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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Columbus Day? Direct Thine Attention Hence

So I’m sitting at a Tri-Library Book Buzz event in NYC the other day, which is basically this massive librarian preview event where publishers of every stripe hock their wares in a lickety-split fashion.  I like to go because it lets me see a lot of the little publishers who don’t get a lot of airtime otherwise. Naturally I’ll be writing this up soon.

When Sterling stepped up to the plate they mentioned that they’ll be publishing in January 2015 a new book in their “Good Question” series called Did Columbus Really Discover America?  Living in an era where the Common Core demands books to discuss opposing viewpoints, I was heartened to see that the publishing copy for this book raises the question “How did Columbus treat the native people?”, a question that is too often assiduously forgotten particularly at this time of year.  Indeed it’s very difficult to be a Materials Specialist these days when the subject of Columbus comes up.  Teachers assign bios.  Therefore we must have them.  Yet how many are actually any good?  Sure could use someone’s blog post on this topic [raises eyebrows in Debbie Reese’s general direction].

Yes, it’s Columbus Day yet again.  The world’s weirdest holiday for contemporary Americans.  On the one hand we public employees get the day off.  On the other, we sort of have to conveniently forget why we get the day off.  Now I could just plug my most beloved Columbus book of all time A Coyote Columbus Story by Thomas King to you yet again, but let’s try something a little different.  Some links appropriate to the day instead.

First up, I’m just going to alert you to a recent Children’s Literary Salon I helped put together at NYPL on the subject of contemporary YA Native authors and the learning curve both they and their white editors had to go through.  PW wrote it up in their piece Writing Native Lives in YA: A NYPL Panel Discussion and did a heckuva nice job with it too.  Editor Cheryl Klein’s podcast The Narrative Breakdown will also be posting the recording of the talk soon, so look for me to link to that in the near future.

I reminded in the course of the conversation of the amusing post from last year What if people told European History like they told Native American history.  Good for your eyeballs, if you missed it.

Finally, Debbie Reese had a really lovely post up in 2011 that I saw someone link to recently that deserves notice. Top Board Books for Youngest Readers is a great survey of a very difficult topic.  My babies both read Cradle Me and Learn to Count with Northwest Coast Native Art and I can attest that they’re fabulous.

Now go ye and celebrate some other Italian.  I suggest Fiorello H. LaGuardia.  He wasn’t perfect but there was a nice musical made about him and that’s reason enough in my book to pay him heed.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth 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.


  1. Good morning, Betsy!

    Over the summer I was looking at books about Columbus. Here’s a post about Peter Sis’s book:

  2. And… your raised eyebrows nudged me to finish my look-see of the Krensky’s best seller on Columbus:

  3. Your comment at Debbie made me laugh, because I was thinking the same thing a sentence earlier. My 8yo is Mescalero Apache, so it’s always fun trying to explain to him why he has the day off school. I, however, get to work – but everyone assumes we are closed, so I had exactly one child for story time, which is sort of like a day off. Anyways. Yes, some accurate AND interesting books about Columbus, especially written around the second grade reading level, would be HUGELY appreciated by many librarians and teachers!

  4. Happy Birthday Peter Sieruta. I think of you every day! RIP

  5. Psst…West Coast public employees do NOT get the day off. It’s just a mark on the calendar. With huge storytimes. Totally unobserved. But this is making me wonder about our Columbus bios…