When my first picture books were finally published—stories I had heard as a child in Ethiopia—I woke up to the reality that the artistic journey (already agonizingly hard) had barely begun. I realized it was up to librarians, teachers, and other book ambassadors to put my stories into the hands of young readers. It was thrilling when Fire on the Mountain, my first Simon & Schuster book, got a starred review in School Library Journal and was chosen as a Children’s Book of the Month Club selection. In those days, families and educators relied on things like review journals and newspaper book columns to bring new books to their attention. Books sank or soared depending on how they were described in those hallowed pages: what power! I offered to write a children’s book review column for my local newspaper so I could share with other parents the new books I was discovering, ones that hardly ever showed up in our local chain bookstore.
Then things changed! Fast forward to the digital age, which is also a time where many school librarians have lost their jobs—or been reassigned—due to budget cuts. Many people started to turn to online sources to discover new children’s books, and Betsy Bird, a children’s librarian at the New York Public Library, began to spend 4-5 hours a night blogging about children’s books. Within a few years, she was a force that authors longed to have on their side. Her witty, well-written pieces were being read by about 80,000 visitors a month. Before long, she was asked by School Library Journal to move her Fuse #8 blog to their site and was hired as Evanston Public Library Collection Development Manager in Illinois.
Authors love to have their books featured in the Fuse 8 blog. They are excited about being interviewed by someone who, as one admirer says, “lives, eats and breathes children’s literature” and channels her passion into her speaking, her reviews, and her blog. So we were delighted when we got to talk with Betsy Bird about Ready Set Go Books: https://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2020/12/03/nonprofit-book-distribution-a-talk-with-jane-kurtz-and-ellenore-angelidis/
You can be a book ambassador too! Please consider sharing this link with a school librarian, a public librarian, or a group of your friends. Every child deserves to know more about fascinating Ethiopia and we can be the powerful people who get the books into their hands.