kidlit

My Fibonacci book honored with a new math #kidlit award

If you have spent any time as a child or browsed the children's section of a bookstore, you know that there are numerous awards for children's literature. The Newbery. The Caldecott. The Theodor Seuss Geisel. The Coretta Scott King. The Michael L. Printz. The Laura Ingalls Wilder. And on and on. Most are awarded each year during the American Library Association's midwinter conference. Over the years, awards have been created to honor African-American authors and illustrators, Latino/Latina creators, or to pay tribute to books that highlight the LGBT experience.

There has never been an award to specifically celebrate math-themed children's books.* Until now.

Last Friday, April 17, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) and the Children's Book Council (CBC) announced the first winners of their first annual Mathical Prize for math-themed children's literature. The orgs picked four winners for books published in 2014, and then picked a dozen other "Honor Books" as a way of paying tribute to books that were published in the years 2009-2013, before this new award was established. 

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My children's book, Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci, is one of those Honor Books. Blockhead is a fable about the real-life mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci. It was published by Henry Holt in the spring of 2010. Obviously, I was stunned to get the news. In this business, you don't expect to be singled out for attention five years after the fact. But it is gratifying nonetheless.

Why math book awards? It's no secret that children learn in different ways. Children's books that touch upon math themes can inspire a child in ways that a math textbook, worksheets, or even careful instruction by a devoted teacher will not. Adults forget this, so an award that calls attention to math-themed #kidlit is not a bad way to remind them.

My thanks to these two orgs and their selection committee. My congrats to all the authors and illustrators of the 2014 Mathical Award Winners and the Honor Books.


* To be strictly accurate, in 2012 Bank Street College established the Cook Prize, which annually honors children's picture books that make perfect additions to STEM curricula. (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.) The finalists for the Cook Prize are voted upon by actual kids, who choose the winner.

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My Fibonacci book @ Dali Museum

This was a cool. One of my bookseller friends, Caroline (above) spotted my Fibonacci book on sale (in copious quantities) at the  Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.  The artist Dali referenced the Fibonacci Sequence in many of his works. I love when one of my books connects with a museum gift shop. Their priorities are vastly different from traditional bookstores, and they’ll keep a book in stock long after the other stores have returned them and moved on.  * * *  Meanwhile, Caroline’s employer,  Malaprops , is in the news this evening. This   New York Times  article  announces that they are one of more than 50 indie bookstores that will receive a grant from mega-author James Patterson.

This was a cool. One of my bookseller friends, Caroline (above) spotted my Fibonacci book on sale (in copious quantities) at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. The artist Dali referenced the Fibonacci Sequence in many of his works. I love when one of my books connects with a museum gift shop. Their priorities are vastly different from traditional bookstores, and they’ll keep a book in stock long after the other stores have returned them and moved on.

* * *

Meanwhile, Caroline’s employer, Malaprops, is in the news this evening. This New York Times article announces that they are one of more than 50 indie bookstores that will receive a grant from mega-author James Patterson.

Blockhead is now a First Book

I got a nice surprise last week. My math picture book, Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci has been accepted into the First Book Program.

First Book is a nonprofit org that helps teachers and schools buy books for kids in need. First Book makes tons of titles available to select schools at astounding discounts of 50 to 90 percent below retail. That’s a huge discount. I was clicking through First Book’s online store and I came across brand-new books by major authors that are going for as little as a buck a book. That price is only available if the teacher or school has been vetted and accepted into the First Book program.

When Blockhead first came out, I used to get emails from teachers, parents, and librarians asking if I could donate a book to a classroom or library, because they just didn’t have the funds to do so.

That’s a hard thing to ask of an author. In the first place most of us just don’t have the money to help schools out in this way. For a while I donated a few, but it wasn’t something I could keep up forever. While I do get a discount from the publisher, every book I mail out costs me darn near retail price by the time I cover the distributor’s sales tax and shipping and my own re-shipping. It just wasn’t smart for me to continue doing that, as much as I want kids to have my book. On top of the cost, authors like me are simply not equipped to assess whether a school or library is truly needy. No matter what I did, I felt guilty.

LaToniya A. Jones loves her kids—with math!

A few years ago, I did a Skype visit with some classes led by LaToniya A. Jones, a former middle school principal and math specialist in Detroit who founded an 501c3 organization called P.O.W.E.R., which, among other things, runs workshops to teach parents how they can empower their kids through math. LaToniya, who uses a bunch of “math-lit” books in her seminars, wrote to First Book, asking that they add Blockhead to their menu of titles.

I’m really touched and glad that she did that. I had heard of First Book, but it would not have occurred to me that I could propose that the org make my book available. When Blockhead finally hits the First Book store, I’ll add the link to my site permanently so teachers and librarians will know that they have options that are cheaper than even the big online retailers. (If you are a children’s book author, you might consider looking into First Book.)

In any case, thanks, First Book. Thanks, Ms. Jones!


Yes, I am trying to post here more often. Thank you for noticing. If you want to sign up for my newsletter and claim your free ebook, go here. Thanks — Joseph D’Agnese