07 December 2014

Best Picture Books of 2014

Originally posted on the Huffington Post (12-2-2014)

After the last fantastic year in picture books, it was hard to imagine 2014 reaching the same heights. And indeed, my initial impression was that this year's offerings fell short of 2013's stellar crop. However, as I sifted and sorted through the piles of books to put this end-of-year post together, the list of quality books kept growing. By the end, I was as convinced as ever that we are living in a new golden age of picture books.
Many of the wonderful titles below could stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of any year, and leading the charge is a marshmallowy fellow with a scotch-taped crown determined to do the unimaginable.

Best Overall
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat (Little Brown)

As the categories for this post emerged (Most Charming, Best Adventure, Most Touching, etc.), it became clear that Beekle was my choice for the Best Overall because it could have easily topped almost every category (I admit, Best History/Non-fiction would have been a bit of a stretch).

The story opens on an island where imaginary friends are born and takes us on a journey that navigates themes of loneliness and the power of the imagination while also folding in some deft postmodern flourishes and playful skewering of the adult world. Santat harnesses all of his prodigious talents for a story that is both deeply personal (he was inspired by the birth of his first child) and brilliantly universal.

Best Biography (Artist)
Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell, ill. Christian Robinson (Chronicle)

With its winning combination of style and substance, Josephine stands out in this particularly deep category (both Viva Frida and The Iridescence of Birds are strong contenders for children's lit awards). Powell's text dances across the page and Robinson's illustrations leap forth with playful vitality, together painting a complex portrait of how Baker was shaped by society and how she in turn transformed society for the better.

Note: If Robinson (who has several notable books out this year) doesn't win this year's Caldecott, then next year could be the one with his name on it. His remarkable Last Stop on Market Street (with Matt de la Peña), is an early favorite for the best picture book of 2015.

(Honorable Mention: Viva Frida by Yuyí Morales, photos by Tim O'Meara; The Iridescence of Birds: A Book about Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan, ill. Hadley Hooper; Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, ill. Frank Morrison; The Noisy Paintbox: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock, ill. Mary GrandPré; The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra by Chris Raschka; Firebird by Misty Copeland, ill. Christopher Myers)

Best Biography (Non-Artist)
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Eerdmans)
Finding order in the world around you is one of the primary objectives of childhood, but for someone like Roget, it was a lifetime occupation/obsession. The dynamic duo of Bryant and Sweet (who previously collaborated on biographies of Horace Pippin and William Carlos Williams) artfully capture the magnitude of Roget's achievement and blows the dust off that often overlooked reference book sitting on your shelf.

(Honorable Mention: Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’'s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh; The Pilot and the Prince: The Life of Antoine De Saint Exupéry by Peter Sís; A Boy and a Jaguar by Allan Rabinowitz, ill. CaTia Chen; Ivan: the Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by G. Brian Karas; Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, ill. Evan Turk; I am Jazzby Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, ill. Shelagh McNicholas; Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson)

Best Friendship
The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee (Simon & Schuster)

Though we may not use as much makeup as the clown in this story, the truth is that we all wear masks of one kind or another. Frazee's wordless masterpiece reminds readers that it's not until we take off our masks and make ourselves vulnerable that our relationships truly have a chance to thrive.

(Honorable Mention: The Lion and the Bird by Marriane Dubuc; The Storm Whale by Benji Davies; A Letter for Leo by Sergio Ruzzier; Madame Martine by Sarah S. Brannen; Where's Mommy? by Beverly Donofrio, ill. Barbara McClintock; Waiting is Not Easy! by Mo Willems)

Best Adventure
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Candlewick)
SAM AND DAVE DIG A HOLE. Text copyright © 2014 by Mac Barnett. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Jon Klassen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Sam and Dave dig a hole, hoping to find something spectacular. Luckily, Barnett and Klassen deal regularly in the spectacular, ensuring that Sam and Dave (and readers) do not walk away disappointed. Part wry comedy of errors, part Twilight Zone, if you're digging through your shelves for something spectacular, look no further.
(Honorable Mention: Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman; Quest by Aaron Becker; Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse by Torben Kuhlmann; Peggy: A Brave Chicken on a Big Adventure by Anna Walker; Flashlight by Lizi Boyd; Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead; Hopper and Wilson Fetch a Star by Maria Van Lieshout; Blizzard by John Rocco)

Most Charming
Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato (Macmillan)

Little Elliot may be a shy little elephant, but don't be surprised to see him take the world by storm. One of the more endearing children's book characters to come along in a while, imagine Corduroy wandering into an Edward Hopper painting and you'll get a sense of the magic that is Little Elliot.

(Honorable Mention: Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio, ill. Christian Robinson; 100 Things That Make Me Happy by Amy Schwartz; The Jacket by Kirsten Hall, ill. Dasha Tolstikova; Number One Samby Greg Pizzoli; A Gift for Mama by Linda Ravin Lodding, ill. Alison Jay; Hi Koo! A Year of Seasons by Jon J. Muth; The Boy on the Page by Peter Carnavas; The Acrobat by Alborozo)

Best Concept Book
1 to 20, Animals Aplenty by Katie Viggers (POW!)
From pigs wearing wigs to chickens reading Dickens, Viggers peppers each page with enough whimsical detail and dry wit to make counting to twenty feel like spending an afternoon sipping chai tea with Wes Anderson.

(Honorable Mention: Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters by Oliver Jeffers;Work: An Occupational ABC by Kellen Hatanaka; Take Away the A by Michaël Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo; Awake Beautiful Child by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, ill. Gracia Lam; Alphabetabum: An Album of Rare Photographs and Medium Verses by Vladimir Radunsky and Chris Raschka;Hands & Hearts: With 15 Words in American Sign Language by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Amy Bates)

Best Dark/Mysterious
Elsa and the Night by Jöns Mellgren (Little Gestalten)
By Jöns Mellgren from Elsa and the Night copyright Gestalten 2014

In this beautifully dark and touching tale, Elsa struggles to cope with the loss of a dear friend (a struggle that manifests itself in an epic 30 year bout of insomnia). With the help of a mysterious visitor, she is finally able to put her grief to rest and find enough peace to accept a good night's sleep.

(Honorable Mention: The Fox and the Crow by Manasi Subramaniam, ill. Culpeo S. Fox; The Riverby Alessandro Sanna; The Promise by Nicola Davies, ill. Laura Carlin; Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan; Aviary Wonders by Kate Samworth; Wall by Tom Cholosy Cole; Fox's Garden by Princesse Camcam)

Best about Family
Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

A little boy spends the night with his nana in a city that he finds busy, loud and scary -- in short, no place for a nana to live. However, the boy (with the help of a homemade cape) learns to see the city from a different perspective, and in the process sees his dynamic Nana in a whole new light.

(Honorable Mention: Me First by Max Kornell; Abuelo by Arthur Dorros, ill. Raúl Colón ; Hands Say Love by George Shannon, ill. Taeeun Yoo; Here is the Baby by Polly Kanevsky, ill. Taeeun Yoo;My Grandfather's Coat by Jim Aylesworth, ill. Barbara McClintock; Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar by Keith Richards, ill. Theodora Richards; Forget Me Not by Nancy Van Laan, ill. Stephanie Graegin; Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood, ill. Jonathan Bean)

Most Fun/Silliest
Churchill's Tale of Tails by Anca Sandu (Peachtree)
Text and illustrations © 2012 by Anca Sandu. Permission to reproduce granted by Peachtree Publishers.

A pig loses his tail and becomes preoccupied with trying on replacements. I'm not familiar enough with British history to tell you if the "Churchill" reference belies an underlying political message, but regardless of any historical implications, the pure silliness of Churchill's search makes this British import a winner.

(Honorable Mention: Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton; Hug Machine by Scott Campbell;Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light; Thank You, Octopus by Darren Farrell; A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell; Pigeon Needs a Bath! (I Do Not.) by Mo Willems; My Teacher is a Monster (No, I Am Not.) by Peter Brown)

Best History/Non-Fiction
Sugar Hill: Harlem's First Historic Neighborhood by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Albert Whitman)

It is impossible not to be blown away by the staggering collection of talent and intellect gracing the streets of Sugar Hill. Weatherford and Christie's portrait of the historic neighborhood will give readers a new appreciation for the rarefied air of the Harlem Renaissance.

(Honorable Mention: Shackleton's Journey by William Gill; Harlem Hellfighters by J. Patrick Lewis, ill. Gary Kelley; Summoning the Phoenix by Emily Jiang, ill. April Chu; Gravity by Jason Chin; Creature Features: Twenty-Five Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page; Neighborhood Sharks by Katherine Roy)

Most Touching/Heartwarming
I Know a Bear by Mariana Ruiz Johnson (Random House)
c/o Random House Children's Publishing.
Children's literature is crowded with books set in zoos -- which only makes sense because they offer a convenient setting in which to showcase a broad array of animals.I Know a Bear is a refreshing counterbalance that considers the melancholy side of the zoo through the eyes of a young child who befriends a bear living in captivity.
(Honorable Mention: The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett; Star Child by Claire Nivola; The Dandelion's Tale by Kevin Sheehan, ill. Rob Dunlavey; Here I Am by Patti Kim and Sonia Sánchez;Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream by Kristy Dempsey, ill. Floyd Cooper; Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino, ill. by Isabelle Malenfant; Coming Home by Greg Ruth; King for a Day by by Rukhsana Khan, ill. Christiane Krömer; Hug Me by Simona Ciraolo; Emily's Blue Period by Cathleen Daly, ill. Lisa Brown)

Best Bedtime
Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk, illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis (Inhabit Media)

Shimmering with musical text (Kalluk is a renowned Inuit throat singer) and stunning illustrations, Sweetest Kulu shows the hopes and dreams that accompany the arrival of a new child. For those who consider the bedtime story to be sacred, it's hard to do better than ending the day with the whispered incantation: "because you are true love."

(Honorable Mention: May the Stars Drip Down by Jeremy Chatelain, ill. Nikki McClure;Hannah's Night by Komako Sakai; Naptime by Iris De Mouy; Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown, ill. Misc.; Time for Bed, Fred by Yasmeen Ismail; Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward, ill. Steve Jenkins)

Best Read Aloud
Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

I'm not sure what's more fun to recite, the dour "Go Away, I'm Grumpy!" or the exuberant "Hooray for Hat!" Either way, Won's beautifully designed debut is utterly infectious and a treat to read aloud.
Note: When I wrote about Hooray for Hat! earlier in the year, I said that the illustrations "make you want to have a baby just so you can decorate the nursery and parade around in silly hats." So you can imagine my delight when I heard about Live in a Story and found out that universe was one step ahead of me. This new company (started in part by authors and illustrators) sells wall decals that allow you to decorate your home with art from some of your favorite illustrators, including the characters from Hooray for Hat!. Brilliant.

(Honorable Mention: The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak; Have You Heard the Nesting Birdby Rita Gray, ill. Kenard Pak; Telephone by Mac Barnett, ill. Jen Corace; If You Were a Dog by Jamie Swenson, ill. Chris Raschka; Don't Play With Your Food! by Bob Shea; Mix It Up! by Hervé Tullet)

Best Miscellaneous
Breathe by Scott Magoon (Simon & Schuster)

Whether you are a small child or a grown adult, we can all use the occasional reminder to take a deep breath. Magoon's book does just that, pacing his spare text with gentle reminders to breathe. I swear there is magic in this book. I've personally seen it diffuse full-on toddler meltdown and I'm pretty sure medical trials would show that the book lowers your blood pressure.
(Honorable Mention: The Monster Book by Alice Hoogstad; Issun Boshi by Icinori; Firefly July by Paul B. Janeczko, ill. Melissa Sweet; Migrant by José Manuel Mateo, ill. Javier Martínez Pedro;Draw! by Raúl Colón; Brother Hugo and the Bear by Katy Beebe, ill. S.D. Schindler; Hana Hashimoto: Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki and Qin Leng; Nancy Knows by Cybèle Young; Call Me Tree by Maya Christina Gonzalez; Books Always Everywhere by Jane Blatt, ill. Sarah Massini)

06 November 2014

Where the Magic Happens

My illustrator and partner-in-crime Isabel Roxas in her studio.

Picture Book Adaptations (Sort Of) That Need to Happen

Note: This post originally appeared on Book Riot on October 7, 2014.
alexander movie
This October, the big screen adaptation of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day will hit a theater near you. I’m reserving judgment for now, but it’s clear from the trailer that the movie is only very loosely inspired by (the title of) the classic children’s book.
Which is somewhat inevitable. Adapting any picture book into a feature length film  will require a good amount of extrapolation to fill 90+ minutes of screen time. It can be done tastefully as in the case of Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, or it can also be done… well, the less said about The Cat in the Hat movie, the better.
But the fact is that children’s books are flying off the shelves and onto the silver screen, so the question is: what’s next? Well, if we are truly untethered to our source material, then there are all kinds of possibilities (blasphemous though they may be) out there.  With that in mind, here are 5 classic picture books ready to inspire a film to which it bares virtually no resemblance.

pigeon busDon’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
Original Story: A bus driver goes on a break, asks the reader to watch his bus, and says that no matter what: “Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus.” The pigeon (who has serious anger management issues) then appears and begs to be let into the driver’s seat.
Hollywood Adaptation: After years of disappointment, our maniacally determined pigeon finally gets behind the wheel and runs amok through the streets of downtown Los Angeles. The LAPD calls upon the recently retired Lt. Jack Travern (Keanu Reeves), who is now running a surf shop on the shores of Venice Beach. The city’s only hope, Travern must don the uniform once more to save the city from disaster.
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus Movie

Miss Nelson MissingMiss Nelson is Missing! by Henry G. Allard Jr., illustrated by James Marshall
Original Story: Overwhelmed by her classroom of misbehaving students, the wholesome Miss Nelson disappears only to be replaced by the stern substitute Miss Viola Swamp.
Hollywood Adaptation: Following up on the much anticipated adaptation of Gone Girl, David Fincher directs this gritty thriller about the sudden disappearance of a beloved teacher (Jennifer Lawrence).
A Boston detective with a tortured past (Affleck) is desperate to find Miss Nelson, who also happens to be the high school sweetheart of his dead younger brother Sully (who was killed by a foul ball at Fenway Park). Over the course of his investigation, he develops an intense attraction to the mysterious substitute Viola Swamp (Jennifer Lawrence). His world will be turned upside down when he discovers that the sultry Swamp is hiding a secret past and that she has been playing him this whole time.
Miss Nelson is missing.  Could the mysterious Viola Swamp be hiding something?
Miss Nelson is missing. Could the mysterious Viola Swamp be hiding something?

purple crayonHarold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Original Story: Harold explores the world with his purple crayon, making things up as he goes. He gets himself into some dicey situations, but uses his crayon and the power of his imagination to save himself. He eventually tires of adventure and goes searching for the comforts of home.
Hollywood Adaptation: All grown-up, Harold (played by the lovable Rob Corddry) is a down-on-his-luck architect who is fired and forced to move back in with his parents. While going through his old belongings he finds the purple crayon from his childhood and is reminded of what made him want to be an architect in the first place. Rejuvenated by his discovery, Harold is inspired to get back out into the world and create a new life for himself. The feel good comedy of the year.
Harold and the Purple Crayon Movie

walter farting dogWalter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray, illustrated by Audrey Colman
Original Story: Walter is a sweet dog with gastrointestinal issues.  Just when the family is afraid they’ll have to let him go, Walter foils a robbery and saves the day.
Hollywood Adaptation: This one writes itself.  Home Alone + CGI farting dog = Box office GOLD.
Walter Movie

five chinese brothers coverThe Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Hutchet Bishop and Kurt Wiese
Original Story: Five identical brothers use their special powers to rescue their brother from certain death.
Hollywood Adaptation: Tired of people not being able to tell them apart, five Asian American friends (led by John Cho) decide to use their anonymity to their advantage–and plan the crime spree of a lifetime.
Note: 4 of the 5 guys aren’t even Chinese.
Five Chinese Brothers

You’re welcome, Hollywood. If you’re interested (and I know you are), have your people call my people.

06 June 2014

Book Riot's Favorite Sentences

Note: This post originally appeared on Book Riot on May 19, 2014.

For some reason, whenever I hear that someone writes “great sentences,” my ears always perk up. Which is funny because, if pressed I couldn’t really tell you what exactly makes a great sentence. For me it’s kind of like the Supreme Court and pornography: I know it when I see it.
Or at least I think I do.
Rather than trying to come up with a definition of a great sentence, I thought it’d be more productive to just showcase some. So I asked my fellow Book Riot contributors for some of their favorite sentences. Lucky for me, they were more than up to the challenge.
And as always, we want to hear from you too. So please enjoy and then let us know what some of your favorite sentences are in the comments section.
So, without further ado, I present to you (drumroll please)… Book Riot’s Favorite Sentences:
Click here to read all the full post with all these wonderful sentences.  But while you're here, here are my three choices:
“And who shall say–whatever disenchantment follows–that we ever forget magic; or that we can ever betray, on this leaden earth, the apple-tree, the singing, and the gold?” – Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel
“In a hallway I saw a sign with an arrow pointing the way, and I was struck by the thought that that inoffensive symbol had once been a thing of iron, an inexorable, mortal projectile that had penetrated the flesh of men and lions and clouded the sun of Thermopylae and bequeathed to Harald Sigurdson, for all time, six feet of English earth.” – Jorge Luis Borges, “Mutations” from Dreamtigers
Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Luis Borges
“Sam said her mother was a mermaid, when everyone knew she was dead.” – Evaline Ness, Sam, Bangs & Moonshine

15 First Picture-Book Gift Ideas for Children’s Book Week

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to write a guest post for Reading Rainbow... and if my elementary school self knew that he'd get to recommend books for Reading Rainbow, he would totally pee his pants.

So, here are 15 First Picture Book Gift Ideas for anyone with a new baby on the way.  But you don't have to take my word for it...

07 May 2014


Here's my humble contribution to the fantastic and much needed #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign:

Check them out on tumblr for all the great content (and of course, support the cause by buying some of the great recommended books): weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com

30 April 2014

My Dream Kidlit Panel (BookCon Edition)

Note: This was originally posted at Book Riot on April 24, 2014

Book Expo America, particularly BookCon, has been getting a lot of heat recently for its selection of speakers. It started a few weeks ago when they announced their all-star kidlit panel, Blockbuster Reads: Meet the Kids’ Authors That Dazzle, which featured exclusively white men. (I won’t go into too much detail here because fellow Rioter Kelly Jensen already provided a great rundown of the whole situation. Seriously, do yourself a favor and go read it now).
After some backtracking and promises to do better, BookCon found themselves under fire again yesterday when people looked more closely at their full slate of speakers and found no diversity whatsoever.
BookCon2014This prompted our editor, Rebecca Joines Schinsky, to take them to task, calling the whole fiasco inexcusable and embarrassing. To be clear, this isn’t to say that the individual authors that were chosen to speak aren’t worthy. This is about the fundamental flaws of the skewed selection process, which did everyone a disservice by not taking into account the diverse reality of the writing and reading community.
As Rebecca says, “It is not hard to do better than this.” Given the wealth of talented writers out there, she’s absolutely right.
So, let’s do better.
The other day, someone asked me: If you were to start from scratch and assemble your own all-star panel of children’s literature luminaries, who would you choose?
Which is an exciting, if daunting, challenge. Keeping in mind that it’s impossible to represent the full richness and diversity of the children’s literature community with only four panelists (though you couldn’t be any less diverse than BookCon’s original panel), the question really boils down to simply: Who would I be psyched to hear speak?
So, without further ado (though after much hand-wringing), here is my own personal Dream Kidlit Panel:

Sherman AlexieSherman Alexie: Nothing against James Patterson (one of the original BookCon panelists), but I just don’t think of him as a children’s author. I imagine that his inclusion was driven in part by the desire to have a big name who could draw a crowd from the non-children’s literature world. Well, if you’re looking for a cross-genre literary superstar, you can’t do much better than Sherman Alexie.  He has true children’s literature bona fides with his National Book Award winning Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian(which is also a stalwart on the annual Most Banned and Challenged Books list) and is one of the most well-known and respected voices in literature today. Plus, like Patterson (who famously donated $1 million to independent bookstores) Alexie is a big supporter of independent bookstores as the driving force behind Indies First, which gets authors to volunteer as booksellers for a day.  An easy choice for any dream panel.

Kate DiCamilloKate DiCamillo: Any conversation about the royalty of children’s literature has to start with the only one with an official title: the current Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Kate DiCamillo. Her latest book, Flora and Ulysses, just won the coveted Newbery Award and it’s not her first time taking home the prize. If she keeps this up, there’s a good chance they’ll just rename it theDiCamillo some day. Also, in case you missed it when I said it the first time, she’s our AMBASSADOR. Obviously, she’s a no-brainer for the panel. The only problem will be allowing enough time for her Secret Service detail to secure the perimeter before starting.
(Note: DiCamillo, with Alexie’s blessing, has recently taken up the Indie First cause as well–which I take as a sign from the universe that this panel was meant to be. Thanks, Universe.)

Kadir NelsonKadir Nelson: Not only is Nelson one of the finest artists in the field today, his influence extends well beyond the world of children’s books. Kidlit scholar Phil Nel recently wrote about that here, pointing out that “Nelson’s art also appears on U.S. postage stamps, magazine covers, album covers — including the latest Drake album. Indeed, he also may be the only children’s author to count Drake, Spike Lee, Will Smith and the late Michael Jackson among his fans. Indeed, his art not only hangs in galleries, but is in the private collections of Shaquille O’Neal, Venus Williams, Sharon Stone, and Stephen Spielberg.” Given his stature in the broader artistic community, it was no surprise when this past year, following the passing of Nelson Mandela, it was Kadir Nelson’s artwork that graced the cover of the New Yorker’s commemorative edition. All that is in addition to his breathtaking books and his growing treasure trove of awards. Clearly, any all-star kidlit panel without Nelson is really just kidding itself.

Lemony Snicket Daniel HandlerLemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler): One of the original BookCon panelists, the prolific and funny Snicket gets a spot on my dream panel too. His groundbreaking Series of Unfortunate Events injected the field with a much-needed dose of the macabre and he continues to challenge the conventions of children’s literature with works like The Dark, a strangely beautiful picture book about, well, the dark. Also, anyone who goes out of his way to establish a special ALA Prize for Noble Librarians Facing Adversity gets an automatic spot on my dais.

So, there it is. After much deliberation, those are my final four choices. And as you can see, this is definitely not a matter of choosing diversity over quality. Not only is it not hard to do better, I’d say it’s infinitely harder (if not impossible) to look at the full pool of worthy authors and not end up with a diverse panel.
Okay. Now that I’ve had my say, I’m curious: Who would you put on your Dream Kidlit Panel?

Since I had such a hard time narrowing it down from the many outstanding names out there, here is a (still not exhaustive) list of other worthy names to choose from… you know, in case there are scheduling problems with my hypothetical dream panel:
Mac Barnett, Betsy Bird, Judy Blume, Peter Brown, Eric Carle, Bryan Collier, Christopher Paul Curtis, Louise Erdrich, Nikki Giovanni, John Green, Oliver Jeffers, A.S. King, Jon Klassen, Jarrett Krosoczka, David Levithan, Rush Limbaugh (kidding, just wanted to make sure you were paying attention), Lois Lowry, Meg Medina, Yuyi Morales, Christopher Myers, Walter Dean Myers, R.J. Palacio, Jerry Pinkney, Rick Riordan (who, as an original BookCon panelist, gets major props for taking it upon himself to point out the lack of diversity), Rainbow Rowell, Veronica Roth, Rachel Renee Russell, Alex Sanchez, Marjane Satrapi, Jon Sczieska, Peter Sis, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Phil & Erin Stead, Shaun Tan, Mo Willems, Gene Luen Yang…