Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pen Pals

I just read the most incredible exchange of ideas between authors Markus Zusak and Susan Campbell Bartoletti at the PEN American Center website! Markus is the 2007 Sydney Taylor Book Award winner for The Book Thief, and Susan's book Hitler Youth was a 2006 AJL Notable Book.

The PEN American Center is an organization for writers, and it fosters "international literary fellowship." A new method for doing so is the PENPals program, in which they get children's and young adult authors to exchange e-mails. Markus and Susan were their first guinea pigs, and they've done a marvelous job.

The Book Thief is a powerful novel about ordinary Germans trying to live meaningful lives within the confines of the Third Reich. Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow is a sensitive nonfiction book that examines how young people's minds were trained to accept the Nazis' terrible ideas. Markus and Susan's common interest in WWII Germany led to a fascinating discussion of their research, their emotional reactions to the content they were dealing with, their writerly doubts, and more. They basically interview eachother, and seem to bond in the process.

Kudos to the PEN American Center for coming up with such an excellent program, and thanks to Markus and Susan for sharing their innermost thoughts with eachother and with the world!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Kristina Swarner and Sarah Gershman

Here we see the lovely Kristina Swarner and Sarah Gershman, illustrator and author of The Bedtime Sh'ma, the 2008 Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category. These charming ladies were at the Association of Jewish Libraries convention in Cleveland recently to receive their awards. They gave a wonderful presentation to a packed room, talking about the genesis of the book - Kristina even showed original artwork to the awed crowd!

The 2008 winners in the Older Readers and Teen categories were at the convention too. During the special celebration for the award's 40th anniversary, Sid Fleischman, whose Entertainer and the Dybbuk won for Older Readers, gave the luncheon keynote address and Sonia Levitin, whose Strange Relations won for teens, participated in a panel on teen fiction.