Guest Blogger

Was it Hard to Drag Myself to the 7am #PLA2024 Children’s Author Breakfast? Yes. Was it Worth it? YES!

No one has ever called me a morning person, but I managed to pull myself out of bed on Thursday for the #PLA2024 Children’s Author Breakfast and boy am I glad I did! Hearing Gennifer Choldenko, Loren Long, Daniel Nayeri, and Maleeha Siddiqui speak made for an excellent start to my day.

You probably know Gennifer Choldenko from her Tales from Alcatraz series (Al Capone Does My Shirts, etc.), but today she spoke about her very personal new middle grade novel, The Tenth Mistake of Hank Hooperman. She told us that this book was greatly inspired by childhood memories of her big brother, who often took on the role of caregiver to his younger siblings. In this June 2024 release, Hank is taking care of his little sister Boo, as usual, but their mom has never stayed gone for over a week before and the kids are running out of food and out of options. Asking for help may mean foster care (or worse), so Hank is in a really tough spot.

Loren Long is famous for writing and illustrating the Otis picture books as well as adding beautiful illustrations to many other author’s titles. He told us about how adding a dog to his household also meant adding running to his life. During these runs, he and the pup happened across an old school bus. For two years, each time they ran past the bus, a bit more of its story took form in his head. Loren said that while it certainly looked run-down, the bus seemed to be “happy” – proud to have fulfilled one of the most important jobs a vehicle could, carrying children from home to school and back again. This story became his latest offering, The Yellow Bus, publishing this June. His charcoal illustrations with pops of yellow showing the joy of the bus are exquisite and this picture book is not to be missed.

Daniel Nayeri, author of Printz winner Everything Sad is Untrue (A True Story), and Newbery Honor title The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams, had the whole room cracking up with his quips (and periodic bursts into song). He did his best to convince us that all the the teens in our libraries are surely just as obsessed about the band Chicago as he is. As an immigrant child learning English, Daniel adored Richard Scarry, the king of labeling things. Dr. Seuss, on the other hand, was completely untrustworthy, frequently sending Daniel running to the dictionary to try to figure out what words were real and what were nonsense Seuss-isms. As a teenage library page, he created the “Page 31 Game” for himself, in which he read just a page or two of every book he checked in from the book drop (beginning with page 31). Unfortunately, not all the titles in a public library book drop are appropriate for all ages, and often right around page 31, many young ingénues have just decided to let loose and discover all the world has to offer. What follows seems to frequently involve describing many things that would surely make Richard Scarry blush. Daniel’s entire speech was absolutely HILARIOUS, fun and engaging. I hope to get the chance to hear him speak again soon.

Maleeha Siddiqui finished off the panel of authors, stressing that it can make a huge difference for a child to have access to titles that feature children that look, sound, and act like them. She shared how difficult it was that she didn’t see herself in any of the books she read until she was 22 years old and how she realized that if she wanted her daughter to have the books that she didn’t, Maleeha would need to start writing them herself. She endeavors to make young readers feel seen in all of the books that she writes, including her latest title, Any Way You Look, coming May 2024.

I was thrilled to be able to hear from these four creators and I hope I managed to convey at least a little bit of the inspiration they shared with everyone here at PLA today!

Jocelyn Levin, MLIS (she/her), has been the Youth and Teen Services Librarian at the Lyon Township Public Library since 2016. She has worked as a children’s and teen librarian across southeast Michigan for the past 19 years. She is excited to be presenting a session at PLA for the first time and will be sharing details about the MiLibraryQuest, an online teen scavenger hunt that librarians across Michigan created in 2020, so wish her luck on Thursday morning! When she isn’t at work, she spends time gardening and testing out new library craft projects.

This post addresses ALSC Core Competencies: IV. Collection Knowledge and Management and VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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