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Celebrating New Authors and Illustrators at the 2024 Tucson Festival of Books

By Kathy G. Short, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Two girls holding dolls with a hay bale behind themFestivals are an opportunity to connect with well-known authors who win awards and are on best-selling lists. Plenty of those authors are coming to the Tucson Festival of Books this year, such as Kate DiCamillo, Donna Barba Higuera, Roshani Chokshi, John Parra, Sayantani DasGupta, Jennifer Nielson, Kazu Kibuishi, R.L. Stine, Marissa Meyer, Shelby Mahurin, and Gene Luen Yang. They will appear on panels, solo sessions, and workshops, giving readers a chance to talk with the authors they admire and love to read.

What is often overlooked is that festivals are also an opportunity to meet new authors and illustrators who are making their mark on the field, adding their books as new favorites. Recent illustrators who have published picturebooks will appear on panels and give illustrator studios this year. Jonathan Nelson is the Diné illustrator of Forever Cousins (2022) and A Letter for Bob (2023), demonstrating his commitment to illustrating Native stories by Native authors. A Letter for Bob celebrates the treasured family car that has taken a young girl’s family through happy and sad times. In Lian Cho’s new picturebook, Oh, Olive! (2023), Olive loves to smear, spatter, and splash with a brush in each hand, but faces the displeasure of her parents who are serious artists, painting proper perfect shapes. Continue reading

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Experience the 2024 Tucson Festival of Books

By Kathy G. Short, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

As a long-time attendee and presenter at professional conferences for educators, book festivals were a new genre for me when I first started working with the Tucson Festival of Books 14 years ago. I quickly realized that the audience was much broader for a festival, many of whom are parents, children and teens with different preferences than educators. A festival needs to balance authors who have popular appeal and write series books with authors who are critically acclaimed, and well-known authors with emerging authors. The sessions also need to offer laughter and playfulness as well as discussions of critical issues.

Over time, we have developed different types of sessions for the children/teen section of the festival to appeal to the different audiences. The overall festival has over 300 authors and 130,000 attendees. 65 of those authors are picturebook authors/illustrators, middle grade authors, graphic novel creators, and young adult authors, who present over 100 sessions. One strength of our program for children and teens is that many of the sessions are in rooms that seat 40-50 people to allow for more intimate interactions with authors, instead of only large auditoriums where authors are at a distance. This WOW Currents highlights the types of sessions and a few of the authors who are coming this March. Go to the festival website for a full list of authors and sessions for the entire festival. Continue reading

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Enriching the Story of Europe’s Middle Ages

By Holly Johnson, Professor Emerita, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

A gargoyle on top of a cathedral. Creating a love of history in many young people often feels like a Sisyphean effort with some time periods garnering more attention than others. I personally love the history of the American West, so it came as a big surprise that several of my favorite books for young people focus on Europe’s Middle Ages. With such wonderful literature available, a spark could be lit and young people’s imaginations could take flight. Continue reading

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Crowdfund Update: With Gratitude

By Rebecca Ballenger, Associate Director, Worlds of Words Center

We keep all the thank you letters we receive from our K-12 visitors. They often share their favorite part of their Worlds of Words Center field trip in these letters. We love these notes! It’s fun to read their thoughts around the exhibits they experience. They almost always mention books, and sometimes we get the best portraits of our staff. The gratitude expressed in these letters has a huge impact on our team.

Handwritten thank you letter Continue reading

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Pushing Back Against the Current Waves of Book Challenges and Banning

By Deanna Day, Washington State University, WA, and Barbara A. Ward, University of New Orleans, LA

Turtles swim around the title on a yellow background. Two of the turtles are not green, but rainbow colored.In this final blog post—our fourth on this topic—we discuss the current situation in states that seem to be leading the charge in challenging or banning children’s books. We also consider community members and libraries who are standing up and speaking out for the freedom to read.

States with Many Book Challenges

It’s not hard to see that there are great divisions in the world of book challenges and banning, and there are some unexpected consequences to the recent publicity surrounding increased book challenges. For instance, one town, Kalispell, Montana, won’t be celebrating Banned Book Week this year since the ImagineIF library trustees have determined that the event is too divisive. The Library Board members are concerned about the influence of the American Library Association on the annual event, thus choosing to forgo any involvement in the occasion. Banned Book Week, which celebrates the freedom to read, has been in existence since 1982. Continue reading

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Worlds of Words Center Launches First Crowdfund Effort to Bring Global Stories to Life

By Rebecca Ballenger, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

The Worlds of Words Center of Global Literacies and Literatures in the University of Arizona College of Education announces the launch of its first ever crowdfunding campaign on October 2. The campaign aims to raise $10,000 to fund a year of exhibits that will spark the imaginations of visitors to the center.

Young teens reading and discussing the books and posters on display.

Students from Paulo Freire Freedom School explore the exhibit, Around the World in 70 Maps.

“We are excited to launch our first crowdfunding campaign,” says UArizona Regents Professor and director of the WOW Center, Kathy Short. “This is a great opportunity to support our mission of sharing global stories. With help from the community, we can continue to provide enriching exhibits that inspire people of all ages.” Continue reading

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What Do We Do?: Supporting Children’s Right To Read

By Deanna Day, Washington State University, WA, and Barbara A. Ward, University of New Orleans, LA

The silhouette of a young boy with short cropped curly hair. Red streaks go horizontally across the cover over the silhouette, resembling blood and the stripes in the United States flag.In this column we continue to explore recent trends in censorship and book banning by highlighting how authors feel about their books being challenged. Additionally, we offer some ideas for classroom teachers interested in supporting children’s rights to read by teaching about censorship and book banning.

It isn’t just teachers, librarians, and school board members who are put into the position of defending certain books. The recent attacks on books featuring certain types of stories have even had a chilling effect on the publishing industry, with some publishing houses shying away from topics that might be deemed controversial. Many authors of children’s and young adult books are finding themselves on the defensive because their books have drawn negative attention from parents and community members. Author Jason Reynolds, who has written a number of books that have been challenged such as Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You (2020), a remix of the adult title Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2016) by Ibram X. Kendi and All American Boys (2015), cowritten with Brendan Kiely, emphasizes that limiting access to books limits kids’ curiosity and that banning books sends the message that kids shouldn’t ask questions. “Books don’t brainwash. They represent ideas,” he said. Continue reading