Philip Lee and June Jo Lee to Give the Guild's September 19th Lecture
Philip Lee and June Jo Lee co-founded READERS to EATERS in 2009—a month after Michelle Obama launched the White House garden—to promote food literacy by publishing stories about our diverse food cultures. They further cultural literacy through something people of all cultures share every day: food! To the Lees, food literacy means developing understanding of what and how we eat. They have partnered with educational and food organizations to create a connection between books and food for youthful audiences. This year they are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the founding of READERS to EATERS, and September is Food Literacy Month, making the Lees' September 19th presentation especially timely. Be on hand as they share stories about fostering community through food.
Before starting READERS to EATERS, Philip Lee was the co-founder and publisher of Lee & Low Books, a leading producer of children's books highlighting diversity. He started his publishing career at the college bookstore at the University of California, Berkeley, and then moved to New York to work in magazine publishing for Conde Nast. A native of Hong Kong, he immigrated with his family to Los Angeles when he was 14. He admits that today his spoken Cantonese is very rusty.
June Jo Lee is co-author of Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix, a 2018 Sibert Award Honor Book. She is also a food ethnographer studying how America eats. She speaks throughout the nation on food trends and consults with organizations such as Google. She was born in Seoul, South Korea, but grew up in the United States eating her mom’s kimchi. Read more about June Jo Lee at foodethnographer.com.
(A book sale handled by East City Books and signing will follow the meeting.)
Nonfiction Award Photo Gallery
Carole Boston Weatherford receives the Award crystal
Candlewick Press Editorial Director Liz Bicknell introduces Weatherford
CAROLE BOSTON WEATHERFORD: PRESENTING THE PAST WITH A VIEW TOWARD THE FUTURE
by Catherine Reef
On Saturday, May 11, Guild members and their guests came together at Clyde’s of Gallery Place, in Washington, DC, to celebrate Carole Boston Weatherford, the forty-first winner of the Children’s Book Guild Nonfiction Award. The award recognizes Weatherford’s body of work, which consists of poetry collections and picture books on historical and biographical subjects. The events and people that Weatherford has explored in verse range from the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, to the origins of rap; from Harriet Tubman to Arturo Schomburg and Billie Holiday. Maria Salvadore, chair of the 2019 Nonfiction Award Committee, praised the breadth and music of Weatherford’s writing. “Carole has said that Billie Holiday is her muse, and I believe it,” Salvadore commented.
Weatherford began writing poems as a child growing up in Baltimore, but she had no early dreams of becoming an author. She had never met any authors, and she had a mistaken notion that the men and women who had written the books she liked to read were all long dead. She was a good student who in the eighth grade became fascinated with the Harlem Renaissance and did a project on Countee Cullen. Young Carole did outstanding work, but her white teacher gave her a B and questioned whether she, an African American, had written her paper without help. “I had exceeded the teacher’s expectations of me,” Weatherford understands today. “He was not going to give me an A.”
Rather than feel discouraged, Carole excelled. “Doubters have propelled my imagination,” Weatherford said, and she takes pride in coming from a family of people who “defy the system and defy the odds.” She mentioned an intrepid aunt who refused to drink from “colored” water fountains when traveling in the South during the years when racial segregation was enforced, who claimed never to have heard of “colored water.”
Weatherford has made it her mission, she said, “to mine the past for hidden stories and forgotten struggles” that she can delve into in her books. She takes on tough subjects unhesitatingly. “Children can handle the truth,” she said; “children deserve the truth.” Thus, in her picture book Freedom in Congo Square, about the enslaved people of New Orleans gathering in an established place on the Sunday afternoons they were allowed off, Weatherford presents the harshness of the people’s working lives on the other six days of the week. Children will often ask her if the historical realities that she describes really happened. “Kids are appalled, and I’m glad they’re appalled,” she said. But, she added, she writes “not only about the racist past, but about how we have prevailed.” In other words, she documents the past but also looks to the future. She said that her books have value for teachers as much as for their students, because “educators can’t teach what they don’t know.”
What’s next for Carole Boston Weatherford? She revealed that she has several books in various stages of completion. One will be on Thurgood Marshall; another will be a novel in verse about Marilyn Monroe, with the working title Beauty Mark.
A cornucopia of honors for Guild members during this award season – with Meg Medina winning the 2019 Newbery Medal for Merci Suarez Changes Gears. Erica S. Perl’s All Three Stooges won the 2018 National Jewish Book Award and a Sydney Taylor Honor. Jacqueline Jules’s Light the Menorah is a 2019 Sydney Taylor Notable Book. Minh Lê won the Asian/Pacific American Picture Book Award for Drawn Together, illustrated by Dan Santat. Maria Salvadore received the 2019 Association of Library Services Distinguished Service Award and Mary Amato received the 2019 William G. Wilson Maryland Author Award from the Maryland Library Association.