Tony Carmack is a librarian and the manager of the Granite Bay Library in the Placer County Library system. He was a member of the 2017 Newbery Committee and a member of the 2011 Caldecott committee.
Hi Tony, thanks for taking the time to talk to us!
First, what’s missing from kids’ books right now? What types of books would you like to see more of, and what’s on your kids’ book wish list?
You may have heard that there’s a movement afoot to make children’s books more inclusive called “We Need Diverse Books.” Their mission (and frankly, the mission of our community of librarians) is “Putting more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children.” The vision, succinctly stated, is one in which “all children can see themselves in the pages of a book.” We have seen more books of children of diverse experiences—Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover, and CeCe Bell’s El Deafo. And I encourage everyone—writer or reader—to look at the quiet brilliance of Matt de Peña’s and Christian Robinson’s Last Stop on Market Street.
What types of kids’ books are making the most impact right now? What’s hitting the mark and getting it just right?
It may sound cliché, but the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is popular, and I don’t think that impact can be dismissed. What is it about that series? It’s the honest—if ordinary observations of a 21st century tween. Diary writing is nothing new, but the phenomena of DOAWK seems to have spawned dozens of similarly structured diary books from the POV of a kid.
As a Youth Services Librarian in our region, how can local authors or illustrators help you and the library?
Reach out to us! Youth Services librarians are eager to promote local author/illustrators. I met author Jen Barton at a local school where she and I were speaking before an assembly—she about her new book and being a writer, me about the library’s Summer Reading Program. I’ve not only added her titles to our collection, but Jen has both read her picture book in a storytime and presented two very well-attended writing workshops. I look forward to future collaborations, all after that one serendipitous meeting in a gymnasium full of squirmy students in June!
(It’s funny to think back to that gymnasium right before summer—those kids were squirmy! But Tony couldn’t be more right, librarians love supporting local authors. Reach out and see!)
Name one thing you’d want local authors and illustrators of kids’ books to remember.
Children are persons. The best authors/illustrators speak to children not as vessels for instruction but as fellow companions on this life’s journey. Forgo didacticism, speak to the heart and the experience of being a human. Works by centenarian Beverly Cleary are still being read because she respects a child audience, not because grownups tell kids we should read her books. Kids know.
What are you reading right now, and how’s it going?
I am honored to be a member of the 2017 Newbery Committee, the charge of which is to pick the most distinguished book for children published in 2016 by an American author or resident of the United States. And I’m having a blast reading those books! As a committee member, though, I am not allowed to disclose what I’m reading. An author/illustrator that is not eligible (she’s English) whose work is unparalleled is Emily Gravett. I love all of her works, each one is a work of art—I can’t wait to read her next one, whatever it is!
(Tony and I spoke in 2016 before the ALA awards were announced.)