Review of the Week: Silver People

silver peopleEngle, Margarita. Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal. Fiction. Houghton, 2014. 260p. $17.99. 978-0-544-10941-4.

The blatant racism and horrific conditions surrounding the monstrous undertaking of the construction of the Panama Canal are told through the voices of characters such as Mateo, a 14-year-old
Cuban who lies about his age in order to be able to work on the project; Anita, a young, female herb collector/seller; Henry, a Jamaican hoping to send money back home; and various U.S. historical figures, such as U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. Engle’s devastating free-verse novel eloquently lays out the racial injustice between the whites and Europeans who acted in more supervisory capacities, and those of color who had not only to deal with deplorable and dangerous working conditions, but also segregation and horribly inadequate living conditions. Especially compelling are sections containing poems from the voices of the jungle flora and fauna who also had to endure this environmentally disruptive project. There is hope, though, as Henry and Mateo become friends “Then we sit/ together, / medium- dark/ and dark-dark, / as if/ the bizarre/ Canal Zone rules/ did not/ matter. / They don’t.” In the epilogue, a dictional letter written after the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition mentions that although there are plenty hailing this new “manmade Wonder of the World,” no mention whatsoever is made of what the “silver people” endured. “No one cares because no one knows,” it says. Well, thanks to Engle’s elegant and affecting novel, now more will know. Included are a historical note and selected references.

Eric Barbus, San Francisco PL

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Spotlight on ACL Member – Nancy Pino

ACLSpotlight on ACL Member – Nancy Pino

The September meeting is always something to look forward to as we meet the new year’s Helfeld Fellows. But this year we had a special mystery guest – Nancy Pino! It doesn’t take long for anyone involved with ACL to hear this name and to figure out that she has something to do with pulling all our reviews together into each month’s issue of BayViews. But despite rumors that she had been sighted at some long-ago Institutes, even old-timers like me had never met her. So I decided that my last official act as President would be to invite her to the September reception – and she jumped at the chance to match our faces with the names on the reviews that pass through her hands month after month. What a job she does – from picking up the actual reviews each month to incorporating the hand-written revisions from the copy editors, proofing the first draft, working with the proofreader to correct any additional errors, adding in Penny Peck’s BayNews material, delivering e-files to various people, arranging for printed copies and then labeling and mailing off those printed copies to various subscribers. Nancy is ACL’s one real employee, and it has been a privilege for us all to have someone so responsible, dedicated, and willing-to-work-through-changes as Nancy.

When I asked her how she actually came to ACL originally, she credited Virginia Reed with recommending her to the group, and Bob Muller, then President, with interviewing her and offering her the job. As she recalls, Bob drove from South San Francisco to her Oakland home, and her then-three-year-old son kept them company as they discussed the job. Soon after Bob left, Nancy’s son began inquiring anxiously where “that man” had gone. When Nancy explained that he would not be coming back, her son burst into tears, “I hid your car keys on his car.” Indeed, there were no keys to be found in or around the house, and Nancy was soon on the phone with Bob. “Hold on,” he said – and came back jingling the keys. They had been tucked into probably the only safe place where they could have survived a 15-mile trip on freeways and across the Bay Bridge – a snug little nook behind the license plate! And the next day, Bob drove them back to Nancy.

The evening after our September meeting, I got the following email from Nancy: I really enjoyed my time with you and your group and was pleased to see ACL remains a wonderfully friendly, fun group of dedicated professionals serving our children and education. Librarians are like teachers in that they, too, are people oriented and always willing to help kids. Our family has certainly appreciated you all these years. To guarantee my interest in children’s books, and my grown children’s memories of good books, I have a Narnia poster hanging in my office where everyone who enters can see it. I enjoyed my stint as a mystery guest and loved matching faces to names. It was fun. It was a pleasure to meet you at last, and I look forward to reproducing your reviews in future months as I always learn from them. Thanks again for a lovely morning. Take care.

Over the years, Nancy has worked with many other groups large and small, but she has always been faithful to ACL– and we are all so grateful. What a treat to finally meet in person!
Elizabeth Overmyer, retired

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National Book Award Finalists, BayViews Website Updated

National Book Award Finalists: The National Book Foundation announced finalists for the 2014 National Book Awards in poetry, young adult literature, nonfiction and fiction on Wednesday morning. The winners will be recognized at a ceremony on Nov. 19, headlined by Daniel Handler, better known as Lemony Snicket. Finalists in the category YOUNG PEOPLE’S LITERATURE:

John Corey Whaley, “Noggin,” Atheneum Books for Young Readers
A tragicomic novel in which a 16-year-old boy dies of leukemia — but comes back to life five years later when his parents, who had his head cryogenically frozen, find a donor body to reattach his head to.

revolutionDeborah Wiles, “Revolution,” Scholastic Press
Set in Mississippi in 1964, “Revolution” blends a fictional coming-of-age story with historical documents from the civil rights era, including leaflets, brochures and newspaper clippings.

Jacqueline Woodson, “Brown Girl Dreaming,” Nancy Paulsen Books brown girl dreaming
Ms. Woodson’s memoir in verse details her experience growing up as an African-American in South Carolina and New York during the 1960s and ’70s.

Eliot Schrefer, “Threatened,” Scholastic Press
In Mr. Schrefer’s novel, an orphan named Luc who is struggling to get by in the African country of Gabon joins an expedition to study chimpanzees and heads deep into the jungle, where he finds a family of sorts among the apes.

port-chicago-50Steve Sheinkin, “The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights,” Roaring Books Press
Mr. Sheinkin, a former National Book Award finalist, tells the true story of a port in California where an accidental explosion killed more than 300 sailors in 1944. The Navy and the rest of the military were segregated at the time, and most of the dead and injured were African-American. The sailors protested unsafe working conditions and some were charged with mutiny.

Global Baby BoysNew ACL BayNews Posted: The October 2014 BayNews (the newsletter for the Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California) is now available on our website: . You will find Part 2 of our Fall Board Book Round-up, Readalikes, new storytime themes, and much more:  Thanks! Penny Peck

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Review of the Week: “A Dance Like Starlight”

dance like starlightDempsey, Kristy. A Dance Like Starlight:  One Ballerina’s Dream. Floyd Cooper, Illus. Picture Book. Philomel, 2014. [32]p. $16.99. 978-0-399-25284-6. OUTSTANDING.  GRADES PRE-3.

An African American girl wishes on invisible stars in the Harlem night sky to become a ballerina. Her mama works, cleaning and fitting costumes for a ballet school. When “Miss Janet Collins…first colored prima ballerina” comes to perform at the
Met, the girl and her mama go to see the performance, helping to solidify the girl’s hopes and dreams. Dempsey’s lyrical writing floats readers into the dreamy world of dance. Master artist Floyd Cooper immerses us into the soft pinks, yellows, and browns of 1950s New York, giving the hint of old photographs.

Sheila Dickinson, Richmond PL

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Website of the Month: “We Need Diverse Books”

We Need Diverse BooksWebsite of the Month

The lack of diversity in children’s books is an ongoing concern, and it doesn’t really seem to be getting better. We can all think of a children’s picture book or novel with African-American or Asian-American characters but they are few and far between. And when it comes to books with Latino characters, there seem to be even fewer, even though it is the largest growing ethnic group in the U.S. So what can children’s librarians do to help?

Several youth services librarians launched “We Need Diverse Books,” a campaign to bring awareness to this issue. Be sure to check out their website listed above; they have news, book reviews, links to other related sites, a calendar of events, and other timely information.

One of the best areas is the question feature; you can ask something and get great suggestions. For example, someone asked for Science Fiction with diverse characters, and received several suggestions of young adult titles that would be great to offer library patrons.

The website of Lee and Low publishers is also very helpful. Of course, they promote the books they publish because the mission of this publisher is to offer diversity in children’s books. But they also have quite a bit of information on diversity in children’s books in general, including magazine articles and statistical studies that spell out the diversity gap.

On their blog post (listed above), they offer links to several other publishers known for the diversity in their children’s books. They also list blogs relating to the topic, all of which contain many booklists and other resources. So check out both of these websites to find more about great children’s books that reflect our culturally diverse communities.

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Zilpha Keatley Snyder Dies, ALSC Volunteers Needed for ALA June 2015

SnyderZilpha Keatley Snyder Dies at age 87: Three-time Newbery Honor author Zilpha Keatley Snyder died in San Francisco at age 87 from complications of a stroke. The California native, born in Lemoore in 1927, received Newbery Honor medals for The Egypt Game (1967), The Headless Cupid (1971), and The Witches of Worm (1972). A teacher who wanted to become an author, Snyder said her students influenced her as a writer – to offer them stories they would enjoy. Many of her books were set in California, including Cat Running (1994), Song of the Gargoyle (1993), And Condors Danced (1987), Gib Rides Home (1998) and Gib and the Gray Ghost (2000).

Many ACL members recalled Snyder’s presentations at ACL Institutes in the past, talking about censorship (many of her books were challenged due to the magical elements in the plots) and other issues. Her husband Larry would accompany her to these talks, joining us for lunch. He was a musician and teacher, and both of the Snyders were wonderful conversationalists. They loved to travel and told great stories about whatever country they had just visited. For more, please see:

2015 ALA Conference Needs Volunteers: The ALSC Local Arrangements Committee for 2015 ALA Conference in San Francisco is looking for great volunteers. 2015 ALA/ALSC Conference volunteer opportunities include Caldecott/Newbery banquet helpers, ALSC program greeters, Pre-Conference support, evaluation collectors, monitors, and other assigned tasks. Volunteers must be registered ALA attendees.
Volunteer Support: There will be a training webinar detailing roles and responsibilities. Each volunteer will receive a volunteer packet including schedule, contact information, programs, evaluations, and other necessary information.
Volunteer Interest Form: if you are interested in volunteering, please complete the 2015 ALA/ALSC Volunteer Interest Form. You will find the form at 2015 ALA/ALSC Volunteer Interest Form. We look forward to seeing you in San Francisco in June 2015. Thanks!

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Review of the Week

mapleNichols, Lori. Maple.  Picture Book.
N. Paulsen/Penguin, 2014. [32]p. $16.99.
Nichols’ debut features a little girl named Maple, who relies on a tree planted in her honor to be her playmate until she becomes a big sister. Pencil on Mylar illustrations, digitally colored, are sweet without being saccharine. Maple is a good big sister and refreshingly appears not to regret the baby’s arrival. Over the course of a short picture book, Maple grows from a typical self-absorbed preschooler to being concerned about the needs of the tree (is it cold? would the tree prefer a different friend?). These same qualities are applied to being a quality big sister. New sibling books are a dime a dozen, but Nichols’ illustrations require only the sparest of text to make an impact.
Beth Gousman, Montclair School

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