Event Report: Thank you, Kalamazoo!

What a pleasure it was to travel last week to Kalamazoo, Michigan, for a series of author events coordinated by the lovely and gracious Sue Warner, head of youth services, at the Kalamazoo Public Library.

Sue is a top-notch professional and a first-rate host. I greatly enjoyed her company, her efforts to introduce me to the local flavors, and her attention to detail. What’s more, the whole library staff was friendly, upbeat, and able to finesse every to-do with seamless flare. In addition, the publicity materials associated with this event were among the best I’ve ever seen.

Fellow authors, if you’re ever invited to visit these fine folks, go!

What fun it was to be back in Michigan! My husband, children’s author Greg Leitich Smith, and I met there in 1991 as first-year students at The University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor, and it was a treat to see the leaves changing color.

On Thursday, I visited with enthusiastic students, staff, and faculty at Woods Lake Elementary School and Northglade Montessori School. Over the years, I’ve visited many schools, and these two were both standouts in terms of student and faculty-staff participation, leadership and courtesy.

From there, we continued on to Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home, which is one of the top facilities of its kind in the United States. I joined a group of teen girls who’d been reading my Gothic fantasy novels–Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008), Eternal (Candlewick, 2009, 2010), and Blessed (Candlewick, Jan. 25, 2011 in ARC).

The girls asked questions and shared their thoughts on the novels–Mitch and Meghan were among their favorite secondary characters. It was an in-depth conversation, diving into the themes of the books, especially Eternal.

The event also included a Sanguini’s-inspired lunch, offering a “prey” menu which consisted of: antipasto: bruschettta; primo: linguini with marinara sauce; secondo: roasted tomato and wild rice stew in vegetable stock; contorno: roasted asparagus; and…

dolce: red velvet trifle! Note: Sanguini’s is the vampire-themed fictional restaurant featured in Tantalize and Blessed.

That evening, I spoke at the main public library, which is gorgeous. Here’s the story-time area!

On Friday, I had the honor of keynoting at the 33rd annual Mary Calletto Rife Youth Literature Seminar at Western Michigan University. The theme was “Crossing Borders.”

From the Kalamazoo Public Library:

In 1978, Mary Calletto Rife, then head of the Children’s Department of Kalamazoo Public Library, decided to expand the celebration into a seminar for librarians, teachers, students, and others with a desire to promote children’s literature. The seminar was renamed in honor of Ms. Rife after she retired from the library at the end of 2001.

Kalamazoo Public Library now leads a collaboration including Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, the Kalamazoo Public Schools, and others in the community in producing this seminar each year.

The program opened with Maria Perez-Stable and Beth Amidon’s presentation, “International Children’s Literature: Crossing Borders without Passports.” Both are on the Western Michigan faculty. Maria is a professor and head of Central Reference Services, University Libraries, and Amidon is master faculty specialist and chair of the Faculty Development and Student Success Committee in the English Department.

I was pleased to see one of my favorite picture books of the year, Time to Pray by Maha Addasi, illustrated by Ned Gannon (Boyds Mills, 2010) as the first book cover to shine on the screen.

My own talk was titled “Beyond Feathers and Fangs: Crossing Borders in Realistic and Fantasy Fiction.”

Here, we see Gillian Engberg, the young adult books editor and managing editor of books for youth at Booklist. In “Me, You, Us: Breaking Down Borders with Books for Kids,” Gillian highlighted recent acclaimed multicultural books and referenced the work of her colleague, Hazel Rockman.

Speakers also included Debbie Reese (in red and gray) from the American Indian Studies Department at the University of Illinois–pictured her with friend Jean Mendoza. Debbie spoke on “Pitfalls and Possibilities: American Indians in Children’s and Young Adult Literature” and referenced her blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature.

See more on the speakers.

Seminar attendees included two Michigan children’s book creators.

Ruth McNally Barshaw, is the author-illustrator of the Ellie McDoodle series, published by Bloomsbury USA. The latest book in the series is Ellie McDoodle: Best Friends Fur-Ever (Aug. 2010).

Buffy Silverman is the author of Can an Old Dog Learn New Tricks? and Other Questions about Animals (Lerner) and many more nonfiction children’s books.

I was thrilled to see them both, and Ruth even McDoodle’d me!

In other news, I met the owners of a relatively new children’s bookstore, Bookbug: a Bookstore for Kids, which handled the book sales associated with the events. Webmasters, please add their link to your lists of indie booksellers! And Cynsational readers, be sure to stop by the shop the next time you’re in Kalamazoo! If it’s too far out of your neighborhood, no worries! You can shop Bookbug online, too!

Thanks again to Sue and everyone at Kalamazoo Public Library…to the students, staff, and faculty at Woods Lake and Northglade…to the teen readers and staff at the Kalamazoo Juvenile Home…to the speakers, attendees, volunteers at the seminar, and to Bookbug!

Cynsational Notes

Here’s a bibliography of the books, authors, and illustrators I highlighted as related to the primary focus areas of my talk–Native American children’s literature, multicultural humor, and diversity in speculative fiction:

Native Youth Literature

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Little, Brown, 2007)
Bearwalker by Joseph Bruchac (HarperCollins, 2007)
The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich (Hyperion, 2002)
Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom by Tim Tingle, illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridges (Cinco Puntos, 2006)
Eagle Song by Joseph Bruchac (Puffin, 1999)
The Great Ball Game: A Muskogee Story retold by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Susan L. Roth (Dial, 1994)
The Heart of a Chief by Joseph Bruchac (Puffin, 2001)
Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Jim Madsen (HarperCollins, 2002)(reading group guide; readers theater playscript)(also humorous)
Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2000)(teacher guide)
Moccasin Thunder: Native American Stories for Today edited by Lori Marie Carlson (HarperCollins, 2005)
Muskrat Will Be Swimming by Cheryl Savageau, illustrated by Robert Hynes (Tilbury, 2006)
Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith (HarperCollins, 2001)(reading group guide)
Saltypie: A Choctaw Journey from Darkness into Light by Tim Tingle, illustrated by Karen Clarkson (Cinco Puntos, 2010)

Native Youth Literature Resources

Diversity in Children’s & Young Adult Books: Background Reading from See also Communities and Bibliography.
How Much is an Author Obligated to Say? by Betsy Bird from a Fuse #8 Production at School Library Journal.
Lacapa Spirit Prize: a literary prize for children’s books about the people, cultures and landscapes of the Southwest.
Native American Themes in Children’s & YA Books
Native American Youth Services Literature Award sponsored by the American Indian Library Association.

Multicultural Comedies & Books with Humorous Elements

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Little, Brown, 2007)
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking and Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look, illustrated by Leuyen Pham (Schwartz & Wade, 2009)
American Born Chinese by Gene Yang (First Second, 2007)
Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa (Delacorte, 2003)
Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah (Orchard, 2007)
Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Jim Madsen (HarperCollins, 2002)
Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee (Arthur A. Levine, 2003)
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (HarperCollins, 2010)
Watsons Go To Birmingham–1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis (Delacorte, 1995)

Diversity in Speculative Fiction

The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee (Candlewick, 2010)(mystery)
Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences by Brian Yansky (Candlewick, 2010)(science fiction)
Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, Jan. 25, 2011)
Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2009, 2010)(readers guide)
Extras by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse, 2007)(science fiction)
How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier (Bloomsbury, 2008)(fantasy)
Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia by Cindy Pon (HarperCollins, 2009)(fantasy)
Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2007, 2008)(readers guide)(Gothic fantasy)
Tantalize: Kieren’s Story by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Ming Doyle (Candlewick, Aug. 2011)(Gothic fantasy, graphic format)
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (Little, Brown, 2009)(fantasy)

Additional Youth Literature Referenced

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (Yearling, 1986)(realistic contemporary)
Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (Delacorte, 2007)(Gothic fantasy)
Brains for Lunch: A Zombie Novel in Haiku?! by K.A. Holt, illustrated by Gahan Wilson (Roaring Brook, 2010)(Gothic fantasy)
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (HarperCollins)(realistic contemporary)
Diego: Bigger than Life by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, illustrated by David Diaz (Marshall Cavendish, 2009)(biography)
Gothic: Ten Original Dark Tales edited by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick, 2004)(Gothic fantasy)
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (Arthur A. Levine 1997-2007)(fantasy)
Holler Loudly by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton, Nov. 11, 2010)(K-2 teacher guides connected to national and state standards)
Immortal: Love Stories with Bite edited by P.C. Cast (BenBella, 2009)(paranormal romance)
Lament: A Faerie Queen’s Deception by Maggie Stiefvater (Flux, 2008)(Gothic fantasy)
Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell (Delacorte, 2009)(Gothic fantasy)
She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Don Tate (HarperCollins, 2010)(biography)
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic, 2009)(paranormal romance)
Sideshow: Ten Original Tales of Freaks, Illusionists and Other Matters Odd and Magical edited by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick, 2009)(Gothic fantasy)
Soulless by Christopher Golden (MTV, 2008)(Gothic fantasy)
Thirsty by M.T. Anderson (Candlewick, 2003)(Gothic fantasy)
Tithe by Holly Black (McElderry, 2002)(Gothic fantasy)
Out of the Way! Out of the Way! by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy (Tulika, 2010)(realistic fiction)
Whales on Stilts by M.T. Anderson (Harcourt, 2005)(fantasy)
Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata (Atheneum, 2006)(historical)
Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (HarperCollins)(fantasy)
The Witch of Blackbird Pond (Houghton Mifflin, 1958)(historical)