Past Words Take Wing Authors
Linda Sue Park is the winner of the 2002 Newbery Medal for her book A Single Shard (2001), a story about an orphan boy in a 12th-century Korean potters’ village. The prestigious Newbery Medal is awarded annually for the most outstanding book for children and young adults. Park was born in Urbana, Illinois, and grew up outside Chicago. The daughter of Korean immigrants, she has been writing poems and stories since she was four years old, and her favorite thing to do as a child was read.
Newbery-winning author Professor Erin Entrada Kelly identifies as Filipina-American and was raised in Louisiana, where she began writing when she was just a little girl. Then and now, when she was not writing she was reading, and vice versa. Currently Kelly writes full-time in a co-working space, where she works in longhand. Each idea that she considers ready to write down gets its own fresh notebook, where character and chapter outlines are accompanied by elaborate sketches of trees.
Grace Lin grew up in Upstate New York with her parents and two sisters. While the other sisters became scientists, Grace became an artist. Surprisingly enough, being an artist was not Grace’s first choice. She first dreamed of being a champion ice skater, and drew many pictures of herself twirling and dancing on the ice. Unfortunately, Grace had neither the talent nor coordination to make it to skating stardom. However, the pictures she drew of herself held much promise and quickly became Grace’s career focus.
Speaking with Krista Tippet, poet, activist, teacher and humanitarian Naomi Shihab Nye said this of writing: “Very rarely do you hear anyone say they write things down and feel worse. It’s an act that helps you, preserves you, energizes you, in the very doing of it.” As readers, we are fortunate that Nye is energized by writing, because her writing is a gift. It is a gift that inspires us, in large part by not shying away from topics that challenge us.
Sheila Hamanaka has been illustrating children’s books since 1987. She is best known for her books on peace and multiculturalism. Her award-winning book “The Journey” is based on a five-panel mural she painted about the history of the Japanese in America, focusing on the concentration camps in which her parents were jailed during World War II. Her popular “All the Colors of the Earth” celebrates the diversity of children and parents. Hamanaka’s work with the Animal Welfare Institute reflects her deep concern for all sentient beings and for our home, earth.
Living and working in his family home at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains, acclaimed author Joseph Bruchac (b. 1942) has devoted forty years to celebrating his Abenaki heritage through prose, verse, story, and song. As the author of more than 120 books, a professional musician, and a skilled teller of traditional tales, Bruchac has worked to share traditional and contemporary Native American culture through many genres and for audiences of all ages.
Andrea and Brian Pinkney were the featured authors of the School of Education’s 2014 Words Take Wing: Honoring Diversity in Children’s Literature annual presentation and lecture. Brian is an award-winning illustrator. Andrea has authored over 20 books for children, including Alvin Ailey, Dear Benjamin Banneker, and Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters, which won a Coretta Scott King Honor Award in 2001. Her latest award-winning book is Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America.
African American poet, playwright and children’s author, Joyce Carole Thomas celebrates the folk traditions and history of African American women, children and families in America. She is celebrated for her young adult novels, poetry, and picture books, as well as fiction and plays for adults. She won the American Book Award for her first novel, Marked by Fire, and the Coretta Scott King Award for her second, Bright Shadow. She died on August 13, 2016, in Stanford, California.
Belle Yang’s writing celebrates the immigration journey of her family from China to Japan and the United States. Her work is beautifully illustrated with her paintings, which have been compared to Gauguin’s. Her book Always Come Home to Me is the 2008 winner of the Best Children’s Book award by the Chinese American Librarians Association. In 2010, she released a graphic memoir, Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale. To learn more about Belle Yang, visit her website.
Francisco Alarcón (1954-2016), Chicano poet, children’s author and professor at UC Davis, was the author of 10 volumes of poetry, including, From the Other Side of Night / Del otro lado de la noche: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press 2002), Sonetos a la locura y otras penas/Sonnets to Madness and Other Misfortunes (Creative Arts Book Company 2001), No Golden Gate for Us (Pennywhistle Press 1993), Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (Chronicle Books 1992), De amor oscuro/Of Dark Love (Moving Parts P
Robert San Souci (1946-2014) wrote over 80 books, collaborating on nine of them with his brother Daniel, a children’s book illustrator. Many of San Souci’s books are retellings of traditional folk tales and celebrate cultures from around the world. Some titles include The Reluctant Dragon, Little Pierre, and The Well at the End of the World. He was a consultant to Disney Studios and was instrumental in the production of the film Mulan, for which he wrote the story.
Patricia McKissack delighted more than 1,000 children, teachers and community members with two lectures, focusing on storytelling and her personal journey as a children’s literature author. McKissack told her audience that she began her career as a writer to tell stories that hadn’t been written for children, from the ghost stories and tall tales of her youth to stories about the many contributions made by African Americans that have been previously overlooked.
Pam Muñoz Ryan, has written over 30 books for young people in many genres, including the novel, Esperanza Rising, winner of the Pura Belpre Medal, the Jane Addams Peace Award, an American Library Association (ALA) Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults, the Americas Award Honor and other accolades. When Marian Sang is the recipient of the National Council of Teachers of English Orbis Pictus Award for excellence in non-fiction. Becoming Naomi Leon received the ALA Schneider Family Award, the Tomás Rivera Award, and an ALA Notable. She is twice the recipient of the Willa Cather Literary Award for Writing and a four-time nominee for the California Young Reader Medal, receiving the medal for Riding Freedom in 2000. To learn more about Ryan, visit her website.
Laurence Yep served as the inaugural speaker of our children’s lecture series. Yep’s interest in intersecting cultures, differing perspectives and the links between generations of people all illustrate the rich diversity of ideas found in children’s literature. His stories excite children and teens by placing them in unfamiliar worlds with protagonists who share their sense of wonder and discovery. To read more about Yep, visit Scholastic.