Observations on Publishing in 2004
by Kathleen T. Horning, Merri V. Lingren, Hollis Rudiger and Megan Schliesman
©2005 Cooperative Children's Book Center
This essay originally appeared in CCBC
Read the essays from other years.
The most recent edition of Children’s Books in Print (R.R.
Bowker, 2005) states that there are 345,880 books from 15,190 U.S. publishers
currently available for purchase in the United States. This includes
new trade books, reprints, paperback editions of titles published earlier,
books, book-club editions, novelty books, series books from informational
publishers, and more. There are well over three times as many books available
now than a decade ago. Only a small percentage of that vast number actually
represents brand-new titles for children and teens. We estimate about
5,000 such books were published in
The CCBC received approximately 2,800 new books for children and young adults in 2004. The majority of these were published by approximately 45 or so trade publishers (some of which are separate divisions of the same publishing house) and a dozen or so small, independent publishers. Some were titles from publishers specializing in informational books for the young, often developed specifically with curricular needs in mind.
Of the 231 books in CCBC Choices 2005, 31 represent the first published works for the young of 24 authors, 4 illustrators, and 3 author/illustrator; 35 were originally or simultaneously published outside the United States (4 of these were translations); 10 were published by six small, independently owned and operated publishers; and 68 feature multicultural themes or topics. (The CCBC definition of “multicultural” refers to people of color.) Three of the books are from graphic novel publishers (as opposed to publishers of children’s and young adult trade books). This is an area of publishing in which we are working to expand our own knowledge as librarians and teachers strive to become informed about an aspect of popular culture that engages many children and teens. To our knowledge, 119 of the books we recommend in CCBC Choices 2005 have not appeared on any of the other nationally distributed lists of the year’s best books as of late January 2005.
As we comment on some of what we observed about the publishing year in 2004 on the following pages, please note that not every book we discuss has been selected as a CCBC Choice. Books that are not recommended in this edition of CCBC Choices are designated by the inclusion of publisher information after their titles.
More Matter, More Art: Picture-Book Publishing in 2004It has become commonplace for every publishing year to offer at least a handful of picture books that are visually arresting at first sight. We appreciated the stunning realism of Bill Thomson’s artwork for Karate Hour (Marshall Cavendish, 2004), while Frank and Devin Asch’s Mr. Maxwell’s Mouse (Kids Can Press) is an affecting visual mood piece.
As always, however, we look for the true test to be how well the book functions overall. Does the dazzling art overpower the text or do the words and images form a balanced and cohesive whole?
Perhaps the best example from the 2004 publishing year of what a picture book can be is Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes. The winner of the 2005 Caldecott Award for outstanding illustration in a picture book also won the Charlotte Zolotow Award for most distinguished writing in a picture book. It achieves the perfect interplay between story and pictures. Interestingly, the artwork for this book as well as Karate Hour and Mr. Maxwell’s Mouse is a subtle variation on black-and-white.
Dave McKean’s illustrations for The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfishperfectly complement Neil Gaiman’s offbeat story about two kids on a comical quest to retrieve their father. In Knuffle Bunny, Mo Willems makes the most of his cartoon-like character images, set against black-and-white photographs of a Brooklyn neighborhood, to enhance the humor of a story in which a frustrated child and her well-meaning, clueless dad face a crisis of miscommunication.
We were also struck by a number of fine picture books in 2004 with historical settings, several drawn, at least loosely, from actual events. Deborah Hopkinson’s Apples to Oregon is a deliciously funny account of a family’s westward wagon journey in the nineteenth century. Linda Sue Park turned to nineteenth-century Korea for her picture book The FireKeeper’s Son, in which the bonfire signal system that was used in that country to communicate with the emperor’s soldiers is the basis for a young boy’s dilemma: light the fire to signal all is well, or ignore his duty for a chance to see the soldiers marching.
Karen Hesse researched a scrap of story from Warsaw during World War II in writing The Cats in Krasinski Square. Told in the affecting voice of a young Jewish girl who had escaped from the Warsaw ghetto, Hesse’s story describes how the homeless cats (better fed than the girl) are used to help in an effort to smuggle food through the walls of the ghetto to those who are starving inside. World War II is also the backdrop for Louise Borden’s The Greatest Skating Race, set in the Netherlands and featuring a boy who leads two children into Belgium by skating along the canals under the eyes of the German soldiers.
Several superb wordless books in 2004 offer imaginative stories through pictures alone. The Red Book by Barbara Lehman is about two children who literally meet through the pages of a book. A boy steps into the world of Elizabethan London and is pursued by William Shakespeare through the streets of that city in The Boy, the Bear, the Baron, the Bard by Gregory Rogers, which offers high adventure, comedy, and bittersweet farewells without a single word.
Despite the absence of text, wordless books are not without narratives. They offer children the opportunity to hone their visual literacy skills in order to make sense of what they see, whether that sense-making occurs in their own minds, verbally, or on paper. Wordless books have been around for generations. But today it is impossible to consider wordless books and highly visual picture books featuring comic-style panels of action without also considering them in the context of comic book and graphic-novel publishing. Librarians and teachers are becoming more and more aware of the importance and validity of comic books and graphic novels as a literary as well as popular art form. That awareness is now extending to the publishing industry, and trade book publishers are looking for books that offer the same kind of visual narrative experience or highly integrated words and pictures. Lisa Wheeler and Mark Siegel’s rousing Sea Dogs: An Epic Ocean Operetta isn’t the first example of a graphic novel from a trade publisher, but it’s one of the most delightful. It joins a handful of other trade books that are true graphic novels—a list that we suspect will grow exponentially in coming years.
Expanding Horizons: Fiction Publishing in 2004We saw a number of novels in 2004 that broke new ground or added to a small body of work addressing particular themes and topics. Among them are books exploring religious beliefs, a subject not typically at the forefront of the themes young adult authors choose to explore. Perhaps this is because religion is such a personal topic. Perhaps it is because the subject is a threatening one to some, validating beliefs beyond their own personal comfort zone. Or perhaps youth culture is perceived to be so consumer based that many adults don’t believe young people want to read about religion or spirituality. However, making a genuine spiritual journey is as natural and important to adolescents as their sexual and social explorations. (In I Believe in... editor Pearl Gaskins asked young Muslims, Christians, and Jews to reflect on their spiritual lives. Their responses are offered in moments of clear and honest introspection as they talk about the joys and heartbreak of trying to live a life of faith in a pluralistic culture.)
Without patronizing or dismissing the very complicated nature of spiritual development, several fiction writers have created characters who ask hard questions and keep on asking when they don’t get the answers they need. In Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Sammy works hard to maintain his faith in Catholicism, as it brings him great comfort and strength, while at the same time making the hard choice to reject the leadership of a cruel and corrupt local priest. Walking on Air by Kelly Easton presents a younger protagonist who must struggle to find her own faith amidst her father’s religious fanaticism which could, at times, be considered abusive.
Using a fantasy world based loosely on Greek and Egyptian mythology, in Oracle Betrayed author Catherine Fisher presents a young woman who determines that much of what she has taken for granted as divine law is really no more than the manipulation of people’s faith by secular leaders with political ambition, although she knows to say so out loud will surely bring her death. In Godless Pete Hautman writes about a teen so disenchanted with his family’s church that he actually creates a new religion, albeit jokingly. But his ideas speak to the needs of some of his peers and the joke is lost completely on at least one of his followers.
We commend several authors whose novels published in 2004 offer sensitive portrayals of characters with disabilities. Martin, narrator of Boy O’ Boy by Brian Doyle, is a 12-year-old with a developmentally disabled twin brother, Phil. Martin’s relationship with his twin is realistically portrayed, including matter-of-fact descriptions of Phil’s physical needs and the trauma of his frequent tantrums. Moose Flanagan’s older sister Natalie appears to be autistic, although her condition is never named because the word was not yet used in the 1930s when Al Capone Does My Shirts takes place. Gennifer Choldenko’s funny and moving story is notable for many reasons, one of which is the depth of her characterization of Natalie in a novel set on the island of Alcatraz at the time gangster Al Capone was in “residence.” When Naomi and Owen’s unpredictable mother reappears in their life after a seven-year absence, she is uncomfortable with Owen’s physical differences in Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Becoming Naomi León. The mother’s inability to appreciate Owen is her loss, as everyone else in Owen’s life benefits from the little boy’s vitality and unsinkable enthusiasm despite his being an FLK: funny looking kid.
Strong Sibling Relationships
This year, we noted many books centering on strong sibling relationships. Katie of Kira-Kira, the 2005 Newbery Medal winner by Cynthia Kadohata, idolizes her older sister Lynn. Lynn’s care and sense of responsibility for her little sister helps prepare Katie for the realities of this Japanese American family’s often difficult existence and opens her mind to the potential that life offers. In a similar way, Tommo looks up to his brother Charlie and models his own life after his older sibling’s, even falling in love with the same girl, in Michael Morpurgo’s haunting World War I story Private Peaceful. When Charlie goes off to fight in France, Tommo follows him into battle.
Another pair of brothers works together to spend 229,370 British pounds within a 17-day timeframe in the hilarious and insightful Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce. And despite the constant threat of giant rats on a rampage, Gregor is first and foremost big brother to his baby sister Boots, making her safety a priority as he battles fantastical enemies in a land deep beneath New York City in Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane, which continues the saga of two contemporary siblings navigating their way through unfamiliar territory, as imagined by author Suzanne Collins.
Binti’s comfortable urban life in Malawi is shattered when her father dies of AIDS in Heaven Shop by Deborah Ellis. Binti struggles to be reunited with her brother and sister as they try to remain a family in a region devastated by the effects of the AIDS epidemic. Australian teen Francesca and her younger brother Luca help each other cope while their mother battles with severe depression in Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, which shows the siblings’ loyalty to each other as a steadying force as they find their way through a difficult time.
Reflections of GLBTExperiences
We continue to see gay and lesbian literature for teens improve in both quantity and quality. One of the most interesting sibling relationships depicted in 2004 is in Luna, the first trade book novel for young adults about a transgender teen. Because Regan is so close to her older brother, Liam, she’s the first to know that he leads a double life as a girl named Luna. Author Julie Anne Peters breaks new ground with a story about a teen struggling with her identity in a story told from her younger sister’s point of view.
George Ella Lyon’s Sonny’s House of Spies is set in the deep South of the 1950s, when references to homosexuality were hushed if spoken at all. Sonny’s life with his older sister, the crackling Loretta, and younger brother, Deaton, is turned upside down when their father leaves. As he grows older, Sonny learns the reason why: his father is gay. It is not easy news to accept, but Sonny’s honest reaction is one of the remarkable things about a novel that gives each character room to grow and change.
Alex Sanchez’s So Hard to Say deals with a middle school student in the process of coming out to himself and his friends. In Orphea Proud by Sharon Dennis Wyeth, 17-year-old Orphea works through her grief after her lover’s death by throwing herself into her performance art, where she bares her soul and finds peace of mind. The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson (Razorbill / Penguin) centers on three girls who are best friends and what happens when two of them fall in love. David Levithan includes both gay and straight teens among the 20 characters given voice in The Realm of Possibility (Alfred A. Knopf).
We also were pleased to see several picture books published in 2004 about gay and lesbian families. There are so few books for younger children that affirm this experience, despite the ever growing number of families looking for such literature. This year Nancy Garden, well-known for her gay- and lesbian-themed books for teenagers, published her first picture book. Molly’s Family (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) features a child with two lesbian mothers and represents the first picture book on the topic to be published by a mainstream press.
Small presses have been publishing books for and about children growing up in gay and lesbian families for decades. Ken Setterington’s Mom and Mum Are Getting Married! is from Second Story Press, a small Canadian publisher. This timely picture book captures the excitement a young girl feels as she helps her two moms prepare for their upcoming wedding. We applaud these publishers, both large and small, for publishing books that show family diversity.
Fresh Perspectives on the Past: Nonfiction Publishing in 2004As we read books of information throughout 2004, we were pleased to see so many engaging and often innovative works for children and teenagers. Many of the books that we found especially notable in 2004 focused on aspects of U.S. history that have not been explored in books for youth before or were presented from new perspectives.
One of the most fascinating works we read was The Race to Save the Lord God Bird, Phillip Hoose’s comprehensive look at the factors that contributed to the extinction of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Hoose blends environmental, social, and political history in a compelling narrative that traces the multiple factors that contributed to the demise of this grand species, and he shows how scientists and conservationists were in a race against time as events hurtled toward a tragic and seemingly inevitable conclusion. At the same time, he chronicles the many positive efforts that sprung from the growing awareness of the Ivory-bill’s extinction, among them national conservation efforts like the Audubon Society.
We also greatly admired Diane McWhorter’s personal and powerful overview of the Civil Rights movement in A Dream of Freedom. McWhorter was a child in Birmingham, Alabama, in the late 1950s and early 1960s. She was, she states now, on the wrong side of the Civil Rights movement, a white child of privilege who was echoing the sentiments of adults around her when she referenced the Black activists in her community as troublemakers. She drew in part on the extensive research done for an adult book that chronicled Birmingham’s turbulent past (the Pulitzer Prize-Winning Carry Me Home) in presenting this dynamic history for older children and teens. In a book that starts with her very personal introduction, she concludes with an epilogue that positions young readers at the center of the history they are living today, writing: “History is going on around you right now. You can either make it or it will make you.”
With bicentennial observances of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery continuing, we were thrilled to see Rhoda Blumberg’s York’s Adventures with Lewis and Clark. Blumberg’s extensive research culled what is known about York, the Black man, a slave of William Clark, who was part of the expedition. Too little is known about York’s life before and after the journey, but diaries, letters, and other accounts kept along the way reveal the critical role he played as a member of the Corps. Not only did he bring many crucial skills to the expedition, but his skin color fascinated many of the Native tribes they met.
Peter Sís’s The Train of States and Sheila Keenan’s O Say Can You See? (Scholastic) both offer a compendium of facts about facets of U.S. history in fresh and alluring ways. Sís’s visually engaging volume gathers information about each of the 50 states, each one presented as a wagon on a circus train. He was inspired by a visit to the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Keenan’s narrative provides brief, lively descriptions of many national symbols and events, from the Liberty Bell and Pledge of Allegiance to the Declaration of Independence and Thanksgiving. Ann Boyajian’s illustrations add additional energy and humor to a volume that is surprisingly (and pleasingly) progressive, if not wholly comprehensive.
Two intriguing volumes shed new light for young readers on events surrounding our emergence as a nation. In George Washington, Spymaster, Thomas B. Allen details the superior intelligence work that was a critical component of the colonies’ victory over the British in the Revolutionary War. Codes and couriers, spies and scoundrels abound. Rosalyn Schanzer compares the leaders on both sides of the Revolutionary War in George vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen from Both Sides (National Geographic). Her examination of George Washington and King George III of Britain is especially enlightening with regard to the British king, since he’s rarelyseen as more than a tyrant in books for children.
These fine works of history, as well as several terrific biographies—including Russell Freedman’s The Voice That Challenged a Nation, about singer Marian Anderson and her role as symbol and advocate in the struggle for equal rights, and Albert Marrin’s Old Hickory, a fine portrait of less-than-likeable President Andrew Jackson—give children and teenagers opportunities to connect with the past in meaningful ways that will deepen their understanding of who we are as a nation today.
Bringing the World to Children: Translated LiteratureWe were happily surprised to find we received a comparatively large number of translated books published in the U.S. in 2004. They included six novels from France, three from Germany, one each from Belgium, Denmark, Israel, and Italy. Although 13 may not seem like an overwhelming number of novels when one considers the total number of books published, it is significant compared to other years in which we have been lucky to have seen half that number. The rise in copublishing agreements between publishers in the United States and Britain accounts, at least in part, for the increase in numbers. No matter what sort of business arrangements are made prior to publication, each one does represent an admirable level of commitment on the part of U.S. publishers.
Scholastic, particularly its imprint Arthur A. Levine Books, is to be especially commended for publishing substantial works of fiction that originated in other countries, including In The Shadow of the Ark by Anne Provoost, the story of an adolescent stowaway on Noah’s ark that was originally published in Belgium; My Guardian Angel by Sylvia Weil, which deals with the persecution of the Jews in eleventh-century France, and which was originally published in France; and Aldabra, or the Tortoise Who Loved Shakespeare by Silvana Gandolfi, a novel from Italy that is as wonderfully strange and mysterious as its title. These three novels are an example of the wide range of fiction that is available to children in other countries and now, thanks to Arthur A. Levine Books, to children in the United States as well.
Another novel that originated in France, The Shadows of Ghadames by Joëlle Stolz, is set in nineteenth-century Libya. Its protagonist is a young woman on the brink of adolescence, taking her first steps into the strong community of Muslim women who dwell on the rooftops several stories above the city of Ghadames. From Germany, Daniel Half-Human and the Good Nazi by David Chotjewitz is a distinctive Holocaust story about a teenage Nazi sympathizer growing up in an affluent family whose comfortable life is turned upside-down when he learns that his mother is Jewish. Both of these novels are outstanding contributions to young adult literature which offer unusual perspectives not often seen in books for American youth.
Welcome Visions and Voices: First BooksWe are always pleased to discover that some of our favorite books of the year are the work of new authors to the world of children’s and young adult literature. Meg Rosoff’s provocative window into a world reeling from terrorist attacks in how i live now tells a gripping story of survival built upon a scenario that’s too easily imagined. Rosoff’s development of her protagonist’s character, as she experiences both devastation and unexpected love, is always true to 15-year-old Daisy’s perspective, even as her experiences affect and change her.
Tiger is also traveling through a war zone in L.S. Matthews’ debut novel, Fish. The author’s fine use of metaphor and symbolism extends the theme of selflessness (but not less of self) and hope amidst seemlingly hopeless conditions.
First-time author Kashmira Sheth also works skillfully with metaphor in her story of a family emigrating from India to the United States, as told by 12-year-old Seema in Blue Jasmine. We especially appreciate the way in which Seema is able to live successfully in both worlds rather than having to choose between her two cultures. The title character of Katherine Hannigan’s Ida B. displays a bumpier adjustment to changes in her life as her mother’s illness sends the home-schooled girl into a public school setting. Ida B. may be precocious, but she’s still a child rebelling against what she can only see as her parents’ betrayal.
Liz Chipman also portrays a family struggling in the face of adversity in her first novel, From the Lighthouse. When her mother suddenly leaves her family, Weezie and her brothers must deal with the emotional pain of her absence and the daily struggle of running a household without her. The believable relationship of the three siblings and their reliable father are at the core of this poignant story.
One of the most highly visible books over the summer of 2004 was Chasing Vermeer, by newcomer Blue Balliett, who pays homage to Ellen Raskin and E. L. Konigsburg in her novel of two bright kids caught up in mystery and intrigue who apply their considerable problem-solving skills to the matters at hand. Balliet isn’t up to the standards of Raskin and Konigsburg yet, but there’s still a lot to appreciate and enjoy in her debut book for children.
Other newcomers we especially appreciated include Janice N. Harrington, with her autobiographical picture book Going North; Frank Cottrell Boyce, with the hilarious and touching novel Millions; and several authors who made stunningly successful transitions from writing to adults to writing for children: Cynthia Kadohata, who won the 2005 Newbery Award for Kira-Kira; Diane McWhorter, with her illuminating look at the Civil Rights Movement in A Dream of Freedom; and Benjamin Alire Sáenz, with his powerful young adult novel Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood.
Books for Every Child: Multicultural LiteratureThere are varied definitions of “multicultural literature” used in the field of literature for children and young adults. At the CCBC, we use the term to mean books by and about people of color: Africans and African Americans, American Indians, Asians/Pacifics and Asian/Pacific Americans, and Latinos.
In 1985, the CCBC began to document the number of books for children and young adults by and about African Americans each year. In 1994, we expanded the effort to include books by and about all people of color. (Complete statistics)
We have yet to see multicultural literature make up more than 10 percent of the total number of new books published. This percentage drops to less than 5 percent when it includes only titles written and/or illustrated by people of color. Furthermore, these statistics represent only quantity, not quality or authenticity, to which we pay close attention as we evaluate books at the CCBC, often seeking the outside opinions of colleagues and experts in the field.
There are a number of resources available to teachers, librarians, and parents searching specifically for outstanding multicultural titles to share with children, from the Coretta Scott King, Américas, Pura Belpré, and other award lists; to specialized bibliographies published in professional journals or as professional resource books, such as the National Council of Teachers of English Kaleidoscope series (NCTE, various years); to the occasional, welcome focus on multicultural literature in publications aimed at parents and the general public, such as Black Books Galore’s Guide to Great African American Children’s Books and its companion volumes (John Wiley, various years). But we are also pleased to see that multicultural literature has generally become an integral part of the discussion of children’s and young adult literature in resources such as children’s literature textbooks for students studying to become teachers.
CCBC Statistics in 2004
Of the nearly 2,800 titles we received at the CCBC in 2004, we documented the following with regard to books by and about people of color:
• 143 books had significant African or African American content.
99 books were by Black book creators, either authors and/or illustrators
(most, but not all, were among the 143 titles with African or African American
• 33 books featured American Indian themes, topics, or characters. Of these, only 7 were created by individuals identified as American Indian authors and/or artists.
• 65 books were about or significantly featured Asians/Pacifics or Asian/Pacific Americans. 61 were specifically by book creators of Asian/Pacific heritage (most, but not all, were among the 65 books with Asian/Pacific content).
• 61 were on Latino themes and topics. 37 were created by Latino authors and/or artists (most, but not all, were among the 61 books with Latino content).
It is important to remember that a vast number of distinct cultural experiences
are implied by these four broad groupings. (And to remember that no single
book can represent the diversity of experience within a culture or group.)
Multicultural books in CCBC Choices are identified by specific cultural
affiliation in the subject index.
Emerging from Invisibility
Given the overall numbers, it isn’t surprising (but it’s still disheartening) that some cultures are all but invisible in contemporary literature for children and young adults. Others are just beginning to emerge. Several novels were published this year about contemporary children from India or of Indian descent. We were delighted to see Madison author Kashmira Sheth contribute to this small but growing body of literature with her lyrical novel Blue Jasmine, about a girl who moves from India to Iowa. In Naming Maya (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Uma Krishnaswami’s 12-year-old protagonist makes the opposite journey, when a U.S.-born girl accompanies her mother back to India after her grandfather’s death. British author Narinder Dhami writes about three lively, scheming sisters in Bindi Babes (Delacorte), a story that balances humor with emotional depth.
Little Cricket by Jackie Brown (Hyperion) is the second novel we know of to feature a Hmong protagonist. Brown’s story is set in Minneapolis in the 1970s as young Kia becomes part of the first big wave of Hmong immigration to the United States.
Deborah Ellis, who has written three novels about the plight of the Afghani people under the Taliban, turns her attention to the AIDS crisis in Africa with The Heaven Shop, a moving and eye-opening novel set in Malawi. The African AIDS crisis was also the subject of Chanda’s Secret by Allan Stratton (Annick Press). Both of these novels came from Canadian publishers.
Voices Old and New
It’s always exciting to see new authors and artists emerging in the field of children’s and young adult literature. It’s particularly heartening when we see new authors and artists of color given the opportunity to add their voices and their visions to literature for the young. Among the new authors and illustrators of color whose work we found especially intriguing in 2004 are Janice N. Harrington, whose beautifully written picture book Going North is based on her own childhood move from the deep South to Minnesota. Connie Ann Kirk, a writer of Iroquois descent, writes about the Mohawk steelworkers who have contributed to so much of the building of the great architecture in New York City in her child-centered picture book Sky Dancers. Debbie A. Taylor’s lively picture book Sweet Music in Harlem was inspired by Art Kane’s photograph A Great Day in Harlem, in which many of the finest jazz musicians of an era were photographed on a Harlem stoop. In Taylor’s rich story, with splendid artwork by first-time illustrator Frank Morrison, a young aspiring jazz musician trying to track down his uncle’s hat plays an unwitting role in bringing together another lively group for a photo.
In her first trade book for children, Sonia Manzano has written an engaging story about a vibrant community as seen through the eyes of a girl with a gift for bestowing the perfect nickname on everyone she knows. A small sticker on the cover of Manzano's book No Dogs Allowed alerts us to the fact that she is Maria on Sesame Street. But it’s a connection that is downplayed overall, and her book rises far above the usual offerings of most celebrities (to begin with, it doesn’t rhyme) to stand solidly on its own merit.
Several authors made successful transitions from writing for adults to writing for children. Most notable among them was Cynthia Kadohata, whose first book for children, Kira-Kira, won the 2005 Newbery Award. Kadohata’s moving story is about the relationship between two sisters and events in their family over a ten-year span of time. Firmly grounded in the point of view of a protagonist who ages from preschooler to teenager, Kadohata maintains a remarkably authentic viewpoint in which Katie’s understanding of individuals and events in her life deepen over the course of the novel. Poet and novelist Benjamin Alire Sáenz has written his first book for teenagers with Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, a haunting, tragic story set against the backdrop of the 1960s, in which a Chicano teen sees opportunity blocked at every turn: by poverty, by violence, and by the threat of the Vietnam War.
We also greeted the work of many familiar authors and artists with enthusiasm. Leo and Diane Dillon’s haunting new illustrations for Virginia Hamilton’s powerful tale The People Could Fly underscores the impact of this dramatic and moving story first published in 1985 as part of a collection of Black folktales under the same name and now offered as a stand-alone picture book. Walter Dean Myers’s Here in Harlem: poems in many voices is a stunning collection of poetry that distills the hopes and dreams, triumphs and sorrows of the many everyday people who embody the history and spirit of Harlem. With Behind You, Jacqueline Woodson continues the story started in If You Come Softly (Putnam, 1998), offering a tender, painful, ultimately healing journey through grief. Woodson also penned a moving picture book published in 2004: Coming on Home Soon. In Orphea Proud, Sharon Dennis Wyeth tackles both sexuality and race in a book written as a performace piece to showcase its title character Orphea Proud’s emergence as a young Black lesbian who knows that every person is so much more than the sum of what they can be called.
Joseph Bruchac, the most prolific Native author for children, offers a welcome picture-book biography of Jim Thorpe in Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path, as well as a novel set in the 1950s about a young boy struggling to understand the dynamics of his family in Hidden Roots. Bruchac’s novel ultimately reveals the shameful history of the Vermont Eugenics Project, which saw many people, including disabled and Indians, sterilized without consent.
Multicultural literature is essential for all children and young adults, so that they have the opportunity to see their own experiences reflected in books, and so that they have the opportunity to better understand the world in which they live. As librarians and teachers continue to purchase authentic, reliable, and diverse perspectives on multicultural experience, it not only helps to meet the needs of children and teenagers, it also sends the message to publishers that multicultural books are wanted, needed, and will sell.
• • •
Publishing is a business where the bottom line matters. Dedicated editors, not to mention the authors and artists themselves, can only do so much to ensure that books that meet the needs of children—of all children—to be entertained and informed and affirmed are published. The decisions that we make as librarians, teachers, and public consumers are powerful. They have an impact on whether the books available on the bookstore or warehouse shelf today will still be available in paperback, or in print at all, two or three years down the road. Never doubt that your decisions make a difference, not only to the children and teenagers in your lives today but also with regard to what will be available—and even published—for future generations.