February 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

A Stellar Lineup of Authors at the AAP/SLJ Children’s Librarians’ Dinner | BookExpo 2017








From top left: Tochi Onyebuchi, author of Beasts Made of Night (Penguin/Razorbill); Mo Willems, author of Welcome (Disney-Hyperion); Byron Pitts, author of Be the One: Six True Stories of Teens Overcoming Hardship with Hope (S. & S.); Mitali Perkins, author of You Bring the Distant Near (Farrar). From bottom left: Dusti Bowling, author of Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus (Sterling); Lesa Cline-Ransome, author of Before She Was Harriet (Holiday House); and James E. Ransome, illustrator of Before She Was Harriet (Holiday House). 

After this year’s Day of Dialog and the start of BookExpo 2017 on Wednesday, May 31, dozens of librarians headed over to the Princeton Club in midtown Manhattan to hear from a stellar lineup of children’s authors and illustrators at the annual AAP/SLJ Children’s Librarians’ Dinner.

Byron Pitts, a journalist who has worked for ABC News, the CBS Evening News, and 60 Minutes, and who recently penned an inspirational nonfiction book of stories based on his travels and connections with teens around the globe, served as the master of ceremonies. It was an emotional night, starting with Pitts’s own reflections on creating his book and the heartbreaking—but affirming—conversations he’s had with teenagers who have overcome tremendous odds and thrived despite numerous obstacles.

The poignant tone continued with Mitali Perkins’s revelation that her latest novel, You Bring the Distant Near, was inspired largely by her own childhood experiences as a young immigrant from Bengal, India, to Flushing, Queens.

Tochi Onyebuchi, a debut novelist who has a law degree and an MFA in screenwriting, spoke about his YA fantasy, Beasts Made of Night, which integrates and celebrates many aspects of his Nigerian culture and spoke about how he wanted to create a story and characters that reflected his own experiences—something he rarely found in books growing up.

Another debut novelist, Dusti Bowling, related the heartfelt origin for her novel, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus (a recent SLJ star), including a family tragedy that sparked her interest in people with limb differences and her experience as the mother of children with Tourette’s Syndrome—all of which led her to craft a story featuring empowered and empowering children with disabilities.

The husband and wife team behind Before She Was Harriet, a picture book biography about Harriet Tubman, Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome, delighted the crowd with a shared talk that had the audience laughing at loud at their gentle teasing of one another and obvious mind-meld intuition when it comes to artistic collaboration. The crowd fell silent, though, as Lesa read the book aloud, it’s lyrical verse illuminating the many names and many roles Tubman held throughout her influential life.

Finally, Mo Willems, the beloved creator of Elephant and Piggie, Knufflebunny, and that bossy pigeon, took to the podium and immediately had the room of librarians collapsing in laughter. He introduced his latest work, a board book designed as a “welcome manual” for newborns, with such sage advice as “WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU/Not everything is as it should be./There is unkindness and fighting and wastefulness and soggy toast.”

Kiera Parrott About Kiera Parrott

Kiera Parrott is the reviews director for School Library Journal and Library Journal and a former children's librarian. Her favorite books are ones that make her cry—or snort—on public transportation.

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  1. Kathy Shoemaker says:

    Thank you, Kiera! You’re thorough account of such an auspicious night was a joyful read. Awesome line up!

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