ALA: Taking Children’s Books Seriously

Here are a few highlights from my time at last week’s annual conference of the American Library Association (ALA).

At the Nonfiction Book Blast, I saw seventeen engaging nonfiction writers present their recent books. If you missed it, you can find out about all the books on the Nonfiction Book Blast wiki. LPG ALA 09 CakeWe celebrated Lerner’s 50th anniversary with delicious cake (above) while Bob Raczka signed copies of The Vermeer Interviews and his brand-new book Action Figures (below).Bob signingFinally, I sat in on part of the ALA Notable Children’s Books discussion of picture books. The individual books being discussed were all quite interesting, but the thing that struck me the most was committee members’ passion for children’s books. This group demanded excellence on every level from the books they reviewed. Did the cover accurately set a reader’s expectations about what the book is about? Did the artistic medium used match the tone and content of the book? What about the color choices? Was a book predictable? Did it cover a topic that has been covered many times before? Or was it fresh, original, and surprising?

When I tell people I edit books for children, the reaction tends to be something along the lines of, “How sweet!” or “That sounds like fun.” My job is fun, but that doesn’t mean it’s not intellectually stimulating, challenging, or occasionally frustrating. The same statement certainly applies to writing and illustrating children’s books. Spending time with people who take children’s books seriously is a real pleasure. I came back with renewed energy for making sure that every book I work on is as good as it can be. So thank you, ALA.