Archive for the ‘Awards’ Category

Service of All Olympians are Winners

Thursday, July 29th, 2021

Ariarne Titmus of Australia, left, won. Katie Ledecky, USA, won silver.

A friend wrote on Twitter early this week: “One thing that bothers me about Olympic press coverage is when silver medalists are described as having ‘lost.’ Yes, it’s technically true. But when there are 3 top prizes, I consider any of those positions a win. Being second or third best in the world is an accomplishment.”

A New York Times headline illustrates the point: “Katie Ledecky Feels the Sting of a First Olympic Loss. In the 400-meter freestyle, she was something of an underdog.” She won silver.

The tweet reminded me of what I’d written three years ago: “My father, for years an avid Olympics watcher and supporter, reminded us during each winter and summer game that even the ‘worst’ of the participants are outstanding athletes. It’s easy to forget sometimes when listening to the coverage of the announcers, often past athletes themselves, criticizing a tiny twitch of a knee or microscopic landing quiver.” This was from the post: “Service of Pick Yourself Up & Dust Yourself Off: Olympic Figure Skaters Rule.”

Image by Josh Dick from Pixabay

I never met my husband’s grandfather who rowed for America at an Olympics long ago but I was impressed to learn that. I don’t remember who won–doesn’t matter.

It’s ironic that we can be so hard on these outstanding athletes who deserve acclaim and so easy on kids in team sports where everyone wins an award no matter the outcome. In “The Participation Trophy Debated: What Psychologists Say” on K2awards.com: “Giving children a reward for their efforts is great, because it shows them the value of being present, working hard, and contributing to a team. They are shown how good it is to be reliable, and how important the effort of every person is, no matter if it leads to a victory or a loss.”

The other side of the debate from the same post: “The biggest argument against participation trophies is that handing them out is a form of overprotection for our children. In other words, we hand out trophies to kids, no matter how poorly they performed, so they don’t feel bad about losing. Kids never get the chance to experience failure, or to learn from it. They grow up feeling entitled to rewards for simply showing up.”

Do you come down on the side of the press who consider Olympic gold winners the only ones who count? What about giving all kids a trophy to participate–yea or nay?

Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay

Service of Retrospect: Cleaning Up the Past with Rose Colored Glasses

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

Photo: icreatedaily.com

There a many powerful pro and con arguments about the confiscation of historic statues—of Robert E. Lee in New Orleans, Confederate Soldiers and Sailors in Baltimore or Jefferson Davis in Memphis to name a few—or the removal of names on prizes and honors of people once admired. In most cases their political positions, remarks or writings represented or reflected racist sentiments, often typical in the day, that are unacceptable now. Yet not all have been equally demoted.

Robert E. Lee statue formerly in New Orleans

Take Albert Einstein. In recently released travel diaries he wrote “some racist things about the Chinese back in the early 1920s,” Peter Dreier reported on prospect.org. “As I point out in my book,” wrote Dreier of  The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame, “none of the 100 people in my Social Justice Hall of Fame was

Albert Einstein Photo: biography.com

(or is) a saint. They all had vision, courage, persistence, and talent, but they also made mistakes.” He also wrote “I would certainly incorporate Einstein racist comments in my profile of him, but that wouldn’t exclude him from being in the pantheon of great American radicals and progressives.”

Drier continued: “Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood and a crusader for women’s health and birth control, briefly endorsed eugenics.

Margaret Sanger Photo: pbs.org

Theodore Roosevelt’s was a foe of big business, but his ‘big stick’ imperialism outraged many progressives. Alice Paul, the great women’s suffrage leader, was an anti-Semite. Eleanor Roosevelt also absorbed the casual anti-Semitism of her upper-class WASP upbringing.”

Then there’s the former Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. A division of the American Library Association [ALA]– the Association for Library Service to Children {ALSC]–renamed the award the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. According to Michael Taube in The Wall Street Journal, “‘Wilder’s legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness,’ the association announced in a press release.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Photo: en.wikipedia.org

“Characters in ‘Little House on the Prairie’ say ‘the only good Indian is a dead Indian’ three times,” Taube reported. “Wilder’s references to her white settler family’s manifest destiny has also troubled the black community,” he wrote.

Taub continued: “Hardly anyone would defend these sentiments today, but people are products of their times. The Wilder Award was established in 1954, and its first recipient was Laura Ingalls Wilder herself. If we judge past luminaries by today’s standards, who’s next to go?”

For 36 years the ALA collaborated on Banned Books Week with Amnesty International. Taub quoted “An ALSC blog post about it last September called the week a time to ‘celebrate intellectual freedom.’” He asked: “How does the ALSC square the spirit of Banned Books Week with its scrubbing of Wilder’s name?” and concluded “I tried to reach them, but didn’t receive a response.”

How best deal with the past when looking at it through today’s rose colored glasses?

  • Why are we inconsistent in our castigation of prominent historic figures, punishing some and not others? For example, should the World Cultural Council rename its Albert Einstein World Award of Science?
  • What does it take for some, and not others to lose their exalted place in the firmament of the admired?
  • Do you agree with the name change made by the Association for Library Service to Children from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award?
  • Should we leave well enough alone or in the forewords of book reprints, such as Ingalls Wilder’s, put in historic context her remarks and attitudes that are now considered hurtful and demeaning?

 

Eleanor Roosevelt Photo: tes.com

Service of Everybody Gets a Trophy: College & University Academic Honors Galore

Monday, July 16th, 2018

Photo: debate.org

Not short of recognition in my professional life, in college I was a dorm officer and on the college student council but I wasn’t much when it came to academic honors. [I made Dean’s List one semester, a shock to me most of all.] I’m impressed with my Phi Beta Kappa friends and with anyone who graduated with academic honors.

Photo: rochester.edu

I was not happy to read Melissa Korn’s Wall Street Journal article, “You Graduated Cum Laude? So Did Everyone Else.”

Korn wrote: “Nearly half of students who graduated from Lehigh University, Princeton University and the University of Southern California this year did so with cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude honors, or their equivalents. At Harvard and Johns Hopkins, more got the designations than didn’t.” Over 50 percent of Middlebury’s graduates and at Wellesley, 41 percent were so honored, up from 1/3 in the past 10 years.

Korn quoted former Duke professor Stuart Rojstaczer: “A 4.0 does signal something significant, that that student is good. A 3.7, however, doesn’t. That’s just a run-of-the-mill student at any of these schools.” Rojstaczer has focused on grade inflation for years according to Korn.

“Most elite schools cap the share of the graduating class that can receive academic honors. But the caps vary widely, from 25% at Columbia University to up to 60% at Harvard,” she wrote.

Excerpts from the article:

  • “Harvard’s number hit 91% in 2001, as highlighted at the time in a Boston Globe article about generous honors policies. Soon after, the school revised its selection process.
  • “Academic researchers say that uptick is a sign of grade inflation, not of smarter students.
  • “A handful of schools, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have tried to rein in the awards.
  • “Derrick Bolton, dean of admissions for Stanford University’s Knight-Hennessy Scholars graduate program, said application readers may glance at honors designations, but don’t dwell on them.” The program that accepted 50 and rejected 3,451 students, “looks more for candidates who challenge themselves academically, even if that means a B grade along the way.”

To be eligible for academic recognition the GPAs required by the colleges and universities in the article started at 3.5 and 3.6. At Tufts, which wouldn’t share with the Journal the percentage of students awarded academic honors, you needed a 3.2 in engineering.

Harvey Mudd College

If someone is paying yearly almost $70,000–$52,666 tuition and $17,051 room and board–at Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, Calif., they might expect an award, don’t you think? Harvey Mudd was the first in a list of the 50 most expensive colleges and universities in Business Insider published in February 2017.  The publication credited “Trends in College Pricing” as its source. Brown was the least expensive charging $64,566 for tuition and room and board. I went to Boston University, number 38, now at $65,110 per year, whereas Yale, number 47, where my husband graduated, cost $64,650.

Do colleges and universities think that they are doing students a favor by lowering the bar in handing out academic honors by the pound? Are they being smart? Is the likely chance a student or child will be so honored a selling point to attract candidates?

Photo: dentaltechnicianjobs.net

Service of Hope

Monday, May 21st, 2018

Forgiveness, grief, perseverance, guilt, disabilities, World War II, 9/11 and racism are all powerful, life-changing emotions, conditions and events that don’t always evoke hope.  Yet the books, TV programs and films that The Christophers selected for their 2018 Christopher Awards, celebrated last Thursday in NYC, characterize and exemplify optimism and courage. The 69 year old awards laud writers, producers, directors, authors and illustrators whose films, TV/cable programs and books “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.”

Here are just a few examples from this year’s winning books:

Dr. Edith Eger, who at 90 lives in La Jolla, Calif., was a holocaust survivor pulled barely alive from a pile of bodies when the camp that held her captive was liberated. An eminent psychologist, she maintains a busy clinical practice and lectures around the world helping survivors of abuse, soldiers suffering from PTSD and others she wrote about in her memoir “The Choice.” She experienced and observed that many live within a mind that has become a prison. She described how she achieved freedom by confronting her suffering and how she helped others do the same. Far from a Pollyanna take on her life, “The Choice” is a compelling, thoughtful–and helpful–read.

Rev. Jonathan Morris presents Meadow Rue Merrill her Christopher Award.

Meadow Rue Merrill, in “Redeeming Ruth,” wrote about her severely disabled adopted child, abandoned at birth in Uganda, whose short life she and her husband Dana and their three kids made the best possible. “She was more than just our daughter; she was an ambassador, who opened our hearts to the needs of children with disabilities in the developing world,” said the award-winning journalist. “We miss Ruth every day, but we wouldn’t trade one day we had with her for the world.” Ruth’s spirit lives on well beyond the hearts of her loving family. Proceeds from “Redeeming Ruth” support orphans and children with disabilities in Uganda and Meadow and Dana Merrill are dedicated to assisting these otherwise helpless people and to drawing attention to their plight.

From left Jameel McGee, Father Morris and Andrew Collins

“Convicted” is about a crooked white police officer, Andrew Collins and the innocent African American man, Jameel McGee, he sent to jail. Collins arrested and charged McGee, who was launching a business at the time, with possession of crack cocaine. Sentenced to 10 years in federal prison McGee served three until his conviction was overturned when Collins admitted to falsifying evidence. Collins resigned due to an investigation for misconduct and was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for drug possession with the intent to distribute, serving 18 months. Years following their release, the men worked together at Café Mosaic, a coffee shop and community development program in Benton Harbor. Spoiler alert**: McGee forgave Collins, they are friends today and they travelled to and attended the Awards together. **I’m being silly as the subtitle, “A Crooked Cop, An Innocent Man, and an Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship” gives away what happened. And you thought your sister in law was unforgivable.

Children 8 and older will read about an American child who makes the decision to stay with her French grandmother, whom she doesn’t like, on a farm in Alsace just as World War II breaks out. They’ll see what happens when Nazi’s move into their home. Thanks to Patricia Reilly Giff in “Genevieve’s War,” they’ll learn about deprivation, hunger, fear and anxiety when Genevieve shares a secret with someone who may be collaborating with Germans. She was warned not to whisper a word. In addition to seeing how a clash of cultures can affect family members, they’ll observe the child’s change of heart when love and respect take the place of the disdain Genevieve once felt toward her grandmother.

This year’s Christopher Life Achievement Award winner, Ken Burns, who has also won previous Christopher Awards said that it will be through storytelling, not political debates, that people will change their minds.  “In an awards environment that is all ego, it is refreshing to have the Christopher Awards around to remind us all of the real purpose of our work. Without much fanfare or hoopla, and with the simple grace that echoes their objectives perfectly, The Christophers reaffirm the best impulses we have – that is to transform humanity for the better with our hard work, compassion and art.”

Have you read books or seen films/TV programs or experienced dire situations in which the ancient Chinese proverb “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness” led the way? In addition to The Christophers, for which that proverb guides all its programs, there are other sources that celebrate people who turn negatives into positives such as “The Moth Radio Hour” on NPR and “The Kindness Challenge” on Facebook. They share instances that build people up and shed light on possibilities and solutions. Can you name others?

Authors at Christopher Awards from left Amy Guglielmo, “Pocket Full of Colors;” Kate Hennessy, “Dorothy Day;” Andrew Collins and Jameel McGee, “Convicted;” Meadow Rue Merrill, “Redeeming Ruth” and Jacqueline Tourville, “Pocket Full of Colors.”

Service of Aging Gracefully

Monday, March 12th, 2018

Rita Moreno receiving Oscar in 1962. Photo: amazon.com

My Aunt Dickie had a needlepoint pillow which read: “Old age is not for sissies.” How right was her pillow, though you’d never know it on the surface of things in some cases.

At the Oscars Eva Marie Saint took my breath away as did Rita Moreno and Jane Fonda. They are 93, 86 and 80 years old respectively but you could have fooled me. Ask Google about Fonda and among her list of accomplishments is “fitness guru.” I’ll say! Moreno wore a 56 year old dress—the one she had on when she received the Oscar for her role in “West Side Story” and she looked magnificent. As for Ms. Saint, she was elegant and sounded fabulous and closer to sixty than 100.

Doris Kearns Goodwin. Photo: biography.com

Hearing writer-historians such as David McCollough, 84, and Doris Kearns Goodwin, 75, rattle off dates and events dotted with fascinating facts and anecdotes without peering at a note is a thrill. Few can remember half as much and in such vivid detail at any age.

Here’s another example closer to home. To counter the ravages of Parkinson’s my husband, with a lifelong almost terminal allergy to any and all things exercise, has completed a grueling four weeks of practically daily physical therapy with stretches and sit/standing homework on top of it. Many days he can hardly get out of bed yet no matter how weak and queasy he feels off he goes to Sutton Place Physical Therapy returning exhausted and often cheerful. He’s cancelled only once—on one of the snowstorm days. He says that his head has felt clearer than it has in years making it easier for him to do tax prep, write—already gifted he works on improving—and preparing dinners restaurant chefs would admire.

Some Medicare-eligible citizens are blessed with genes that help keep them feeling and appearing youthful and are relatively disease-free; others have great facelift and fitness support teams and still others have the belly to fight. Will increasing numbers of high profile older folks who hit life out of the park positively impact prejudice against workers 45+ especially in some industries as film–for women in particular–advertising and PR to name a few? Do you know of any remarkable seniors you’d like to call out?

 

Homer Byington

 

Service of Essential Answers: The Christopher Award Winners Have Some

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

From Left Katie Sullivan, Patti Ann McDonald, Conor McDonald

I’ve asked the question in many posts over the last nine years of this blog: How do people get over feelings of adversity, anger, frustration, helplessness and loss? Some of the answers were peppered throughout the room this Tuesday at the 68th annual Christopher Awards by the authors, writers, producers, directors, illustrators and special award winners honored.

Was it a gloomy occasion? No. Joy, hope, support and love stared pain, disappointment and loss in the face. It truly was a stunning affair.

Nell & Matt Weber with baby Rose

One of the winners for his book “Operating on Faith,” Matt Weber, brought newborn Rose and wife Nell from Boston to celebrate while Patti Ann McDonald, widow of NYPD Detective Steven McDonald who died in January, brought her son Conor. She was given the Christopher Leadership Award. Matt’s book tells with humor how Nell helped him through a life-threatening illness months into their marriage. Conor and his girlfriend Katie Sullivan are supporting Patti Ann who is suffering with the loss of her husband. From the time he was shot and paralyzed in 1986, Detective McDonald credited Patti Ann with giving him the will to live.

Caron Levis’s book for children, “Ida, Always,” helps young ones deal with loss through a story about two polar bears who lived in the Central Park zoo. The HBO documentary “Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing,” provided an intimate look at the lives of those who lost limbs in the Boston terror attack, the physical and emotional battles they faced in the recovery process, and their unyielding efforts to reclaim their lives.

From left authors Joan Bauer, Kobi Yamada, Mike Massimino, Susan Hood, Susan Wern Comport & Caron Levis

Kathy Izard’s book, “The Hundred Story Home,” shares her journey from award-winning graphic designer to soup kitchen volunteer to developer of housing for chronically homeless men and women.

Dr. Chuck Dietzen

Mary Ellen Robinson, The Christophers and Dr. Chuck Dietzen

won two awards: The James Keller Award, named after The Christophers’ founder, recognizes individuals who are positively shaping the lives of children. He also won for his book “Pint Sized Prophets: Inspirational Moments that Taught Me We Are All Born to be Healers.” Dr. Chuck, as he likes to be called, is a pediatric rehabilitation doctor. He founded Timmy Global Health, which enlists students and medical volunteers in its mission to bring healthcare to those in need around the world. “We weren’t all born to be doctors and nurses, but we were all born to be healers,” he said. He arrived at the awards fresh from a trip to China.

This is just a sample. There were 22 winning feature films, TV/Cable programs, and books for adults and young people honored this year.

The ancient Chinese proverb—“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”— guides The Christophers’ publishing, radio and awards programs. The 72 year old organization has lived through plenty of periods of extraordinary rancor and divisiveness and it never loses hope. Have you read books or seen films or TV/Cable programs that fit this saying?

Marathon HBO producers, writers from Left Jameka Autry, Jake Abraham, a guest, Nancy Abraham and the Christophers’ Tony Rossi

Service of Sayings

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

 

Ernie Anastos and Kathie Lee Gifford

Ernie Anastos and Kathie Lee Gifford

Hardly a month goes by without at least one email filled with beaux mots or insightful sayings. I enjoy most and wish that I could create some worth repeating.

I heard a few last Thursday spoken by presenters and winners at the 67th annual Christopher Awards.  I’ve written here about different aspects of the awards over the years. I’ve been lucky to help promote them. The awards are presented to authors and illustrators as well as film, TV and Cable writers, producers and directors whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” The Christophers, rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to God and humanity, is guided by the ancient Chinese proverb—“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness” which explains the gracious, uplifting atmosphere at the Awards.

Back to the sayings. One was “a tsunami in cultural change,” a powerful collection of words to describe the climate in which the series “When Calls the Heart,” [Sunday night on the Hallmark Channel], has nevertheless been successful—renewed for the fourth year and a winner of the Christopher Spirit Award. In the midst of the storm of self-centeredness, finger-pointing and negativity in much of society, this show, for family members to enjoy together, tells “universal stories with themes like forgiveness, redemption, sacrifice, courage, and banding together to help one another,” said Brian Bird, executive producer who also spoke the words above. “The characters on our show reflect those virtues and hopefully make a lasting impression on our viewers.”

As a presenter Kathie Lee Gifford, Today Show co-host, referred to “Bringing shalom to chaos.” In referencing “shalom,” she said she meant the word in its original definition–a sense of well-being and harmony–not the now familiar greeting.

 

Joseph Kim, author, "Under the Same Sky"

Joseph Kim, author, “Under the Same Sky”

Many of the stories told by winners do just this. One example is the story of Bard student and author Joseph Kim [photo right]. Today he looks and sounds like most college students, focusing, for instance, on how he’ll cover next semester’s tuition and board. But in his book, “Under the Same Sky,” you learn that his road to college was far from routine. Kim documented his journey from starvation and homelessness–his mother and sister escaped to China leaving him behind in North Korea. His new life here was made possible by activists and Christian missionaries. He hopes, some day, to find his sister–hence the book’s title.

In his book for children six years old and up, “Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton,” Don Tate writes about a slave who taught himself to read and became the first southern African American man to be published. Tate’s goal was to present the topic of slavery as more than just an uncomfortable word and to demonstrate the poet’s relevance in children’s lives today. Too many kids graduate from high school functionally illiterate. Tate’s publisher, Margaret Quinlin, [photo below], Peachtree Publishers, accepted the award for him.

Ernie Anastos, honored with the Christopher Lifetime Achievement Award, quoted a Greek saying that he “had a wish to die young but as late in life as possible.” This remarkable newscaster has been at it nonstop since he worked at a radio station at 16. He shared his frustration when he says, “Good evening,” to his audiences–he’s the news anchor at 6 pm on Fox 5–only to proceed to prove it’s not, which is why he focuses on positive news. He said you are measured not by what you’ve learned but by what you’ve taught.

The Greek saying reminded me of the bravery of the subjects of some of the winning books who, while young, sacrificed self for cause. Two young Jewish women in Meg Wiviott’s book for young adults, “Paper Hearts,” risk death in Auschwitz by creating a forbidden birthday card. U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills lost all his limbs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan. He fought through painful rehabilitation and today lives a full life as husband, father and veterans advocate. His story is in the book “Tough As They Come.”

Can you name other initiatives that emphasize the positive? Do you have favorite sayings?

Jim Wiviott, author Meg Wiviott and publisher Margaret Quinlan, Peachtree Publishers

Jim Wiviott, author Meg Wiviott and publisher Margaret Quinlan, Peachtree Publishers

 

Service of Making the Best

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Photo: news.bbc

Photo: news.bbc

Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out,” is credited to three-time All-American basketball player and coach John Wooden. I’ve chosen three examples to illustrate this great quote.

Patrick Donohue

Patrick Donohue

I first heard it at The Christopher Awards last week. If there is one person who took this quote to heart it’s Patrick Donohue who said it in accepting the James Keller Award, named after the organization’s founder. His daughter’s baby nurse shook the infant so violently that she destroyed 60 percent of the rear cortex of the child’s brain. That was 10 years ago. Since then Donohue founded a research initiative as well as the International Academy of Hope—iHope—the first school for kids with brain injuries like Sarah Jane’s and other brain-based disorders. It’s in NYC and he plans to expand to other US cities. 

Father Jonathan Morris, Carol Graham, Major General Mark Graham [retired]

Father Jonathan Morris, Carol Graham, Major General Mark Graham [retired]

Carol Graham and Major General Mark Graham [retired] accepted Yochi Dreazan’s award. Dreazan was honored with a Christopher for his book, “Invisible Front.” The Grahams also illustrate the Wooden quote. The book is about how the Army treated the deaths of their sons. Jeff was hailed a hero after being killed while serving in Iraq and Kevin’s death, by suicide, was met with silence. Today the Grahams work to change the Army’s treatment of soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], to erase the stigma that surrounds those with mental illness and to remind active duty, National Guard, Reserve, veterans and family members that seeking help is a sign of strength. This summer General Graham and associates plan to convert two call centers into one which will be supported with private funding: Vetss4Warriors.com @ 855-838-8255 and Vet2Vet Talk @ 855-838-7481. The keys to their crisis prevention telephone program: Trained peers counsel and advise callers, provide referrals and follow up with them. 

Murray Liebowitz

Murray Liebowitz

Murray Liebowitz is the third example in this post. A stranger to us, we attended his memorial concert at The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College last Sunday. A passionate music lover with a special appreciation for Gustav Mahler, Liebowitz paid for the concert–Mahler’s Symphony No. 9–so that it was free to the mourners as well as to the community. He made the arrangements with Bard president Leon Botstein before he died. Tributes in the program described Liebowitz as “modest,” “kind,” “direct,” “generous,” “loyal,” “disarmingly unpretentious,” “delightful,” and “warm.” But he wasn’t always successful. This Bard board member went bankrupt when his first business failed. His New Jersey egg farm thrived until supermarket chains put him out of business. He earned his fortune in his second career as a Florida real estate developer.

Botstein wrote in the program, “Murray Liebowitz was a true gentleman. He was a man who enjoyed enormous success in business but one who never let success in life go to his head. We live in an age where money and wealth appear to be valued above all other achievements. They stand uncontested as the proper measure of excellence. To be rich, it seems, means that one might actually be superior to others. This corrosive calculus is one in which Murray never believed. He was without arrogance.”

Many face personal tragedy, devastating business reversals—and even overwhelming success—and make the best of the way things work out. Can you share additional examples?

making the best of bad situation 1

Service of Grownup Books for Children

Monday, May 11th, 2015

 

MaddisFridge9781936261291

Eliza bingThe grownup subjects for books written for even the youngest children is a trend I’ve observed since I first wrote about The Christopher Awards and its winning children’s books in 2010. Forgiveness, hunger, ADHD, being an outcast orphan in Africa and dyslexia were topics for youngsters in pre-school, kindergarten and those aged six, eight and 10. These mature topics are moon miles from my beloved Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline series or Dick, Jane and Spot. The Christophers honor these hardbacks for young people along with books for adults, films and TV/cable programs and present the awards to authors, illustrators, writers, producers and directors whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.”

Hope SpringsPersonal experiences inspired the authors to pick their topics whether Henry Winkler–the Fonz—who is dyslexic; Carmella Van Vleet whose daughter suffers from ADHD; Lois Brandt whose childhood friend’s refrigerator was shockingly empty and Eric Walters who founded and runs the Creation of Hope, an organization to care for orphans in Kenya’s Mbooni District. As for Nicole Lataif’s subject–forgiveness–who hasn’t struggled with this?

Are you surprised at the sophistication of these subjects for little ones? Do you think that topics covered in children’s books reflect their era? If this is so, how come some last for generations? What books you read as a child–or to your children–made the biggest impression on you?

###

Preschool and up: I Forgive You (Pauline Books and Media) by Nicole Lataif, illustrated by Katy Betz ; Kindergarten and up Maddi’s Fridge (Flashlight Press) by Lois Brandt, illustrated by Vin Vogel; Ages 6 and up Here’s Hank: Bookmarks Are People Too! (Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin) by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver; Ages 8 and up Hope Springs (Tundra Books/Random House) by Eric Walters, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes; Ages 10 and up Eliza Bing Is (Not) a Big, Fat Quitter (Holiday House) by CarmellaVan Vleet

9780448479972_large_Bookmarks_Are_People_Too!_#1I forgive you noon

Service of Celebrity

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

redcarpet

I don’t rub shoulders with celebrities very often but you’d have to be living on a different planet if you didn’t read or hear of shenanigans and bad behavior from that quarter. Some believe their press and think that they are above others and act like spoiled brats. It doesn’t matter that they play, direct or write about humanitarians or that they publicly espouse charitable causes or support and speak out compassionately to save the less fortunate. I never met Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward or Alan Alda but get the feeling that they were/are exceptions. 

I met two other exceptions last week at The Christophers’ 62nd Awards ceremony. The King’s Speech was a winner in the feature film category and just happens to be one of my favorite movies of all time.

Tom Hooper

Tom Hooper

Academy Award winners Tom Hooper, the director, and David Seidler, the writer, accepted the award. Neither was surrounded by battalions of handlers. I didn’t see any. Seidler was there toward the beginning of the cocktail reception prior to the ceremony and although deep in conversation with another guest, he happily and cheerfully joined several group photos when we asked him to.

David Seidler

David Seidler

And both men stayed for the entire ceremony. I have attended and produced countless events where the “very important” dash out the second their bit is over. With some exceptions [such as when a Mayor must attend a funeral or other unexpected emergency], this conduct for an event they’ve known about usually for months reminds me of the restaurant scenes in vintage films where a businessman or celebrity wannabe tips the maitre d’ to bring the telephone over to their table in the middle of a meal to show how in demand they are.

In fact, none of the 2011 Christophers winners slipped out. Hooper and Seidler were only two of the many writers, producers, directors and illustrators in the publishing, film, TV and cable industries whose work The Christophers recognized this–and every-year. The winners are selected because what they create “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” I think that the film works as well as it does because the writer and director are talented, sensitive and genuinely good souls. Incidentally, The Christophers’ programs are guided by the ancient Chinese proverb, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

Do you know of or have you observed celebrities, the real or the hopeful, who act in ways that enhance their images rather than detract from them?

christopherawards

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