January 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Children’s Books Promoting Peace Honored at 2017 Jane Addams Award Ceremony

Steamboat School author Deborah Hopkinson. Photos by Rocco Staino

With the international flags of the United Nations fluttering in the background, the Jane Addams Peace Association presented the organization’s 65th annual book awards in a ceremony at the UN Plaza in New York City.

Established in 1953, the awards recognize children’s books published the preceding year that “effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence.”

Written by Deborah Hopkinson’s Steamboat School (Disney, 2016), illustrated by Ron Husband, won in the Books for Younger Children category. The book tells the true story of Reverend John Berry Meachum, who was forced to close the school in his church basement in 1847 due to a state law forbidding the education of African American children. Meacham reopened his school on a steamboat on the Mississippi River, federal property, in order to circumvent the law.

Caren B. Stelson

Caren B. Stelson’s Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story (Carolrhoda, 2016) took the prize in the Older Children category. In her speech, Stelson, a Minnesota resident, noted that St. Paul, MN, and Nagasaki are sister cities, which set her on the road to connecting with the subject of her book, Sachiko Yasui, who was six years old when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki. “What we do matters,” Stelson told the audience, which included students from New York City area schools. “We should keep asking questions.”

Three of the four honor books also embraced historic figures and topics. The honor titles in the Younger Children category were The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial (Bloomsbury, 2016) by Susan E. Goodman, illustrated by E.B. Lewis; and I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark (S. & S., 2016) by Debbie Levy and debut illustrator Elizabeth Baddeley.

I Dissent author Debbie Levy (right) and illustrator Elizabeth Baddeley

Author Russell Freedman received a nod from Jane Addams committee in the Older Children category for We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Hitler (HMH, 2016). The second Older Children honor book, and the only work of fiction recognized this year, was Lauren Wolk’s Wolf Hollow (Penguin, 2016). The debut novel explores bullying, justice, and empathy in small town Pennsylvania during World War II.

Watch the awards ceremony

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Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.

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  1. Thank you for your article, Rocco. As you know, it has always been inspirational to attend the ceremony in person. We are grateful to have the excellent video coverage this year.

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