2017 Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award - Book Review from the President (Pt. 2 - Genre Excellence Author Winner John David Anderson)
Roberta Knickerbocker Jaggers is the President of The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation. A graduate of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Roberta holds a Master of Arts degree in Philanthropic Studies and a Master of Public Affairs degree with a concentration in nonprofit management. In her role as President, Roberta solicits and stewards gifts from a wide range of individual, foundation and corporate donors and works closely with the Foundation's Board of Directors. She has been with the Library Foundation in various capacities since 2002. Roberta has been poring over the works of this year's winners and finalists, and has lots to share! See below for her thoughts on Genre Excellence - Middle Grade Fiction (Chapter Books) Author winner John David Anderson and the themes in his book "Standard Hero Behavior":
In June, I was fortunate to attend the American Library Association conference in Chicago. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn about the latest innovations in our field and reflect on the power of libraries to transform lives. Libraries do this in countless ways. One theme that emerged at the conference and resonated powerfully with me was the idea that libraries facilitate belonging.
Just hours before visiting this year's Genre Excellence Author winner John David Anderson during his book signing, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Brene Brown, PhD and Licensed Social Worker. Famous for her TED talks on empathy, the University of Houston researcher provided a sneak preview of her latest book, "Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and The Courage to Stand Alone." This book draws a stark distinction between "fitting in," or adapting ourselves to please others, and "belonging," or remaining true to ourselves in all situations. Our sense of belonging is tested when we find ourselves in the wilderness: vulnerable, isolated and at odds at with society's expectations. While the wilderness isn't easy, it is our best opportunity to discover and cultivate our authentic selves.
On many levels, Anderson's "Standard Hero Behavior" is an allegory for Brown's research. In order to save his hometown of Darlington from a vengeful monster mafia led by Bennie the Orc, teen protagonist Mason Quayle must find and convince the village's long-gone heroes to come home to its defense. Equipped only with his talent for telling tales and his missing father's manual on heroism, Mason sets off into the wilderness with friend Cowel to accomplish the seemingly impossible. Nobody, least of all Mason, believes he will succeed. Unlike the archetypes he seeks, Mason cannot wield a sword, nor can he ride a horse without chaffing his bottom. But, as he learns the truth behind his father's disappearance, Mason discovers that he and his father are most extraordinary heroes - not at all standard.
Libraries foster a culture of belonging, not just by making books like "Braving the Wilderness" and "Standard Hero Behavior" available, but by supporting each and every cardholder in their own reading choices. This was especially important when I was navigating the wilderness of middle school, where the pressure to fit in (or at least try to) was immense. My librarian Sylvia encouraged me to be true to myself by supporting whatever I wanted to read. It was only recently that I have begun to realize how much Sylvia's encouragement contributed to my self-acceptance, the very foundation for belonging according to Brown. For this reason, I am grateful for how the Library Foundation connects today's young readers to inspiring authors like Anderson and nurturing librarians like Sylvia. I am even more appreciative of the supporters who make those connections possible.