This is how to start the week off with a smile: CHAINS has been nominated to the longlist of the Carnegie Medal! What is the Carnegie Medal, you ask? It is the top award for children’s novels in England, sort of a combination of the Newbery and the National Book Awards. I am completely blown away by this – honored, stunned and very, very happy.
I had a blast at the American Association of School Librarians conference this weekend. I signed thousands of books, met countless friendly and passionate librarians and gave a speech. Thank you to everyone who made my conference so much fun.
Many people asked me to post my speech online. We will be doing that soon. Here are a couple of snippets that people responded to the most. Permission is granted to reproduce, with proper acknowledgments, of course.
I talked about the recent censorship challenges my books have faced and then said this:
"I believe that every time a library budget is cut, every time a librarian’s hours are cut – or the position is eliminated completely – it is another form of censorship. It is stealing from children and interfering with their education.
Taking books out of libraries and taking librarians out of libraries are just like ripping the roof off of a school. And maybe that’s how we need to describe it, in the dire, stark terms of reality. You can’t run a school that doesn’t have a roof. You can’t run a school without librarians and libraries.
Book people – like you and me – tend to be a little uncomfortable with conflict. We value discussion, we respect other opinions. We avoid fights.
“Don’t you ever start a fight,” Mother said. “But if somebody picks a fight with you, by God, you finish it.”
The people who do not value books or librarians have picked a fight with me. That was a mistake.
They are ripping the roof off our libraries, off our schools. They are exposing our children to ignorance and condemning them to poverty. When they rip the roof off of libraries, they weaken our country."
[I’m cutting out a little from this section]
"Those of us who truly, deeply care about the health and happiness of kids and teenagers have a sacred obligation to help them along their path to adulthood. We are charged to create and to find the very best books for these children.
To hand a book to a child or a gawky adolescent is to rescue her from the unforgiving isolation of illiteracy and transport her to the joyful and rewarding kingdom of an open mind.
I cannot think of a job more difficult or more important than yours. Reading is not a subject matter. It is a survival tool, the requirement of modern living. Libraries are not luxuries. Libraries are the lifeblood of our schools and the foundation of our culture."
I hope my words might help, a little.
One last conference note. The other banquet speaker was Charles R. Smith Jr. Do you know his work? Have you heard him speak? If not, go out RIGHT NOW and pick up some of his books. Then arrange to have him visit your school – he is the best speaker I have seen in a very long time.
Charles and I sitting on chairs that look like thrones…. it was approaching midnight and we had just finished signing a kajillion books and so we look a bit tired. But how can you turn down the chance to be photographed in a chair that looks like a throne?