Carolyn Garnes is CSK Marketing chair and past CSK Task Force chair, 1993-1997.
It’s a celebration! The entire year of 2019 marks the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Coretta Scott King (CSK) Book Awards. What a milestone! The CSK Book Awards have enlarged the prominence of literature for children and youth about the Black experience and heightened the work of our author and illustrator winners and honorees. Your support has been unwavering, and you have empowered the CSK Book Awards to endure for 50 years.
We are excited to announce the CSK Books Awards: 50 Years Strong Anniversary website. Please visit often. You will find updates and announcements from the planning team. Feel free to access the Fact Sheet, Press Release template, Public Service Announcement (PSA) template, and Talking Points to use for your CSK 50 programs and presentations. If you are presenting a CSK 50 program, let us know via email at email@example.com.
The CSK Book Awards: 50 Years Strong Anniversary website can be accessed in two ways: 1) Visit our CSK Book Awards Home page, http://www.ala.org/CSK, and click on the blue link 50th anniversary -or- 2) Visit directly at http://www.ala.org/rt/emiert/cskbookawards/csk50.
Using the hashtag #CSK50 on social media, share with us your favorite moments from past Coretta Scott King Book Awards breakfasts, Coretta Scott King Book Award titles that you and your library cherish, or what this award means to you as a library worker, educator, student, reader, or writer. Plan on attending ALA Annual 2019 in Washington, D.C., to celebrate with us in person!
We will have a Commemorative CSK 50th Anniversary T-Shirt on sale at the ALA store. The Commemorative CSK 50th Anniversary Lapel Pin (item #5302-1911) is presently on sale at the ALA store. The sixth edition of the CSK Book Awards publication will also be available at the ALA store soon. Purchase these beautiful keepsake items for you, colleagues, family, and friends. The ALA store website is https://www.alastore.ala.org/.
Let’s celebrate CSK 50 Years Strong!
Dr. Claudette S. McLinn, Chair
Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee
Dr. Claudette McLinn is Chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee. She is the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature.
With school back in session and the ALA Youth Media Awards announcements less than five months away, mock award groups are forming, or, if formed already, they are beginning to hone in on nominations, just like the actual committees.
I spoke with Sierra McKenzie, Library Services Floater at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (PLCH), a member of the newly formed PLCH Mock Coretta Scott King Book Awards group and keeper of that group’s suggestion spreadsheet.
This is the first year of the PLCH Mock CSK Book Awards group. It’s Sierra’s first experience with a mock group, and she reports that some members have commented on the increase in the amount of reading for this mock group versus others because they are selecting books for two categories, author and illustrator. Right now, members are reading everything that qualifies, focusing on titles with high reviews from other group members, and adding comments to a closed Goodreads list.
The group has completed two rounds of author and illustrator suggestions. In September, a selection meeting will occur when they narrow down the list of suggestions for a shorter list for “author” and “illustrator” category discussions.
Mock CSK Book Awards groups add awareness and enthusiasm for current and eligible titles for the CSK Book Awards. If your public, academic, or school library has a Mock CSK Book Awards group in place, please share this in the comments section. And if not, please consider starting one!
Thanks to Dr. Claudette McLinn, Alan Bailey, and Amber Hayes, the CSK Book Awards Jury Handbook has been updated (format and pagination) and is available for Mock CSK Book Awards groups and Mock CSK Book Awards elections through a link on the CSK Book Awards Committee website.
Susan Polos works as a school librarian at Fox Lane High School in Bedford, NY. She is chair of the CSK Book Awards Technology Committee.
The Gregory-Lincoln Education Center, a magnet School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, has chosen their author of the month: Ashley Bryan. The school community celebrated Bryan, a brilliant artist, filmmaker, and storyteller, focusing on Bryan’s Coretta Scott King Award-winning book, Beautiful Blackbird.
Beautiful Blackbird encompasses timeless themes for both young and old! Without giving away much of the plot, this wonderful picture book includes themes of being true to oneself, loving one’s own unique features, and handling the inevitable jealousy/envy that pops up in life. Though it’s an adaptation of a Zimbabwe folk-tale, this book has a universal theme of “wonderfully me.” Additionally, this book works well for those kiddos who don’t feel like they fit in with the popular crowd: “Color on the outside is not what’s on the inside.”
For our younger students (grades 2nd-4th), we kept the lesson simple with four easy steps and, of course, fun. The four steps are “Do Now,” “Do Together,” Do Next,” and “Do Reflect.”
DO NOW: Choose your favorite color and defend it with this sentence stem: My favorite color is ______ because of _______.
“I love purple and gold because my mother wears a lot of gold ring and I love to wear my favorite purple dress. In India, gold is a treasure. My mommy says I’m her treasure.” Khanak T.
DO TOGETHER: Read the story Beautiful Blackbird by Ashley Bryan.
DO NEXT: Create your own community bird pond, decorating your birds like those in the story. (Link to Beautiful Blackbird slides from our 2nd-grade class.)
DO REFLECT: Turn to your shoulder partner and discuss what each of you loves about yourselves for 2 minutes. Be prepared to stand up and share what your partners love about themselves and vice-versa.
We had a whole nestful of fun celebrating all the beautiful colors in the world! We hope you enjoyed our cut-paper artwork and our thoughtful discussion!
Post by Jean Darnell
Jean Darnell is a magnet arts school librarian from Houston, Texas. She’s an avid social media user, active with her state library association and future-ready librarian. Discover more on Twitter (@AwakenLibrarian).
Anything you can do that can stimulate the imagination of another…is the most exciting thing you can do as an artist. ~Ashley Bryan
With 50 books to his credit, Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award winner Ashley Bryan creates beautiful mindscapes for children. Full of love of life and humanity, his body of work shares the stories of people of the African Diaspora as preserved in songs, poems, and folktales.
In tribute to his longevity, Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre has staged two plays based on the works of the beloved artist, teacher, and scholar. Dancing Granny and Beautiful Blackbird, winner of the 2004 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, are the books selected for production by the Alliance’s Theatre for the Very Young. The plays complement the exhibit Painter and Poet: The Wonderful World of Ashley Bryan on view at the city’s High Museum of Art until January 21, 2018.
The opening voice of The Dancing Granny is a character patterned after Ashley Bryan himself. He is the tale weaver and griot whose narration and fancy footwork bookend this tale inspired by Mr. Bryan’s memories of his grandmother.
Elaborate lighting and vibrant costumes along with Afro-Caribbean choreography and a range of percussion instruments– some made by the children in the audience as a pre-show activity– all come together to set the joyful tone of this show which encourages children’s expressive engagement.
Beautiful Blackbird is more understated than The Dancing Granny. Arranged like an interactive playground for babies and toddlers, children sit on felt sun patches that encircle a chuppah-style canopy. Bold quilts depicting night and day serve as backdrops for live electric guitarists who strum jazzy lines while the young ones roam and play.
The audience hears Blackbird before they see him. When he emerges, with rhinestones glimmering like dewdrops from his dark wings, he glides about the set, coaxing rhythm from his djembe. The little ones play along on miniature African drums as Blackbird shares his musical gifts with the multi-colored members of his flock. The message: know your beauty, find your unique groove.
Eugene Russell IV, who played the griot-tale weaver Ashley Bryan in The Dancing Granny and composed the music for Beautiful Blackbird, says: “The story is an unapologetic celebration of blackness which at the same time encourages all kids to be who they are, that who they are is beautiful, and enough. I think that’s a beautiful combination.” He goes on to say that stepping into the world of Ashley Bryan “really did change me life in a wonderful and beautiful way. I’m a forever fan. It will always be a part of my family’s life.”
To learn more:
Post by Jené Watson
Jené Watson works as a public librarian at a system in suburban Atlanta, where she coordinates Books in the Barbershop community outreach and Mindful Monday, a family meditation program. She is also the author of The Spirit That Dreams: Conversations with Women Artists of Color (indigopen.com).
The Coretta Scott King Awards breakfast is always the highlight of my ALA conference trip. This year was even more special as I watched Jason Low’s face and demeanor shine with joy and pride when Caldecott Winner and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Winner Javaka Steptoe applauded the dedication to diversity from Lee & Low’s publishing house. Steptoe said:
“For those of you who believe multicultural titles do not sell, I say this to you: I have received checks for over fifteen years from every book I have published with Lee & Low. They have taken the time to find places outside the system where diverse communities exist. They are invested in keeping their backlist alive and do not throw money away on projects they will not support. They publish a spectrum of multicultural books without concern about competition. I understand that you don’t want the head to compete with the tail, but you have to at least support the books in your backlist about people of color that are succeeding.”
Jason Low is a strong voice behind the movement for more diverse books. He not only seeks out new diverse authors, but he also puts in the time to write articles, lead panels, contact publishers, create surveys, and fund data studies to share with the publishing and library industry. One of his recent initiatives was Lee & Low’s infographic series, which illustrates the lack of diversity in many industries, including publishing, film, television, theater, and politics. Several infographics have gone viral and were picked up by outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Huffington Post. The first infographic, on the lack of diversity in children’s books over a twenty-year period, is now used in articles, college classes, and reports to illustrate the problem.
Low recently created the Diversity Baseline Survey, a landmark study that measures different aspects of diversity among publishing staff and reviewers. The study is the first of its kind in scope and subject, looking at racial diversity and gender, sexual orientation, and disability among employees.
Jason Low was a featured speaker at the Texas Library Association Diversity Summit in April 2014. I continue to see Low inconspicuously sitting in a corner or stopping for a brief visit at diverse author events. His presence at the Brown Book Shelf presentation in San Antonio brought a smile to the faces of Kelly Starling Lyons and Gwendolyn Hooks. He does not tolerate librarian excuses such as “my community will not support that type of book” but, on the contrary, gently seeks to change the minds of those who are not supportive of the ALA Core Values. He has made more than a few uncomfortable challenging the slow movement toward changing the statistics of diverse books and author representation in this publishing field.
Javaka Steptoe’s words resonate with all of us. Jason Low’s pleas and passions come alive in his voice, gentle laugh, and a mighty pen. Low remains optimistic and channels his energies into concrete, actionable steps. The world has changed, and Jason Low sets the example of leadership in this change. When children and adults enter libraries or bookstores and can read books and see illustrations in these books about people like themselves, we can thank Jason Low and his publishing house for continuing this uphill struggle and for being a friend to all.
Post by Mary Jo Humphreys
Mary Jo Humphreys is a retired school librarian and administrator who continues to be active in the Texas Library Association. She served as Coordinator of the Texas Bluebonnet Committee and Chair of the Texas Association of School Librarians.
Energetic and tireless Don Tate and Crystal Allen spoke at the Speed Dating event for authors and illustrators on the 2017-18 Texas Bluebonnet Award list. They rotated from table to table, talking about their titles and writing craft, answering questions, and posing for at least 100 photos. More than 250 participants eagerly listened to and admired these two dynamic literary artists.
This is Don Tate’s third appearance on the Texas Bluebonnet list, this time as the illustrator of Chris Barton’s Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-soaking Stream of Inventions. With humor and an enigmatic smile, Don shared that he has illustrated 50 books and “written 30 of which only three were published.” He likes to write about little-known historical figures and to introduce the new subject matter to children, such as NASA engineer Lonnie Johnson. Tate labeled Strong as Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became the Strongest Man on Earth as one of the most enjoyable books to research, write and illustrate.
Don identifies strongly with Sandow because of his own love of bodybuilding and his own award-winning physique. He told his audience members that this was the most fun he had with a book.
Just as he was once committed to being a bodybuilder contender, Tate has transferred that passion to writing, illustrating texts, and visiting schools year-round. He wants students to see that he is an African American male artist. He is adamant in his message that not all African American males play basketball. He sets the example of other successful options and occupations through his books and presentation so that students have a window into a future for themselves, further representing Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s message face-to-face with students.
Learn more about Don Tate from The Brown Bookshelf.
Holy Moly! Crystal Allen broke all records at Speed Dating. She is friendly, charming, and loquacious with a magnetic smile and personality sharing a lot of common traits with her literary character Mya Tibbs.
This is Crystal’s first time on the Texas Bluebonnet Award list with The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown. Crystal shared that she wants today’s fourth-grade girl to feel independent and good about herself. She wants to help elementary students be proud to have their own ideas and be their own person. Crystal’s goal is to help elementary kids get to middle school and have fewer transitional issues. Ms. Allen focuses on “positive” family environments. Through Mya, students will learn a valuable lesson in not being judgmental.
The biggest takeaway for her audience is that she identifies most with Fern from Charlotte’s Web, exemplifying Fern’s kindness, patience, and consideration of others. And, finally, she wants all to know that Mya is not race-driven and that race does not drive her stories. “My books are for all children.”
Learn more about Crystal Allen at Brown Book Shelf.
Post by Mary Jo Humpreys
The mission of the Coretta Scott King Book Award Committee Blog is to highlight Coretta Scott King award winning books and authors. We seek to connect CSK winners to young people in the classroom and beyond through the work of librarians.
To learn more about CSK, please visit www.ala.org/csk.
For a printable list of all the CSK winners to date, with a thumbnail image of each book cover, please visit https://aalbc.com/books/csk-list.php.