Becoming a Banned Author
I figured it was only a matter of time before I became a banned author, given that How to Build a Human is about the touchy subject of human evolution. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would get banned for Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog.
Duval County Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in Florida, and 70% of their kids are minorities. To improve the diversity of their book collection, they purchased books from an “Essential Voices” collection of 170+ titles, one of which was Hachiko. The books in the collection are largely about people of color and LGQTQ+ topics. Duval County has been targeted by the Orwellian-named group “Moms for Liberty,” and apparently to head off any controversies involving the “Essential Voices” books, the district administration pulled all the books off the shelves. Officially the books have been pulled for “review,” apparently shorthand for “indefinite purgatory so the Moms for Liberty won’t scream at us.”
Luckily, and We Need Diverse Books are helping us fight back. They organized an open letter to the school board from authors, and three banned authors, including Newbery Medal winner Linda Sue Park, spoke at the December 6th Duval County Public Schools board meeting. Check out a local news report, as well as the full list of banned books.
Human Lands on Multiple “Best of the Year” Lists
I’m happy to say that How to Build a Human has been getting lots of love. It’s been named to the following lists:
- Kirkus Best Books 2002
- School Library Journal’s Best Books 2022
- The Horn Book Fanfare Best of 2022
- New York Public Library Best Books for Kids 2022
- Chicago Public Library Best Informational Books for Kids 2022
- Evanston Public Library 101 Great Books for Kids 2022
- National Science Teachers’ Association (NSTA) Outstanding Science Trade Books
Science magazine gave it a wonderful review in a recent issue.
Remember Samurai Rising?
I recently had the pleasure of spending several weeks in Japan, including a hiking trip on a pilgrimage route south of Kyoto. I got off the train in a little town called Tanabe, and what do I see? A huge statue of Yoshitsune’s sidekick, the indomitable Benkei. Tanabe claims to be his birthplace. About a week later I was at Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto, the site of a mythical battle between Yoshitsune and Benkei. Not sure how I missed this on earlier visits, but you can try to lift a pair of Benkei’s sandals (made of iron) and Benkei’s small staff or his large staff. It’s all good tourist fun.
Raven and Raptor Chronicles
You knew there was going to be something in here about wildlife rehab, right? I raised nine baby ravens this year. The four siblings that I raised were released in Marin, where they came from, and the rest I released in a park in the Oakland Hills. They always have that horrified first-day-of-middle-school look when I let them go. One stuck around for a while and called to its friends—I hope they found each other and found some older ravens to show them the ropes. Godspeed, my little friends.
Not long after the ravens flew off into the sunset, I was asked to take care of a kestrel. These beautiful little birds are the smallest bird of prey in North America, and look something like a miniature peregrine. This kestrel had been brought to the wildlife hospital with severely damaged feathers on one wing. We hoped that after his fall molt he would grow nice new feathers, but alas, it seems his feather shafts were damaged. But there’s a happy ending: the little guy is going to be an education bird at CuriOdyssey in San Mateo, CA.