Thursday, March 31, 2022

Mike Curato shares the story behind the story of his new picture book (and why Bina Bear is Purple)

Over at his blog, Mike Curato shares the story behind the story of Where is Bina Bear?

From the doodles/sketches that started it all, 

sketches in Mike Curato's notebook of a bear character hiding their head in a paper bag and under their arms at a table
some of those sketches that inspired Mike's Bina Bear character

to the book dummy, to the illustration style and the meaning behind this story, it's a fascinating window into Mike's process. 

One highlight:

On the surface, Where Is Bina Bear? is a cute hide and seek book. One could read this book and quickly chalk it up to a funny story about a bear with social anxiety. But for me it’s even more about two people trying to be good friends as best they can with what they have to work with. Tiny sees past Bina’s anxiety with compassion and playfulness, and we come to learn that Bina only came to this party because of her love and loyalty to Tiny. In the end, the most important thing is being together, and the two find a creative way to do just that.

It's well worth checking out, and maybe inspiration for the rest of us to share the story behind the story of our books as well!

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Claudia Mills talks Chapter Books with Stephani Martinell Eaton over at the Cynsations Blog

Have you been tempted to explore the chapter book space between leveled readers and middle grade books? Check out this excellent interview by Stephani Martinell Eaton, Writing Chapter Books: Claudia Mills Chats About the “Between-ness & Betwixt-ness” of Chapter Books.

screen shot of the article "Writing Chapter Books: Claudia Mills Chats About the “Between-ness & Betwixt-ness” of Chapter Books" showing the headline and a photo of Claudia sitting at an outdoor table, writing

Covering craft challenges, character development, and much more, Claudia shares what it's like to channel the “last, best year” of childhood for young readers.

Part of a series on Chapter Books over at Cynsations, this is well-worth checking out.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Batchelder Award Criteria Change: Name the Translator

Since 1968, the Mildred L. Batchelder Award has garlanded the "children's book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originating in a country other than the United States and in a language other than English and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States during the preceding year."

It is the Newbery for translated children's books. 

And the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) has adjusted its criteria to recognize translators.

At its meeting in January 2022, the ALSC board approved the following change to the Batchelder Award submission criteria: 

"The translator(s) shall be named on all titles submitted for consideration. The translator(s)' name(s) shall appear, at minimum, on the title page along with the author(s)' name(s), and ideally the translator(s)' name(s) shall appear on the cover along with the author(s)' name(s) as well."

This change requires publishers to name the translator on/in children's books submitted for the award—as has been urged for all translated books by (most recently) the #TranslatorsOnTheCover campaign, boosted by SCBWI.

This change is expected to help normalize naming the translator of a book wherever the author is named, as is set forth by the Authors Guild and PEN America. This is the convention in a number of countries already, and US publishers are increasingly observing this standard. 

Besides crediting, a range of translator rights have lately been identified as needing attention. Royalties and retention of copyright for the translation stand to help all translators and are musts to make the field more inclusive.

First, however, translators must be named and seen. The ALSC board saw us. 

Read the press release about the revised criteria. 

Download a list of past Batchelder Award and Honor winners (PDF).

Disclosures: The 2022 Batchelder Award went to the Yonder imprint of Restless Books for Temple Alley Summer by Sachiko Kashiwaba, illustrated by Miho Satake, in my translation. This was a massive, will-always-remember-where-I-was surprise and honor. Restless Books named me in both of the ways mentioned in the revised criteria. / I submitted a stakeholder comment in support of the criteria revision as SCBWI TC. The Batchelder Award selection committee and the ALSC board are distinct entities.

My name is Avery Fischer Udagawa, and I have been honored to blog global reads this month. I serve as SCBWI Translator Coordinator (see Translation in SCBWI) and SCBWI Japan Translator Coordinator (see Ihatov).

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The 2022 Golden Kite Award Winners!

Congratulations to these 2022 winners and honorees...

Picture Book Text

Winner: Joanna Ho, “Eyes That Kiss In The Corners”, illustrated by Dung Ho, Harper Collins Books for Young Readers

Donation made to First Book (

cover of "Eyes that Kiss in the Corners"

Honor: Winsome Bingham, “Soul Food Sunday”, illustrated by C.G. Esperanza, Abrams Books for Young Readers

Donation made to Start Lighthouse (

Picture Book Illustration

Winner: Stephen Costanza, “King of Ragtime: The Story of Scott Joplin” Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Donation made to Musical Bridges Around the World (

cover of "King of Ragtime: The Story of Scott Joplin"

Honor: Micha Archer, “Wonder Walkers” Nancy Paulsen Books

Donation made to Barbershop Books (

Middle Grade Fiction

Winner: Rajani LaRocca, “Red, White, and Whole”, Quill Tree Books

Donation made to World Literacy Foundation (

cover of "Red, White, and Whole"

Honor: Adrianna Cuevas, “Cuba in My Pocket”, Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books for Young Readers

Donation made to Lambda Literary (

Illustrated Book for Older Readers

Winner: Fahmida Azim, “Samira Surfs”, Kokila

Donation made to The Rohingya Children Projects (

cover of "Samira Surfs"

Honor: Eugene Yelchin, “Genius Under the Table”, Candlewick Press

Donation made to The Dream Builders Project (

Nonfiction Text for Younger Readers

Winner: Colleen Paeff: “The Great Stink: How Joseph Bazalgette Solved London's Poop Pollution Problem” illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, Margaret K. McElderry Books

Donation made to Access Books (

cover of "The Great Stink: How Joseph Bazalgette Solved London's Poop Pollution Problem"

Honor: Cynthia Levinson, “The People's Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought For Justice With Art” illustrated by Evan Turk

Donation made to The Highlights Foundation Scholarship Fund (

Nonfiction Book for Older Readers - Two winners in this category!!

Winner: Ariel Henley, “A Face for Picasso: Coming of Age with Crouzon Syndrome”, Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers

Donation made to myFace (

cover of "A Face for Picasso: Coming of Age with Crouzon Syndrome"

Winner: Anton Treuer, “Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask”, Levine Querido

Donation made to Minnesota American Indian Bar Association - for Native American Scholarships (

cover of "Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask"

Young Adult

Winner: Pamela N. Harris, “When You Look Like Us”, Quill Tree Books

Donation made to Down Syndrome Association of Greater Richmond (

cover of "When You Look Like Us"

Honor: Olivia Abtahi, “Perfectly Parvin”, G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

Donation made to The Word for Diversity (

It's a great reading list - congratulations again to the winners, honorees, and nominees. You can find out more about SCBWI's Golden Kite Awards here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, March 17, 2022

On Translating Annika Thor: A Conversation with Linda Schenck

Annika Thor

Annika Thor's classic A Faraway Island tetralogy, about two sisters growing up apart from their parents due to war, is read in many languages but almost didn't make it into English fully. I spoke by Zoom with Thor's Gothenburg-based translator Linda Schenck.

Avery: Did these books find you, or you them?

A Faraway Island, The Lily Pond, Deep Sea, and Open Sea by Annika Thor, translated from Swedish by Linda Schenck

Linda: They found me. I was contacted by Annika's agent, who wanted a sample translation, and of course I was thrilled and made the sample. Then it took years—not metaphorically—for her to place the books in an English-speaking country. The main problem was that too early on in the books for what the Americans, English and Canadians thought was the target reader, things about sexuality came in.

What happened in the end is Francoise Bui at Delacorte, who had read the books in French, saw the possibilities of these books and not just the problems. She bought the first book, I did the first book—as you know, it won some recognition—the second book also won some recognition, and then Delacorte had had a change of management and decided book 3 couldn't be listed as a children's book. It had to be a YA book. And so, they listed it as a YA book instead, and it didn't find its readers. Book 3 didn't make enough money for them to feel they could justifiably publish book 4. Francoise had moved on by that point, so it was not her fault in any way . . . it was just, you know, a publisher's decision.

I was working on book 4 from the minute I finished book 3, so as not to lose momentum. So by the time they made it clear that they were not intending to publish it, it was long since finished. 

So, the book lay around for a while, and then I said to Annika, "You know, it can't be very hard to self-publish this book. Let's ask your agent, and ask her to ask Delacorte if we can have free hands to do that." And after a bunch of back and forth—and that also took some time!—they gave us free hands.

A: Did you and she feel good about how the ebook came out? 

L: Yes, absolutely. We had very nice communication, and we've had a very pleasant relationship since then. Annika knows a middle school teacher near New Delhi who loves these books in English . . . the teacher reads A Faraway Island with her 11-year-olds every year, and they have a Zoom with Annika. And starting last year, they've also had a Zoom with me. And it was the most moving and touching experience, it was just wonderful! They were these fabulous kids, and they had good questions, and they loved the books, and they were starting to think also about, What role does the translator play in all of this

A: Did you find it challenging to translate a series that features young children in the first volumes but later comes to be about young adults getting their first tastes of independence?

L: That, to me, was just a positive. I loved that. Partly because I translated the books just as my four grandchildren were growing into them. And one of the grandchildren is sixteen now, but until last year, she would reread them every year, and at some point during the year she had to write something about a favorite book, or a favorite author; she wrote about these books and about Annika Thor the entire time. I have the definite feeling that she'll read them with her children one day. 

A: The story of two girls having to grow up apart from their parents is, sadly, timeless.

L: It's something that a parent or a grandparent reading the book thinks about too, right? In these books, there's nothing about that existential decision that Stephie and Nellie's parents had to make to send them off, but you can feel it there under the surface, somehow—what a huge, huge choice that was for them. And if you're a parent reading these books out loud to your children, then you identify not only with the children, I think you identify with what the parents are going through when all of this is happening.

A: Finding out what happens to Stephie and Nellie's father is another reason I'm so glad the fourth volume is out in English. 

Would you like to share about your latest project?

L: The Story of Bodri by Hédi Fried is a very short book and meant for very young children—whenever the child begins to develop an awareness of and questions about war and survival. And it's a work of art, it's an absolutely gorgeous book, and told with just the right degree of succinctness. When it came out a couple of years ago in Sweden, I decided, I am translating this book. Nothing's going to stop me

A: I see!

L: I mean, it's very short, it was no huge risk on my part. I translated it, and then I wrote to Stina Wirsén, the illustrator, with whom I had had other contact, and said I had done this, and I think the course of events was that she then gave me the email address to their agent, and the agent—I think she thought I was crazy to begin with, like, why would anyone translate something without being asked?

A: I've done it!

L: Me too! She said, "OK. Thank you very much. We'll see," and then there was silence for a long time, and then suddenly, she had placed it with Eerdmans in Michigan. 

A: Seeing your passion for these books, it makes me think of all those folks who see translation as mechanical, automatic . . . but it's connected to our souls. It's heart work.

L: It is heart work.

A: The world has both changed and not changed since 2010, when A Faraway Island won a highly deserved Batchelder Award. What do you feel that these books offer readers in the 2020s?

L: I would just repeat how so many children in the world today are, for reasons relating to war or strife of some kind, separated from their families. And it's really important for our children and grandchildren to know that, even if they are fortunate enough not to experience it themselves. There will be people around them, there will be kids in their class. As they get bigger, they'll be able to volunteer to work with other kids, or be able to help someone in some way, because they're attuned to the fact that turning up in a new country isn't just an exciting adventure.

I feel that it's so important, especially for our relatively privileged children, to think about, Is there anyone on the periphery of my world who might be in a similar situation, and to whom I should think about being a little extra empathetic?

My name is Avery Fischer Udagawa, and I'm honored to be blogging global reads this month on Thursdays. I serve as SCBWI Translator Coordinator (see Translation in SCBWI) and SCBWI Japan Translator Coordinator (see Ihatov).

Monday, March 14, 2022

Which Books Will Win the 2022 SCBWI Golden Kite Awards? Live, Free Awards Presentation Streams Tuesday March 15 at 4pm Pacific!

Golden Kite Gala logo

Did I mention that National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Jason Reynolds, will make a special guest appearance with a short address to the viewers at the start of the event?

Log into Zoom here:

to be "in the zoom where it happens" and find out which of these amazing nominated books win their category:


THE BOY AND THE SEA, written by Camille Andros, illustrated by Amy Bates published by Abrams Books for Young Readers

EVERYBODY IN THE RED BRICK BUILDING, written by Anne Wynter, illustrated by Oge Mora, published by Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins 

EYES THAT KISS IN THE CORNERS written by Joanna Ho, illustrated by Dung Ho published by HarperCollins Books for Young Readers

ME + TREE, written by Alexandria Giardino, illustrated by Anna + Elena Balbusso, published by Creative Editions

SOUL FOOD SUNDAY, written by Winsome Bingham, illustrated by C.G. Esperanza, published by Abrams Books for Young Readers


GLADYS THE MAGIC CHICKEN illustrated by Adam Rex, written by Adam Rubin, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Reader

KING OF RAGTIME: The Story of Scott Joplin illustrated and written by Stephen Costanza, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers 

OUTSIDE INSIDE illustrated and written by LeUyen Pham, published by Roaring Brook Press

¡VAMOS! LET’S CROSS THE BRIDGE illustrated by Raúl the Third, story by Elaine Bay, published by Versify

WONDER WALKERS illustrated and written by Micha Archer, published by Nancy Paulsen Books



BETTER WITH BUTTER by Victoria Piontek, published by Scholastic Press

CUBA IN MY POCKET by Adrianna Cuevas, published by Farrar, Strauss, Giroux Books for Young Readers 

MIGHTY INSIDE by Sundee T. Frazier, published by Levine Querido

RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE by Rajani LaRocca, published by Quill Tree

STRONG AS FIRE, FIERCE AS FLAME by Supriya Kelkar, published by Tu Books



DONUTS AND OTHER PROCLAMATIONS OF LOVE by Jared Reck, published by Knopf Books for Young Readers

LAST NIGHT AT THE TELEGRAPH CLUB by Malinda Lo, published by Dutton Books for Young Readers

THE MARVELOUS MIRZA GIRLS by Sheba Karim, published by Quill Tree Books

PERFECTLY PARVIN by Olivia Abtahi, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

WHEN YOU LOOK LIKE US by Pamela N. Harris, published by Quill Tree Books



THE GENIUS UNDER THE TABLE: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain illustrated and written by Eugene Yelchin, published by Candlewick Press

PAWCASSO illustrated and written by Remy Lai, published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers

SAMIRA SURFS illustrated by Fahmida Azim, written by Rukhsanna Guidroz, published by Kokila

THE SEA RINGED WORLD, illustrated by Amanda Mijangos, written by María García Esperón, translated by David Bowles, published by Levine Querido

SPROUTING WINGS: The True Story of James Herman Banning, the First African American Pilot to Fly Across the United States, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, written by Louisa Jaggar and Shari Becker, published by Crown Books for Young Readers



CHILD OF THE FLOWER-SONG PEOPLE: Luz Jiménez, Daughter of the Nahua by Gloria Amescua, illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh, published by Abrams Books for Young Readers

THE GREAT STINK: How Joseph Bazalgette Solved London’s Poop Pollution Problem by Colleen Paeff, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

I AM AN AMERICAN: The Wong Kim Ark Story by Martha Brockenbrough with Grace Lin, illustrated by Julia Kuo, published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers

NIGHT BECOMES DAY: Changes in Nature by Cynthia Argentine, published by Millbrook Press

THE PEOPLE’S PAINTER: How Ben Shahn Fought For Justice With Art by Cynthia Levinson, illustrated by Evan Turk, published by Abrams Books for Young Readers



EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT INDIANS BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK: Young Readers Edition by Anton Treuer, published by Levine Querido

A FACE FOR PICASSO: Coming of Age with Crouzon Syndrome by Ariel Henley, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers 

FALLOUT: Spies, Superbombs, and the Ultimate Cold War Showdown by Steve Sheinkin, published by Roaring Brook Press

TOGETHER WE MARCH: 25 Protest Movements That Marched Into History by Leah Henderson, illustrated by Tyler Feder, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

WE MUST NOT FORGET: Holocaust Stories of Survival and Resistance by Deborah Hopkinson, published by Scholastic Focus

Congratulations to all the nominees, and good luck!
Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, March 10, 2022

First Kirkus Reviews International Podcast, Issue Offer Insights and Reading Ideas

Anton Hur

Anton Hur is perhaps best known in kidlit circles for contributing to the volume International LGBTQ+ Literature for Children and Adults. But to hear him interviewed from Seoul on the first international episode of the Kirkus Reviews podcast (March 1) is to meet someone just plain great—and funny—at describing the role of literary translators. We're like musicians bringing to life what's on sheet music, he says, and it's OK that we didn't compose it; we can't all be Taylor Swift. We're like the violinist Hilary Hahn, whose interpretations move people without her being Mozart.

Listen for a lift, more music references, and insights into any and all translated books. Then, keep listening as Kirkus editors discuss several, including

  • the picture book Star Fishing by Sang-Keun Kim, translated from Korean by Ginger Ly, published by Abrams.
  • the middle grade novel Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan, translated from Chinese by Helen Wang, published by Walker (UK) and Candlewick (US).
  • the YA novel The Color of the Sky Is the Shape of the Heart by Chesil, translated from Japanese by Takami Nieda, published by Soho Teen.

The Color of the Sky Is the Shape of the Heart is due out on April 5, 2022.

An interview with Seoul-based Kim about Star Fishing appears in the March 1 issue of Kirkus Reviewsfree to view and download. The issue also includes an interview with Ghanaian-born, Senegal-based YA author Ayesha Harruna Attah. Finally, it features intriguing releases from around the world selected by young readers' editors Summer Edward (p. 90) and Laura Simeon (p. 118). 

#UkrainianKidLit update: Enchanted Lion is donating all proceeds from web sales of the picture book How the War Changed Rondo by Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv, translated from Ukrainian by Oksana Lushchevska, to UNICEF's relief efforts in Ukraine "for as long as the conflict is ongoing."

My name is Avery Fischer Udagawa, and I am honored to be blogging global reads this month on Thursdays. I serve as SCBWI Translator Coordinator (see Translation in SCBWI) and SCBWI Japan Translator Coordinator (see Ihatov). I live near Bangkok. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Prize Ideas - 24 Book Promotion Prizes to Inspire You and Build Interest in Your Book(s), Compiled by Leila Hirschfeld at BookBub

a screen shot of the BookBub Partners article "24 Great Prize Ideas for Book Promotion Contests and Giveaways" showing a graphic with stacks of books topped by trophies


Whether you run a contest on a bookish platform or on social media or to your email list or in some other way, here's an article rounding up "24 Great Prize Ideas for Book Promotion Contests and Giveaways" that goes beyond just giving away a copy of your book.

Standout creative ideas included:

• an ebook reader preloaded with your book

• signed copies of books from multiple authors all aimed at the same readership that includes a signed copy of your book

• book-related accessories (like bookends that thematically go with your book) along with your book

What ideas will the two dozen approaches spark for you? Read Leila Hirschfeld's full article here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,

Thursday, March 3, 2022

#UkrainianKidLit and #UkrainianLit Picks

As all eyes turn to Ukraine, many of us find ourselves seeking Ukraine-born books for children, ourselves, or both. Two hashtags and two groups can help.

On Twitter, #UkrainianKidLit leads to a selection of children's books authored in Ukrainian, translated into English, and published by the likes of Chronicle, Enchanted Lion, and Tate, posted by (especially) Project World Kid Lit—the collective behind World Kid Lit Month in September. Standout Ukrainian titles not yet published in English are also viewable. 

Stars and Poppy Seeds by Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv, translated from the Ukrainian by Oksana Lushchevska, published by Tate (UK) and Abrams (US).

Also on Twitter, #UkrainianLit leads to books authored in Ukrainian and translated into English for adults, some of which may interest teens, posted by (especially) the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative—the collective behind the GLLI Translated YA Book Prize.

Further reading can be found, and shared, by slotting other nations into the hashtags and visiting:

Project World Kid Lit

Global Literature in Libraries Initiative

My name is Avery Fischer Udagawa, and I am honored to be blogging global reads this month on Thursdays. I serve as SCBWI Translator Coordinator (see Translation in SCBWI) and SCBWI Japan Translator Coordinator (see Ihatov). I live near Bangkok.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

YA Author Bill Konigsberg's Open Letter to Parents Who Want To Ban His Book From School Libraries

The following is shared here with Bill's kind permission. You can read the original posting at Bill's website here.

screen shot of the posting on Bill Konigsberg's website of the first paragraphs of "An Open Letter to Parents Who Wish to Ban My Books from School Libraries"

Dated Feb 18, 2022

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Elliott,   

I recently read with interest your call to remove 282 books from your local school library. In it, you claim to have reviewed yourself all of these books and deemed them unfit for K-12 usage (quite a range there!).

I saw that you included among these books my 2020 novel, THE BRIDGE.

First off, thank you for reading my book! I would be happy to chat with you about the book, to see what you took from it.

Second, I want to say up front that I believe your intent here is to protect your children. I echo your concern; I also want safety for children. It’s one of the main reasons I write books for young adults.

THE BRIDGE, as you know, is about two teens, Aaron and Tillie, who are severely depressed. They are both suicidal, and they meet atop the George Washington Bridge in New York City. From there, the book splits into four parts, illustrating all the possible scenarios about what could happen: they could both jump, they could both NOT jump. Or one or the other could jump. The novel follows the impacts of these decisions all the way out, so that readers can come to understand two things—just how difficult it is to be depressed and navigate the disease of depression, and also just how devastating one loss to suicide is to the whole world.

I was a bit surprised to see THE BRIDGE on your list for removal from the library. Not entirely surprised, as I was aware of Matt Krause’s list of 850 books he wants removed, which includes five of my titles. But still I was a bit startled, especially when I read your review of why the book ought to be removed.

You wrote that the book “Contains 1 or more of the following: Marxism, incest, sexual explicit material — in written form and/ or visual pictures, pornography, CRT, immoral activities, rebellious against parents, and the material contradicts the ISD’s student handbook.” As I looked through your screeds, it seems that this is how you describe each of these books. It’s as if you cut and pasted that complaint 282 times. That surprised me, because you took the time, you say, to read each of these books. That’s a lot of reading! Surely you have thoughts about these books you read beyond some cut and paste jargon?

So I want to address these concerns. While I disagree that books should be removed from libraries because some people are uncomfortable with the content, I felt it made sense to go through these since you specified your issues with THE BRIDGE.

• There is no Marxist philosophy in this book. In fact, its author is a capitalist. Of course, since we live in a free country, a book with Marxist philosophy ought to be able to exist in a library, so long as it isn’t threatening to overthrow the government. But that seems like a moot point here.

• Incest is not a part of THE BRIDGE. In fact, my book does not include explicit sexual activity, though one student at one time writes a poem about wishing she hadn’t had sex with a boy. It is not explicit. In fact, I have read a lot of young adult lit, and I know very few books that include incest, and in each of those cases, it depicts incest in order to help readers who have been through that trauma, not to glamorize it. If you wish to start a petition banning books that glamorize incest in school libraries, I might actually sign it. That’s simply not happening here.

• Sexual (sic) explicit behavior: I had to think about that one, since teens are sexual beings and sometimes have sexual thoughts. Both Tillie and Aaron have sexual thoughts, but they aren’t explicit in their thinking. No one has sex in this book. That is not what the book is about.

• Pornography: There is no pornography in my novel.

• CRT: I believe you are referring to Critical Race Theory. My book doesn’t touch on this. Some of my others do, but this book, again, is about suicide and depression. One of the characters is Korean and was adopted at a young age by a white family. At moments she describes what it feels like to be of a different race than her parents and sister, but at no point does this novel delve into theories about race or a screed about racial inequality. I do wonder what your concern is here, as my understanding is that CRT is a scary buzzword for “teaching history as it happened.” What is the problem with teaching American history, and the fact that this country was built on slave labor? What would you have books say instead? I think it is very important to learn about history. We learn about challenging times in history so that we don’t repeat them.

• Immoral Activities: Wow, that’s quite an umbrella there. We’d have to dig a bit deeper to know what you mean, but one thing I will say is that misbehaving is often central to literature, as novels always have a conflict. If you are referring, as sometimes people do, to sex before marriage, or taking street drugs, I think you will agree that these things do not happen in THE BRIDGE. I have read some books in which characters do have sex and take drugs, and my take is that it is rarely done to titillate, or to glamorize drug use. Usually in YA literature, drug use is depicted as something negative, and that is as it should be. Now, it is possible you consider Aaron’s sexuality immoral, since he’s gay, but Aaron has never had sex. So unless you are the thought police (and I’m pretty sure those people are on the Left, correct?), I can’t really see how anything about Aaron’s behavior in this book is immoral.

• Rebellious (sic) against parents: Ah. I think at one point in this book, Tillie skips school. She is depressed, and she is in a therapist’s office with her mother in the waiting room, and she realizes they want to commit her to an institution because she is so deeply depressed, and she freaks out and flees the office. This is, in fact, rebellious behavior. It is also exactly the kind of thing that could happen in the world. I read that you have an elementary school daughter. Congratulations! I don’t have kids, but I have many friends who do. If this sort of rebellious behavior is means for taking a book out of a library, I think you have some exciting and potentially difficult discoveries in front of you when your daughter reaches adolescence. I won’t spoil them. You’ll find out when you have a teenager!

• I don’t have the ISD handbook, so I don’t know what’s in it specifically. But I do think that if you want to have all the characters in novels adhere to a school handbook, you might have trouble finding novels. In THE WIZARD OF OZ, Dorothy drops a house on a witch. Is murder allowed in the handbook? In A TALE OF TWO CITIES, a French aristocrat runs down a working-class child with his carriage. I would assume this would be considered poor behavior in your district. Should we ban these books, too? Mr. and Mrs. Elliott, the truth is that stories, both fictional and non-fictional, include behaviors that might be considered outside the bounds of how schools might like their students to behave. People lie and cheat and steal. Find me a book for teenagers where no one behaves poorly, and I’ll show you a boring book!

You suggest that the libraries in your district remove THE BRIDGE from its shelves. I guess the question I want to ask, since you have read the book, is: why?

Why, exactly, are you wishing to remove a book about suicide and depression from your libraries?

Perhaps you are concerned for the safety of your students. If so, I applaud you. Health and safety of young people is at the top of my list of concerns, too. As I wrote THE BRIDGE, I spent a lot of time ensuring that I wrote my book in a way that would help teens, not trigger them by making suicide somehow glamorous or sexy. Just like a doctor, who takes an oath to “do no harm,” I take my craft very seriously. I want my books to leave the world better than they found it.

That said, we live in a society where, increasingly, young people are dying by suicide. The reasons for this are too long to go into here, but I would say that among the reasons is isolation and feeling alone and misunderstood.

Right there, in a nutshell, is why I write books for teens. I felt isolated and alone and misunderstood as a teen. I so wished there was a book out there that had a person going through what I was going through. See, I was gay. I knew I was gay because of my thoughts, not because of any book or TV show, because there were basically none of those things back when I was in school. At the time, I was depressed and suicidal because I felt so alone. So I wanted to make sure no other young person went through that.

I am concerned about the young people in the McKinney Independent School District, because in my experience, kids are the same everywhere. There are depressed kids everywhere. There are isolated, at-risk kids everywhere. There are LGBTQ kids everywhere. Getting rid of books from the library won’t change that; it will just make life that much harder and more isolated for those children.

Do you think there should be books in the library that might help a depressed teenager feel a bit more understood? A book that stresses the importance of staying another day, even when everything feels hopeless? Knowing how concerned you are for the safety of your daughter, I would actually guess you would want a book like that available to your child when she gets older. Perhaps I am wrong.

My concern is that you didn’t actually read THE BRIDGE and said that you did. I say this because your list of 282 books includes the exact same concerns for each book. That seems lazy, at best. At worst, it is deceitful, which, I imagine, goes against the ISD handbook. I certainly hope you’re not doing that! It would be hypocritical to behave in ways that go against the values we try to instill in our children.

I think you didn’t read THE BRIDGE, and that in fact you would have been better served to include a book of mine that was more focused on LGBTQ representation. Not because you would be right, but at least then we could have a conversation about why you’re wrong about that, too.

I can say with total honesty that I wish the best for your child. I want for her to have every opportunity for joy and success in life. To experience freedom and happiness.

What I wonder, though, is whether you feel the same way for kids who suffer from depression? Or for kids who are gay? The truth is that like it or not, some kids are gay. Some kids are trans. To make the world safer and better for them, we need to have representation of those people in books. Books with LGBTQ characters save lives. I know because of the hundreds of emails I’ve received from kids who have told me my books saved their life.

Perhaps you would like it better if those kids repressed those desires and didn’t act upon them. Or tried to pray the gay away. I’ve seen that movie. I have met hundreds of men and women over the course of my life who have tried to do that. It doesn’t end well for them, nor does it end well for their spouses.

You might say this is blasphemous, but here is a question for you: what if it turns out your daughter is lesbian or bisexual? You might think this is impossible; I can tell you from experience that I have met hundreds if not thousands of teens and parents in that situation. Kids from conservative, religious households. Parents who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman and anything else is immoral.

My question is, if it turns out your child is lesbian, or bi, or trans, what would you wish for them? Would you want them to feel loved and safe, or would you want them to feel alone and ashamed?

You might think now you’d prefer the latter, but I see from the fact that you are doing so much to try to keep your child safe that perhaps you might change your mind about that. According to a 2021 national study by The Trevor Project, 42 percent of LGBTQ youth considered suicide last year. The number is much higher for trans and non-binary youth. I have heard the argument that this shows that LGBTQ youth are simply troubled, but I can tell you that’s not right. LGBTQ youth are at risk precisely because of endeavors like yours that aim to erase people like them from the library.

I’ll end with a prayer for you, because I know that you are religious. I pray that you and your family find prosperity and joy. I hope that in your prayers tonight, you will pray for at-risk kids who need these books. Because in many cases, their lives depend on it.


Bill Konigsberg


Thanks to Bill for allowing me to share this letter here.

Illustrate, Translate, and Write On,