January 4, 2018
The Children’s Book Council, Every Child a Reader, and the Library of Congress has announced the appointment of Jacqueline Woodson as the sixth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Our Penguin Random House author is a four-time Newbery Honor Medalist, Coretta Scott King Book Award-winner, former Young People’s Poet Laureate and National Book Award Winner for her memoir-in-verse BROWN GIRL DREAMING (Nancy Paulsen Books).
Woodson will travel nationwide over the course of her two-year term promoting her platform, READING = HOPE x CHANGE (What’s Your Equation?), which encourages young people to think about – and beyond – the moment they’re living in, the power they possess, and the impact reading can have on showing them ways in which they can create the hope and the change they want to see in the world.
The inauguration ceremony, presided by the 14th Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden, will take place on Tuesday, January 9 at the Library of Congress, in Washington D.C.
“I think the work ahead of me is challenging,” says Jacqueline Woodson, “I don’t believe there are ‘struggling’ readers, ‘advanced’ readers or ‘non’ readers. I’d love to walk away from my two years as Ambassador with the qualifiers gone and young people able to see themselves beyond stigma or oft-times debilitating praise. Martin Luther King Jr. said people should not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. In that regard, I think young people should not be judged by the level of their reading but by the way a book makes them think and feel. By the way it gives them hope. By the way it opens them up to new perspectives and changes them. I’m excited to have these conversations with some of the best conversationalists in our country – our young people.”
“We are delighted that Jacqueline Woodson has agreed to be the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “I have admired Jacqueline Woodson’s work for years, especially her dedication to children and young-adult literature. The Library of Congress looks forward to Jacqueline’s tenure of encouraging young readers to embrace reading as a means to improve the world.”
Nancy Paulsen, President and Publisher of Nancy Paulsen Books, says: “We think Jacqueline Woodson is the perfect Ambassador for our time because of her commitment to making sure all children have access to all kinds of books, and are sure to see themselves portrayed in those books. This is exactly what’s needed to appeal to today’s readers and to grow the next generation of book lovers.”
Carl Lennertz, Executive Director of Every Child a Reader and the Children’s Book Council, added, “We couldn’t be more pleased with the selection of Jacqueline Woodson as the next ambassador. She embodies everything that we look for in this position and we can’t think of a more passionate advocate for young people and for reading over the next two years.”
The National Ambassador is selected for his or her contributions to young people’s literature, the ability to relate to kids and teens, and dedication to fostering children’s literacy in all forms. The selection, made by the Librarian of Congress, is based on recommendations from an independent committee comprising educators, librarians, booksellers, and children’s literature experts.
Woodson succeeds authors Jon Scieszka (2008–2009), Katherine Paterson (2010–2011), Walter Dean Myers (2012–2013), Kate DiCamillo (2014–2015), and Gene Luen Yang (2016-2017) in the position.
You can read more about Jacqueline’s award-winning books here.
May 12, 2016
As part of our Publisher Profile series, Nancy Paulsen, president and publisher of her eponymous Penguin Young Readers imprint, shares personal insights into her outstanding career in book publishing, her bestselling, award-winning authors – Jacqueline Woodson, Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Maira Kalman, among them – as well as new books and authors she is looking forward to publishing in the coming year.
What initially attracted you to the world of book publishing and the editor/publisher role in particular?
Like most people in publishing, it was the love of books. I was an avid reader as a child and loved how reading transported me to new places and allowed me to understand how it felt to stand in someone else’s shoes. When I brought my résumé to Viking Penguin (as it was called back then), the job opening was in Children’s Editorial. I saw so many favorite books on the shelves when I walked into the offices—MADELINE,
THE SNOWY DAY,
THE OUTSIDERS—that I knew I had arrived at my new home. From then on I wanted to work with authors and artists and help them make books forever.
What have been some of your most rewarding achievements over the course of your career as a publisher?
Right from the beginning I wanted to publish books that made kids feel good and that made all kinds of kids feel represented. One of my early books at Viking was a picture book called I LIKE ME! by Nancy Carlson, about a confident pig, and I adored its message. When I became the publisher of Putnam in the mid-1990s, I signed up Jacqueline Woodson because I loved her extraordinary, lyrical voice, and I was thrilled when so many of her books won major awards. Her most recent picture book with E. B. Lewis, EACH KINDNESS
, won the Jane Addams Peace Prize and shows kids in such a stunning way that actions have consequences. Maira Kalman’s picture books have also been thrilling to publish, as her viewpoint is so unique and eye-opening. It’s exciting that I get to work on both picture books and novels that speak to so many kids and make a difference in their lives.
When you started your own imprint, how did you envision what your emphasis would be as well as the breadth of your authors and character of your lists?
From the start I planned to focus on diverse and distinctive voices and books that offered kids hope, because life can be so hard. Having Jacqueline Woodson’s stunning memoir,BROWN GIRL DREAMING
, win the National Book Award and become a huge bestseller has been so gratifying to us both, as we’ve worked together for twenty years and it was a fabulous culmination of all the things we’ve dreamed about happening. When I published Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s first book, ONE FOR THE MURPHYS
, about a foster child and everyday heroes, the word of mouth among kids was incredible and propelled the book onto state award lists all over the country. Lynda’s new book, FISH IN A TREE
, is a bestseller that is being read in classrooms all over the world, and it’s a beautifully told story that reminds us not to judge people by their learning styles (“Great minds don’
t think alike!”) and shows how a good teacher makes such a difference in a child’s life.
What have been some of the most satisfying aspects of having your own imprint and what excites you most about its future?
It is super-satisfying to work with people who amaze me with their talents. On the picture book side, I get to work with some industry greats like the inimitable Tomie dePaola, and to also discover new talent like Lori Nichols and Eliza Wheeler. And on the fiction side I am thrilled that I have lots more coming from Jacqueline Woodson and Lynda Mullaly Hunt. I also have novels from Brenda Woods, Aisha Saeed, and Padma Venkatraman—all who are powerful diverse voices. It is so rewarding when fabulous books reach readers and excite them and help expand their worldview, and it’s magical when a book becomes a child’s favorite. That’s what excites me about the future—more books and more stories to be told and the ability to connect with kids in such a meaningful way.