Stuff: School Work, Simians and Sibert

As many of you are getting back to school, I’d like to make you aware of the Inclusive Youth Libguide I’ve created to support students. It contains information relating to books by and about people with disabilities, as well as IPOC and those who are LGTBQIA. There’s also a page with samplings of books on special topics such as religion, immigration, wealth inequality and body image.

This year on the Sibert Medal Committee is my first year on an ALSC Award committee and it is quite different from the YALSA process! I was attracted to the Sibert committee because I really enjoy nonfiction. And, I didn’t think I would feel nearly as constricted as I did while on the Printz. Oh, was I wrong. There are so many nonfictions, biographies, memoirs and that I cannot comment about publicly! There are also too many nonfictions and informational texts that make me scratch my head. Are there no fact checkers for fact based books we’re putting in front of young readers?

This feels like such a fast-moving process. We’ve spent months working on suggestions and now it’s time to begin the last steps in the process, that of making our recommendations, as are all the ALSC award committees. It’s getting real!! We’ll convene during ALA MidWinter to discuss and decide who will win the medal in 2020. I’m really proud to be part of the committee and of the knowledge, experience, passion and humor my colleagues brings to the table.

Yesterday, The Hornbook released a transcripts of a Roger Sutton interview with Mac Barnett and Greg Pizzoli about their latest book, Hi, Jack! The book introduces their series that will be developed around the main character, Jack. I tweeted about this one when the cover was first released with a monkey as the main character and Elisa Gall alerted me when a new cover was released on Instagram with a rabbit rather than a monkey, but there was no comment about the change. I blogged about it here. In the interview, Sutton asked who decided the character should be a monkey.

MB: That was a very late decision. We made it together. At first, he was a monkey, but some people believe anthropomorphic monkeys in children’s literature have an inherent connection with the monkey as used in racist iconography. We didn’t want anyone to associate the hero of our books with an offensive trope, so we made Jack a rabbit instead.

I’ve had publishers tell me they’ve made changes, but I’ve not seen anyone else say anything in public. I’m glad to see the change.

I’ll be presenting on the dehumanization communicated through these anthropomorphic creatures at the Childhoods of Color conference in Madison, WI. There’s so much to say on this topic because it’s so entrenched in the history of racism. Understanding how racism has shifted to be expressed through implicit biases helps me understand why so many people have “inattentional blindness” (Rattan & Eberhardt) to the racialization in these simians, why they just don’t see it until it’s called out. Although they are aware of the equation between monkeys and people of African descent, people don’t see what they’re not looking for; they’ve not be socialized to need or want to see what for others is obvious. If they can’t see it, they’ll rarely admit it. But once they see it, they cannot unsee it.