I always have a wonderful time at the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) conference, and last week was no different! Celebrating books with other book lovers and creators always fills my well and gives me hope for the future. I started off the conference by doing a Build Your Stack session with Anika Aldamuy Denise and Rajani LaRocca, two amazing kidlit authors. Here we are before the session:
The theme for our session was “Forging Community across Cultures,” and the PBs that we book-talked to educators included some of our own: Gato Guapo; A Girl Named Rosita; Summer is for Cousins; and Luli and the Language of Tea. Anika also recommended An Ofrenda for Perro; Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story; Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites; Plátanos are Love; and Spanish is the Language of My Family. Rajani recommended Namaste is a Greeting; American Desi; My Name; and a few MGs. I book-talked The Words We Share; Say My Name; and several MGs. Follow the links to learn more about these books! You can also search PBB for previous blog posts about some of these books or creators.
I had several hours to wander the exhibit hall before my next session, so I visited my publishers’ booths, said hi to the staff, and asked for copies of certain books that I wanted. Sometimes they were able to give me copies, sometimes they couldn’t — but it never hurts to ask! Here’s me at the Penguin Young Readers booth with an advanced readers copy of my upcoming MG, Summer at Squee (releasing March 5, 2024 from Kokila and available for pre-order now)!
I also stood in signing lines for books that I really wanted and ran into a lot of author & illustrator friends who were also walking around the hall. Here are the PBs I scored over the course of the conference (I also brought back a stack of MG books):
Aren’t they all gorgeous? Some I’ve read before, others I read while standing in line to get them inscribed, and the rest I can’t wait to read and pore over. Here’s the list of titles and their creators (clockwise from top left):
- All Aboard the Schooltrain: A Little Story from the Great Migration, by Glenda Armand and illustrated by Keisha Morris;
- Fungi Grow, by Maria Gianferrari and illustrated by Diana Sudyka (I got to sit with Maria at the Children’s Book Awards luncheon, which was lovely!);
- A Walk in the Woods, by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney and Brian Pinkney;
- The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs, by Chana Stiefel and illustrated by Susan Gal;
- Desert Queen, by Jyoti Rajan Gopal and illustrated by Svabhu Kohli (fun tidbit — Jyoti is the older sister of my husband’s childhood best friend. They all grew up in Indonesia together, so it’s really amazing that Jyoti and I both ended up in kidlit on the other side of the world!);
- Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky, by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond and illustrated by Daniel Minter (Nana gave an incredible and moving speech at the awards luncheon after winning the Orbus Pictus Award for this book);
- Wintergarden, by Janet Fox and illustrated by Jasu Hu;
- On the Tip of a Wave: How Ai Weiwei’s Art is Changing the Tide, by Joanna Ho and illustrated by Cátia Chien; and
- We Who Produce Pearls: An Anthem for Asian America, by Joanna Ho and illustrated by Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya (releases Spring 2024).
In addition to hanging out with kidlit friends and getting free books, I met wonderful educators who showed me how they use my books in their classes. Here’s a pic of a mind map that one teacher created with her class after reading The Many Meanings of Meilan (so neat to see!):
Another highlight was listening to Tom Hanks’ keynote, which was an ode to teachers, especially the teachers in his life who taught him the power of story. Just this year, Tom published his first novel, The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece, which sounds really intriguing.
That’s really why we read and/or create books, isn’t it — the power that stories hold in our lives. The gift of knowledge, wonder, and connection that reading gives us. Did any of you also go to NCTE or another book-related conference or festival this year? What PBs did you pick up? If you didn’t go, what are the top 2023 PBs on your TBR list?
And lastly, a bit of housekeeping: Congrats to Sue Ko, the winner of the giveaway for The Words We Share by Jack Wong! And congrats to Jen Dieleman, the winner of the double giveaway for Fungi Grow and Thank a Farmer by Maria Gianferrari! Please look for an email from me.