also, and it would be wise to alternate genders for this ambassadorial honor. (Much as I love the idea of David Macaulay.) It would be a pity if all the girls who love to read (even boy books) got the impression that only men write for young people (possibly because the committee hopes to win over the boy readers who they believe will only read boy books). I understand the need to reach out to boys, but not at the cost of taking the girls, and the women who write for both genders, for granted. And no trolls allowed.

Anonymous said...

I wish to commend Roger for his use of plain English, and also say that if my services were desired, I would be willing to model for an animatronic robot, (or a flat cardboard effigy), which could do a good job, and also travel as freight.

Daniel Pinkwater

Julie Larios said...

I'm not sure I understand the reasoning behind Ms. Law's argument that a "children's poet" will automatically make Americans turn their attention elsewhere, though I do think she is trying to be practical. But consider this: Most Americans are playing video games and watching reruns of THE TERMINATOR; their attention is long gone, and they wouldn't recognize ANY of the people being nominated. Probably true of the media, too. If we're looking for who might capture the most media attention, we should nominate Stephanie Meyer of TWILIGHT fame - that's the only children's writer many adults in this country (including reporters) would have heard of.

I don't mean to question Ms. Law's statement about liking and honoring Bill Martin Jr. and Shel Silverstein; I'm sure that's sincere. I just think that if we used the same yardstick for our political spokespeople - "mediagenic" -- oof! Obama would have chosen Oprah for Secretary of State.

Glad to hear Lee Bennett Hopkins defend his life's work and his ability to match the energy level (and committment) of anyone in the room. I don't care if people faint or check out mentally when they hear the word "poetry" - it's probably from lack of exposure, so I say let's EXPOSE THEM TO POETS. No wonder Europeans think we're oafs when it comes to choosing our heroes.) Give me classy and talented over mediagenic any day.
(And by the way, doesn't our outgoing ambassador, Jon Scieszka, write poetry? SCIENCE VERSE...? MATH CURSE...?)

That said, I still like Katherine Paterson for the job. Perfect choice.

Elizabeth said...

Julie, I appreciate the respectful tone of your comments. But the position of Ambassador as I understand is about publicizing children's books, and I have learned, I am afraid, not to put the word "poetry" on a book jacket in some cases because it will actually cost us sales. (And I am far from the only person who will admit to that.) Jon Scieszka said that what he learned in the role is that the one thing people he meets as Ambassador all want is lists of recommended books, and I would think almost any of the people above would be excellent at that. But, and here's the rub, we want someone who will draw people to come hear him or her speak in the first place--or not switch the channel when he's on TV. So I'm defending the word mediagenic, and I think it's very possible to be classy, talented AND good with the media. I'm really interested to see who the committee comes up with to fill this big list of criteria.

bbqhuff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bbqhuff said...

When I first looked at the number of responses to Roger's post I thought...sheesh, that's a lot to slog through. Glad I did. All the names are great! I vote for all of 'em! You could have them do one of those "let's get all the famous writers together to record a children's literature pep song thingy" and just play it ad nauseam on the TV. But seriously, any of the suggestions would be great. Good luck with that Roger.

Barbara Huff
Farmington NM Public Library

Julie Larios said...

Well said, Elizabeth. Classy, talented, AND mediagenic - those are not mutually exclusive qualities. Fingers crossed that such a person can be found and that he or she will be eager & able.

Anonymous said...

Sherman Alexie or Jack Gantos.

Anonymous said...

Kevin Henkes
Ian Falconer
Lee Bennett Hopkins
J Patrick Lewis
Judy Blume
Jane Yolen

I think to say poets don't
cut it is just one person's
opinion. I also agree that
most of these names would not
be recognized by the media or
readers. Jane Yolen might be.
But if that is the criteria ...
choose Madonna for Heaven's sake.
No, please no.

janeyolen@aol.com said...

I have read but stayed out of this for fear of sounding as if I am trolling for the job. I think it is a great honor and responsibility for anyone who gets nominated as well as hard work and enormous opportunity.

I also chuckled when Lee spoke up for the over-70s poets.

As Roger and others know all to well, we have a plethora of talent out there. Almost all the names I read here are wonderful. (Well, perhaps not Madonna or Stephanie Meyer.) I wish them luck in their search and hope they find someone in the smaller subset of talented/willing/ and able.

Play through.

Oh--and is it somehow significant that the verifying word on my comment is COLON?

Jane

Anonymous said...

Two names not mentioned yet (or perhaps I missed them). Both great presenters, both great with children, both appeal to a wide age range:

Bruce Coville
Gregory Maguire

Anonymous said...

WHEN DO THE POLLS CLOSE? It's clear to see what really motivates these enthusiastics.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's fair to try to find a "woman or minority" instead of trying to find the best professional for the job. Someone worthy of this honor will represent all of us.

Catherine said...

While I think Jane Yolen, Lee Bennett Hopkins and Daniel Pinkwater would be all wonderful in this role, what about Patricia Polacco? Her books engage children at a wide range of ages and she has been promoting literacy for quite a while.

Anonymous said...

Lois Lowry! Lois Lowry!!

hart said...

What about Lisa Yee? She's great with kids, pretty much one still herself. She's very funny, not afraid to look foolish. Her books are amusing but have substance as well. And she has a kid-friendly blog.--Hart

Anonymous said...

Thank you Roger—and the other members of the Unites States Children’s Book Ambassador committee, for taking the time in your hectic schedules, to give service to our kids, to reading, and to books.

When I first entered the world of children’s publishing, I had no idea how many hundreds and thousands of hours librarians across the country gave, serving on award selection committees, reading rights committees, legislative committees, and more. Your work is unheralded by our society, and is totally voluntary.

There has not been a major national literacy campaign to draw the American public’s attention to the importance of reading and children’s books since the post-Sputnik era of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s – a campaign that hugely influenced society and prompted national legislation that not only changed education but gave massive support to libraries across the country, and arguably, influenced children’s book publishing for the better.

The NEA’s “Read Across America” campaign, the ALA’s outstanding literature awards, and the new Library of Congress Children’s Book Ambassador position may not equal the accomplishments of the 1960’s but they are valiant, and in reality, noble attempts that do garner the nation’s attention, at least momentarily—a major accomplishment in a world where Michael Jackson’s death and funeral blanket the airwaves for days on end.

I am so grateful, that you and so many others take the time to serve on the Ambassador committee, the ALA’s many committees, and all voluntary committees that promote literacy, literature, and libraries. The world we live in does not often honor the work of adults who dedicate their professional and personal lives to children-- perhaps the reality is that we as a society to not truly value children—and working in that kind of national atmosphere makes your dedication, and others' dedication, all the more admirable.

Mary Brigid Barrett
The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance

Anonymous said...

Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Ann Martin

Anonymous said...

Jack Gantos.

conscla said...

Can Jon Scieszka just have the position for life? I think he's done a fabulous job, and can't imagine anyone doing better.

If not Jon, I echo the person(s) who recommended Linda Sue Park. She's a great advocate for children's literature of all kinds, and wouldn't just promote her own books.

Anonymous said...

Laurie Halse Anderson is GREAT with students!

Anonymous said...

NOT
A
MAN

And not an actively working writer (male or female) with a family to raise.

-- tovesse

Anonymous said...

People keep telling me that some maniacs are presumably seriously suggesting that I represent anything, so I keep coming back here to see. I may as well voice my own preference: Lee Bennett Hopkins, since he's already doing the job, with plenty of grace, and has been since I can remember.

Daniel Pinkwater

Anonymous said...

I think Michael Rosen, a poet, kicked some ass and took some names in a similar position in the UK. Is that because it's just different over there?

Irene said...

Ummmm, I'm not sayin' we shouldn't have a poet as ambassador, but there is a children's poet laureate post, originally occupied by Jack Prelutsky and now by Mary Ann Hoberman...
Irene Fahrenwald

Anonymous said...

Mr Hopkins is more than a poet. He has done novels, professional books, a TV series, had written countless of articles in various
journals and more. And if you ever
heard him speak you'd be lauging
and crying and reveling in his
words. He is magical.

Cover To Cover Booksellers said...

I think a perfect candidate would be Robert San Souci. He's fabulous with kids, has the stomach for administrators and can hold up to a hell of a lot of traveling! Yay Bob!

Lynne Jonell said...

Here's another vote for Bruce Coville-- the energy and enthusiasm of a ten year old kid, intense passion for children's literature and literacy, and a substantial and very fine body of work.

Gennifer said...

I vote for Linda Sue Park.

She's charming, kind, gracious, charasmatic and very knowledgeable about writing and about the industry as a whole. Plus she's an incredible writer, of course. I think she'd be a fabulous role model for kids.

Gennifer Choldenko

Anonymous said...

How about Esme Codell. She is another who is committed to children and reading.

Irene said...

Anonymous 7:19. I was clearly not casting aspersions on the eminent Mr. Hopkins. Get a grip.

Anonymous said...

Irene, was Anon 7:19 really casting aspersions on you? Grip thyself!

Norma Jean said...

Kevin Henkes.....a contrast to Jon but more importantly, smart/wise/thoughtful about kids, books and kids, terrific with kids, as well as adults, and he is versatile...writer/illustrator/picture book maker, and novelist! Norma Jean

Janet Spaeth said...

Jane Yolen or Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Anonymous said...

I know she is new to writting books but Children love her... What about Sabrina Bryan The Cheetah Girl and now co writer of Princess of Gossip. She would be a great for that role.

Julie H said...

Judy Blume! She deserves such an honor.

Anonymous said...

What about a dual Ambassadorship for Ted & Betsy Lewin? They're illustrators, they're authors, they work separately, they work together, they're great with kids, they love to travel (and have no kids to make traveling more difficult)... seriously, the Lewins for the win.

Anonymous said...

OMG Sabrina Bryan for the WIN. She's mediagenic, Elizabeth! And she's written a BOOK!

W00t.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing that is not the real Daniel Pinkwater.

Yours truly,
Arthur Rackham

ChristineTB said...

I heartily vote for Jane Yolen who has not only reached millions of children, but has given so much of herself to mentor authors like me without asking for anything in return.

It would be nice for Jon (who I adore) to turn the mantle over to a woman.

I also vote for Jerry Spinelli for the same reasons. He once told me to write what I love and stop worrying about what the market is buying. In that way he's been able to reach children who are often ignored or disconnected. I once listened to a local reporter say that she had an unruly Sunday school class. Then she started reading Maniac Magee and the boys came clamoring back each week for another installment. Perhaps Jerry and Eileen in a joint role?

I'd like to see those authors not "hyped" by the media but have managed sustained contributions get the nod. Especially those working with the next generation of children's authors.

...Christine Taylor-Butler

Anonymous said...

Why not raise the level public awareness through the media with a solid choice instead of catering to the lowest common denominator to please. Haven't we done enough of that in publishing? With all the "great" choices that's been pushed on the public to make a buck, the public seems less involved with reading, not more. Great job people (sarcasm). The road to hell is paved by pleasing others.

Also, no more posing with anti-intellectuals (Laura Bush). Let's have someone with real cajones who will stand up for literacy and not use it as photo op.

NO to Jane Yolen who poo poos nepotism but does it anyway.

ChristineTB said...

Oops - I add to my list Linda Sue Park. She's a genius and I really appreciate her wisdom and willingness to reach out.

I'd like (for obvious reasons) to see children's lit diversify in light of the fiasco going on with the Bloomsbury "whitewashing" covers issue and the lack of any proactive action from other corners of the industry.

It would make a great statement to say that people of different ethnic persuasions can stand up and be recognized. And Linda is great with kids as well!

Christine TB said...

Anonymous. If you're going to attack another author at least have the guts to post using a real name.

Karen said...

A tag team: Jane Yolen and Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Anonymous said...

I voted for Gore, I voted for Kerry, and I voted for Obama, but I dislike the cheap shots at Laura Bush, Anon 11:28. She started something great with the annual Texas Book Festival, going strong since 1996, open to all political stripes, and I think her motives sincere, no matter what I think of her husband's legacy.

Anonymous said...

It really is interesting how many male writers are being suggested, when the field is dominated by women. I wonder if more men write humor or seem "fun" in public . . . you know, like how Dad is always more fun than Mom.

Anonymous said...

Lisa Yee
Katherine Paterson
MT Anderson (let the man work in his pajamas)
Linda Sue Park

Susan Thomsen said...

I hereby nominate E.B. Lewis.

Anonymous said...

They are young, have media attention, write poetry, will not have sex until married...thus I
nominate THE JONAS BROTHERS over all others

Lee Bennett Hopkins