Who Should Be the Next National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature?
Had a conversation with someone the other day about the next potential National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature. A position created in 2008 by its sponsors The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the Children’s Book Council (CBC) and Every Child a Reader, from 2008-2009 the job went to Jon Scieszka. In 2010, lasting until 2011, Katherine Paterson has the honor. And on the distant horizon you can see it now. In 2012 we shall have a new ambassador.
So give it to me straight, folks. Who’s it gonna be? The criteria for the job (and the illustrious selection committee) are visible here, but I have my own personal set of standards for this most desirable of jobs. See if you agree with me or not:
– The Ambassador must have grown children if they have any children at all. Why? Because when you’re the Ambassador you get to zip about the country willy-nilly. And frequent flyer miles, while all well and good, are not so hot when you’ve small fry desirous of your love and attention.
– The Ambassador must be personable. Kids should dig the Ambassador. Now you can be diggable (diggable?) any number of ways. Jon Scieszka actually sweats charisma. That’s his thing. And Katherine Paterson is a big bold name of celebrity-like status. So whoever comes next should either be infinitely likable on a stage in front of loads of schoolchildren, or you should see stars when you hear their name.
– The Ambassador should have a cause that he/she promotes that is not him/her own self. Causes are super. They allow The Ambassador to use his or her power for good instead of evil. Scieszka’s baby is getting boys to continue reading. Paterson’s (according to the slightly out-of-date Ambassador page) ties into the fact that she is “vice president of the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance , a nonprofit organization that informs,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.” See? Easy peasy.
Now a couple names leap immediately to mind, but I’ve my own personal selection requirement in addition to those listed about. For 2012 the Ambassador shouldn’t be another white guy or gal. It’s the Ambassador for all kids, after all. Let’s shake things up a bit. With that in mind here are my two potential contenders:
Linda Sue Park – I’ve been hoping Linda would get this job for years, if I’m gonna be honest with you. Let’s see. Grown kids? I think so (if not then they’re pretty darn close). Cause? Well she did some spectacular work with the books Click and A Long Walk to Water. So yeah, I’d say she has a variety of causes she can promote. Dynamic speaker? And how! The only possible point against her is that she isn’t exactly a household name. A Newbery winner, you betcha. Household name? Well, not quite. So maybe we should hold her back another year or so and then let her loose.
Walter Dean Myers – To be honest with you, someone else mentioned him to me as a possibility and boy were they spot on. He’s probably a superior pick at this time. I mean, the man has it all. Grown kids? Check. Famous name? Check. Cause? Well, Myers has always been particularly good at speaking to kids in juvenile detention facilities. That’s something we could really use an Ambassador to speak upon. So when all is said and done, Myers has got to be the man.
Mind you, there’s a whole host of other folks who could potentially fill this gap. Judy Blume. Richard Peck. Any other favorites come to mind?
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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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