Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo today was named the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, 2014–2015, by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “Stories Connect Us” will be the theme of her two-year platform as she tours the nation to promote reading. She will be inaugurated on January 10 at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
“Kate DiCamillo is not only one of our finest writers for young people but also an outstanding advocate for the importance of reading,” says Billington. “The Library of Congress is pleased to welcome Kate as a worthy successor to our three previous National Ambassadors.”
DiCamillo is the author of Flora & Ulysses (Candlewick, 2013), a New York Times bestseller; The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner; The Tale of Despereaux, 2003 Newbery Medal winner; A Tiger Rising, a National Book Award finalist; and Because of Winn-Dixie, a Newbery Honor book.
The ambassadorship was established in 2008 by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the Children’s Book Council (CBC), and Every Child a Reader in order to raise national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature to lifelong literacy, education, and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.
“I am looking forward to Kate’s tenure as National Ambassador,” Robin Adelson, executive director of the CBC and Every Child a Reader, tells School Library Journal. “It will be especially gratifying to help Kate implement her platform across the country.” Notes Adelson, “Kate has an incredible ability to create memorable and relatable characters. A skillful storyteller all around, [she] will inspire young readers and communities to read together and share their very own tales.”
Ambassadors are chosen by recommendation of a selection committee, who evaluate candidates’ contributions to young people’s literature and their ability to relate to children. Previous appointees are Walter Dean Myers (2012–2013), Katherine Paterson (2010–2011), and Jon Scieszka (2008–2009).
“Kate’s platform, ‘Stories Connect Us,’ coordinates perfectly with the mission of the Center for the Book, which works to promote books and reading nationwide,” adds John Y. Cole, the center’s director. “We look forward to working with Kate as she travels the country with her message of stories and their ability to join communities.”
SLJ blogger and contributor Travis Jonker sat down for an interview with the author to learn more about her new platform, her latest book, and more. The full text of that conversation, which is excerpted below, will appear in SLJ‘s February 2014 issue.
What’s the story of you becoming Ambassador?
This is something that I believe in, so passionately. This children’s book community has done everything for me. This is like my family. And when I say community, I mean not only all the librarians and teachers and booksellers but also all the kids. So if I can do something through this role for all the people that have done something for me, that would be great.
What will your duties be?
My platform is ‘Stories Connect Us’ and so I’m hoping that there will be community reads—reading together in a variety of ways, whether it’s the whole town reading the same book or a whole school. Reading together can change how we see each other and how we see the world and [helps] us connect to each other.
Each Ambassador has a theme; ‘Stories Connect Us’ is yours?
Those three words. That’s something I believe in. There’s some powerful thing that happens when we read together. When you’re reading something with somebody else, it helps you connect to those people. I think it’s something that really matters.
What skills do you think will serve you well as Ambassador?
I think that probably my biggest skill here is that because I’m so short, kids have some confusion about whether I’m an adult or a kid, and so it makes me very acceptable. That, and I love talking with kids. I really love it. So that hopefully counts as a skill.
What type of reader were you as a kid?
I was the kind of kid who read everything. You know that kind of kid; if it was a book, then it was wonderful. I had favorite things that I came back to quite a bit. There was a biography—I cannot remember who wrote it—of George Washington Carver that I’d checked out from the public library so much that I remember my mother standing at the desk and saying to the librarian, ‘Can’t we just buy this book?’ So, I came back to that book again and again and again. I loved the ‘Little House in the Prairie’ books. I loved Stuart Little.
So what do I want—what would I hope for kids as readers? I would hope that they can find that books are a place to go to see the world and to see each other and to understand things and to get comfort and light and I would love it if they figured that out now. And then it sustains them for the rest of their life as it has me.