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Monday, March 28, 2011

Jane Kurtz - Congratulations - 2011 Kerlan Award

Jane Kurtz will officially receive the Kerlan Award on April 2, 2011 --Jane has been my friend for almost 15 years -- not long by some standards, but long enough for me to see her grow as a writer, to observe her passion for Ethiopia Reads, and her commitment to literacy, and to enjoy her friendship and every book that she has written.  I am so thrilled that she is to get his honor.  The Kerlan Award is given "in recognition of singular attainments in the creation of children's literature and in appreciation for generous donation of unique resources to the Kerlan Collection for the study of children's literature."  Individuals from all areas of children's literature, including authors, illustrators, editors, publishers, and educators, are eligible for this honor.

It was a May day in 1997 that I first met Jane Kurtz.  I know it was at an International Reading Conference.  That year the International Reading Association's (IRA) conference was being held in Atlanta, Georgia.  Jane Kurtz, although still in the midst of recovering from the flood had come to Atlanta, and I had made plans to meet Deborah Hopkinson to interview her for a profile article that I did write after our meeting.  But during that conference Jane Kurtz was sharing a room with Deborah and she came along to meet me as well.  Little did I know that on Jane's birthday April 17, of that year (1997), just a couple of weeks earlier, Jane and her family had been forced out of their home and faced down by the Red River Flood.  I did not hear a word about it then -- but we met for breakfast and I took pictures of her and of Deborah Hopkinson.  I can't remember meeting Deborah Wiles that day - but she was surely there.  As the three were rooming together and out of their discussions came three books:  Jane's became a book of poetry built on her flood experiences. 
River Friendly, River Wild by Jane Kurtz. Illustrated by Neil Brennan. (Simon & Schuster, 2000).
Deborah Wiles gathered an idea from their conversations and wrote Freedom Summer illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing/Atheneum, 2001).I'm not sure what book Deborah Hopkinson wrote from this weekend of writer's talk, but do remember the comment that three books evolved. I'm thinking that it was a follow-up to her Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt.
One of Jane's first books was Fire on the Mountain (Simon & Schuster, 1994) which was illustrated by E. B. Lewis.  Later he and Jane's brother went to Ethiopia to do research for the illustrations for another book Jane and he published, Only a Pigeon (Simon & Schuster, 1997)

Among my very favorite books is this one written with her brother Christopher as co-author. Find out about all of Jane's books at  
CONGRATULATIONS, JANE - -I'm so pleased it is you that is being honored this year.

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