ALA Midwinter 2014: Authors Weigh in on Diversity in Youth Literature

photo by Lessa Pelayo-Lozada
Soman Chainani, Phoebe Yeh, and Ellen Oh

At ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia, the conversation surrounding people of color in youth literature left the halls of the convention center and headed over to the Karma Cafe for the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association dinner.   The dinner featured a discussion with authors Soman Chainani and Ellen Oh, moderated by Phoebe Yeh, vice president and publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House.

Both authors started off describing their works and the process behind their stories.  Unsurprisingly, both were rooted in a need for books about non-mainstream ideas and characters.

Soman Chainani began by discussing his series, The School for Good and Evil, which was recently optioned for film.  He discussed the gap he saw between his beloved Disney versions of stories which were often sanitized versions of their origins.  This served as the basis for his series which, from the cover, looks like a classic Disney-esque book, but which he describes as containing almost anti-Disney in themes such deconstructing notions of what it means to be a boy or a girl, and looking at binaries such as young and old in addition to the traditional battle between good and evil.  Chainani also described how he purposefully creates diverse characters, since in fantasy traditional race and ethnicity are not as common and diversity relies instead on subtleties such as names of characters (he tries to pick a name from a different culture each time) and skin color.  Continue reading ALA Midwinter 2014: Authors Weigh in on Diversity in Youth Literature

ALA Midwinter 2014: Best Fiction for Young Adults Teen Feedback Session

For librarians working with young people, the announcement of the Youth Media Awards is the paramount event of ALA’s Midwinter Conference. Hub blogger Chelsea Condren shared her personal account of attending the YMAs in her post on February 5. I think it’s fair to say that the second-most anticipated event for us YALSA folks is the teen feedback session for the Best Fiction for Young Adults nominees. This year, I was there.

The teens only had a few seconds to weigh in on the books they had read. The BFYA nomination list included 175 titles, while the teen feedback session was just two and a half hours long. For a recap, I’ve put together a visual presentation featuring some of the nominated titles coupled with their corresponding teen comments.

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Special thanks to the participating teens and their sponsors:  Joyce Ames, St. Stepehen’s & St. Agnes School, Alexandria, VA; Jennifer Hubert Swan, L R E I Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School, New York, NY; Megan England, Atlantic City Free Public Library, Atlantic City, NJ, and Katherine Liss, Metuchen Public Library, Metuchen, NJ.

For a lovely take on this same session, read Vicky Smith’s account. And now that you’ve gotten an idea of the teens’ feedback, be sure to check out the full list of titles that made this year’s BFYA list!

-Diane Colson, currently reading The Night Gardener (advanced reader’s copy) by Jonathan Auxier

ALA Midwinter 2014: Youth Media Awards

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The Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia had its hands full on Monday, January 28, as a room full of excited librarians, publishers, authors, and other industry professionals breathlessly awaited the start of the annual Youth Media Awards. In fact, by the time I arrived (bleary-eyed and bushy tailed) at the convention center, it was 7:55 AM and there was no official room left for audience members. Instead, I found a seat in a “spillover” room where the awards were being broadcasted live on a screen. By 8:30 AM, the spillover room was entirely full.

My friend who called the YMAs “the librarian Oscars” was pretty spot-on, after all.

It’s hard to describe how incredible it was to witness people applaud, groan, cheer, whisper, and even shed tears over children’s and young adult literature. It’s even harder to describe how it felt to sit next to perfect strangers at 8 AM on a Monday morning knowing that they were just as passionate as you about youth media. Suffice it to say that I have never seen a room full of introverts whoop and holler so loudly before. For those who aren’t “in the know,” I would describe the purpose of the YMAs, in part, as providing “those fancy silver and gold stickers you see on the covers of books.”

But it’s more than fancy stickers, of course.

Continue reading ALA Midwinter 2014: Youth Media Awards

ALA Midwinter 2014: YALSA’s Morris/Nonfiction Award Program & Presentation

morris_nonfiction_program_alamw2014The morning of Monday, January 28th, at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia was filled with excitement. Right on the heels of the ALA Youth Media Awards came YALSA’s Morris/Nonfiction Program & Presentation, and the whole room was abuzz to celebrate this year’s finalists and winners of the William C. Morris YA Debut Award and the Award for Excellent in Nonfiction for Young Adults.

Emceed by YALSA President Shannon Peterson, the program began with the Morris Award winner and finalists, introduced by Dorcas Wong, 2014 Morris Award Committee Chair.

Sex & ViolenceCarrie Mesrobian, author of Morris finalist Sex and Violence, gave a heartfelt speech recounting the significance of libraries in her formative years. She was an avid library user during her youth, but never interacted with librarians as a teen. Despite this, she said, “No matter that I never spoke to a single librarian, the librarians kept the shelves stocked… Librarians regularly and reliably provided me with the books I needed.” And for that, she said, she is “forever grateful.”

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad PoetsEvan Roskos, author of Morris finalist Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets, had everyone in stitches by observing that being honored for the Morris is a truly a once in a lifetime opportunity because, well… he can only debut once. He then told a story about how his book empowered a teen reader to get help for their mental health concerns. Of course, the inspiring nature of this anecdote turned to hilarity as he observed that “Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets actually caused someone to seek therapy.” He concluded by sharing his four-year-old son’s reaction to seeing his book cover. “Daddy, YOU wrote Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus?” This author is just as hilarious and thoughtful as his book. Continue reading ALA Midwinter 2014: YALSA’s Morris/Nonfiction Award Program & Presentation

Gearing up for the YMAs

Are you ready? The ALA Youth Media Awards will be presented in Philadelphia at the ALA Midwinter Meeting on Monday, January 27, starting at 8 am Eastern! With this exciting event just around the corner, the Hub bloggers thought it would be fun to share how we celebrate these prestigious awards.shutterstock_102813506 [Converted]

Mia Cabana: This year I am getting ready for the YMAs by helping some friends (Lori Ess and Betsy Bird) make graphs and charts for the live YMA pre-show they will be hosting through School Library Journal.

Cara Land: The past few years I’ve been at the ALA Midwinter Meeting, so I try to always attend the awards ceremony in person. There’s something really exciting about actually being there when you can be. In the past I’ve tried to livetweet the event, but my fingers aren’t nimble enough to catch all the honorees and I get way too distracted amidst the cheering!

Becky O’Neil: Last year was the first time I did two new things: watched the livestream and watched Twitter. It was so fun! I had a couple co-workers with me, and we were geeking out over both. It was fun to watch some of the tweets actually get ahead of the livestream, and send out our own excited tweets, feeling like we were part of the fun, even from a library workroom in Ohio. :)

Continue reading Gearing up for the YMAs

Welcome to The Hub

Welcome to The Hub, YALSA’s new blog specifically dedicated to young adult literature!  For over 50 years YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association) has been supporting and connecting librarians who work with teens.  Over the years being a librarian and being a library user has changed in ways people could never have imagined.  Reading itself has changed!

We embrace the fact that reading can mean reading a traditional book in a new format (iPad, Kindle, etc.) or reading a story written in an untraditional way (for example, entirely in text messages).  And we especially embrace that the internet connects millions of readers every day and provides thousands of ways for people to share their thoughts about what they’re reading, log what they read, connect with authors, become an author, and more.

We hope you’ll visit The Hub daily for a peek into what the online world is saying about YA books.  You’ll find fresh original writing about what teens are reading, book reviews, introductions to other YA lit blogs, podcasts, videos, and more.

Thanks for stopping by and connecting with us!

Sarah Debraski
Blog Manager