February 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Round Up | SLJ Day of Dialog 2014

On May 28, 240 of the country’s school and youth services librarians joined 20 authors/illustrators and stakeholders from the publishing industry to kick off Book Expo America (BEA) by gathering at the McGraw-Hill building in New York City for School Library Journal’s annual Day of Dialog, a daylong event serving as platform for publishers, authors, and librarians to interact.

In her humourous discussion of her childhood,  opening keynote speaker Jacqueline Woodson explained why her latest book through Penguin (available in August) is entitled Brown Girl Dreaming rather than “Black Girl Dreaming.” Woodson had always been referred to as a “brown girl” during her childhood, and the words resonated when she was coming up with a title for her memoir.

During the morning’s “Wordless Picture Books” panel, Raúl Colón, who has a new book Draw! coming out in September through Simon & Schuster, revealed if it wasn’t for his being a sickly child, he might not have cultivated his love for drawing to the extent he did.

“Thank God there was no X-Box then,” said Colón.

The “Diversity in Middle Grade Fiction” panel, with authors Kat Yeh and Kwame Alexander among others, pondered the question, “Do you write about race in your books?” The luncheon speaker Garth Nix—an Australian YA fantasy writer—proved he knows how to spin a story. Nix, who has a new book Clariel coming out in October through Hot Key Books, enthralled the audience about his boyhood meeting with the great author Erskine Henry late in Henry’s life during which he was gifted Henry’s pen. The audience expressed shocked when Nix gave Henry’s pen to the member of the audience, only to find out that there is no Erskine Henry. Nix had made both him and the story up. It served as a perfect lead into the “Unreliable YA Narrators” panel with Meg Wolitzer, Barry Lyga, and Alaya Dawn Johnson to name a few. (Click here to watch a clip of Garth’s keynote.)

Garth Nix

Garth Nix gives away his precious “Erskine Henry” pen to an audience member.




Below is a 9-minute clip of the “Unreliable YA Narrators” panel with (from left to right): Meg Wolitzer, Jodi Lynn Anderson, Alaya Dawn Johnson, E. Lockhart, and Barry Lyga.

Unreliable Narrators

E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars, and Barry Lyga,  of I Hunt Killers.

Questions were answered by the “Storied Lives” panel where masters of visual art Lois Ehlert and Raina Telgemeier explained how their autobiographical books The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life (S&S, 2014) and Sisters (Scholastic, August 2014) answer questions about their lives. While Chris Raschka answered questions about the unusual jazz musician Sun Ra in The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra: The Sound of Joy is Enlightening (Candlewick, 2014) and his own unstructured process of making art, Peter Sis gave the backstory of how his book The Pilot and the Little Prince (Farrar, 2014) about The Little Prince author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry came to be.

Librarians were pleased with this year’s offerings.  “I felt that they were down to earth and practical,” said Kelley McDaniel, librarian at King Middle School in Portland, Maine. Her school’s study body is 30 percent immigrant, so she found the “Wordless Picture Books” and “Diversity in Middle Grade Fiction” panels very useful.

Meagan Lenihan, library media specialist at the Lincoln School in Providence, Rhode Island, also enjoyed the “Wordless Picture Book” panel.  She agreed with one of the panelist who said, “Wordless books creates a private space between the child and the book.”

Kat Yeh

“Diversity in Middle Grade Fiction” panelist Kat Yeh signs copies of her Little Brown book The Truth About Twinkie Pie.

That same panel had Kelly Watson, librarian at the Bensenville (IL) Community Public Library start to rethink her collection. “I think I may pull my wordless picture books and make them a featured collections similar to holiday and alphabet books.”

In the meantime, the diversity panel made Watson’s colleague, librarian Penny Mandziara, think about how she does booktalks.

“I realize that I mention the race of the characters in my book talks. I am going to stop doing that.”

The day culminated with attendees gathering around the authors for autographed copies of book and leaving with SLJ’s “How Do You Library?” bags stuffed with books—and this was only the beginning of BEA.

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.