After the raucousness of politics last fall, I overheard a woman say that she had been binge watching Hallmark Channel love stories. I could certainly relate as I retreated for weeks on end to exclusively reading children’s fiction, where issues are surmountable and endings often good. Truth be told, the writing and illustrating for children these days is beyond excellent and can be enjoyed on its own merits no matter what disturbs our worlds.
There are also some notable events in our neck of the woods that celebrate the best in children’s literature. The Children’s Literature Conference at Western Washington University in Bellingham is a one day love fest to great reading. Held every February, the organizers bring award winning authors and illustrators to speak to their fans—mostly teachers, parents, and youth librarians from all over the state.
To a children’s librarian, an author is like a rock star. I’ll never forget the year that Christopher Paul Curtis spoke about his award winning books, especially The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963. He spoke movingly of his own family upbringing and their life in Flint, Michigan—evoking the Watsons from his famous novel. Last year, Gene Luen Yang brought his short chapter book, Secret Coders, to life as he related incidents from his life as a teacher in the Bay area that made it into his narrative. Shortly thereafter, Gene was appointed National Ambassador of Young People Literature by the Library of Congress and travels all over the country, charming kids to try coding. Another award winning author, Cynthia Lord, told of her novel, Rules, as being based on personal experience of her own family’s challenges and joy with an autistic child. Not a dry eye to be had.
This year’s line-up is another tour de force:
If you like to read, put this conference into your yearly planning. You’ll leave inspired, motivated, proud, educated, and comforted—not too often does that happen all at once. If you can’t make it in person—well, that’s okay–surely these featured books will still save your soul.
~ posted by Diane C.