“Kekla Magoon grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She wrote her first novel when she was in high school. She should have known then that she was destined to be an author, but it actually took her awhile longer to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. Kekla always loved books, though. Her mom read lots of books to her, and took her to the library every week so she could read and read and read. Kekla made a habit of checking out as many paperbacks as she could carry!” ~keklamagoon.com biography
To learn even more about fascinating and inspiring black history makers, visit the Center for Black Literature & Culture at Central Library. The Center is dedicated to celebrating the vibrant and resilient heritage and triumphs of those born of African roots.
“To get young people engaged, one of the things they need is to see themselves in books. It is important for all of us to see ourselves in books, because that encourages us to read in a different way and encourages us to write more.” ~ Dr. Jerrie Cobb Scott Founder of the African American Read-in #weneeddiversebooks
The poet James Whitcomb Riley was born in Greenfield, Indiana on October 7, 1849. To give you an idea how long ago that was, he was about 12 years old when the U.S. Civil War started. Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell were both born around the same time.
At the time of his death on July 22, 1916, James Whitcomb Riley was a beloved figure in Indiana. He was also well known for writing in dialect. A dialect is a particular form of a language that is special to a specific region, in this case Indiana. It is similar to what we would call an accent today. When a person read his poetry, it was like listening to a neighbor and people really liked that. Many of his poems were funny. People really liked that too. Riley traveled the country giving live shows reading his poetry. In his time, he was a rock star! His death was such news it made front page headlines in major newspapers all across the country. There is an old scrapbook of the events that followed his death at The James Whitcomb Riley Home & Museum. You can look at this scrapbook online. It has all kinds of old newspaper clippings in it. One of the headlines about his funeral says, “35,000 People Pass Casket of Indiana Poet”. That is a lot of people!
During Riley’s life people did not have radios in their homes yet. To listen to music or readings they used phonographs. In Riley’s day you had to hand crank a machine to listen to a recording. Very early ones recorded onto cylinders. Later ones recorded onto flat discs, like a CD, only larger. Today you can play a digital file of an audiobook on your phone or computer. In 1912 Riley recorded poetry readings for the Victor Talking Machine Company on one of those flat discs so that people could listen at home – an old time audiobook. We have these old Riley Recordings at IndyPL in our digital collection. James Whitcomb Riley Recordings You can listen to the man himself reading his own poetry. Lucky for you they are in a digital file now!
Mr. Riley’s most famous poems for children were and still are, “Raggedy Man,” “The Little Orphant Annie,” “When the Frost is on the Punkin,” and “The Old Swimmin’ Hole.” You can read them right now in these free eBooks from IUPUI. I recommend the deliciously scary “The Little Orphant Annie.” Annie is a great storyteller! She tells the story of why you better mind your parents because “The gobble-uns’ll git you ef you don’t watch out!” To read it click on the green book Riley Child Rhymes and then click on page 23.
In the spirit of another beloved Hoosier, David Letterman:
Top 10 Ways to Know James Whitcomb Riley was a Rock Star of his Time:
10. His book Rhymes of Childhood was published in 1912. Today, over 100 years later, you can easily find his book at the library or go to an online bookstore and find it for sale as a print book or an eBook. There are not very many books that are still printed from that long ago!
8. When Riley died, the President of the United states, Woodrow Wilson, and the Vice-President of the United States, Thomas Riley Marshall (who was from Columbia City, Indiana), both sent messages of condolence to his family. The Governor of Indiana allowed him to be laid in state at The Indiana Statehouse Rotunda so that people could come pay their respects. Until that time, only Abraham Lincoln had been honored in that way.
1. James Whitcomb Riley donated the land indyPL’s Central Library is built on. The bronze gates at the main entrance on St. Clair Street were purchased with pennies donated by children. The bronze tablets on each of the iron gates say: The gates are the gift of the children of Indianapolis in loving remembrance of their friend James Whitcomb Riley
Indianapolis’s own John David Anderson has been named the 2017 Indiana Author Award Genre Excellence Winner for Middle Grade Fiction. That’s a long way to say he won an award for writing great books – books kids like – for middle school students. Mr. Anderson is the author of several favorites, including Ms. Bixby’s Last Day,Sidekicked, Minion, Standard Hero Behavior, andThe Dungeoneers. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wife and two kids right here in Indianapolis. You can learn more at www.johndavidanderson.org.
Mr. Anderson’s new book is called Posted. It’s a story about what happens when kids go old-school, using post-it notes to communicate with each other instead of texts or social media when they get their cell phones taken away!
Here are some of the many awards Mr. Anderson’s books have received:
Beverly Cleary has been a presence in children’s literature since her first book, Henry Huggins, was published in 1950, more than 65 years ago! Although her last book, Ramona’s World, was published in 1999, 18 years ago, long before any of her current readers like you were born, she has continued to inspire generations of us to fall in love with Ramona, Henry Huggins, and Ralph S. Mouse.
During her long career, she has been honored with a Newbery Medal (Dear Mr. Henshaw, 1984), 2 Newbery honors (Ramona and Her Father, 1978; Ramona Quimby, Age 8, 1982), the National Book Award (Ramona and Her Mother, 1981), among many accolades, and was recognized with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal (1975) for “a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.”
“Stories, both real and imagined, show what girls can do. The stories of women’s lives, and the choices they made, encourage girls to think larger and bolder, and give boys and men a fuller understanding of the female experience.”