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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

A new year and a new National Ambassador

January 3, 2012

A new year has started and with it a new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Our new Ambassador continues a short but highly distinguished group of spokespeople for the importance of literature in the lives of children and young adults.

Walter Dean Myers will assume his newest role next week at a ceremony at the Library of Congress.

Walter Dean Myers writes books for every age. Each unique book reflects a particular interest of the author, his passion for history, and a depth of understanding about young people's emotional response to difficult situations including war.

Mr. Myers has been a longtime presence in our home.

One of my son's favorite books as a young child was Brown Angels (HarperCollins). He enjoyed the lively, rhythmic poetry and meeting children who lived long ago. It didn't matter that the children in the old photographs dressed differently and didn't really look like my son. He instinctively understood that they all shared something more meaningful; perhaps it was simply childhood.

My son was introduced to the Viet Nam war (in which his favorite uncle was involved) in Fallen Angels and later what soldiers experienced in Iraq through Sunrise Over Fallujah (both Scholastic). He was able to glimpse prison and the justice system, pondering guilt and innocence — from the outside and from the inside — with Monster (Amistad).

Readers of all ages can go on a Blues Journey (Holiday), listening to its music in the poetry while envisioning the period from which it grew through the evocative illustrations by Myers' son, Christopher Myers. They can meet a real African princess taken to England At Her Majesty's Request (Scholastic, o.p.) and feel the pressure of guns and gangs with Jamal in the Newbery honor Scorpions (Amistad).

So, congratulations Walter Dean Myers, Mr. National Ambassador of Young People's Literature! We look forward to an exciting term — and always, always to your next books.

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"Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won't have as much censorship because we won't have as much fear." —

Judy Blume