For Librarians

Resource to celebrate Women’s History Month all year long!

I love discovering new resources to research the lives of amazing women throughout American history. As March is National Women’s History month, I set out to learn more about the history of the movement and ended up finding an incredible online source for research.
I uncovered the National Women’s History Museum, which for the time being does not have a physical building to visit, but offers a ton of information on their website, www.womenshistory.org

The history buff (aka nerd) in me got wide-eyed and downright giddy as I scrolled through the vast collection of historical entries, photos, and biographies. The stories abound!
I learned about how the 1913 Women’s Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C., devised by Alice Paul, became a turning point for the women’s suffrage movement in the United States.

Photo credit: Library of Congress

The images of female athletes through the years are intriguing. The collection includes pictures of tennis great Billie Jean King, gold medalist runner Wilma Rudolph, the incredible multi-athlete Babe Didrikson and shots of young women playing sports over the years.

The Women of NASA exhibit shares the journeys of women involved in the space exploration and the race to the moon. Do you know what the National Aeronautics and Space Administration used to be called? Check it out: https://www.womenshistory.org/exhibits/women-nasa

Photo Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi

There is even a tab for students and educators!

Near and dear to my heart is the Biographies section. I discovered the stories of Charity Adams Earley who led the first African American women unit of the army overseas during World War II. And then there is business leader Maggie L. Walker, the first female bank owner.

I also discovered that you can nominate someone to have their biography featured. I did just that, nominating Virginia Hamilton, the subject of my most recent book. Virginia was the most honored author of children’s literature, and the first African American to receive the Newbery.

So, here’s to the women of our great country, and to discovering their great stories and sharing them with young readers all throughout the year!

Delve Into a Good Book: Celebrating Black History

by Robyn Gioia

Where can we experience different cultures, meet new personalities, visit old friends, drop by for a minute, or stay for as long as we want? Where can we learn about things we never knew existed or explore things on a new level? Where can we look through the eyes of another and suddenly understand the pain and sorrow of their emotions? Or the happiness that comes through accomplishment and success? Books speak directly to the soul. The following books come highly recommended by classroom teachers.

Celebrating Black History Through Books

Henry’s Freedom Box:  A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine

Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: he will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday — his first day of freedom. Henry “Box” Brown became one of the most famous runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad.   Scholastic Teacher Guide

The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano adapted by Ann Cameron

Kidnapped at the age of 11 from his home in Benin, Africa, Olaudah Equiano spent the next 11 years as a slave in England, the U.S., and the West Indies, until he was able to buy his freedom. His autobiography, published in 1789, was a bestseller in its own time. Cameron has modernized and shortened it while remaining true to the spirit of the original. It’s a gripping story of adventure, betrayal, cruelty, and courage. In searing scenes, Equiano describes the savagery of his capture, the appalling conditions on the slave ship, the auction, and the forced labor. . . . Kids will read this young man’s story on their own; it will also enrich curriculum units on history and on writing.  Scholastic Teacher Guide

One Last Word by Nikki Grimes    

“Through a chorus of contemporary voices–including proud parents, striving children, and weary but determined elders–Grimes powerfully transposes the original poems’ themes of racial bias, hidden inner selves, beauty, and pride into the here and now.” –  starred review, Publishers Weekly      Bloomsbury Teacher Guide

A 2017 New York Public Library Best Kids Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2017, Middle Grade
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2017, Nonfiction

The Hero Two Doors Down by Sharon Robinson

Steven Satlow is an eight-year-old boy living in Brooklyn, New York, which means he only cares about one thing — the Dodgers. Steve’s love for the baseball team is passed down to him from his father. The two of them spend hours reading the sports pages and listening to games on the radio. Aside from an occasional run-in with his teacher, life is pretty simple for Steve.

But then Steve hears a rumor that an African American family is moving to his all-Jewish neighborhood. It’s 1948 and some of his neighbors are against it. Steve knows that this is wrong. His hero, Jackie Robinson, broke the color barrier in baseball the year before.

Then it happens — Steve’s new neighbor is Jackie Robinson! Steve is beyond excited about living two doors down from the Robinson family. He can’t wait to meet Jackie. This is going to be the best baseball season yet! How many kids ever get to become friends with their hero?    Scholastic Teacher Guide

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

Eleven-year-old Elijah lives in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves near the American border. Elijah’s the first child in town to be born free, and he ought to be famous just for that — not to mention for being the best at chunking rocks and catching fish. Unfortunately, all that most people see is a “fra-gile” boy who’s scared of snakes and tends to talk too much. But everything changes when a former slave steals money from Elijah’s friend, who has been saving to buy his family out of captivity in the South. Now it’s up to Elijah to track down the thief — and his dangerous journey just might make a hero out of him, if only he can find the courage to get back home.   Scholastic Teacher Guide

 

Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn It Out!  Games, Songs, and Stories from an African American Childhood

Patricia C. McKissack, Illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Educator’s Guide: This engaging treasury of games, songs, and stories reflects the rich tapestry of the author’s African American childhood. Along with an array of activities, award-winning author Patricia C. McKissack weaves in anecdotes from growing up and facts about black history. The collection will appeal directly to students while also tying into the curriculum. Children will recognize hand claps like “Patty-Cake,” jump rope rhymes like “Hot, Hot Pepper,” and songs like “Amazing Grace.” Many children will have learned games and songs from their families that are similar to those in the book but not exactly the same, reflecting our diverse cultural heritage. These connections will draw in students and create enthusiasm for the meaningful curricular activities suggested in this guide. Students can share what they’ve learned with younger children as service projects, performing for them or making them books.  Educator’s Guide

Chains (The Seeds of America Trilogy) by Laurie Halse Anderson

If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl?
As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom. (Amazon website) Teacher’s Guide  

 

Agent Spotlight: Patricia Nelson

Patricia Nelson is an agent with the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, where she represents adult, young adult, and middle grade fiction. Patricia’s middle grade clients include Hayley Chewins (The Turnaway Girls), Margaret Dilloway (Summer of a Thousand Pies), Anna Meriano (Love Sugar Magic), Melissa Roske (Kat Greene Comes Clean), Sandy Stark-McGinnis (Extraordinary Birds), and Kristi Wientge (Karma Khullar’s Mustache).

Patricia is a member of SCBWI and holds a master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Southern California and a master’s degree in Gender Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Follow Patricia on Twitter at @patricianels.

MR: Before becoming a literary agent, you spent four years as a university-level instructor of literature and writing. How has your experience as an academic contributed to your skills as an agent?

PN: My favorite thing about teaching was getting to know my students, engaging creatively with their work, and helping them grow as writers and thinkers. Agenting lets me build these kinds of bonds long-term with clients, which I love. And while the agent-client relationship is very different from the teacher-student relationship, as a very editorial agent who tends to do a lot of developmental editing with my clients, what I learned as a teacher about giving constructive feedback and helping a writer nurture their ideas definitely comes in handy.

MR: What is your favorite part of the job? Your least favorite?

PN: The best thing about agenting is the feeling of falling in love with a book no one else has seen yet – whether that’s a new project by an existing client, or a brand-new voice from the query pile – and then getting to champion that book and help it make its way into the world.

The worst part (and I think most agents will tell you the same) is sending rejections. We all got into this job because we love authors and want to support them… but because of the need to keep our client lists manageable, we unfortunately also have to spend a lot of time saying “no.” Nobody likes that.

MR: What sorts of queries prompt you to request more pages? What would make you reject a query outright?

PN: When reading a query, I’m looking for a fresh, original story with an interesting protagonist and clear stakes. I also ask for 10 sample pages with all queries, where I’m looking for a voice that feels vibrant and special. If I see all those things, it’s a request!

In general, the queries that get rejected outright have problems that no one doing the research of reading this interview would have: They don’t conform to our submission guidelines, they’re address to “Dear Agent” (or sometimes, inexplicably, “Dear Sir”), they’re just a blank email with an unsolicited attachment (which we don’t open), they don’t include sample pages, etc. If you’re following the rules, don’t worry! Your query will be thoughtfully considered.

MR: I know there’s no such thing as an “ideal” client, but what comes close? Also, what can a writer do to make an agent’s job easier?

PN: The best clients are hard-working, communicative, and full of ideas. They are proactive about their own careers, but also take seriously their agent’s advice and industry expertise. If they have a concern, they reach out. If they’re stuck on a project, they ask to hop on a call and brainstorm. Good communication is key – and saying “thank you” really does go a long way.

MR: Please fill in the blank: “If an MG novel about______­­­came across my desk, I would request it ASAP.”

PN: I’m hesitant to answer this one, because in reality, it’s not just about the premise, but also about the pages – even if I love the topic, nothing’s an automatic request unless I fall for the voice in the sample pages that accompany the query.

Sometimes authors will reply to a pass by saying “but this exact thing was on your MSWL, I thought it would be perfect for you!” But of course, not every story that falls into my broad MSWL categories is going to be a fit, and often I’ll fall head-over-heels with a story that I didn’t even know I was looking for. (Which is why while MSWL is useful, it’s not the be-all and end-all. If you think I might be interested, you should just try me!)

MR: Anything else on your MG manuscript wish list?

PN: With the caveats above, right now I’m especially hungry for literary MG fantasy with an original premise, unique worldbuilding, and beautiful writing. I’m always looking for stories from diverse perspectives that have been historically underrepresented. And I’d love to find an MG novel in verse.

MR: What are you not looking for?

PN: I tend not to be the right agent for slapstick or gross-out humor, or for Percy Jackson-style action/adventure stories. I also don’t represent chapter books or very young MG.

MR: What’s on the horizon for 2019? Any news and/or hopes and dreams you’d like to share with us?

PN: On the middle grade front, I have some client books that I’m very excited about coming out this year:

Summer of a Thousand Pies by Margaret Dilloway (out in April), about a 12-year-old Great British Baking Show superfan who gets sent to live with her pie-shop-owning aunt in the mountains of California. I want to be friends with every single character in this book, which is one of my favorite feelings.

Extraordinary Birds by Sandy Stark-McGinnis (out in April), a debut novel about a girl who believes that one day she will transform into a bird and fly away, but has to reevaluate everything she thinks she knows when she’s placed with a foster mom who feels like family. It’s a beautiful story that makes me cry, in the best possible way.

Honeybees and Frenemies by Kristi Wientge (out in June), about two former best friends who have to spend their summer together when their parents volunteer them to help out a local beekeeper. This is Kristi’s follow-up to her debut Karma Khullar’s Mustache, and it is just as full of humor and heart—there’s one scene in particular in this novel that makes me laugh hysterically every single time I read it.

I love them all, and you should check them out!

MR: What is best way to contact you?  

PN: I’m open to queries via email, at patricia@marsallyonliteraryagency.com. As mentioned above, make sure you include your first 10 pages pasted in the body of the email.

MR: Thank you for your time, Patricia. It was great chatting with you!