National Ambassador for Young People's Literature | Kate DiCamillo

Walter Dean Myers, National Ambassador for Young People's Literature 2012-2013

Walter Dean MyersWalter Dean Myers is a critically acclaimed author of books for young people. His award-winning body of work includes “Sunrise Over Fallujah,” “Fallen Angels,” “Monster,” “Somewhere in the Darkness” and “Harlem.” Myers has received two Newbery Honor Awards and five Coretta Scott King Awards. He is the winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award (for excellence in young adult literature, given by the American Library Association) as well as the first recipient of Kent State University's Virginia Hamilton Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2008, he won the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture Award. He is considered one of the preeminent writers for young people.

Myers began writing at an early age. “I was a good student, but a speech impediment was causing problems. One of my teachers decided that I couldn't pronounce certain words at all. She thought that if I wrote something, I would use words I could pronounce. I began writing little poems. I began to write short stories too.”

Myers’ 2009 title, “Amiri and Odette: A Love Story,” is a modern retelling of “Swan Lake.” “I had seen the ballet of ‘Swan Lake’ as a child. But it was as an adult, when I saw a production featuring Erik Bruhn, that I first noticed how significant a part the ever-present threat of violence played. This juxtaposition of great beauty and grace with a backdrop of pure evil stayed with me for years. As a writer, I absorb stories, allow them to churn within my own head and heart — often for years — until I find a way of telling them that fits both my time and temperament.”

“In listening to Peter Tchaikovsky's score,” Myers continues, “I found the violence muted, but slowly, in my head; the sometimes jarring rhythms of modern jazz and hip-hop began to intervene. I asked myself if there were modern dangers to young people similar to the magic spells of folklore. The answer of course, was a resounding yes, and I began to craft a modern, urban retelling of the ‘Swan Lake’ballet.”

In 2010, Myers received the Rutgers University Award for Literature for Young Adults, from the New Jersey Center for the Book and the Rutgers School of Communications.

“Myers is a giant among children’s and young adult authors,” said Dean Jorge Reina Schement. He is one of today’s most important writers of books for the youth of our age.”

Walter Dean Myers lives with his wife in Jersey City, N.J.  He was born in Martinsburg, W.Va., and grew up in Harlem.

Walter Dean Myers’ Literary Awards

Newbery Honor

  • Scorpions, 1989
  • Somewhere in the Darkness, 1993

Coretta Scott King Award

  • 1980, “The Young Landlords”
  • 1985, “Motown and Didi: A Love Story”
  • 1989, “Fallen Angels”
  • 1992, “Now Is Your Time: The African American Struggle for Freedom”
  • 1997, “Slam”

Coretta Scott King Honor Award

  • 1976, “Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff”
  • 1993, “Somewhere in the Darkness”
  • 1994, “Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary”
  • 2000, “Monster”
  • 2011, “Lockdown”

Michael L. Printz Award

  • 2000, “Monster”

Kent State University Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, 1999

May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture Award, 2008

Margaret Edwards Award, 1994

American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults List, 1993 and 2000

National Book Award finalist

  • 1999, “Monster”
  • 2005, “Autobiography of My Dead Brother”
  • 2010, “Lockdown”

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Former Ambassador Katherine Paterson

Katherine PatersonKatherine Paterson, two-time winner of the National Book Award and the Newbery Medal, was named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington on Jan. 5, 2010. Paterson will serve in the position during 2010 and 2011; she succeeds Jon Scieszka, appointed in 2008, who was the first person to hold the title. Paterson has chosen “Read for Your Life” as the theme for her platform.

Katherine Paterson’s international fame rests not only on her widely acclaimed novels but also on her efforts to promote literacy in the United States and abroad. A two-time winner of the Newbery Medal (“Bridge to Terabithia” and “Jacob Have I Loved”) and the National Book Award (“The Great Gilly Hopkins” and “The Master Puppeteer”), she has received many accolades for her body of work, including the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, given by her home state of Vermont. She was also named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress.

Ms. Paterson is vice president of the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance , a nonprofit organization that informs, promotes, educates and inspires the American public to pursue literacy for young people and support libraries. She is both an Alida Cutts Lifetime Member of the United States Board on Books for Young People (external link) and a Lifetime Member of the International Board on Books for Young People (external link).

Ms. Paterson’s most recent book is “The Day of the Pelican,” a moving, dramatic story of a refugee family's flight from war-torn Kosovo to America. It is the 2010 selection for Vermont Reads, a statewide reading program.

She and her husband, John, live in Barre, Vt. They have four children and seven grandchildren. For more information, visit www.terabithia.com (external link) or Ms. Paterson’s Facebook (external link) page.

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Katherine Paterson’s Literary Awards

Bread and Roses, Too
New York Public Library Best Books for Teen Age, 2007
Bank Street Best Children's Books of the Year, 2007
VOYA's 2006 Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers
Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, 2007
Christopher Award, 2006
Parents' Choice Gold Medal, Fall 2006, Historical Fiction

The Same Stuff as Stars
Co-winner of the Paterson Prize, 2003
Honor Book for The Red Mitten, Judy Lopez Memorial, and Jane Addams Awards, 2003

Preacher's Boy
Parents' Choice 1999 Story Book Award
Jefferson Cup of Virginia Library Association

Jip, His Story
The Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, 1997
Parents' Choice 1996 Story Book Award
Parents' Choice 1999 Paperback Book Honor

Flip-Flop Girl
ALA Notable Children's Book
School Library Journal Best Book
American Bookseller Spring Pick of the Lists for Middle Readers
New York Public Library - 100 titles for Reading and Sharing

Lyddie
Honor Book of the International Board of Books for Young People, 1994
ALA Best Book for Young Adults
ALA Notable Children's Book
American Bookseller Pick of the Lists
IBBY Honor Book

The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks
Boston Globe/Horn Book Picture Book Award, 1991
The New York Times Ten Best Illustrated Books
American Bookseller Pick of the Lists
Booklist Editors' Choice

Park's Quest
American Bookseller Pick of the Lists
NCSS_CBC Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies
IRA-CBC Children's Choice
Learning Choice
Library of Congress Books for Children
Child Study Assocation Children's Books of the Year
The Horn Book Fanfare Honor List

The Tongue-Cut Sparrow
Parent's Choice Award
NCSS-CBC Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies
IRA-CBC Children's Choice
Child Study Association Children's Books of the Year
CCBC Choice
Library of Congress Books for Children

Come Sing, Jimmy Jo
Parents' Choice Award
School Library Journal Best Books
CCBC Choice Booklist Editors' Choice

Rebels of the Heavenly Kingdom
Parents' Choice Award
NCSS-CBC Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies
Child Study Assoc. Children's Books of the Year

Jacob Have I Loved
Newbery Medal 1981
ALA Notable Children's Book, 1976-1980
School Library Journal Best Books of 1980
Best of the 80's YA Novels (English Journal)
Best of the 80's (ALA Booklist)

The Great Gilly Hopkins
National Book Award, 1979
Newbery Honor Award, 1979
Honor Book, Jane Addams Children's Book Awards, 1979
Christopher Award, 1979
American Library Association Notable Children's Books, 1978
School Library Journal Best book of 1978

Bridge to Terabithia
Janusz Korczak Medal (Poland), 1981
Silver Pencil Award (Netherlands), 1981
Newbery Medal, 1978
ALA Notable Children's Books, 1977
School Library Journal Best Book of 1977
Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, 1978
Le Grand Prix des Jeunes Lecturs (France), 1986
1986 Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award

The Master Puppeteer
National Book Award for Children's Literature, 1977
Edgar Allen Poe Special Award, Mystery Writers of America, 1977
Citation from The Puppeteers of America Inc., 1978
ALA Notable Children's Books, 1976
School Library Journal Best Book of Spring, 1976

Of Nightingales That Weep
Phoenix Award Children's Literature Association, 1994
ALA Notable Children's Books, 1974

Selected News Articles About Katherine Paterson as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

Katherine Paterson’s Awards for Her Body of Work

  • Massachusetts Reading Association Lifetime Award
  • NSK Neustadt Award (University of Oklahoma), 2007
  • Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, Swedish government, 2006
  • Literary Light, Boston Public Library, 2000
  • Literary Light, Boston Public Library, 2000
  • Living Legend Library of Congress, 2000
  • New York Public Library Lion, 1998
  • Hans Christian Andersen Medal for Writing, 1998
  • Lion of the New York Public Library, 1998
  • Who's Who in American Women, 1995 to present
  • King College, Outstanding Alumnus, 1993-1994
  • Education Press Friend of Education Award, 1993
  • Anne V. Zarrow Award Tulsa Public Library, 1993
  • New England Book Award, 1992
  • US Nominee Hans Christian Andersen Award, 1989
  • Regina Medal, Catholic Library Association, 1988
  • Children's Literature Award, Keene State College, 1987
  • Kerlan Award, University of Minnesota, 1983
  • University of Southern Mississippi Medallion, 1983
  • U.S. Nominee Hans Christian Andersen Medal, 1979
  • Who's Who in America, 1978 to present
  • The Union Medal, Union Theological Seminary New York

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Former Ambassador Jon Scieszka

Jon ScieszkaBorn in Flint, Michigan, Jon Scieszka earned a Bachelor's degree from Albion College and a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction from Columbia University. He held a number of teaching positions in the first through eighth grades before taking a year off to develop ideas for children's books.

Scieszka is the author of many bestselling children's titles, including The Stinky Cheese Man, which won a Caldecott Honor medal, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, which has sold over three million copies and been translated into 14 languages, and the Time Warp Trio, a chapter book series.

His most recent projects are the Trucktown series for the preschool/kindergarten set and Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka for all ages. 

Scieszka is the founder of Guys Read (external link), a nonprofit literacy organization.


Jon Scieszka’s Platform As National Ambassador

My mission as Ambassador is to get kids excited about reading. Recent surveys and statistics show kids reading less, and getting worse at it. My experiences as an elementary school teacher, a children’s book writer, and the founder of a literacy initiative for boys called GUYS READ, have all taught me that kids will read if they are motivated to want to read.

So here are a few tips to motivate kids:

  1. Expand your definition of reading beyond fiction and novels. Lots of kids love to read non-fiction, humor, comic strips, magazines, illustrated stories, audio recordings, and websites. It’s all reading. It’s all a good way to become a reader.
  2. Let kids choose reading that interests them. It may not be the reading you like, but making the choice is important to kids.
  3. Be a good reading role model. Talk to your kids about how you choose what you read. Share your reading likes and dislikes. Let kids see you reading.
  4. Try not to demonize TV, computer games, and new technologies. These media do compete for kids’ time, but they are not the “bad guy.” Help kids become media literate. Show them how different media tell stories in different ways.
  5. Think global. Act local. There are all kinds of good people and worthy groups working to help kids read. Teachers, librarians, and booksellers are a wonderful resource. Ask them for book recommendations. Join a local literacy group.

There is no one book that is right for all kids. But there are all kinds of crazy, interesting, and amazing books out there. It’s our job to help kids find that book that will inspire them to want to become readers.

Images

Ambassador Scieszka shows off his formal side. Photo credit: Marty Umans.At the first annual Children’s Choice Book Awards in 2008, Ambassador Scieszka was an MC extraordinaire.At the first annual Children’s Choice Book Awards in 2008, Ambassador Scieszka was an MC extraordinaire.Ambassador Scieszka with young fans at the launch of his ambassadorship in January 2008.Ambassador Scieszka in his natural habitat at the launch of his ambassadorship in January 2008.Ambassador Scieszka reads to young fans at the launch of his ambassadorship in January 2008.In Bryant Park in New York City, Ambassador Scieszka declares Children’s Book Week officially open in 2008, helped by some favorite characters.Kids at La Jolla Country Day School provided the Ambassador with this royalty-worthy sash.With President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush at a White House celebration of authors. Photo © 2008 John HarringtonReading Knucklehead at the White House dinner. Photo © 2008 John Harrington

National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Selection Committee 2008-2009

Leonard Marcus is one of the most trusted critics in the field. His incisive book reviews are featured regularly in Parenting magazine and he has been a Parenting contributing editor since 1988, in which capacity he has directed the magazine's annual Best Books of the Year Awards since their inception. He has been a frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review, Washington Post Book World, The Horn Book, and Publishers Weekly, among other publications, and is a three-time judge of The New York Times’ Best Illustrated Books of the Year prize. He is a standing member of The Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award committee and was a judge of the 1996 National Book Awards.

Hazel Rochman was born and raised in South Africa, where she worked as a journalist. She was a librarian at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and then from 1984 an editor at ALA Booklist, where she is now a contributing editor, reviewing books for children and young adults. Her reviews have also appeared in The New York Times Book Review and other journals. Her book Against Borders: Promoting Books for a Multicultural World won the G. K. Hall Award for Library Literature. She has served on numerous book committees, and chaired the National Book Award committee for young people's literature. She was selected to give the 2000 Arbuthnot Lecture.

Maria Salvadore was the Coordinator of Children's Service for the DC Public Library until 2000. Since then she has worked as a specialist and consultant in children's literature and family literacy. Her work for numerous local and national organizations includes the Kennedy Center Education Department, Reading Is Fundamental, BPS Ready To Learn Service, WETA's Reading Rockets, Turning The Page, In2Books, DC Early Childhood Education Collaborative, the Phillips Collection and the Catholic Charities Parenting Program. She holds Master's degrees in Education and Library Science.

Henrietta M. Smith is Professor Emeritus, School of Library and Information Science, University of South Florida, Tampa. Formerly retired, she continues to teach the youth-oriented courses in the library school's East Coast program. Service to ALA includes membership on Newbery, Caldecott, Batchelder, Carnegie, and Notable Film committees, and chair of the Wilder committee. She is a reviewer for Horn Book Guide, and with Ginny Moore Kruse has contributed articles to Book Links. Smith has served as chair of the Coretta Scott King Task Force and has been a member of the Award jury. She also has edited each edition of The Coretta Scott King Awards Book: From Vision to Reality.

Jewell Stoddard was co-owner of the Cheshire Cat Book Store, which opened in 1977 as one of the first children's bookstores in the country. Since closing the store in 1999, she has been director of children's services at Politics & Prose, an independent bookstore in Washington, D.C. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston-Globe Horn Book Award committees, and consults with schools, libraries, and museums about children's books. Jewell chaired the 2002 Award committee for The Washington Post-Children's Book Guild Award for Nonfiction.

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