Thursday, July 05, 2007

ALA Conference: Children's & YA Literature Sessions

Due to poster presentations and scheduled ACRL and EBSS meetings I missed several of the author sessions scheduled during the course of the conference, most notably Judy Blume and Julie Andrews. I did attend three very good sessions, one on picture book collaboration, sponsored by the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC), and two young adult literature presentations by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

Collaborative Techniques Between Authors & Artists: The Inside Story of How Picture Books Are Created (ALSC) took place Saturday morning, 8:00 am - 10:00 am in the Convention Center. This panel discussion was moderated by Catherine Balkin of Balkin Buddies and featured three sets of well-known picture book author and illustrator collaboration partners; Eloise Greenfield and Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Eric Kimmel and Leonard Everett Fisher, and Patrick O’Brien and Kevin O’Malley. Each author and illustrator “team” fielded questions from moderator Balkin and offered not only prepared remarks on their art and writing, but also samples of works in progress. The panel was delightfully engaging and forthcoming about their techniques and partnership history. It was especially interesting to listen to Jan Spivey Gilchrist after just adding the vibrant book she co-illustrated, My America, to the library juvenile collection.

The Alex Award Winners 2007 (YALSA) session was held Saturday afternoon from 4:00 - 5:30 p.m. One of my favorite sessions last summer, I made sure to get this one on my schedule early on in the decision-making process. I was slightly disappointed that half of the session consisted of panelists reading their book talks for the 2007 award winners (especially when they were given to us in handout form), but speakers Ron Rash, author of 2007 Alex Award winner The World Made Straight, and Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle (2006 winner) were definitely worth the wait.

Walls discussed how her life had changed since winning the Alex in 2006, specifically the acceptance and resiliency of young adults in regards to her memoir; where adults were horrified by her parents action in the books, teens were more understanding and willing to take the actions in stride. She recounted several touching moments where teens thanked her for writing the book and helping them understand they were not alone in dealing with this type of situation. I enjoyed hearing the update from Walls, especially after hearing her speak in NOLA last summer.

Rash began his portion of the program with an anecdote about his grandfather. As a child, he often went to his grandfather requesting a book to be read and the stories were fantastic, yet never the same. As he grew older, he realized the lack of story continuity was because his grandfather could not read, he was telling the story through pictures. Rash never forgot the magic of his grandfather’s storytelling. In this same manner, the afternoon session highlight was, when in storytelling tradition, Rash read a chapter from One Foot in Eden to the audience. It was a powerful rendition that held us enthralled with both the story and the author’s eloquence. You could have heard a pin drop in the room during the reading and when at the chapter’s conclusion he stopped, the collective sigh by a disappointed audience was indicative of being left wanting more. (This morning I requested a copy of the book so I could read it myself!) An extra perk for this session was a copy of the 2007 Alex Award winning title, The World Made Straight. It’s one more book that I have started reading.

The final children’s and/or young adult literature session I attended was Trend Setters in Teen Literature (YALSA), Sunday morning, 10:30 am to noon. This was a multi-pronged gathering featuring Holly Keolling, editor of the soon to be released (August) third edition of Best Books for Young Adults, and two separate panels of young adult authors and editors. I was most interested in Keolling’s portion of the session as she discussed different trends in YA literature and how they have changed since 2000. Specifically mentioned were the feminization of literature (even graphic novels), the maturation of teen readers and the topics they are attracted to reading, the current trend of adult authors writing specifically for the YA field, and the growing international flavor of YA literature. This morning I located an article Koelling mentioned during her presentation, “Ten Things that Tick Me Off!” by Peter D. Sieruta (Horn Book Magazine, March/April 2005). It’s an interesting statement regarding children’s literature trends from a reviewer’s point of view.

The window for conference posts is fast closing. I have one more ARC finished, ready to blog about, as well as Janet Evanovich’s Lean Mean Thirteen that I devoured on the plane (and finished in my hotel room Friday evening - before reading again). I’ll blather about the tech services session I attended on my other blog and post about ARC’s as I finish reading them over the next few weeks.

Books, books, and more books … isn’t life grand? It reminds me of a sweatshirt I have somewhere in the depths of my closet; so many books, so little time.

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