Connection interview with California's Susan
Patron, winner of 2007 ALA Newbery Award
Award winner Susan Patron
[Photo courtesy of Rene Patron]
Patron, who recently retired from the Los
Angeles Public Library where she served as a senior children's librarian
for collection development, is the recipient of the prestigious Newbery Award for her book The Higher Power of Lucky. The Newbery
Medal is awarded annually to the author of the best written children's book in
the U. S. and it is administered by the Association for Library Service to
Children, a division of the American Library
Association. The award was recently presented at the annual
conference of the American Library Association in Washington D.C.
Connection interviewed Patron for inside points-of-view from an
award-winning librarian and writer:
a little about your background.
born and grew up in Los Angeles. As a child, I spent lots of time in
LAPL branches, and my first "real" job after graduate school, in
1972, was as a children's librarian at LAPL's Granada Hills branch. Eventually
I promoted to become the library's Juvenile Materials Collection Development
Manager, a position I held for over 25 years. I retired in March 2007.
writing projects are you working on now?
working on a sequel to The Higher Power of Lucky. Also, I enter
the New Yorker's joke caption contest occasionally (but have never even been
thing in your life has changed as a result of winning the Newbery Award?
I'm writing, flocks of critic-reviewer-crows land on my shoulders, dig their
talons into my skin, and caw into my ears. They were always there, but
I could dispatch them more easily before the award.
you go about doing research for your books?
examples: to learn about knot tying and knot tyers (for the character
Lincoln in both Lucky and its sequel) I joined the International Guild of
Knot-Tyers, attended their annual convention, received their newsletters,
and corresponded with members, who gave me crucial advice. I also
checked out knot-tying books from the library, but they made my eyes cross.
(It's a hard-won skill.)
weeks ago, a wild burro walked into a chapter of my current project, so I
began research on these interesting desert animals. I discovered that
many people are passionate on the subject, and the Bureau of Land Management
runs an active burro adoption program. I'm hoping to visit a ranch to
meet some adopted wild burros up close. I guess what I do, in
conducting research, is to get as involved as possible on the topic.
Research is fun and seductive because it's a "legitimate" way (as
opposed to, say, spending all day making Marcella Hazen's lasagna) of
avoiding the hard job of writing the book.
insights have you gained from the uproar earlier this year over the use of the
word “scrotum” in The Higher Power of Lucky?
1993, I wrote a book for an even younger audience, Maybe Yes, Maybe No,
Maybe Maybe, in which I used the word "uterus." The book
was an ALA Notable, a SLJ Best of the Year, and generally well received.
No one ever raised the issue of that word or worried about problems children
might have understanding it. What's different with "scrotum"
in Lucky? Some adults evidently feel that the Newbery should be
"safe," that is, a book that doesn't reflect the world in which
children live - a book that doesn't raise questions. Of course, this
is precisely what literature should do; it should be honest in the deepest
sense. I'm grateful that so many librarians and parents came forth in
defense of intellectual freedom and freedom of access for children; grateful
that our profession values and defends the right of children to explore
their own hearts and the mysteries of the universe through fiction.