Monday, May 12, 2008

previews its innovative American history literacy project at Children's Literature New England's 2008 Colloquy!

Saturday, May 10, 2008; Essex, New York
Apple blossoms, emerald meadows, and the glistening waters of Lake Champlain provided the dramatic backdrop. NCBLA Vice-President Steven Kellogg's studio barn, filled with American antiques and distinctive folk art, provided the historic venue. And the gifted faculty and attendees of Children's Literature New England 2008 Colloquy, The Opening Page, could not have been a more perfect or appreciative audience for the unveiling of Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, the NCBLA's upcoming book, an extraordinary publication that uses the White House and the presidency as its unifying theme to tell the story of America.

After a sun drenched ride across Lake Champlain via the historic Charlotte/Essex ferry, CLNE participants were welcomed to illustrator Steven Kellogg's Blockhouse Farm. In Steven's barn, every nook and cranny a visual feast, participants were invited into his studio where they were able to see his work in progress as well as original art for his forthcoming books. Attendees were then able to pull up a chair and dive into preview copies of Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, provided by the NCBLA's publisher, Candlewick Press. Candlewick Press also generously donated the afternoon refreshments.

Later, Gregory Maguire and Steven Kellogg welcomed all to the afternoon's presentation.
NCBLA president Mary Brigid Barrett shared the news that the NCBLA will start construction on a companion website for Our White House,, that will not only expand the historical content of the book, but will also give adults the ideas and tools they need to get young people excited about our nation's rich history and cultural heritage. The NCBLA is most grateful to The National Endowment for the Humanities which has awarded the NCBLA a $25,000 grant to help build the Our White House educational outreach website.

A number of Our White House book contributors were present and read from their work. (Not one of the 108 contributors to Our White House have received any monetary reimbursement for their work.) The book begins with a beautiful poetic metaphor written by Gregory Maguire, which he read aloud to the attentive audience. Speaking in the voice of a British soldier, Susan Cooper shared the story of the burning of the White House in 1812. Marguerite Davol, read her piece about wild Andrew Jackson, written from Davy Crockett's perspective. Katherine Paterson revealed the evolution of the White House press corps, and she also read an excerpt from Natalie Babbitt's wonderfully wry examination of Ohio's prestigious position as the birthplace of multiple presidents. M.T. Anderson shared White House ghost stories. Virginia Euwer Wollf spoke of President's Taft's great love of music. Jeannine Atkins read from her piece on Woodrow Wilson and his work to establish a League of Nations. White House pets were covered by Steven Kellogg. Barbara Harrison, a Kennedy scholar, gave us a peek into the Kennedy White House. Brian Selznick read an excerpt from Jefferson's Monstrous Bones written by Barbara Kerley, and shared his illustration of that piece. And, Lynda Johnson Robb brought down the house, reading her humorous essay about the room she occupied in the White House when her father was president.

Children's Literature New England gave the NCBLA a unique opportunity to share their new publication with a group of caring, committed, and knowledgeable teachers, librarians, and children's literature aficionados. The NCBLA is thrilled to have had the launch of Our White House; Looking In, Looking Out with a readership that understands the underlying reason and need for a book that creatively addresses both literacy and historical literacy challenges.

Here are some thoughts from our board about the day. We invite those who were present to share their's!

From Gregory Maguire:
America's informal national anthem rings true once more. Oh--beautiful!--for spacious skies... . Abreast the sweep of Lake Champlain, with the old mountains of New York and Vermont ringing the horizon, one remembers that an original impulse of patriotism is the love of the beauty of one's land. No better a setting, with fruit trees in blossom above sloping lawns, to launch Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out. And a few stray children hanging from tree limbs and racing across the fields, making the land, and the future, their own....

From Susan Cooper:
As for favorite memories of our Launch, I think mine is the sight of Lynda Robb, with CLNE laurel wreath round her hat, standing on Steven's beautiful blossoming hillside describing how she learned that two deaths and an autopsy (Lincoln's) had taken place in her childhood bedroom at the White House.

From Katherine Paterson:
Another favorite memory was Marguerite Davol being Davy Crockett talking about his old friend Andy Jackson. She was so obviously thrilled to be a part of the book and celebration and did such a super job of presenting her piece.

More photos!

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