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ALAN Online News - August 2014

Can it really be that time again? 

For many of us, school has started or will start in the next few days. Teachers live a seasonal existence, with a lot of excitement - and some worry - at the beginning of each school year.There's the thrill of expectation and the unbridled hope that this will be the year when everything comes together for us and for our students, the year when our plans are organized and on time, our lessons comprehensive, differentiated, and engaging, and our students love to learn.  

ALAN is moving into its busy season as well, so expect to see more frequent updates over the coming weeks about the election of officers and, of course, this year's workshop. The theme: "Is the Sky the Limit? Using Teen Literature to Forge Connections in a World Increasingly Without Boundaries." Our president Walter Mayes has done an incredible job of putting together a program with something for everyone. Prepare to be dazzled, touched, inspired, and renewed this November 24-25 in National Harbor, Maryland. Check your inbox in September for more details about this year's program. 

On a bittersweet note, two giants in YA literature died in recent weeks. Both Walter Dean Myers and Nancy Garden were friends of ALAN for many years. Both spoke at ALAN's 40th birthday celebration in Boston last year. Thanks to Rudine Sims Bishop and Barbara Ward for their remembrances of these authors and advocates who left an indelible impact on literature for young people. 

Anne McLeod, Editor
In This Issue
About Us
ALAN Breakfast
Gallo Grants
ALAN Foundation Grants
Remembering Walter Dean Myers
Nancy Garden
Speak Loudly
Missing your issue of TAR?
Please email membership secretary Karin Perry.

Note: Memberships can be renewed online

Vote Now in ALAN Election


The election for ALAN officers is underway between now and the end of September.  You will need your ALAN membership number to cast your vote here.  


Not sure of your membership number? It appears next to the mailing label on your copy of The ALAN Review.  Your TAR missing? Email Executive Director, Teri Lesesne  at to get that information sent to you.  Candidate biographies are on the ALAN web site.


We have made voting a simple process in hopes that ALL members will participate in deciding who will lead ALAN in the years to come.  Please take a few minutes to cast your vote NOW.


- Teri Lesesne, ALAN Executive Secretary

Help Wanted: 2015 AEW Award Committee Members

Are you knowledgeable about YA books? Are you a classroom teacher or a librarian or a university professor? Do you have the time to read more books? Would you like to serve on a committee that evaluates YA books to determine the winner of the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award?

If you answered YES to these questions, complete the application to be considered as a Walden Committee member. The application is at the ALAN website:

Andrew Smith Featured Author at ALAN Breakfast 
ALAN Award Presentation to David Levithan

The ALAN Breakfast is always a special treat, and this year's breakfast on November 22 will be no exception. The featured author is Andrew Smith, whose Grasshopper Jungle (Dutton, 2014) will keep you from ever trusting the suborder Caelifera again. Six foot tall praying mantises wreak havoc when unleashed on an unsuspecting populace while the narrator, Austin Szerba, tries to puzzle out his relationship with his girlfriend Shann and simultaneous attraction to his best friend Robbie, with whom he has accidentally unleashed the grasshopper apocalypse. Andrew Smith's previous novels include Winger, The Marbury Lens, Passenger, Ghost Medicine, Stick, and In the Path of Falling Objects

Another highlight of the ALAN breakfast will be David Levithan's acceptance of the 2014 ALAN Award. A prolific author (Boy Meets Boy, Marly's Ghost, Two Boys Kissing, Every Day, Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green, and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist with Rachel Cohn, among many other works, David Levithan is an editorial director at Scholastic and the founding editor of the PUSH imprint which seeks out new writers of young adult literature. His advocacy for LGBTQ literature that are strong stories about real, complex teens figuring out to live their multi-faceted lives has been a powerful influence on writers, teachers, librarians, and publishers. His speech Saturday morning is one you won't want to miss. 

Sign up for the ALAN breakfast by going to the registration link for NCTE and ALAN and checking the box in the section for Meal Tickets (optional). It promises to be an unforgettable morning that will get you pumped up for the Sunday reception and the workshop, which begins Monday, November 24. 
Get Funded for 2014 Workshop with a Gallo Grant!
Grants Assist Early Career Teachers Attending Their  First Workshop
If the only thing standing between you and attending your first ALAN Workshop is figuring out where the money will come from for registration and travel, check out the

Established in 2003 by ALAN Award and Hipple Award  recipient Don Gallo, the grants assist early career teachers planning to attend the workshop for the first time. The deadline for applications is September 1st.  
Research Grants from the ALAN Foundation 
Deadline for Applications is September 15

Looking for funding for research related to young adult literature? Consider applying for a grant from the ALAN Foundation. The following is a description of a project funded by one of the 2013 grants.

I am pleased to provide this update on my project, "Multimodal Tools to Leverage Adolescents' Response to Young Adult Literature," which was supported by an ALAN Foundation grant last year. The goal of the project was to understand how digital and multimodal technologies informed the ways in which adolescents responded to a young adult novel during whole-class discussions of the text. Specifically, I worked closely with a high school English teacher in a large urban school district, to examine how students used Todaysmeet's backchanneling technology to participate during inquiry-based discussions of Todd Strasser's (2009) novel If I Grow Up.


The ALAN Foundation grant funded the purchase of two classroom sets of Strasser's novel, transcription support, and research assistance. I was led to apply for this award after completing a research study in another high school English classroom in which Jay Asher's novel Thirteen Reasons Why was the featured text in a thematic unit on bullying in literature. I finished that project encouraged and excited about the ways in which adolescents discussed complex texts by drawing on their rich personal experiences and engaging in sophisticated literary analysis.


Preliminary findings from the current project indicate that students used backchanneling technology to promote their metacognitive reflection on participation during discussions and to encourage each other to talk and celebrate insightful contributions. Students also dialogued in complex ways about literary ideas across face-to-face and online discussion environments. These preliminary analyses of students' participation revealed not only learning opportunities and high levels of interaction, but also an instructional environment characterized by student engagement and agency. Manuscript drafting is in progress.


-James Chisholm, University of Louisville

Remembering Walter Dean Myers
Walter Dean Myers
Walter Dean Myers
Photo by Don Gallo
A Special Tribute by Rudine Sims Bishop

A longtime friend of Walter Dean Myers, Rudine Sims Bishop is the author of 
Shadow and Substance: Afro-American Experience in Children's Fiction. 


When Walter Dean Myers died on July 1, 2014, YA literature lost a superstar; Black urban teen-age boys lost a champion; and the nation lost a fervent advocate for books and reading. I lost a friend. To paraphrase E.B. White: "It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.  Walter was both."


I first met Walter through his third picture book, The Dragon Takes a Wife. It was a takeoff on a fairy tale, featuring a sassy, hip, but inept Black fairy named Mabel Mae Jones and her attempts to teach Harry the Dragon how to defeat a knight. It was waiting on my desk when I returned from defending my dissertation, the perfect antidote to the stress of the day, the gift of laughter. I became a WDM fan. Our friendship started when he generously shared his insights as I was starting to conceptualize Shadow and Substance. It grew through my work on Presenting Walter Dean Myers, and through our shared interest in African American children's literature. I also had the pleasure of meeting his beloved wife and son, Connie and Christopher. 

Walter entered the field of young people's literature at a time when few children's books featured people of color. He recognized a gap that needed filling, and he did his part and more to help fill it.  Between 1969 and 2014, he published about 110 books. His work endeared him to innumerable young readers who recognized themselves in the mirrors that were his books-teen-agers trying to figure out who they are, how they fit in, what it means to be a decent human being.  Young people faced with adversity, needing assurance that they had choices; that they could call on inner strengths; that they could find support in a community; that people of color are a valuable part of what he called the American mosaic. Walter's fiction offered love and laughter, compassion and hope, mystery and adventure, compelling information, and sometimes just entertaining "fluff"  (his word).


As much as Walter cared about urban teenagers and felt compelled to explore themes related to growing up Black in urban America, he refused to restrict his writing to certain genres or themes or topics. His curiosity and imagination were boundless. He wrote history and other nonfiction, poetry, biography, picture books, literary folk tales, short stories, novels, and science fiction.  He was concerned, not only about youngsters who rarely found themselves in books, but the ones whose books rarely introduced them to anyone ethnically or culturally unlike themselves.  He saw the latter group as disadvantaged because their books helped to constrict their worldview.


Walter's worldview was expansive and his varied interests were reflected in his work.  He played the flute, and wrote books about jazz and blues. He loved basketball, and wrote novels centered on the court. He collected antique photographs of children and wrote poems to accompany them.  He loved Harlem and wrote poetry and short stories depicting Harlem life.  He traveled abroad, and set books in Africa and Peru and Victorian London.  He interviewed incarcerated young people and wrote two books set in juvenile detention centers.


Because he believed that reading and writing had saved him from his troubled teen-age self, Walter mentored young writers, and even co-authored a book with a teen-age fan. His platform as National Ambassador of Young People's Literature was "Reading Is Not Optional."   

For Walter, writing was not optional either. He loved writing; it fed his soul. And for his extraordinary body of work he received numerous prestigious awards and recognitions. "Ultimately," he once stated,  "what I want to do with my writing is make connections-to touch the lives of my characters and, through them, the lives of my readers."  Rest easy, Walter; connections have been made, many lives have been touched.


- Rudine Sims Bishop

Professor Emerita, Ohio State University

Nancy Garden: Voice for Change

The literary world lost a groundbreaking author and all-around champion of those who have been marginalized by society when author Nancy Garden died earlier this year, on June 23. She was 76, and her impact on the field of YA literature, most notably for her novel Annie on My Mind (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1982) cannot be disputed. Today's YA readers may not realize just how unique Annie on My Mind was. The book traces the relationship between teens Liza and Annie whose close friendship born from many commonalities later turns into love. Both young women face pressure to give up the relationship, but they stay true to their feelings and to each other.


Nancy Garden at ALAN 2013 Workshop Photo by Don Gallo

The book was touted as the first lesbian love story with a positive ending.  The author received much acclaim and awards for her work, including the Margaret A. Edwards Award, the Lambda Book Award and the Robert Downs Intellectual Freedom Award.Viewed from the supposedly more enlightened 2014, the book may leave readers with a so what? feeling, but it certainly was daring for its time. After all, until the publication of Annie on My Mind, gay characters in books often came to a bad end and readers were left with a feeling of hopelessness for any long-lasting love, much less a bright future. For Garden to craft such a tender love story and end it with heroines who defiantly clung to their love and their rights to that love was not only brave, but it would pave the way for other authors to follow in her path.


But Annie and its author did not go gently into that good night of oblivion. Although the book hardly caused a stir at first, eventually, Garden's book was pulled from the shelves of several Kansas City high schools and even burned almost a decade after its publication. The American Civil Liberties Union went to bat for the book, and it was finally returned to the school library shelves.  As  an indicator of its controversial nature, it was number 48 on The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2001 maintained by the American Library Association. On the other hand, Annie on My Mind was even listed on The School Library Journal's list of the 100 Most Influential Books of the 20th Century, a clear distinction of its importance. 


Nancy Garden was kind, soft-spoken and gentle in her demeanor, letting her written words do the talking for her. I think of her as a lamb in her appearance and a lion in her heart, roaring out her determination for equal rights and equal treatment, crafting historical retrospectives such as the aptly-named Hear Us Out!: Lesbian and Gay Stories of Struggle, Progress, and Hope, 1950 to the Present (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007), which contained essays and short stories covering the decades of the lesbian and gay struggle for civil rights, and Endgame (Harcourt Children's Books, 2006), an eloquently horrifying account of the systematic bullying of fifteen-year-old Gray Wilton with a locker room scene that is hard to forget.


I won't forget Nancy Garden for taking time during her summer vacation and prime writing time to talk with me by phone more than once for an author profile I was writing a few years ago.  Although I had a zillion questions, copies of which I had sent to her, she still managed to respond to each of them thoughtfully and as though she were being asked about these literary matters for the very first time when surely, she had fielded similar questions countless times.  Her patience was infinite, something that I have never forgotten. After the profile was printed, she even sent me a thank you card and a congratulatory email.

Nancy Garden's passion for her subject matter and her determination to keep speaking out on provocative issues were unmatched. I recall attending a session at NCTE during which she discussed her works and censorship. She spoke as eloquently as one might imagine, even though she was essentially preaching to the choir. She remained mystified as to why certain books such as Annie would be considered controversial and removed from library shelves.


I will remember Nancy Garden for tackling topics that others avoided, and for doing so with grace and dignity and in the hope that the world would become a much better world. I will also not forget her diminutive stature and soft-spoken ways, a gentle but determined lamb battling a pack of lions seemingly intent on eating her alive. I can only imagine how it must have felt to have something you have written and sent into the world attacked. When I interviewed her several years ago, she spoke about those book challenges in Olathe, Kansas, likening them to having one's child attacked. "You just go on the defensive," I remember her telling me, "and you want to protect that child."


As I reflect on this talented, incredibly brave author's body of work, I am reminded once again of all the books, the literary children of talented authors, who so desperately need our protection. I am glad that she had the courage to tell the stories of those whose stories have often gone untold. I am equally pleased that today's and tomorrow's readers will have her books as touchstones for the way the world once was, long ago when it was shocking that two females dared to love one another. I am so relieved that Nancy Garden had the courage to write on and blaze a path for others. 

-Barbara A. Ward

ALAN Board of Directors

Speak Loudly
ALAN Assists Teachers and Librarians Facing Book Challenges

Members of ALAN's Anti-Censorship Committee (James Bucky Carter, David Gill, Teri Lesesne, Mark Letcher, Reagan Mauk, and Barbara A. Ward, chair) have been busy preparing defenses for book challenges. In order to respond quickly when ALAN members need to react to challenges to the books they are teaching, the committee created a template that can be used and embellished with specific details about the book that is under the gun. Thanks to committee member Bucky Carter for creating the template, which is posted on the ALAN website. 

The committee quickly put the template to use, since there was a challenge to a YA book being used in Brunswick, North Carolina. Committee member David Gill was quick to let committee members know about this particular challenge. A grandmother became concerned about what she called "graphic sexual language" and "inappropriate content" in Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and filed a petition to have the book removed from the library shelves.

The Anti-Censorship Committee sent letters to the principal, members of the district book review committee, and superintendent urging that the book remain on the library shelves and be included as part of the curriculum. After reading the book, Brunswick County Superintendent Edward Pruden decided that it will remain as part of the curriculum. The committee sent a thank you letter, and Bucky posted a tip of the hat on FaceBook to him for actually reading the book carefully before making his decision. Committee member Reagan Mauk spread the word once the superintendent made his decision. Additionally, the committee posted an online thank you to an Alabama principal for standing up for students' rights to read Speak.

Committee member Mark Letcher shared his concern over recent events in Cape Henlopen, Delaware, and prepared a letter on behalf of the committee defending the book list. In late July, the School Board voted to eliminate the entire summer reading list for incoming freshmen due to uncertainty about how to handle a challenge to one of the books on the list. The book in question, The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth had been summarily removed from the list without due process. Advocates for the book were concerned that it was challenged and removed because it has a lesbian protagonist. The Board claimed that the book was removed because it contained profanity, but advocates countered that several other books on the reading list also contained profanity. Consequently, the Board decided to remove all the books from the list. 

The books that were on the original reading list included
Boxersby Gene Luen Yang, Butter by Erin Jade Lange, Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch, March by John Lewis, More Than This by Patrick Ness, and The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

It isn't clear what books will now be listed on the freshmen reading list. The Board president claimed that The Miseducation of Cameron Post was removed from the list because the Board had no policy for how to respond to book challenges. Actually, the Board does, indeed, have such a policy in place. It simply was not followed in this case. There has been no news about the Board's next steps or how they plan to address all those missed hours of reading on the part of the freshmen. Read more here
We'll keep you posted as we learn more.


-Barbara A. Ward, Committee Chair  on behalf of the committee                                                                                

Calls for Papers and Proposals 


The ALAN Review 

Summer 2015: (Re)membering and (Re)living: Probing the Collective and Individual Past 

Submissions due November 1, 2014


Stories are dynamic, told and heard, accepted and revered, rejected and rewritten by readers who draw from their experiences and understandings to garner meaning from the words on the page.  In young adult texts, fiction and nonfiction, historical and contemporary and futuristic, this dynamism can encourage the critique of our collective past, helping us question assumptions about what came before and reconsider our responsibilities to the present and future. These texts can also help us consider the adolescent experience across time and place and explore the similarities and differences that shape reality as young people navigate and draft their own coming of age stories. This universality can foster a connection to others and reinforce our shared existence as members of a human community.  And yet, these texts can give emotional reality to names, dates, and other factual information, letting us imagine the voices of those who lived in other places and times and have sometimes been silenced in official accounts of history, ideally inspiring us honor these voices and generate a better future. Through these stories, we might come to reject a single narrative and develop empathy for individuals we never knew-and those we did and do and will. In this issue, we welcome articles that explore the relationship between young adult literature, history, stories, and readers.  We acknowledge that "every living soul is a book of their own history, which sits on the ever-growing shelf in the library of human memories" (Jack Gantos, Dead End in Norvelt). And that, "If you stare at the center of the universe, there is coldness there. A blankness. Ultimately, the universe doesn't care about us. Time doesn't care about us. That's why we have to care about each other" (David Levithan, Every Day).  Stories matter in this caring: "I leapt eagerly into books. The characters' lives were so much more interesting than the lonely heartbeat of my own" (Ruta Sepetys, Out of the Easy). As always, we also welcome submissions focused on any aspect of young adult literature not directly connected to this theme.



The ALAN Review

Fall 2015  Beyond Borders: Partnering Within and Across Schools and Communities

Submissions due March 1, 2015


In this issue, we encourage you to share collaborative efforts involving students, colleagues, and communities in creating spaces for YA literature to flourish.  How have you generated ideas and implemented projects in the same building, in the building next door, or in settings across the globe, in person or virtually?  How have you designed interdisciplinary curricula with those who study or teach subjects outside your areas of expertise?  How have you looked beyond your own walls to foster partnerships with community outreach programs, created shared reading opportunities across neighborhoods and towns, worked with parents and guardians to acquire their wisdom, or invited young people to identify, explore, and propose potential solutions to problems they see in their communities?  Regardless of the form these efforts take, and the complications and complexities they present, we are convinced that, "If you let people into your life a little bit, they can be pretty damn amazing" (Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian). As always, we also welcome submissions focused on any aspect of young adult literature not directly connected to this theme.  All submissions may be sent to prior to March 1, 2015.  Please see the ALAN website for submission guidelines.


ALAN Online News

Items needed for this newsletter: ALAN organizational news items, YA Links in the News, The Book That Changed My Life, Real Quick Picks, candidates for Spotlight on an ALAN Member, feature articles about programs in your area that promote teen reading or young adult literature. Photographs are welcome as well. Send to Deadline for next newsletter is September 30, 2014.  

Disability and Young Adult Literature
Although there is a growing interest in disability studies in art, literature, film, politics, and religion, there is still a dearth of scholarship that explores the intersection between young adult literature and disability. This gap in scholarship among young adult literature scholars and teachers is surprising because of two reasons: first, disability is a growing reality in all of our lives. According to a 2012 report by the United States Census Bureau, "About 56.7 million people - 19 percent of the population - had a disability in 2010, according to a broad definition , with more than half of them reporting the disability was severe" (2012, par. 1). Secondly, this reality is influencing our literature, especially fiction targeting young adults. I am interested in creating/editing a sourcebook that would include articles that explore how primary and secondary teachers (should) incorporate novels that include protagonists with disabilities in their curriculum. While the articles must be grounded in theory, the nature of a sourcebook is to provide teachers/ readers with best-practices for pedagogy: lesson plans, assignments, activities, etc. The primary goal of this book is to help classroom teachers incorporate Disability YAL in their curriculum of disability. Click here for additional information. Please send a 400-500 word abstract and brief cv to Jacob Stratman (, Associate Professor of English at John Brown University before October 15, 2014.

ALAN Marketplace 2013  

Moved recently?
Remember to send a change of address to Membership Secretary   Karin Perry. The postal service does not forward bulk mail, and if ALAN does not have your current mailing address, you will miss issues of TAR.