I now invoke The Michigan Mafia
The other day I was reading an excellent 100 Scope Notes posting on A Quintet of Blogs to Watch. Some I’d seen before (go, The Scop, go!) and some I had not. For example, Travis mentions a highly amusing blog called Klickitat, which is as fun to say as it is to read. But Travis also mentions that, “It also don’t hurt one bit that Judkins is a fellow Michigander.”
It got me to thinking. Ladies and gentlemen, it is high time we established The Michigan Mafia. Yes, I know that Utah has been getting all the attention, what with their sudden influx (or is it “outflux?”) of authors and illustrators like never before. Yet I maintain that Michigan authors, illustrators, bloggers, and librarians are some of the finest in the Kidlitosphere to date. I count myself proud to be one of them. My family’s Michigan roots go back far. Why, here is a picture of my Great-Grandmother and her (future) sister-in-law goofing it up in front of the camera in the year 1901. Both, proud residents of Michigan:
1901 jazz hands. You could not make that up.
I’m hardly alone either. Just check out the surprising smattering of my MI fellows:
100 Scope Notes: The aforementioned Travis Jonker is an elementary school teacher in Michigan.
Collecting Children’s Books: Peter Sieruta, my co-writer (along with Jules Danielson) on an upcoming book for Candlewick is a cataloger who works for a university in Michigan.
Ed Spicer’s Teen Book Reviews: Not only does Ed end up on ALA committees every other month, but he currently resides in charming Allegan, Michigan. It ain’t Kalamazoo (the best city in the state, not that I’m biased) but it’s close enough to bask in some of K-zoo’s aura.
Jenny Brown: If you read your Shelf Awareness and you see something children’s literary related, that’s probably the work of the lovely Ms. Jenny Brown. Jenny is a fellow Kalamazooian and even attended my oddly named high school (you never forget when you’ve attending something with a name like Loy Norrix).
David Small – You want Caldecott winners? Yeah, we’ve got Caldecott winners. Mr. Small was the local illustrator who visited my fourth grade class when I was a kid. And for the record, see my great-grandma up at the top of this post? Her brother would apparently walk over to what is now Mr. Small’s house in Mendon to help train ostriches. True story.
Patricia Polacco – Not only is she from Michigan, she went so far as to star in her own film called Patricia’s Michigan. Now THAT is dedication to a state.
David Catrow – I know this because I grew up in a house with a yard that backs against the yard of David Catrow’s mom. Also a true story.
Nic Bishop – The man has resided all around the world but according to a reliable source (a.k.a. my mom) he currently lives in Kalamazoo too. Huh! Go figure!
Erin E. Stead – Do the words “current Caldecott winner” mean anything to you? After I mistakenly said that Erin lived in Brooklyn just after she won her award, folks assured me that she currently resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Fantastic! I hereby claim her as my own.
Jon Scieszka – Oh yeah. He’s one of the Flint contingent. Another fellow member of that contingent . . .
Christopher Paul Curtis – Born and raised there. He often sets his stories in Michigan (The Watsons Go to Birmingham, Bud Not Buddy) or has characters travel to the state (Elijah of Buxton).
Are there others I’ve missed? You bet! Remind me who they are so that I can either shake my head in wonderment or droop it in shame for having forgotten them.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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