There was good news to report at the Children's Book Council’s annual meeting, held this past Tuesday at CUNY’s Graduate School and University Center in New York City. CBC chair Megan Tingley of Little, Brown rounded up many of the CBC’s accomplishments over the past year, including a vibrant Children’s Book Week with 25 events, more than 500,000 votes cast for this year’s Children’s Choice Awards, a growing Early Career Committee, and a physical move for the CBC into new offices, as well as an expansion of staff.
Treasurer Justin Chanda’s financial report presented a picture that is “steady and stable,” he said. “The Children’s Book Council has showed a profit for the fourth consecutive year,” he said, and dues have not been increased since 2008. Revenue exceeded operating costs for the most recent fiscal year by $86,000.
Executive director Robin Adelson gave news of a new CBC partnership with the Girl Scouts of America, on the GSA’s Studio 2B Web site, which will focus on a featured author each month, and will highlight several “favorite” authors as well. Beta testing begins next month, with eight authors featured during the test.
The first of the afternoon’s two speakers, Pamela Paul, was named children’s books editor of the New York Times Book Review this past January. She gave CBC members some insights into how she hopes to expand coverage of children’s books in the Times. “I want to try to cover children’s books under the umbrella of the Times in every possible way,” she said. One example she used: the back-to-school issue that she ran in August, which had eight pages and “performed well,” so she hopes to repeat it next year.
Paul said her goal is to “make the Book Review the place parents and others can go for information about children’s books.” She’s added a weekly online picture book review, saying that with print’s space limitations it was “too depressing” to not be able to review more of those, so she hit on the online strategy; the Internet also provides a good opportunity to showcase picture book art, she said.
She’s also started to include page counts with the reviews, and is organizing the monthly roundup of shorter reviews thematically. And she has plans to do more on children’s books in blog posts, in podcasts, and on the Book Review’s back page.
In terms of her tastes, she said, “As a reader I run the gamut,” adding that she is “really hoping that people will have no idea what kids of books I like to cover.” She hopes to expand coverage to genres like pop-ups, board books, and early chapter books. And she will be increasing the number of Notable books in the children’s category, from eight to 25 – which will be highlighted on a full page in the December 4 issue of the Book Review.
Journalist Brooke Gladstone, managing editor and co-host of the national weekly radio show On the Media, talked about her new graphic novel, The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media, which was illustrated by Josh Neufeld. In extolling the virtues of telling her story in a “dense little book” packed with pictures, she has become a proselytizer for the graphic novel form. “Comics don’t sell kids short,” she said. “They open up whole vistas.”
In today’s times and with today’s technology, she said, “Readers have the opportunity to change things as they never have before. They’re all holding a shard of the mirror that is the media.” She spoke about shifting cognitive styles, from deep attention to hyperattentive, paying attention to several things at once, calling it adaptive behavior. And she had good news for the children’s publishers in attendance: “Reading is sharply up,” she said, “among digital natives. They are reading. And they are reading books. Hyperattention is not a bad thing – it’s a new thing.”
And as the digital natives grow up, Gladstone said, she sees an end to the concept of mainstream media. “Twitter is now people filter the news now. What I see is the mainstream media being like nexus points, like communities. We’ll provide connection points. Sources of information will come from everywhere.”