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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

ALA Annual 2018: Recap Time

IgnatiusRileyWhen traveling to a library conference in New Orleans, might I suggest that you take your little sister along. There are a multitude of good reasons to do so.

1. If you used to share a bedroom with the little sister, you may find that she is just as quiet a roommate now as she was back in the day.

2. She will go do all the touristy stuff you do not have time for. Ever wonder why there’s a gigantic WWII museum in New Orleans? Curious about how grotesque the ghost tours get? Uncertain about what a “swamp tour” actually consists of? Sacrifice your younger sib on the alter of curiosity and all will be well.

3. They make for good accessories at fancy events.

This past weekend it was my supreme pleasure to attend the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in New Orleans. Where the weather is hot, the conference center over-air conditioned, and the librarians, publishers, authors, and illustrators in attendance in high spirits. Doubt me? Here’s a gander at what the ladies are wearing these day to publisher cocktail parties:


I rest my case.

For me, this conference was going to be a little different because I’d be attending it with my little sister Kate (of Fuse 8 n’ Kate fame) in tow. Actually it was less intense than that. Kate was doing the tourist thing, I’d be attending meetings, talks, and speeches, and we’d reconvene in the evening. This plan worked pretty well, but let’s look at some of the goodies from the floor first.

Because I get sent a lot of books from the major publishers, a lot of the big titles were already familiar to me. So let’s do what I like to do best. Let’s highlight the books from the smaller publishers (and the ones not as well publicized from the big guys) just to see what else is coming out in 2018:


I can see you getting excited. Reign it in slightly. This book isn’t out until 2019.  I know. I was crushed too. Want want want want!


Cool, right? I’ve never heard of Georgia Gilmore but this has all the markings of a biographical figure we should all know. Good topic material here.


Not an unknown author. Not a small publisher. Not a new book, but a new cover certainly. Quite frankly, I love it. I’m a big fan of fun covers with faces. Plus I’ve always adored this book. So happy to see it in a new, appealing format.


Oh, this book is clever. In many ways it’s like They All Saw a Cat but with more of a nonfiction bent. In this book you see the eyes of different creatures, and then you get to see the world the way they do. Clever ducks.


Did you know this was coming out? I didn’t know this was coming out. And Zwerger!!!  The absolute queen of fairytales is doing the art?!? Now THAT is news!


I’m sure other folks have talked about this before, but have you ever noticed how Canada just wipes the floor with America in terms of publishing Native voices? Just compare the numbers sometime. Inhabit Media alone would tip the scales. This book appears to be from Tundra. I’ll be looking for it.


Doesn’t she look like Eloise, kinda? I have no idea what this book actually consists of, except that I want to see more. We always need more comics.


How did an ancient beluga whale’s bones end up in a  farmer’s field? Let’s hear it for science mysteries!


Pretty sure this one isn’t for kids. It’s just that (A) I like the title and (B) Jessica is local to Evanston, that I include it here now.


This one is new to me. Check out how LeUyen Pham switched up her art. You would never suspect this was from her, right?


The Chinese publisher Candied Plums doesn’t bring a ton of books out in a given year, but they’re still a reliable source for translations. This book is, unfortunately, probably going to come out in 2019. That’s okay. Looks like it’ll be worth the wait.


This is just such a good idea for a book.


Finally, I wanted to show you this. This is found at the back of the upcoming picture book Patchwork Bike. Notice how the author and the illustrator get a full page spread with their photos and bios. Don’t be surprised if this is a mark of future things to come.

And, of course, you can find many a fine comic artist hocking their wares at ALA. Like the man that never knows how to quit . . . Nathan Hale! Here you can see Nathan selling sketches of his next biographical subject, Lafayette, along with Lafayette stamps. Such a good idea.


At some point during one of the first days we were in town, I convinced Kate to partake in a 50 minute walk through the blazing New Orleans sun, to a cocktail party where there was no air conditioning. Oh, and did I mention that Kate had already been walking all day? Little wonder she collapsed into this tub/couch:


While I paid for my crimes by getting my eyebrows entirely singed off by the sun:


Technically I still have eyebrows in this shot, but you’d never know it by how it looks here.

A couple things to note before I summarize the Newbery/Caldecott/Legacy Banquet.

First off, there’s the fact that it is now the Newbery/Calddecott/LEGACY Banquet. Remember how we used to give out a lifetime achievement award to people in the children’s book publishing field called the Wilder Award? Well, we’re not doing that anymore. As of this conference, the name has been changed to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. This would seemingly be one of those things not to get particularly upset about. No one’s touching Wilder’s books, we’re just saying that maybe if you’re going to give an award for lifetime achievement, Wilder isn’t exactly the best person to be emulating in that manner. Besides, Wilder isn’t going anywhere. This year the book Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder came out for adults and its sales have gone through the roof.  Still, to read the comments on any news article about this is to think ALSC had just razed Wilder’s homes to the ground and were dancing tarantellas on the ashes.

Each year for the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet I dress up in some way. This year, I had a partner-in-crime. So we suited up.

In my experience, if a publisher offers you a free temporary tattoo, you grab that thing.


Or, in some cases, multiples of that thing. Remember when I used to make my own temporary tattoos of book covers? Getting the pre-made version from the source is MUCH easier to apply, I assure you.


Now I don’t know if you can tell, but Kate and I were referencing one of this year’s winning books with our outfits. Can you guess which one? [Kate’s shoes are a hint, but only if you can see them]


Mind you, no outfit can compare to one actually drawn by a winning illustrator. As such, here are Lisa Von Drasek’s shoes, as drawn by Elisha Cooper, for the win:



Oh wait. There’s one thing that can beat even these shoes. Imagine actually getting a tattoo, designed by the Newbery Award winning author, that’s a direct reference to her book:


Kinda makes the whole temporary tattoo thing feel a bit shabby, eh what? Now the previous day, Caldecott Award winner Matthew Cordell was given this little number from his committee:



To attend the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet you need only show up. If you want to sit at a table and eat you need to pay for a ticket, but if you’re happy with the cheap seats in the back you don’t need to drop a dime. Different winning publishers buy tables at the Banquet for their authors, the committee members, and friends.

Now. Quiz Question. Which winning publisher of 2018 is based out of Evanston, Illinois, the town in which I currently live? If you said, “Agate Publishing – the folks behind Crown” you would be correct. In 2016 the company paired with the author, editor, and journalist Denene Millner to launch a children’s book imprint. She, in turn, reached out to Derrick Barnes to see what books he might have sitting in a drawer somewhere, unpublished. He had a poem that became Crown, they contacted his buddy Gordon C. James to do the art, and the rest is history. Ms. Millner, whom I had never met previously, was kind enough to let Kate and I sit at their table for the Banquet. We did so gratefully, and so I was able to get this shot of Mr. Barnes having just officially received his award:



Ms. Millner wrote of the conference, “About this weekend: what a whirlwind of energy, excitement and BLACK EXCELLENCE as we and the American Library Association celebrated @gordoncjamesfineart and @authorderrickdbarnes’ Caldecott, Newbery and Coretta Scott King Honors for the @denenemillnerbooks picture book, “Crown: An
Ode to the Fresh Cut.” I am absolutely blown away by the huge embrace #ALA18 and its members—the librarians, the keepers of
the best entertainment on the planet, BOOKS—wrapped around the #DeneneMillnerBooks team. A few highlights: meeting Wade and Cheryl Hudson, who are HUGE inspirations to this author, publisher and black children’s books collector; hugging prolific children’s book author Eloise Greenfield, my hero;

As for the speeches themselves they were are distinctly heartfelt. Matthew Cordell spoke of disappointment leading to eventual joy. Erin Entrada Kelly pretty much had the crowd in the palm of her hand from the get-go with what may have been the best joke of the night. And Jacqueline Woodson threw the script out the window in favor of speaking a more up-to-date message of the moment.

My great thanks to the people of Agate for allowing us to crash your table. And thank you everyone I ran into during the course of this conference. At some point here, we need to hang out more.  Oh. And thank you, Kate. The best accessory and older sister could ever have.

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. Travis Jonker says:

    As always, a wonderful wrap-up. And so many cool-looking books

  2. First off thx for taking the time to throw in so many choice details! Never knew about Agate being in our backyard, your theme dressing, or what Kate looks like.

    Love that you highlight lesser known titles and Comics!!!! Really wish I could’ve watched your panel. 🙁 Was it recorded by chance?

    I’m glad you mentioned the Legacy award. I’m flummoxed by the negative reactions. The ALSC statement says it all. The haters need to choose acceptance here, and go with the current. It’s not like they put another writer’s name in her place.

    Finally, Nawlins is my fav city in U.S., tho not in summer. Please have Kate respond and tell me what were highlights of touring for her, particularly WWII museum as i’ve not been there.

    Thx for all you do for kids, and kidlit!!!

  3. Sorry if I am misspeaking, I wasn’t at the banquet or ALA, but don’t you mean Matthew Cordell vs Matthew Winner when talking about the banquet speeches? While I think they are both fabulous, only Cordell was awarded the Caldecott.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Geez. I’m just embarrassed it took that long to catch. Good eye! Whoops!