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Getting to the Arbuthnot Lecture by Walter Dean Myers

So a sullen student stalks to the circ desk, slams his selection down, and says, "Check me out ’cause my teacher says I hafta read and some guy said this author Walter Dean Myers was okay." I live for these moments. I casually slide a full-color print out of this picture, place it near the student’s book and say, "Hm. I chatted with this author this weekend and he seemed pretty cool. His son is just back from Iraq and I was able to share that mine leaves for Afghanistan Monday. He seems to know what he’s writing about." 

The student pauses and looks between book and photo. "So that’s the author? And you met him? Do you think, like maybe, he wrote this book Sunrise Over Fallujah with some real information, like with realistic stuff?" Then as he cheerfully struts toward the door he turns and says, "Ms Chen, you sure make that man look tall." If he only knew how great an author Walter Dean Myers is! (Be sure to click the next blog post to read more of the speeches)

I had the great pleasure of traveling with two librarians Tracy and Hope to Clinton, Tennessee just north of Knoxville on Saturday in anticipation of hearing Walter Dean Myers. I have been a big fan of Walter Dean Myers since I first booktalked Fallen Angels to middle schoolers in Iowa City, Iowa under Denise Rehmke’s tutelage. He is the award winning author of fiction, nonfiction, picture books, poetry and admitted he’d even written some romance novels in his earlier days.

The Children’s Defense Fund and the Langston Hughes Library hosted the 2009 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture on the Alex Haley Farm with the support of The University of Tennessee – Knoxville, and the Knox County Public Library.  

I’d never been to the location, but was very curious about visiting and seeing the Maya Lin architecture.
Children’s Defense Fund Founder and President Marian Wright Edelman spoke earlier in the program. She was worth the three hour trip by herself. I am now motivated to work harder with student advocates.

The Langston Hughes Library of the Children’s Defense Fund, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for the welfare of all children, is a special library housed in a traditional cantilever barn redesigned by  Lin.  Since the Langston Hughes Library is celebrating its 10th anniversary this spring 2009, many board members were on hand to hear the Arbuthnot Lecture including Karen Lemmon (pictured on the right with Nancy Dickinson).  The Haley Farm and Langston Hughes Library art collection includes original artwork by Bryan Collier, Tom Feelings, Tyrone Geter and Jacob Lawrence. Many of these works were on display in the library and in the chapel area. The library is a dream and worth a visit. The farm is open for events and for weekend retreats if you need to experience the feeling of "getting away" when you aren’t far from the city (Knoxville).

What is the Arbuthnot Lecture and who was this Arbuthnot person? May Hill Arbuthnot (1884-1969) was born in Mason City, IA (hello home state!). With William Scott Gray, she created the "Dick and Jane" series which taught my fellow students to read in the 70s and which I used to teach ESL students in Taiwan during the mid-80s. 

More importantly Arbuthnot wrote Children and Books, the first edition of which was published in 1947.  Her other works include The Arbuthnot Anthology of Children’s Literature and Children’s Books Too Good to Miss. During my college education, I still used all of these. Her name was so BIG I didn’t realize she had died when I was a toddler. My professors spoke so reverently of her work I was sure she was alive and prepared to swoop down and correct my childish reviews. The Arbuthnot committee comes from ALA’s Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). I’ve been aware of this lecture, but never took the simple step of going. What a shame?! You shouldn’t miss this.

According to the ALA site the Arbuthnot lecturer is announced annually at the ALA Midwinter Meeting and "may be an author, critic, librarian, historian, or teacher of children’s literature, of any country, who shall prepare a paper considered to be a significant contribution to the field of children’s literature."
After the lecturer is named, institutions wanting to host the lecture may apply. Thanks to Theresa Venable, the Langston Hughes Library won this year! The lecture is given every April then published in Children & Libraries, the journal of the Association for Library Service to Children. ALSC established the lecture series in 1969 with sponsorship from Scott, Foresman and Company. The lectureship is now funded by the ALSC May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Endowment, and administered by ALSC.

Kathleen T. Horning, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), will deliver the 2010 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture. I’m excited about attending and cannot wait for the announcement of the location. Take a look at the list of past lecturers and their locations. Where do YOU think the next Arbuthnot lecture will be held and will YOU be there?



YEAR             LECTURER                               SITE
2010                Kathleen T. Horning (U.S.A.)        it could be you

2009                Walter Dean Myers (U.S.A.)        Clinton, Tennessee

2008                 David Macaulay (U.S.A.)             Madison, Wisconsin

2007                 Kevin Henkes (U.S.A.)                Lexington, KY

2006                 Russell Freedman (U.S.A.)           Williamsburg, VA

2005                 Richard Jackson (U.S.A)                Philadelphia, PA

2004                 Ursula K. LeGuin (U.S.A.)             Phoenix, AZ

2003                 Maurice Sendak (U.S.A.)               Cambridge, Massachusetts

2002                 Philip Pullman (England)                 Queens, New York

2001                 Susan Cooper (U.S.A.)                   Portland, Oregon

2000                 Hazel Rochman (U.S.A.)                Storrs, Connecticut

1999                 Lillian N. Gerhardt (U.S.A.)            San Jose, California

1998                 Susan Hirschman (U.S.A.)              Columbia, South Carolina

1997                 Katherine Paterson (U.S.A.)            Aberdeen, South Dakota

1996                 Zena Sutherland (U.S.A.)                 Dallas, Texas

1995                 Leonard Everett Fisher (U.S.A.)       Milwaukee, Wisconsin

1994                 Margaret K. McElderry (U.S.A.)      Coronado, California

1993                 Virginia Hamilton (U.S.A.)               Richmond, Virginia

1992                 Charlotte Huck (U.S.A.)                   Bozeman, Montana

1991                 Iona Opie (England)                          Washington, D.C.

1990                 Ashley Bryan (U.S.A.)                     New Orleans, Louisiana

1989                 Margaret Mahy (New Zealand)         Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

1988                 John Bierhorst (U.S.A.)                     Norman, Oklahoma

1987                 James Houston (Canada)                   DeKalb, Illinois

1986                 Aidan Chambers (England)                Little Rock, Arkansas

1985                 Patricia Wrightson (Australia)             Bloomington, Indiana

1984                 Fritz Eichenberg (U.S.A.)                   Minneapolis, Minnesota

1983                 Leland B. Jacobs (U.S.A.)                 Athens, Georgia

1982                 Dorothy Butler (New Zealand)           Orlando, Florida

1981                 Virginia Betancourt (Venezuela)         Denton, Texas

1980                 Horst J. Kunze (Germany)                 Milwaukee, Wisconsin

1979                 Sheila Egoff (Canada)                        Columbia, South Carolina

1978                 Uriel Ofek (Israel)                             Boston, Massachusetts

1977                 Shigeo Watanabe (Japan)                   Boise, Idaho

1976                 Jean Fritz (U.S.A.)                            Los Angeles, California

1975                 Mollie Hunter (Scotland)                    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1974                 Ivan Southall (Australia)                     Seattle, Washington

1973                 Betinna Hurlimann (Switzerland)         Kansas City, Missouri

1972                 Mary Ørvig (Sweden)                         Chicago, Illinois

1971                 John Rowe Townsend (England)          Atlanta, Georgia

1970                 Margery Fisher (England)                    Cleveland, Ohio