Photo by Rosalyn Schanzer
“I am so awed by librarians…The smartest people in the world are teachers and librarians,” Phillip Hoose told the Children’s Book Guild audience gathered to honor him with the 2018 Nonfiction Award. He praised his tenth grade English teacher Grace Hine, whose encouragement he remembers decades later. He also remembers doing his extensive, scholarly research with card catalogs in the library and interviews on cassette tapes.
During the April 7 Award Celebration at Clyde’s Gallery Place in Washington, D.C., Hoose shared the backstory of his books, including the selection of young people who worked for positive change at different scales – from family to the world - in It’s Our World Too. He often waited a long time to find just the right story. He wanted to tell a civil rights story from a young person’s point of view, but had to wait four years for Claudette Colvin to agree to talk about her decision as a teenager to stay in her seat in a Montgomery, Alabama, bus. Colvin and Hoose finally met in New York and talked for the whole day. Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice is the only nonfiction book that has ever won the National Book Award. “She took an heroic stand and she was only fifteen-sixteen years old,” noted Hoose. “She still hears the clinking of the key in the jail cell.”
He also wanted a single bird to help tell the story of extinction and survival. He chose the ivory-billed woodpecker (The Race to Save the Lord God Bird) and the tiny red knot that has flown the distance to the moon and halfway back in its annual migration, including a critical feeding stop in Delaware Bay (Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95). Joined by his wife Sandi on mandolin, Hoose roused the crowd into shouting the tiny bird’s refrain, “We Need Eggs!”
Hoose also shared an endearing musical rendition of Hey, Little Ant, the song he wrote with his young daughter Hannah about a conversation between a Kid about to squish an Ant, and the Ant. The song became his first book in 1998 and it has now sold 11 million copies worldwide!
Just as important as writing in Hoose’s life has been the Children’s Music Network, where Hey Little Ant is praised as a song that “blazed trails by raising issues of bullying and helping children develop compassion for the underdog and respect for all life.” The Children’s Music Network was born in the 1980s when folk singers like Hoose, Pete Seeger and others “took young people seriously yet had plenty of goofy humor.”
At a time when young people are in the forefront of the national discourse especially on gun violence, Hoose said, “I believe kids are powerful. They have made contributions to history that have been overlooked.” His books work hard to correct that, including the newest one to be published in Fall 2018, ATTUCKS! Oscar Robertson and the Basketball Team that Awakened a City, about basketball in segregated Indianapolis in the 1950s – more examples of “young people who had sacrificed in various ways for racial justice.”
(Photos by Rosalyn Schanzer)
2018 Children's Book Guild Nonfiction Award Winner Phillip Hoose speaking at the April 7 celebration at Clyde's Gallery Place.
Phil Hoose receives the Nonfiction Award crystal from Guild President Katy Kelly and Nonfiction Award Committee chair Karen Leggett.
Phil Hoose's wife Sandi Ste George joins him to sing their original song about the tiny red knot, "Delaware Bay Blues" - featured in Hoose's book MOONBIRD (hear the song).
Phil Hoose Hoose shared an endearing musical rendition of Hey, Little Ant, the song he wrote with his young daughter Hannah about a conversation between a Kid about to squish an Ant, and the Ant. In this photo, he is the Ant! The song became his first book in 1998 and it has now sold 11 million copies worldwide!