Every year Karen Huff at Shenandoah University puts on the most amazing children’s lit conference and this year looks to be no exception. The theme this year is It Takes Two: Fact + Fiction = Perfect Partners. What a great idea! The push in education right now is regularly bringing non-fiction into the classroom and I am thrilled about that. The non-fiction we have now is mind-blowing. This year’s Caldecott medalist, Brian Floca, is coming and he gives terrific talks. One of my very favorite non-fiction writers and illustrators is the great Steve Jenkins. I have never been disappointed by his work. April Pulley Sayre published a wonderful book called Eat Like a Bear this year and Steve Jenkins illustrated it. What a great opportunity to see both of them at the same conference. And Susan Campbell Bartoletti! It doesn’t get much better than that. Her book, They Called Themselves the KKK, was stunning as was Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow. This is non-fiction writing at its best. Reading Deborah Heiligman’s Charles and Emma: The Darwin’s Leap of Faith intrigued me so much that I actually traveled to the Galapagos to walk in Darwin’s shoes. Similarly, I brought Deborah Hopkinson’s The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, The Blue Death and a Boy called Eel to London with me last summer and actually finished it sitting on the bank of the Thames. This story of the horrible cholera outbreak in 1854 in London was a compelling read. Janell Cannon (Stellaluna) should be great and Chris Soentpiet’s talk on his illustrations is always great. I really admire Carole Boston Weatherford’s work, in particular, Moses, Freedom on the Menu, and Remember the Bridge. She has brought African-American history alive to so many children (and me). I have not heard Tony Medina speak yet and am really looking forward to it. His book Love to Langston is a real favorite of mine. Aranka Siegal is best known for her Newbery Honor book on surviving the Holocaust titles Upon the Head of a Goat: A Childhood in Hungary, 1939-1944. I have read a lot of Holocaust books for children and YA because I think if I keep reading I will finally understand how it all happened. That will never happen. Still, knowing history is a sure way to make certain such things never happen again. Finally is Blue Balliett who has grabbed readers’ interest with her mysteries starting with Chasing Vermeer. Kids love her books!
This is a wonderful conference to attend and you have such access to the speakers. It really is unusual. You also have the option of earning 3 graduate credits while you’re there. For more information contact the Children’s Literature Conference at http://www.su.edu/childrenslit. See you there!