Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown) was honored for being a longtime advocate of free speech and creative expression at the National Coalition Against Censorship’s “Free Speech Matters: Celebration of Free Speech and Its Defenders” annual event in New York City on November 12. Additional honorees recognized for their defense of free speech at the gathering were Newark Public Library director Wilma Grey, and the late Peter Workman, founder of Workman Publishing. Megan Tingley, v-p and publisher of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, presided as event chair. Here, Alexie addresses the crowd of 200 guests.

A Meeting of Minds

On November 10, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass., hosted Chris Van Allsburg, who engaged in a public conversation with H. Nichols B. Clark, the museum’s chief curator. Following a Q&A session, Van Allsburg signed copies of the 30th anniversary edition of The Wreck of the Zephyr (HMH). Local Amherst author Aaron Becker attended the event, and, shown here (l.), was thrilled to be able to meet Van Allsburg (r.). The pair discussed some of Becker’s early animation work on The Polar Express movie, and his first children’s book, Journey (Candlewick). Of The Wreck of the Zephyr, Becker said: “Were it not for this book, I don’t believe I would have ever decided to do my own book.”

Book Bench

On November 10, the 300 Committee, which is in charge of open-space preservation in Falmouth, Mass., introduced a new community space, Teaticket Park. A bench in the park, which was donated anonymously, is dedicated to Carol Chittenden, owner of local Eight Cousins Books, and recognizes her work as a bookseller and cofounder of the New England Children’s Booksellers Advisory Council. In keeping with the bookstore’s raison d’être, Chittenden and other employees plan to regularly place books sealed in plastic and with post-it notes saying “Read, Enjoy, and Pass It On” on the bench for passersby to pick up. Shown here, Chittenden takes a moment to admire her bench, where the inaugural giveaways Octavia Spencer’s Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit (S&S), Susan Cooper’s Ghost Hawk (S&S/McElderry), and Oliver Pötzsch’s The Poisoned Pilgrim (HMH/Mariner) – wait to be read.

Pushing Buttons

At the Barnes & Noble in Tribeca on November 9, author and musician Bill Cotter appeared at his first-ever reading for his debut picture book, Don’t Push the Button! (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky). Cotter, shown here, entertained a packed house with a musical performance before reading from the interactive book and signing copies, which quickly sold out. Several members of the audience were Cotter’s former students from the Church Street School for Music and Art, which is located two blocks away from the store.

An Auspicious Launch

Amistad Hall in Farmington, Conn., was a fitting venue for an event celebrating the release of Africa Is My Home: A Child of the Amistad (Candlewick) by Monica Edinger (l.), illustrated by Robert Byrd.. The fictionalized story, inspired by historical events, tells the story of nine-year-old Magulu, who is sold into slavery and taken aboard the ship Amistad, and eventually granted freedom. Many liberated former slaves, including the individual upon whom Magulu’s character is based), were welcomed by abolitionists in Farmington.