African American Children’s Book Fair

The following information was received in an email press release.

The 24th Annual African American Children’s Book Fair will be held on Saturday, February 6, 2016, from 1-3 p.m., at Community College of Philadelphia, 17th and Spring Garden streets, Philadelphia, Pa. The event is free and open to the public.

The African American Children’s Book Fair is one of the oldest and largest single-day events for African-American children’s books in the country, with an average yearly attendance of more than 3,500. It features nationally known bestselling authors/illustrators, many of whom have won the prestigious American Library Association Coretta Scott King Award. These authors/illustrators have produced some of the best books of our generation.

With a reported double-digit illiteracy rate in the region, the success of the African American Children’s Book Fair is due to the fact that we offer the best and the brightest from the multicultural literary community and feature books that enlighten, enrich and empower the children in our community.

Parents, caregivers and educators from the tristate area are very supportive of the African American Children’s Book Fair because they understand that children who read outside of their normal school course work make more responsible decisions about their lifestyles.

The fun-filled afternoon will be packed with activities that promote the power and JOY OF READING. Authors and illustrators will make presentations and sign their books. The Literary Row will distribute book-related promotional materials free of charge. Our Educator’s Book Giveaway will also distribute brand new books to teachers for use in their classrooms and to librarians. In addition there will be a wide selection of affordable literature available to purchase.

The African American Children’s Book Fair is a part of the African American Children’s Book Project’s initiative to promote and preserve multicultural children’s literature. The organization is leading a campaign titled PRESERVE A LEGACY, BUY A BOOK. Its goal is to put books back into homes. You can’t tell a child to read at home if there are no books in the home.



Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati


Gearing Up for February

2016 started with a leap and a bound! I’ve gotten several projects underway and I’m sure I’ll continue to be less of a presence on social networking. I’ve just completed my 4th pre-tenure year which means my work needs to be a little more intentional. I never thought I’d stay put quite this long, but my position is growing into something I truly enjoy so, here I am. And, I’m not that far from the airport.

In being more intentional, I hope to pay more attention to my blog. I’m not on a book selection committee, so I can write reviews and interview authors again. I’ve got “a few” books I’ve not reviewed here before and can post about those until I get 2016 books to read. I’m also doing occasional picture books since I do select them for my university library.

In the immediate future, I’ll be running a short series on genres in young adult literature. I’ve connected with experts to give a brief background on short stories, essays, series fiction and more. I hope you enjoy it.

For the month of February, African American Heritage Month, I’ll be covering ‘enslavement’ with peaks at books, websites, DVDs and more that are intended for children.

Next Saturday, I’ll be part of a panel at the Center for Teaching through Children’s Books’ Critical Engagement Through Social Media Conference. My panel, “Managing Internet Culture” will be moderated by Dr. Robert Muller and includes Laura Beltchenko, Darcy Proctor and William Teale. I’m praying for no snow in the Chicago area next weekend!

This month’s #LargeFears conversation will be about AfroLatinos in history, where are they? Special guests will be Sofia Quintero (@sofiaQuintero), Robert Trujillo (@RobertTres)  and  Torrey Maldonado (@TorreyMaldonado). Guinevere and Libertad Thomas (@DosTwinjas) and I will be hosting the third #LargeFears conversation.

I’m also continuing to work with the Digital Public Library Of America on The Open eBooks Initiative that was announced by President Obama at a ConnectED event in mid 2015. The team of librarian’s I’m working with are selecting ebooks that will be made freely available to low income youth across the country. As we continue to select books for the project it is becoming more aware to others just how few books there are feature marginalized children. I’m proud to be part of a program that is actually doing the work to find books that relate to the intended audience.

Coming up toward the end of the month, I’m organizing an African American Read-In Chain for my library. I’ve coordinated with a few colleagues across campus to select readers and readings for the event. I hope we’re able to advertise it well and have way more students in attendance than we anticipate. It’s our first Read In, so no matter how big or small the number, I just hope everyone who shows up has a good time.

There will be another We Are the People Summer Reading list this summer and I’m working with Sujei Lugo, Lyn Miller Lachmann, Natalie Mvondo, Debbie Reese, Tad Tandracki, Sarah Park Dahlen and Ed Spicer on that project. This is such an amazing group of people to work with! We’re still a few months away from launching the list and will gladly accept suggestions. I can tell you that we’re moving away from the FaceBook page to a website that should be easier to locate and use.

Well, those are the highlights of my month and the reasons why I won’t be Tweeting and FaceBooking quite so much.


book review: See No Color

+-+132197954_140title: See No Color
author: Shannon Gibney
date: 2015 CarolRhoda Lab
main character: Alex Kirtridge

See No Color is a coming of age story about a young biracial girl (White/African American), a transracial adoptee, who is trying to figure out her identity. Alex is a gifted athlete with hopes of building a career in baseball. When the story begins, Alex is narrating her father’s life. This is off-putting in YA, where we typically hear little from or about parents. In this instance, Gibney is using Alex’s voice to indicate how little self-confidence the character has. Alex’s hair also brings this point across. Her hair is wild and untamed. I would imagine it to be long, curly and very dry; tough to comb and impossible to style. Alex has been adopted by a white family who denies Alex’s racial identity and their blindness leads Alex to wonder just who she really is, and how to manage her hair. When she begins to date a young man who is African American, she begins to realize that she doesn’t relate to her own blackness. Where does she fit in?

When I finished reading the book, it didn’t sit well with me and I believe this is simply because I didn’t take the time to relate to the character. There are many things that Alex does as she stumbles through her search for identity that come across as signs of weakness. Well, of course this young girl was weak in some sense, but in another sense she was had the strength to undertake this journey by herself. I’ve come to admire her strength.

I enjoyed the language in this book.

I touched the base and then took a reasonable lead as my teammate stepped up to the plate. The black kid on the mound looked back at me once, over his glove, but I was confident that he wouldn’t try to pick me off. He knew exactly how fast I was now. Today, anyway, I was stronger that he was. (p. 10)

No doubt Alex that wasn’t only talking about baseball. Here, she was foreshadowing the doubt and confusion that would soon overtake her.

The key to Alex discovering who she is lies in how she manages her relationships with the young African American man she’s dating and with her African American father. While this book wants to empower this young women, it fails to do so in two instances. First, it lets her development rest upon relationships with males. Second, the story has her physical ability decline as her body to develops. I wasn’t an athlete, so I don’t know that my rounding hips would prevent me from running at high speeds and I tend to thing that Venus and Serena Williams tend to disprove this logic.

I’d be remiss in my duties as a librarian if I didn’t remark on how well written the scene is when the librarian relates an abundance of information about transracial adoptions. Rather than hearing the voice of the author as often happens in thee moments, I felt the librarian’s passion and emotion. This debut author did a very skillful job of creating a complex and believable story.

See No Color is a rare gem in that little else is written for teens about transracial adoptions, biracial teens or female athletes. Here, in this book it all intersects quite nicely.


I blog to promote literacy in marginalized children, particularly those who are of color or Native American and this covers a lot of territory including everything from representation in books to technology and media literacy. It also includes impediments to developing literacy skills.

Several days ago, I was having a rather intense conversation with my youngest son, Evan. We were discussing many issues of the past, present and future and almost out of nowhere he says “I’m dyslexic”. HUH???

He went on to tell me that as a young child, he told a trusted adult relative that when he reads words or numbers, they move and change and this made it difficult for him to understand what he was reading our to complete math problems with any accuracy. This adult told my son he was lying and that he was simply lazy. After he was denied any credibility by this adult, Evan decided not to tell anyone else. His last years of high school were a nightmare. Everyone knew how smart Evan was, but he wasn’t producing any work, leaving him inches from not graduating high school.

I’m notIMG_1157 bragging when I tell you my son is brilliant. See the photo of one of his bookshelves? He loves to read, to know, to imagine and explore despite the difficulties he
has. Imagine going to dinner one evening after work with your son and he wants to talk about the concept of time, eager to explain how artificial this concept is. Or, taking him to presentations at the local library and he asks questions using vocabulary that you yourself have to look up. Yes, he’s brilliant.

And, here’s the part that really infuriates me.

Years, later this same adult told Evan that he too, suffered from this exact form of dyslexia.

That hurt me to my heart.

Evan says it can take him hours to read a single page in the Bible, but he spends that day reading that page lacking the tools or resources that he should have developed years ago.

Clearly, dyslexia and other disabilities are unrelated to intelligence. It is a physical condition in which the brain and the eyes do not coordinate. Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Muhammad Ali and Leonardo de Vinci are among the famous people who have this disability. I almost said ‘who suffer with this disability’ but, when I asked Evan if I could share his story, he asked that I share The Dyslexic Advantage, a book, website and Youtube channel that promotes “positive identity, community, and achievement among dyslexic people by focusing on their strengths.”

I started telling my sister about this and she said “I must have dyslexia!” She said that she often transposes numbers, particularly the last two in a set. I’m certain that my inability to proofread my own writing is dyslexia as well. I often manipulate word endings as well as think I see words in sentences that are not there. My sister and I started discussing patterns in what we do and how we can prevent errors in our professional work. I’ll proof this article 3 types using various copy editing techniques but, you’ll probably still see errors in this post.

Other visual dyslexia problems readers my face would include seeing mirror images of words or seeing a black page with white print. While there are numerous symptoms, they can easily escape busy working parents who are just too close to see the forest for the trees.

Traditional educators are not always training in looking for learning disabilities. If your child is having problems at school, ask them what they see when they look at a page in a book. Given that there is also auditory dyslexia, you might ask what they invite them to repeat why you say or see how well they can remember what you tell them orally. Make a game of it and be amazed about what you find out about how your child learns. As you can see from my experience, these conversations can be critical.

If you uncover difficulties, your school should have special education resources to help your child overcome them. I personally do not believe that requiring schools to make adaptations is the way to go. I think children are empowered when they learn how to overcome obstacles. If your school does not or cannot support your child, talk t


Evan, just over 20 years ago

o your pediatrician or contact an organization such as the one in Indianapolis.

Don’t assume the worst of your child, but don’t make excuses for them either. If they tell you there’s a problem, get it checked out because there are too many resources out there to support our children in the learning process. So many of them have so much working against them, let’s do what we can as parents and educators to help them succeed in school and beyond.

There is help for those who don’t realize until they’re adults that they have a reading problem. It’s never too late.


I’m a re-Tweeter. I’m more likely to share information by retweeting and not always taking the time to add my own personal comment. I sometimes neglect to comment on FaceBook as well, but not quite as often. I’ll usually add a comment to a story or photo on Facebook depending what device I’m using to post.

While I’ve learned to make sure to read anything before sharing it online, it doesn’t appear that I’ve read it if I don’t take the time to add a comment. And, my daughter tells me it doesn’t call attention to what I’ve shared, it doesn’t engage people.

When I’m emailing a link or articles to colleagues, I’ll always provide an annotation. If I want them to take the time to read what I’m sending, I want to make it look worth their time. I know that I will not open a link anyone sends me in a text or email if it isn’t accompanied by something they’ve written, something to add context and to let me know it isn’t spam.

But this retweeting. I’m growing out of my hesitancy to share of myself on social media, but it’s a slow process and I can’t say I know for sure why. Perhaps it stems from my introvertedness as I am slow to share of myself in person as well. When sharing in on social media you never know how you’ll be taken because it is very easy to be misunderstood in mediums that don’t allow for tone of voice or body gestures.

I think it’s interesting that the two times someone called me out for how I was sharing information on Twitter, it was done by males. The first thought I shouldn’t have used a Google Doc to share a call for proposals for a journal on which I’m guest editing. I wanted to ask him how old he was, but I refrained. I’ve seen WordPress used to host very well done online scholarly journals, Facebook used as the online presence for anything from restaurants to social movements and he thought Google Docs was inappropriate for me to use and had the audacity to tell me so.

The second instance was a gentleman who told me “IME, real activists rarely trumpet their alleged influence in achieving a result, they quietly engage next struggle.” (What is IME??) His profile states “Challenge your own beliefs. Ideology is like vampirism: it robs you of your own reflection. Question. Think. Play.” I think he forgot to follow his own advice.

I didn’t feel the need to engage with this stranger to tell him that I hadn’t written my RECALLED post to highlight my small contribution to the Birthday Cake recall. I have no idea how many other forces were moving between the time Birthday Cake released then was recalled and there were numerous other people who were actually engaging on social media. What I did know was that Scholastic was controlling the story, as they tried to do since the book was released. Myself and others felt the need to document our share of the history, and not let Scholastic continue to control the story. We saw what happened when they tried to control Hercules’ story.

And, I’d seen how the press was simply reposting the story about the book. When the flurry began on Twitter, the Altlanta Blackstar wrote an expository piece and other online outlets essentially reposted their article. The news articles changed with Scholastic’s press release on Sunday. From this point, almost every major news source you can think of reposted that release. Salon did not. Nor did the CanadianBroadcastingCorp.. nor Comedy Central. This recycling of news is pretty lazy journalism.

I’m not a journalist, but I do have to do better than simply retweeting. I can do better than that. One thing I’ve had reinforced from this Scholastic thing is the fact that information is a commodity. While many may want to rant about censorship (can we call all the silenced voices of marginalized authors censorship?) I think we, especially librarians, need to see this recall of the book as a business decision. I say especially librarians because critical librarianship clearly tells us that information is neither free nor neutral and that we always have to consider who is controlling the source. Scholastic controlled this from the day they released the book. When they decided to pull the book, they had a press release ready to control the story and when they decided to pull the book, they created a scarce item. The remaining copies sold out everywhere and third parties were selling the book for $50-$100. And Scholastic no longer had the book on their hands. The executives executed a rarely seen marketing program that was void of any consideration for the women of color who were taking hits front and center while it was the book and the institution that released it that was and is the problem. I’ll continue to criticize the book, just as I criticized A Fine Dessert, but I will not attack the integrity of any of the women involved with either of these books. They’ll do better next time, they will not repurpose the same smiling slaves, but I have no doubt the publishers will try it, or something very similar again very soon.

So, yes, I do have to up my game when I tweet, FB or Storify. I have to use my voice, as do we all. As overwhelming as it feels to know that this government and this economy are trying to over power us marginalized people, it is liberating to know that we, too can find use, share and create information.

I am so very glad I’m a librarian.


FullSizeRender (1)

This evening the widespread response to the publication of A Birthday Cake for George Washington has led to its recall by Scholastic. The book itself was released on 5 January in the shadow of a similar controversy about A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious TreatAndrea Davis Pinkney, the editor of Birthday Cake released a statement a day after the release to pre-empt controversy.

I wrote a review of Birthday Cake and four days ago it appeared on the Teaching for Change Facebook page. The post went viral within hours. Debbie Reese of American Indians in Children’s Literature, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, Mikki Kendall, and many others spread the word on social media using the hashtag ‪#‎slaverywithasmile. More critiques were published over the next two days by Zellie ImaniColleen MondorCharles Pulliam-MooreLeslie Butler MacFadyen, and many others. Atena Danner started a protest petition. Both Scholastic and the book’s author released statements attempting to justify the content of the book, but the outrage did not subside. Just four days after Teaching for Change posted my review, Scholastic released a statement saying:

(January 17, 2016) Scholastic is announcing today that we are stopping the distribution of the book entitled A Birthday Cake for George Washington, by Ramin Ganeshram and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, and will accept all returns. While we have great respect for the integrity and scholarship of the author, illustrator, and editor, we believe that, without more historical on the evils of slavery than this book for younger children can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn. [Full statement here.]

#SlaveryWithASmile, never trended on Twitter, but it amassed a huge conversation regarding the faults within this book. The Inquisitir, The Root, The Atlanta Black Star and Yahoo News were among those to cover the developing story and to carry it beyond the children’s literature community. No doubt there were emails and phone calls of which I’m unaware. I commented to someone on Twitter that we’ve become a community hundreds of years deep and hundreds of arms wide.

I’m overwhelmed to learn that Scholastic has opted to cease distribution of this book while admitting that they’ve misrepresented enslavement. While this victory is empowering, the fight itself is disheartening because the battle against the portrayal of ‘happy slaves’, of people who were less that human and who were being well cared for is a hundred years old. The need for accuracy, not for sweetening, with regards to the enslavement of Blacks in America is critical to this country. This era in American history has shaped our national identity and until we get it right, we will continue to be encumbered with racism.

And, our children. Our children’s minds cannot be pawns in our collective memory. We cannot, will not let institutions that want to control the messages that are delivered to our children continue to erode their futures. Indeed, as Ramin Ganeshram stated, “We in children’s publishing are now at a critical tipping point in discussions about race and history.”

As pleased as I am with this outcome, my sleeves are still pushed up. I am glad to see a growing awareness of the tremendous need for more diversity in children’s books. Here in 2015, of the 3,000 books published for children ages 8 and above, only 32 were identified by author Zetta Elliott and myself to be written by African American authors. The Publisher’s Weekly Annual Salary Survey continues to reflect that with regards to diversity in terms of age, gender and ethnicity the publishing industry does not change. To see the diversity in the the next faces hired in publishing is as important as seeing the next books with Native American, Latina/o, Asian American, African American, disabled or LGBTQIAP authors. He who controls the pen controls the story.

It’s late in the day. It’s late in the fight. But this round, this round in this fight seems sadly to be just getting started.

Deborah Menkart and her colleagues at Teaching for Change have been monumental in this effort, as have the names mentioned above. You can find us on Twitter. We’re #DiversityJedi

Saturday Trailer:

What better day for a book trailer than a Saturday?

Today’s book trailer excites me because it’s a rare opportunity for me to announce a book that hasn’t yet been released. Meg Medina’s next book, Burn Baby Burn will be available in stores on 8 March.

About the book:

“Nora Lopez is seventeen during the infamous New York summer of 1977, when the city is besieged by arson, a massive blackout, and a serial killer named Son of Sam who shoots young women on the streets. Nora’s family life isn’t going so well either: her bullying brother, Hector, is growing more threatening by the day, her mother is helpless and falling behind on the rent, and her father calls only on holidays. All Nora wants is to turn eighteen and be on her own. And while there is a cute new guy who started working with her at the deli, is dating even worth the risk when the killer likes picking off couples who stay out too late? Award-winning author Meg Medina transports us to a time when New York seemed balanced on a knife-edge, with tempers and temperatures running high, to share the story of a young woman who discovers that the greatest dangers are often closer than we like to admit — and the hardest to accept.” source