On Saturday, February 21, 2015, the inaugural SCIBA Children's Literacy Day took place at the Hilton Long Beach conference rooms. A diverse group of speakers including authors and publisher representatives addressed an audience of teachers, librarians, and other supporters of children's literacy, alongside a host of children's book experts from our local independent bookstores. I carpooled down with my friend Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy, excited about seeing old friends from the our bookloving community, and seeing all the great new books coming out for the season.
The day began at 9 am with a continental breakfast and a special guest, former teacher and Mexican-American author Pam Muñoz Ryan, who presented about her career as a children's author and provided background about her latest novel, Echo, which all of the breakfast attendees received. The book grew from her research into the school desegregation case commonly known as the Lemon Grove Incident (Roberto Alvarez vs. Lemon Grove School District) and evolved into a story of several children from different times and places connected by an unlikely item: a harmonica.
After breakfast, the children's representatives from several publishers--Penguin, Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Scholastic--recommended their best picks from the new spring/summer crop of books. I won't go into that in too much depth during this post, as I'll be posting throughout the week about books from each publisher in a separate post.
Our luncheon speakers included 5th grade teacher and debut author Dan Gemeinhart (The Honest Truth), YA author and screenwriter Andrea Portes (Anatomy of a Misfit), and living legend Jane O'Connor--yes, the author of Fancy Nancy herself--who spoke mostly in her capacity as an editor of children's nonfiction at Random House. Attendees received the aforementioned books, along with intermediate nonfiction title Who Was King Tut?, penned by O'Connor under one of her pseudonyms, Roberta Edwards. This was followed by two talks, one with Ingram representative Beverly Fisher talking about services to libraries. Author Stacey Lee (Under a Painted Sky), one of the founding members of the We Need Diverse Books movement, moderated a Diversity in YA panel with Ayize Jama-Everett (The Liminal People, The Entropy of Bones), Cynthia Kadohata (Half a World Away), and Sherri L. Smith (Orleans).
To round out the panels for the day, attendees chose between one on children's nonfiction with Jane O'Connor and our friend Alyson Beecher from Kid Lit Frenzy, and another featuring debut YA authors Leah Thomas (Because You'll Never Meet Me), Sarah Tomp (My Best Everything), and Henry Turner (Ask the Dark). Courtney Saldana, the librarian behind the Ontario Teen Book Fest, moderated. I really wish I could have been in two places at once, as I was interested in the nonfiction panel too, but I'd signed up for the YA one. I also wish I could have brought a photographer along, as I was having issues with my phone that day (so many blurry, dark photos!). Maybe next year. (You can search for other people's photos on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtags #scibakidlit and #scibakidlit2015.)
The exhibits area featured our children's publishing representatives, Roz Hilden from Scholastic, Kelly Stidham from Simon & Schuster, Nicole White from Penguin, and Nicole DuFort from Random House, as well as booksellers Mrs. Nelson's Book Fair and Library Services (Pomona, CA) and Once Upon a Time Bookstore (Montrose, CA). Rounding out the event was a cocktail hour including signings and book with yet still more authors, including MG/YA author Shannon Messenger with Keeper of the Lost Cities: Everblaze, YA author Elana K. Arnold with her middle grade debut The Question of Miracles, debut YA author Elissa Sussman, and author/illustrator Dan Krall with his new picture book Sick Simon. I'll be featuring more of these titles later in the week!
I can't decide which of the books I picked up yesterday is the most exciting, but also I feel like it's going to take me a solid year to work through all of these titles. Do you know what I was even more excited about though? The people! It was wall-to-wall book people, my favorite kind. Author Salina Yoon (Stormy Night) attended, and I really have to remember to get my photo taken with her next time. I love her so much! I had breakfast with Book Beastie (you should follow her on Tumblr :) Teachers and librarians were everywhere, including my teaching idol and Nerdy Book Club member Cathy Blackler and my book club buddy Emily Aaronson. I also met Lana and Erin from Chaucer's Bookstore in Santa Barbara (where my good friend Colleen worked during college), and Susie from Once Upon a Storybook in Tustin. I had a chance to catch up with Kim and her daughters (who run a school book club in Upland) while waiting in line for author signings. I even carpooled home with Carolyn, the YA reviewer from Kid Lit Frenzy. I'm probably forgetting a ton of names... some I'm not entirely sure if they want to be mentioned, so if I met you yesterday and you want to be mentioned by name, hey, leave a comment!
I really had a ton of fun at the first SCIBA Children's Literacy Day! I was so tired afterwards, but happy, too. If you are a teacher, librarian, or other school or literacy professional, you can sign up for annual membership in SCIBA on their website, www.scibabooks.org (though at this point, I'd wait until the end of the school year so your membership is valid for the next big children's events--fall and spring). The way the event is priced usually varies (I purchased tickets for every meal of the day, plus membership, which totaled $170), but trust me, it's completely worth it, whether your goal is to network, meet authors, learn about upcoming releases, or gather up books for your classroom or library. I also hope educators and librarians will continue to come and interact with their book industry representatives, to find out the ways in which publishers and independent bookstores can support literacy and programming in classrooms and libraries.
Thanks to the Andrea Vuleta and the rest of the awesome folks at SCIBA for welcoming us to their event, and may there be many more!
More info on featured books and authors coming soon!