Monday, January 26, 2009

ALA Youth Media Awards Announced!

For the second year in a row, I set my alarm early on a Monday morning (when, in the one perk of working nights, I normally get to sleep in) to watch the live webcast announcing the American Library Association Youth Media Awards. The two biggest include the Caldecott Medal (for distinguished contribution to picture books) and the Newbery Medal (for distinguished contribution to children's literature). The Geisel Award, named after Theodor Geisel, aka "Dr. Seuss", the Coretta Scott King Award, and the Michael Printz Award (Young Adult books) have all been growing in popularity as well.

So, huge Children's book nerd that I am, I was up and watching the webcast. This announcement is like the Oscars for librarians and children's authors. Here's the ALA press release on the winners. The Caldecott Medal went to The House in the Night, a Good Night, Moon-ish picture book. The Newbery was more a shock to me, going to the not-so-shiningly reviewed The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. That one I haven't read yet, but it's about a boy named Nobody who lives in a graveyard and is raised by ghosts. I plan on reading it soon so I can have an opinion. But, as always, the amazingly awesome Mo Willems can't stay away from the ALA Award circuit. His first Pigeon book and both Knuffle Bunny books were Caldecott honors, while one of his Elephant and Piggie books, There is a Bird on Your Head, won the Geisel Award last year. This year, he returns with another adventure for the crazy duo, Are You Ready to Play Outside? The man is pure genius. This is the fourth year for the award and he's won half of them!

Happy Reading!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Put a Little Hope In Your Heart

I've been hearing that little four-letter word a lot the past few months.

In case you've been living with your head stuck in a hole, you know what our economy's like, that there's about to be a historic inauguration of the first African American president, and people in general are just weary. You either are full of it or fully aware you're missing it. Let me just first say that I know this is a huge moment in history and am proud of the United States that we have moved even further past that horrible time of slavery and racial inequality to be able to have a non-WASP president. And I will be praying for Barack Obama as he takes over the office of the President of the United States of America. But let me go back to something I wrote days after the election last November:

The same way that we need to respect and pray for Barack Obama, we need to respect our current president. We give one (hu)man way too much credit if we believe that this one man alone is the cause of all our nations problems, and on
the flip side, we give one (hu)man way too much credit to believe he is the answer it to it all. I would believe this no matter who had won. These are men, albeit powerful men, but men. In my knowledge there has only been one time in history that God has walked this earth in human form.

Leading up to tomorrow's inauguration, I've seen TV specials, newspaper articles, books, hear conversation, etc. And it's all about how "now we have hope." I think this desire for change and something to hope in is 1) because of how times are difficult now (but that's a natural part of life... some times are hard, some times are easy, some times are in between)... and people want to believe that new leadership is capable of bringing change, and 2) because the desire for hope is evidence of the hole in our heart for God. You may be reading this and not have the same faith as I do. So let me say this to you in apology: I think the Church (universal) has done a very poor job of displaying the realness of God. He's not just some Sunday/Wednesday only thing. No, He is a real part of every part of my day. (Although, sometimes... often times... I mess that up and don't act like it because of my sin.) There are definitely Believers out there getting it, but I think why we're seeing so many people turn from faith in God is that we're not showing people how a relationship with God changes your life. How you should be different because of it. Life won't be easy, but you have hope for something better. Hope that you will be changing to become more Christ-like. Hope that you'll one day be in Heaven. But in a world where people want to know what makes Christians different, we don't always do a good job showing them. We don't show how Christ is real, in the flesh (through our flesh) working in our lives and on this earth. So people continue to search for something or someone to hope in.

But without Christ, there's no hope.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cleaning Out the Gunk

The following post is not for the faint of heart...

Okay, it's not that disgusting. But God recently showed me a somewhat disgusting-but-true reminder.

I work with kids. I work at a public library. You interact with a lot of people and items that are "contaminated" (for lack of a better word!) People are sick. People read books and take movies when they're sick and put their infected hands all over library items. It's a fact of life. Can't change it. I try to be careful about washing my hands at work, but I can't be anal. And inevitably, it happens. I get sick. I've never been sick (or borderline sick) so many times as I have since I started working with kids. In fact, I rarely got sick in college! But now, between a crazy busy schedule that leaves me less than full strength at times (I'm working on that!) and constant contact with "carrier monkeys" (as Friend Jen lovingly calls her adorable girls!)... well, you get sick! So the disgusting thing? All that "bodily secretion". Pus. Mmmm. Anyone eating?

But what did God remind me of? The fact that we all have "infection" in our lives... sin. And for that infection to be healed and cleaned out, our body needs to fight it. It needs to produce the nasty stuff. That's a sign that our body is healing. The infection is not good. But the signs of healing are. So while colds and the like are not fun, the end result is good. I was recently driving into work and just struck by how cool our bodies reaction to infection is! (I know, weird.) But it's just amazing that God designed that system so our bodies would heal (and not get worse!) and that the gunk serves to warn us "hey, something's wrong here... go to a doctor or take some cold medicine!" (so the problem doesn't go untreated.) Just like sometimes, junk in our lives is hard, painful, challenging, etc. It's our warning "hey, something's wrong here... go to God and clean up the sin infection!" Just think about both cases, if what was wrong/infected continued to get worse with no warning... where would we all be? So yes, I'm thankful for the nasty signs of health returning. It means the infection's getting kicked to the curb!

P.S. I just got Mo Willems' new book, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed. Classic Mo. Hilarious. Grand-pah Mole Rat is wise. And seriously, who else but Mo Willems would think of a title like Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed??