everything grows with love

Stories about My Experiences with Writers & Illustrators Who Bring Light into the World…by Bonnie Ingber Verburg

Archive for Leo Dillon

Leo Dillon’s Birthday

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It’s March 2, Leo Dillon’s birthday, and I’ve been thinking about him all day. Seeing his photograph warms me, and I call Diane to mark the day. Their accomplishments, and what they’ve brought into our complicated, sometimes broken world, are so bright and shining. As people, nothing every stopped them from doing the work they loved; they started out on a wing and a prayer with an abundance of brilliant talent, and over five decades created paintings and books that can never be forgotten. Even as books increasingly go out of print and become unavailable, I am certain the Dillons’ art and the stories they illustrated will outlast us all and will continue to bring joy and delight to children and adults around the world.

Happy birthday, Leo. I miss you. We all miss you. But your light continues to shine, and it always will. Love, Bonfire

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Kids

Arnold Adoff: A Rememory of Walter Dean Myers

 This r e m e m o r y of Walter Dean Myers

That word: r e m e m o r y is one coined by Virginia [Hamilton] and you must know I always feel since her death thirteen years ago . . . that she should still be here . . . and Walter should still be here . . . and Leo [Dillon] and Fred [McKissack] and others gone too soon.

Walter and Virginia were warriors . . . literary warriors . . . with that glinting consistency of effort and excellence. . . we were friends and comrades and fellow travelers . . . actually coming together only a few times a year to participate at a conference or speak at a convention . . . but always connecting over the years and decades as we published and spoke and struggled to break down the walls . . . open some of the musty rooms of youth literature . . . presenting images and stories to many thousands of young people of the post–(first) civil rights movement . . .

We first met after Virginia had published her first novel, Zeely, in 1967, and was receiving a Nancy Bloch award from the downtown community school. Bradford Chambers was one of the moving forces behind these early efforts at inclusion . . . and he and others formed the Council on Interracial Books for Children . . . their oversized bulletin devoting its back page to photos and bios and examples of work . . . and one day there was Walter . . . and a taste of his efforts . . . and his beginnings in our world.

So much of my anger is as much disappointment as it is a kind of negative rage. To have to revisit the Voting Rights Act—the way we’ll soon have to revisit the Roe v. Wade decision—kicks in the solar plexus . . . especially as my gut is far more tender than it was in struggles past . . . although no less keen. Some of what I write is simply and complexly to point out that the emperor is not even wearing a shred of silk around his sizable metaphoric rump.

“Walter and Virginia were warriors . . . literary warriors . . . with that glinting consistency of effort and excellence”

But, I also think of this new generation of writers and artists working to create excellence, and the academics and parents who study inclusion and multicultural youth literature, the Children’s Book Council Committee on Diversity and the Diversity Matters/We Need Diverse Books Now initiative, and the fine people making those open-eyed and openhearted efforts.

That’s why I mention Brad Chambers and his group of dedicated educators creating the Council on Interracial Books for Children—fifty years ago. And I mention now an organization begun several decades ago by Walter Dean Myers and Virginia [Hamilton] and [Leo and Diane] Dillon and Pat Cummings and Nicholasa Mohr and myself and Sheila Hamanaka . . . the Center for Multicultural Children’s Literature.

Working out of a small office donated by Scott Foresman/Harper’s and with a small budget from them as well, we were able to employ a part-time grad student to do preliminary reading of manuscripts and art portfolios from people around the country who needed those connections and an opening of the door to enter our field.

We did two more things: 1) writers and artists would be paired with many of us already publishing for some communication and mentoring and encouragement 2) editors and art directors were encouraged to be in touch with the center as they sought writers of color from all ethnicities and cultures as well as artists to illustrate manuscripts, and so on . . .
Finally, unlike these previously mentioned, an institution which is still flourishing at Kent State University after more than thirty years of annual conferences: the Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature for Youth. This is the oldest conference of its kind functioning annually as other worthy ones have been disbanded—Columbus, Boston, and San Francisco to name a few. This year the conference, which takes place on April 9 and 10, will feature keynote speakers David Macaulay, winner of this year’s Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, Rita Williams-Garcia, Newbery Honor winner, and Grace Lin, Newbery Honor winner. A host of others will speak and run workshops. Awards will be announced for academic articles and grants for those teachers and librarians who are working with multicultural materials on projects with their students.

Please go to their website at Kent State and you will find dozens of participants black, white, Hispanic, Asian, female, male, young, and old . . . year after year representing that grand metaphor of inclusive emperor dressed in the deepest and hippest outfits.

Of course Walter [Dean Myers] was the first recipient of the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award for the body of his work in 1999, just as a few years ago in 2010, Walter Dean Myers was honored at the Coretta Scott King/American Library Association conference with the inaugural Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award.

Finally, you should know I write some of these posts periodically—as the compulsion takes over—just to remind myself of positive efforts, accomplishments, frameworks, templates, and foundations.
Besides—as my son Jaime taught me years ago—you bop ’til you drop.
The struggle continues.

—Arnold Adoff

virginia hamilton Virginia Hamilton

Fred McKissack Fred McKissack

Leo Dillon  Leo Dillon

Walter Dean MyersWalter Dean Myers

If Kids Ran the World: Despite Pain and Brutality Across the Globe, People Are Helping One Another in Record Numbers

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Encouraging new statistics just released by volunteeringinamerica.gov:

Nearly 63 million Americans volunteered nearly 8 billion hours last year. (This service has an estimated value of $173 billion dollars, although that isn’t the point.) And more than 138 million Americans volunteered informally in their communities. Of course those statistics  include massive numbers of children. Congratulations again to Malala–for winning the Nobel Peace Prize at age seventeen!

USHER reads IF KIDS RAN THE WORLD by the Dillons’ Book to 2 million children

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Today the R&B superstar Usher graced Scholastic with his typical generosity and warm respect for people of all backgrounds. In an event to promote reading–called “Open a World of Possible”–Usher spoke to an auditorium of excited students and also read Leo & Diane Dillons’ If Kids Ran the World. It was the perfect message of love, peace, feeding the hungry, building homes for the homeless, giving medicine to the sick, and providing good schools and loving homes to all children–something Usher has been doing in his own very powerful and inspiring initiative: Usher’s New Look.

Here is a link to the event, a webcast that occurred today:

http://usherwebcast.scholastic.com/

And here’s an article from Vanity Fair, covering the event.

http://www.vanityfair.com/vf-hollywood/2014/11/usher-book-reading-tour:

We Watched Usher Read a Book to a Crowd of Screaming Children

“Kids, by the way, are what keep me young,” he said.

NOVEMBER 6, 2014 4:46 PM

BY STUART RAMSON/INVISION FOR SCHOLASTIC/AP IMAGES

 

 

 

 

 

Usher treated an excited, decidedly pro-reading crowd of schoolchildren to a reading and performance in New York on Thursday. The kids were packed into an auditorium at Scholastic’s Soho offices for a “BiggerThan Words” Web cast, which marked the launch of the book company’s “Open a World of Possible” campaign.

“You’re all Internet stars,” Scholastic’s Billy DiMichele told the audience, who was quite pleased to hear that “as many as 2 million people” were watching the live-stream of the proceedings.

“I read to escape the reality that I have in my day-to-day life,” Usher said after emerging to a frenetic reception, telling the audience that his favorite books include Green Eggs & Ham and the Winnie the Pooh series. Usher said that while his mother and other relatives would read to him, it was his first-grade teacher, Ms. Harris, who first showed him “how to use my imagination beyond what’s on the page.”

He then read If Kids Ran the World, by Leo and Diane Dillon, and performed a stripped-down version of “Without You.” Scholastic peppered the event with pre-taped video interviews with children who explained what they think “possible” means. One boy said he thinks “possible” is about making the unusual normal, “like, pigs flying, or fish out of water.” Another pint-size reader offered this rationale for why he liked books: “There is no limit. Like in a car, there’s a speed limit. But there’s no limit on reading, you can read forever, unless if you have to go to a birthday or something.” Indeed.

VF Hollywood caught up with the performer and father after the event, and asked if he was able to reconnect with Ms. Harris as an adult. “I’ve tried my hardest to reach out to family members who had a connection, because the school I actually attended was torn down,” he said. “Ridgedale was the name of the school.”

Usher offered an eclectic group when asked by a student member if he could name five people he would invite to a book club: “Morgan Freeman, because he has the coolest voice, Scarlett Johansson, and not just because she’s hot, SpongeBob, Oprah Winfrey, and my kids.”

“Kids, by the way, are what keep me young,” Usher told VF Hollywood. “One thing I will say about inner-city kids, is that a lot of what they say is, ‘When I have tough days, or I want to escape my reality, I go to reading.’ You might not realize it, but kids internalize things differently than we do . . . They’re just innocent, man. That’s what I keep in tact, and reading does that.”

Usher said he tries to read with his sons, ages five and six, as much as possible. “They’re now at the age where they want to participate,” he said. “It could be any of the library of books that we have in the house, but now it’s more about engaging them instead of just reading it to them. But sometimes they use that as an excuse to stay awake.”

“The imagination of my kids is pretty hard to keep up with,” he admitted. VF Hollywood asked if Usher thought he’d still be putting out music when the youngest elementary-school children in the crowd on Thursday grew up to attend high-school dances. “As long as I can make music, and as long as I have my voice, I’m going to continue to make it,” he said. “I could be any age.”

At 36, Usher is somewhat of a premature veteran (his self-titled debut studio album turned 20 years old this August). He recently kicked off his first tour in three years, though he’s doing so without a new album to promote. “When we finished rehearsing, we had an idea of what could happen,” Usher told us. “It’s kind of like you add water and stir—or milk, because it’s a little bit creamy. But it’s been a good trip back for me.”

“I was so happy that I didn’t have an album to promote, because this is really about talent,” he continued. “It’s about being able to communicate and connect through conversation. Maybe we talk about where inspiration came from, or an offbeat tribute, or a drum solo, or an ultimate soulful moment. All those things are what I wanted to introduce to my fans . . . every night is a different journey.”

“The reaction to ‘You Got It Bad,’ ‘Let It Burn,’ ‘Yeah,’ ‘D.J. Got Us Fallin’ in Love,’ and ‘Without You’ is just incredible, on a consistent basis,” he said. “I feel like I’m living in a golden moment, man.”

In hyping up the crowd for Usher’s arrival, DiMichele told the children that, if children actually did run the world, “I guarantee it would be a better place.” They screamed their agreement.

The Dillons’ Kitchen Table: A letter about making If Kids Ran the World

I was recently asked to write a letter to librarians and booksellers about IF KIDS RAN THE WORLD. A few hours ago I returned from the American Library Association Convention, where the 45th Anniversary of the Corretta Scott King Award was celebrated. It is such a warm, welcoming, loving community, and I had just received the first hardcover copy of KIDS from the printer. i slipped it into my bag and carried it with me the entire weekend, sharing it with friends who had known and admired the Dillons forever…. Lots of memories, lots of hearts touched by the splendid art as well as the generous sentiment–so typical of Leo & Diane.

Meanwhile, here’s the letter:

A Note from Bonnie Verburg, editor of If Kids Ran the World

For more than twenty-five years, it has been my great privilege and honor to work closely with Leo and Diane Dillon. In 1992, when I left Harcourt to become Editorial Director of Trade Books at Scholastic, I founded an imprint called the Blue Sky Press, and Leo and Diane drew our logo: a heart with wings. That winged heart is significant, because everything grows with love. And on January 11, 2011, when we began talking about creating a book called “If Kids Ran the World,” love was at the center that discussion—and the hundreds of discussions that followed.

Our original idea was to make a book that would introduce children and their older allies to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity; Heifer International; Doctors without Borders; and a full range of people and groups who exist to help others. What was initially difficult was to create such a book without including poverty, starvation, disease, war, racism—frightening issues that are tearing apart our world. It was at Leo and Diane’s kitchen table that we decided to cut all of that out of the book; I remember saying that when I imagined reading this book to my son, I didn’t want it to be his introduction to the horrors of war and other nightmares he would eventually encounter. So Leo and Diane instead built a book of optimism. Children feed the hungry, give medicine to the sick, build safe housing for those who need it, and keep the air and water clean. Certain issues had to be resolved—what would the children wear? It was important to the Dillons that children could wear any kind of clothing without being ridiculed. A child didn’t have to have that popular brand of $250 sneakers to be cool; he or she could wear the pair purchased at the Salvation Army, and nobody would laugh. Every detail in If Kids Ran the World was discussed at length; for a book with a very whimsical, light-hearted feeling, it was in fact planned with great seriousness. What an education I have had with each book I have published by Leo and Diane.

The manuscript was re-written so many times I lost track, and the pencil sketches and most of the finishes were complete when Leo became ill. When he decided to have surgery, it was beyond comprehension that he would catch an infection in the hospital and not return home to the studio.

Leo and Virginia Hamilton were my mentors, and Diane is one of my closest friends. The loss is profound. Yet the shining light left behind—and it positively glows in If Kids Ran the World—can never be diminished. In five decades of working together, the Dillons have changed the very fabric of what we consider to be a children’s book. And their commitment to include all people in their books— every race, religion, and socio-economic group—has not always been popular, but it has changed the lives of generations of children who were finally able to see their own beautiful faces in the stunning library of books that emphasized the beauty in each one of us…including you.

I hope you love If Kids Ran the World as much as we do, and I’m including Leo here. Every thought and brushstroke is an act of kindness and grace.

May the sun always shine upon you, may you always remember to be grateful for your many blessings, and may you bask in the pure joy that comes from helping others. Thank you for sharing the light.

 

 

 

On the wings of time….

It’s difficult to believe that on May 26, two years have passed since Leo Dillon died. After more than twenty-five years of close friendship, what can I possibly say about that? And although many years have now passed since I lost Virginia Hamilton, I still find myself wanting to call her when some funny thing happens that would make her laugh. Suddenly, after 37 years of book publishing, I no longer feel that time is an endlessly renewing river. Suddenly those years of memorable moments are beginning to ask to be recorded. When I was working with Jimmy Buffett on A Salty Piece of Land, he said, “It feels as if time is flying by because it is.”  So here is a spot for me to share some snapshots of small events along my editorial journey. I started out this crazy career wearing snakeskin cowboy boots and ridiculously short skirts, and now I’m somebody’s mother…sitting quietly at a computer while my golden retriever sleeps on my feet. All these years of publishing, I have kept what Barry Moser called “day books,” and by now I have shelves of them. They are packed with quotes and snippets of conversations and pasted-in pictures and lots of contract negotiations. They are also overflowing with love. What I feel most today is gratitude. So I hope that comes across as I try to gather a morning here, a dinner there, and wrap my arms around these brilliant, generous, highly creative people who fill my life with such abundance.

June 4, 2012

IMG_5933IMG_5717     Photo of me 1992 by Leo Dillon, taken in the kitchen; and photo of Leo…

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

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