WOW Review: Volume XII, Issue 2

Introduction and Editors’ Note

In this issue we welcome guest editors Chloe Hughes and Heather Palmer, who, with members of the 2018 and 2019 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award committee, profile books that won this award. The organization of the titles in this issue is therefore chronological rather than alphabetical.

Significant books are often considered for multiple awards and show up on personal lists of recommended books. So this issue profiles several titles that have already been reviewed. As editors we try to avoid duplicate reviews because there are so many wonderful books that need reviewing! However, in this case, we welcomed the opportunity to hear an additional perspective for two titles previously reviewed, The Day the War Came (Davies, 2018) and The Night Diary (Hiranandani, 2018).

The Spring 2020 issue of WOW Review is open-themed and we invite readers to submit reviews of recent children’s and young adult books that highlight intercultural and global perspectives. Submission deadline: March 15, 2020.

Co-Editors, Susan Corapi and Prisca Martens

A Showcasing of the 2018 and 2019 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award

Sponsored by the Jane Addams Peace Association, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award has been presented annually since 1953 to remember and sustain the extraordinary legacy of Jane Addams (1860 -1935) – a feminist, social reformer, pacifist and peace activist. Addams co-founded one of the first American settlements, Hull House, with her friend Ellen Gates Starr in 1889. The house, located in Chicago, provided services to recent immigrants who worked long hours but lived in abject poverty in over-crowded, disease-ridden tenements. Over time, the settlement expanded into a campus with more than 10 buildings that provided a public kitchen, bathing facilities, childcare, educational courses, recreation, a library, an art gallery, and social programs for European immigrant women and children. Addams served on several influential education boards and investigated social ills — poor housing and working conditions, child labor, domestic violence, sanitation issues — becoming a prominent spokesperson for societal reform. Unabashedly political, Addams was the first International President of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in 1915. She also served on the executive board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), campaigned for women’s suffrage, and actively opposed American involvement in the First World War. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) even kept a file documenting her controversial political activities and determined that she was “the most dangerous woman in America.” But in 1931, for her commitment to finding an end to war, Addams was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

Addams passionately held the conviction that peace is dependent on guaranteeing justice for all. As she articulated in her essay, “The Subjective Necessity of Social Settlements,” republished in Philanthropy and Social Progress in 1893, “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain … until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life” (p. 7). More important than her beliefs was her ability to transform them into actions, which were distinctly unpopular in the early part of the twentieth century. Courageous, tenacious and political, Addams used her imagination and creativity as a means to disrupt commonplace injustices. She considered her work not only as her responsibility, but also as a life-transforming opportunity — a belief she sought to instill far and wide.

Addams’ advocacy and action are the central tenet of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, which recognizes outstanding children’s literature that inspires young people to contemplate the meanings of peace, social justice, equity, and global community. The winning books are selected by a national committee of members who are social justice activists with expertise in children’s literature (librarians, parents, teachers, teacher-educators, child advocates, anti-bias professionals) and who represent diverse perspectives within the United States. In order to be eligible for selection, a book “should be suitable for children ages five through fourteen, may be of any length, genre or format, and must be published in the United States or Canada in the calendar year preceding the Award year.” According to Award criteria, Winner and Honor books must exemplify literary, visual and aesthetic excellence and invite dialogue, passionate response, purposeful reflection, and deep questioning related to one or more of the following:

  1. How can people work with compassion, empathy, and activism to advance Jane Addams’ conviction that achieving true peace means more than ending war, it means ensuring justice for all people?
  2. How can people of all racial identities, gender identities, religions, abilities, classes, and cultures live and work together equitably and peaceably?
  3. How can people, especially young people, break cycles of fear? How can they respond creatively, nonviolently and humanely to injustice and conflict?
  4. How can people work together to address problems and oppression caused by prejudice, war, violence, social injustice, racism, sexism, heteronormativity, ageism, classism, ableism and all hierarchies of power and opportunity?
  5. How can people build respect and understanding for differences and for the worth and importance of all individuals and groups?
  6. How can people work for power and equality for women throughout the world?

Since 1993, one Winner has been selected in two categories: Books for Younger Children and Books for Older Children. Up to four Honor books are also awarded each year. In this Special Issue of the WOW Review, the selection committee Chair and several of its members who served from 2017- 2019 are delighted to celebrate the Winner and Honor books in 2018 and 2019.

We believe these books go beyond acting as windows and mirrors in our complex and diverse world, developing readers’ critical consciousness of societal realities and providing an opportunity to reflect on difficult ethical situations. They help us question grave imbalances of power and model resistance and activism in creative and nonviolent ways. Eschewing preachy messaging, they inspire righting the wrongs of the world through literary and aesthetic brilliance and provide the tools for readers to become informed doers.

May reading set you free!

Guest Editors:
Chloë Hughes (Committee Member, 2018 and 2019)
Heather Palmer (Committee Member, 2014 and 2015, Committee Chair, 2016-2019)

Additional Contributors to this Special Issue:
Tracy Randolf (Committee Member, 2011-2013; 2018 and 2019)
Barbara Ward (Committee Member, 2018 and 2019)