Posted in @ the library


with fellow Odyssey Committee member Beth Rosania at the Live Oak Media booth adding the Odyssey sticker to the CD.

What a year 2020 has been. In thinking about what I’m grateful for, I think all the way back to January. It was filled with such promise. I was preparing for ALA Midwinter, and for days of meetings and deliberations with the Odyssey Committee. And that conference in Philadelphia remains a highlight of my year. The committee spent 2019and early 2020 listening to hundreds of audiobooks, and many of them more than once. It was intense. I’ve always listened on my morning commute, and now my lunchtime walks were always with earbuds, as were most household tasks: laundry, organizing closets, gardening, dishes, cooking.

At in person meetings we got to know each other — a group of people with varied interests, at different stages of our careers, from all corners of the country. We got to know what things people noticed — and what each other’s pet peeves were (mouthsounds, sibillance anyone?) We benefitted from those who knew another language, who could point out an inaccurate accent or inconsistency. We also soon knew what each others favorites were. There was laughter, discovery, frustration (we are human!), wonder, respect, and looking back, for me — gratitude. Gratitude for the time each member of the committee devoted to listening and to discussion, to active participation in the process.

The big screen at the ALA Youth Media Award announcements on Monday morning!

And, since it is November, I’ve been thinking of one of “our” honor books, We Are Grateful, Otsaliheliga. It is thanks to this being an audio book, and to a fellow committee member who encouraged me, that I can now say Otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) . It is an altogether wonderful production, with Cherokee words and cultural elements, recorded in a Cherokee studio, with such an eye to accuracy and authenticity throughout. It is an exemplary picture book, and the audio adds another dimension for those who want to learn more about Native culture. The book celebrates the seasons and celebrations of the year with a Cherokee family. Read an incredible review here, in which Eti Berland explores many of the elements that work together to create this audiobook, to create this “immersive soundscape.” You can also enjoy this video interview with author Traci Sorrell.

Posted in diversity, libraries, library programs

Whose Land are You Standing On?

It’s Indigenous People’s Day, and I’m thinking of whose land I am standing on, as challenged to do at the recent ALSC Institute. The conference site included a “Land Acknowledgement” statement which included the following:

ALA and ALSC acknowledge the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of all Indigenous peoples that call this land home. The Institute was originally going to be held in Minneapolis, so we take this opportunity to celebrate and support Minnesota Indigenous communities.

As part of this acknowledgement, ALSC requests our Virtual Institute attendees visit, carefully read the disclaimer, research, and answer the question: “Whose land am I standing on?” learn to recognize the Indigenous nations, communities, and organizations in your area.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area is located on Wahpekute and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ land. Minnesota is home to seven Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) and four Dakota nations (MN Indian Tribes).

The ALA offices in Chicago are located on Kilkaapoi (Kickapoo), Peoria, Bodéwadmiakiwen (Potawatomi), and Myaamia land.

The maps at Native-Land ( are fascinating. I have learned that I live and work on Hopewell land, live on Shawandasse Tula (Shawanwaki/Shawnee) land, and work on land that belonged to the Myaamia (Miami). I grew up in Georgia, on land belonging to the Mvskokee (Muscogee/Creek). I have a lot to learn about these peoples and am excited by this resource.

It is the Hopewell that I feel closest to, as I live close to several earthworks, structures built by the Hopewell, including the Octagon and Great Circle Earthworks, that align in significant ways with the sun and moon cycles. Below are a few photos from a recent walk around the Great Circle. It is an awe-inspiring place, and a nominee for UNESCO World Heritage status.

Whose land are you standing on?

Posted in Book reviews, diversity, historical fiction

Prairie Lotus

Hanna is tired of moving from place to place. Since her mother died, her father has moved them from California further and further east. Hanna longs to stay in one place, to go to school, and dreams of being a seamstress. She draws and designs any chance she can. And she hopes that this latest move to LaForge, in the Dakota Territory, will be a lasting one.

Hanna is half Chinese, and faces discrimination and prejudice wherever she goes. Hanna herself shows kindness to the Native Americans in the story. She faces challenges in making friends and is determined to change people’s minds, despite the hurt that she feels. Young readers will be drawn in to Hanna’s story, feeling her pain, and rooting for her as she seeks a way to find a place for herself.

Linda Sue Park says that it took her whole life to write this book. It’s personal, based on her childhood love of Little House, and her experiences as a Korean American in the United States. She explains this experience in Sticks and Stones and the Stories we Tell, sponsored by SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. You can also read more about it in this New York Times Review.

Recommend to those looking for historical fiction — a welcome alternative to Caddie Woodlawn and Little House. I was a fan of the Little House books myself — they were the first chapter books that I read — a gift the Christmas that I was in second grade. I still remember vividly the feeling of trust — an important adult in my life believed that I could read these books. I’m so glad to have Prairie Lotus to recommend to young readers.

Posted in diversity, reading

New reading goals

So much is happening in the world right now. I haven’t been actively blogging for a while, but I need a place to record some of my thoughts. Going back, I’m pleased to remember some of how I got to this place — proud of the posts that reference diverse books and books in translation — books from around the world. But this year I’ve been reminded how far I have to go. And that’s okay, it’s already been a wonderful journey and I hope to record more of it as I read, listen, and learn.

Earlier this summer I listened to this amazing session, Sticks and Stones and the Stories we Tell, from SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Each author tells of one incident (I’m sure each of them could fill up the hour, but they had to choose a single one) and how it affected their work. It’s an amazing line-up, with Christian Robinson, Floyd Cooper, Rafael Lopez, Lisa Yee, Shadra Strickland, Pat Cummings, Meg Medina, Crystal Allen, Lamar Giles, and Linda Sue Park. Near the end, a member of the audience asks what they can do. Floyd Cooper advises us to read — and I nod my head — this I can do, this I already do. Then Linda Sue Park adds that she spent a year reading, buying, and requesting from the library only books by “black and brown women.” And she challenges us to read only books by marginalized people. And I thought — can I do something like this? and then, how can I not do this? How many people of color have had to read, for years, books by and about white people? and never read something by someone of their race or culture?

So this year I’m embarking on that journey. My scope is a bit broader — to read books by non-dominant authors — which is broad, and allows me to include race, culture, ability, and gender. I also include international authors in my scope, though I am looking more for non-English speaking countries outside Europe, Canada and Australia. It’s not a perfect process — for different work-related projects I have some necessary reading. So, in my own time, for my personal reading, I’m focusing on books by non-dominant people, from around the globe. Thanks to Linda Sue Park for the challenge and inspiration.

Posted in awards, nonfiction, picture books, reader's advisory, travel

SLJ’s Day of Dialog, 2017

Photos & tweets from Day of Dialog, with a few comments and observations in between. Moderated my very first panel of picture book creators – -What an amazing day!


Posted in @ the library

Poetry, Programming, & Translation


Discover an early pioneer in the field of computer science – Ada Byron Lovelace. A great introduction for early elementary age students that gives them the model of an intelligent, inquisitive, creative young woman with an amazing imagination and dreams of flying (in the 19th century!) Her ability to make connections among disparate fields was a key to her success. When viewing the mechanical loom, Ada learned of punch cards being used to direct machines . . . not unlike programming a computer. She became friends with Charles Babbage, who was working on what he described as  “the analytical engine” — now known as the first computer.

I was delighted to discover that Lovelace was a fine translator. She translated an article from the Italian into English which explained how Charles Babbage’s analytical engine worked. Additionally, her “notes from the translator” are much longer than the article itself. Lovelace described how this remarkable machine could be used — and it was her vision to see what it was capable of that was really remarkable: “writing text, composing music, reproducing images, even playing games like checkers or chess.”

Jessie Hartland’s gouache illustrations are colorful and appealing. They include many specific details, including scientific notation, images of mechanical looms and Babbage’s Difference Engine,  and locations and famous people (identifiable by the objects in the thought balloons above their heads). What a challenging book to illustrate!

For more about the book and a teacher’s guide, visit:


this School Library Journal article offers many resources for exploring Ada, women in science, coding, and Lord Byron (and more!) in the classroom.





Posted in @ the library, Book reviews, historical fiction, international books


What do you know about Lithuania? I certainly didn’t know much before reading Ruta Sepetys’ books. I knew it was one of the Baltic states, taken over by the Soviet Union in the early yeshadesofgray_bookars of World War II and kept as one of the buffer states during the Cold War. Lithuania became independent in early 1991 — with only short lived interference  from the crumbling Soviet Union.

Before reading Sepetys Between Shades of Gray, I knew little about Lithuania. I didn’t give much thought to what Soviet occupation meant. How much brutality lies underneath those few sentences on the subject in a textbook. That anyone seen as part of the intelligentsia, that is, anyone with an education, — teachers, doctors, lawyers, and yes, librarians — all were rounded up and deported. Homes, belongings, possessions lost, families divided. Sepetys draws upon her own family history in her writing, as she is of Lithuanian descent.  Fifteen year old Lina narrates the harrowing tale of her families removal, the long journey on the train, work in a labor camp, and final journey to Siberia.

Salt to the Sea reveals another story often hidden from history — the story osaltf the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, the worst maritime disaster in history. As World War II draws to a close, refugees are fleeing the Baltic States through Poland and Prussia from the advancing Russian army, who pillage everything — that is, everything that the Germans have not destroyed as they are retreating. Refugees, children, soldiers alike seek an escape, a way out. Told from four different narrators whose stories intersect, this is another powerful and eye-opening story from

The links above will take you to Sepetys own site, and I highly recommend listening to her talk about her research and tell the story in her own voice. It also includes more history of the Wilhelm Gustloff, more about displaced persons of the Baltics during the war, and about refugees.

I’ve been thinking about these books quite a lot recently. Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, joined NATO in 2004. With all the talk of NATO in the recent election cycle, what are the people of the Baltics concerned about these days? It is more important than ever to learn and remember history. In the Author’s Note section of Salt to the Sea, Sepetys writes: “If historical novels stir your interest, pursue the facts, history, memoirs, and personal testimonies, available. These are the shoulders that historical fiction sits upon. When the survivors are gone we must not let the truth disappear with them. Please, give them a voice.”

Posted in Book reviews, nonfiction

The Birth of an American Terrorist Group


That’s the subtitle of Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s 2010 book They Called Themselves the KKK, one of the many books that has been on my mind lately. I remember hearing the author speak that year about her research for the book and attendance at a weekend-long Klan meeting. Her description was vivid and chilling, and is well worth reading — scroll down past the awards and stars the book received to find it.

Posted in @ the library, Book reviews, reader's advisory

Spring Trends, 2016

Recently I had the opportunity to speak to two classes of education students at Otterbein University about most anticipated new books and trends in publishing for grades 4-6 and teens. It was a challenging and fun way to review the field — from one librarian’s perspective. I’m sharing the presentations here because I’d love to hear your thoughts on what’s trending these days. And they are already beginning to date — as is inherent with such topics. Please note — this is not at all comprehensive . . . I just had to stop collecting new ideas at some point!

What’s New in Literature for Young Adults – Spring 2016

What’s New in Literature for Young Readers – Spring 2016