Whenever I try to explain to anyone how much Jennifer Ziegler and I love the annual gathering of the Texas Library Association, I just let them know that when we got married six years ago, the TLA conference in Fort Worth was our honeymoon.
Whether the person I’m talking to is appalled by that choice or totally gets it, there’s no mistaking how strongly we feel about TLA.
And we’re thrilled that this year’s conference will be in our home city of Austin — and that we’re both featured with sessions and signings. Here’s where and when you can find us, and what we’ll be up to (with helpful screenshots from the TLA app):
Monday, April 15
2:45 p.m. The Myth of ‘Girl Books’ and ‘Boy Books’: Exploring Gender Bias with Middle Grade Authors
9C, Level 3
Middle-grade authors explore gender bias and gender diversity in children’s literature, and discuss challenges librarians face in getting diverse stories into the hands of readers regardless of their gender. Learn about resources for locating, evaluating, promoting, and sharing gender diverse texts with readers.
5 p.m. Author Signing with Jennifer Ziegler
Authors Area, Aisle 12
19A, Level 4
Authors Jeff Anderson, Tom Angleberger, Chris Barton, Lesa Cline-Ransome, Shelley Johannes, Stacy McAnulty, Carmen Oliver, Andrew Smith, Jo Whittemore, and Jennifer Ziegler will compete in Van’s Game of Games.
Tuesday, April 16
10 a.m. What Was Left Out: Powered by Pecha Kucha
19B, Level 4
Discovering what was cut from a story can be as informative as what was left in. In this panel, five authors will share how they made crucial decisions that shaped their final stories. The authors will use the fast-paced format called Pecha Kucha which has possibilities for educators and students.
1:30 p.m. Author Signing with Chris Barton
Authors Area, Aisle 2
3:15 p.m. How to Make a Diverse Kid-Lit List
5ABC, Level 3
Youth librarians love to make lists highlighting books and authors. Each list is an opportunity to consider the demographics of who is included – and who is left out. Learn from two veteran librarians and two award winning authors how to make those lists increasingly inclusive and diverse.
Wednesday, April 17
2 p.m. Author Signing with Chris Barton & Don Tate
Charlesbridge Booth #2445
Earlier this month, my nonfiction picture book Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion (Millbrook Press/Lerner Publishing), illustrated by Victo Ngai, was named to the Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards Program Master List for Grades 3-6 for 2019-2020.
All by itself, that was great news, and immediately I was tremendously thankful for the efforts of the PYCRA committee and for the award’s sponsor, the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association.
And then I thought, “PYCRA — that sounds familiar. Wasn’t Whoosh! on one of those lists?”
I did a little digging, and sure enough, it was. Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions (Charlesbridge), illustrated by Don Tate, was on the 2017-2018 PYCRA Master List for Grades 3-6.
But that’s not all I found when I searched my own website for references to the Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award.
It had slipped my mind that both The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors (Charlesbridge), illustrated by Tony Persiani, and Shark vs. Train (Little, Brown), illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, were on PYCRA Master Lists (in two different categories) in 2011-2012. Shark vs. Train, in fact, had been the Kindergarten-Grade 3 winner that year.
I felt like a dope for those honors having slipped my mind, though I’d certainly appreciated them at the time. I’m going to chalk that memory lapse up to the fact that my knowledge and understanding of the children’s literature world have grown continually during the 18-plus years I’ve been pursuing this work, and that one aspect that it took me a while to grasp was the significance of state awards such as the PYRCA.
I fully appreciate now just how vital state award lists are for getting new books in front of young readers and their librarians. And that appreciation is multiplied by four for the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association.
Lonnie Johnson, the subject of my book Whoosh! (illustrated by Don Tate and published by Charlesbridge), went home to Mobile, Alabama, recently for quite a special occasion.
Lonnie’s alma mater, Williamson High School, is getting a $4 million addition that will include a science center. And it’s going to be called the Lonnie G. Johnson Educational Complex.
On hand for the groundbreaking was Lonnie’s high school science teacher Walter Ward. Of all the quotes in the article about the new learning center and Williamson’s new robotics team, this one from Lonnie stands out:
Having teachers who care is the most important thing you can have for a child. We think it’s just words, but it’s more than words. When you see greatness, they will live up to your expectations. If you have faith in children and believe in them, they will believe in themselves.
A year ago this week, after some pondering on my part, I asked an editor of mine about the possibility of getting one of my picture books translated into Spanish.
It turned out to be more than possible: Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions is coming out next spring as ¡Fushhh! El chorro de inventos súper húmedos de Lonnie Johnson.
Even better, we’ve just found out that it’s a Junior Library Guild selection.
Next time I wonder to myself whether a Spanish version is worth bringing up to my editor, you can bet I’ll be keeping this in mind — and then asking aloud.
Lo and behold, look what showed up on Friday:
Just in time for the start of this year’s school visits, it was our first shipment of our newest two-sided, hers-and-his bookmarks, and I think they’re beautiful.
Jennifer and I will leave these bookmarks for the audiences at each campus where we give presentations, though some lucky students will receive bookmarks from before the publication of Jennifer’s Revenge of the Teacher’s Pets (this past June) and my own What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? (coming three weeks from today).
But those aren’t leftovers — they’re vintage!
I love getting mail. Getting mail was one of my very favorite things when I was a kid. Even today, when the ratio of Exciting Things in the Mail to Not-At-All-Exciting Things in the Mail is completely lopsided in a way that other adults can surely relate to, I remain hopeful each day that something good will arrive.
A few weeks ago (and three out-of-town trips ago, hence my delay in posting this), a package arrived from the Children’s Literature Association of Utah
that definitely fell under the Exciting Things in the Mail category:
The plaque contained in that package informed me that Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions (Charlesbridge), written by me and illustrated by Don Tate, is the 2018 winner of the Beehive Book Award for informational books.
The informational Beehive recognizes books appropriate for readers (and voters!) from grades 3 through 9. I think that speaks to how well picture book nonfiction can provide valuable information to readers commonly thought to have “outgrown” picture books.
But that wasn’t the only good news for Whoosh!
Washington State readers between grades 2 and 6 voted for Whoosh! as the winner of the 2018 Towner Award for informational books. The sponsoring Washington Library Association did a thorough, generous job creating curriculum tie-ins for each of the year’s ten nominees. You can see their work here. And educators in Washington also chose Whoosh! for, appropriately enough, their Educators’ Choice award.
What’s more, Whoosh! has been named to:
- the Arkansas Diamond Primary Book Award 2018-2019 Reading List, sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Education, the Arkansas State Library, and the Arkansas Literacy Association,
- the nominees for the 2019 Elementary Nutmeg Book Award, to be chosen by readers in Connecticut,
- the 2019 Illinois Bluestem Readers’ Choice Award Nominees Master List, sponsored by the Association of Illinois School Library Educators, and
- the list of nominees for the 2018-19 Beverly Cleary Children’s Choice Award sponsored by the Oregon Association of School Libraries.
Putting together state lists such as these — and encouraging the reading of the books on such lists — is one of the most crucial ways that librarians and literacy professionals get new books onto the minds and into the hands of young readers. A lot of hard, thoughtful work is involved, and I appreciate every bit of it. Thank you all.
Last week I received the news that Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions was a finalist for the 2016 Writers’ League of Texas Book Awards.
The WLT announced winners and finalists for fiction, nonfiction, poetry, middle grade/young adult, and picture book, with that latter category won by my friend Donna Janell Bowman’s terrific Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness.
I’m honored to be in such good company, and I appreciate all the effort that went into coming up with those short lists, considering all the writing talent that my home state has to offer.
There’s more good news for Whoosh! enthusiasts. The book’s publisher, Charlesbridge, has put together this downloadable discussion and activity guide, which I hope will come in handy in many libraries and classrooms this school year.
And here’s a little something more for fans of the Super Soaker as well as of the scientist who invented it: a Lonnie Johnson video playlist.
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions has been treated kindly by list-makers lately, and I’m beyond grateful. Thank you to all who have shown and shared your appreciation for this book.
It’s high time I mirrored that appreciation by rounding up some of that good news in one place — especially since the first two of the lists I’m about to share are up for a public vote.
Bank Street College of Education
The Cook Prize (Best Science, Technology, Engineering and Math [STEM] picture book) – 2017 Finalist
Every Child a Reader
2017 Children’s Choice Book Awards, 3rd-4th Grade Book of the Year – Finalist
A school or library can register here to vote for the Cook Prize, and kids can vote here for the Children’s Choice Book Awards.
Association for Library Service to Children
Notable Children’s Books 2017 (Non-Fiction) – Nominee
The Children’s Book Council and the National Council for the Social Studies
Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2017
The Cooperative Children’s Book Center
CCBC Choices 2017
Maine Association of School Libraries
The Chickadee Award, The Maine Children’s Choice Picture Book Award – 2017-2018 Nominee
Maryland Association of School Librarians
2017-2018 Black-Eyed Susan Book Award (Picture Book, Grades 4-6) – Nominee
Maryland Library Association, Children’s Services Division
2017 Maryland Blue Crab Young Reader Award, Transitional Non-Fiction – Winner
Pennsylvania School Librarians Association
2017 – 2018 Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards Program Master List, Grades 3-6
Texas Institute of Letters
Denton Record Chronicle Award for Best Children’s Picture Book – 2017 Finalist
Vermont Center for the Book/Mother Goose Programs and the Vermont Department of Libraries
2017-2018 Red Clover Award (Vermont’s Picture Book Award For Children in Grades K-4) – Nominee
I guess I should specify that when I say “lately,” I mean in the past three months. So, if you’re still getting caught up on “Best of the Year” lists from the end of 2016, you’ve come to the right place. Or at least an understanding one.
Nerdy Book Club
The 2016 Nerdies: Nonfiction Picture Book Winners
The Nonfiction Detectives
The Best Nonfiction Books of 2016
Denver Public Library
Best & Brightest Biographies of 2016
Betsy Bird was especially prolific with the list-making over at A Fuse #8 Production, where she spotlighted her favorite books of 2016 in different categories each day in December, including Science and Nature Books for Kids and Nonfiction Picture Books before capping it all off with:
A Fuse #8 Production
100 Magnificent Children’s Books 2016
Whoosh! was also included in Booklist Online’s Classroom Connections: Overlooked Inventors and Their Notable Inventions, Pernille Ripp’s My Favorite Picture Books of 2016, Colours of Us’ 40 Best Multicultural Picture Books of 2016, Here Wee Read’s 55 of the Best Diverse Picture and Board Books of 2016, Daydream Reader’s My Top 16 Books in 2016, and Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday – My 2016 Favorites
If you or a young reader you know is still craving more information about the inventor of the Super Soaker, this new Q&A with Lonnie Johnson conducted by Forbes is one of the best I’ve seen.
And if you still want more, might I recommend these brief videos in which Don Tate and I discuss how we made Whoosh! and answer other questions posed to us by the Texas Bluebonnet Award committee. We hope you enjoy ’em!