(Be glad I don't sing it. Trust me.)
The topic for this year's Children's Literature Summer Institute at Simmons was "The Body Electric," which meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To many, it was a chance to reinterpret their bodies of work, or talk about what had galvanized them. To Brian Floca it was, among other things, a chance for clever riffs: "I push the button electric!" To Jack Gantos, it was the impetus for a side-splitting stroll through an imaginary graveyard of "canon fodder." Gene Yang, Barbara O'Connor, and Sharon Draper demonstrated it literally with animated presentations; I don't envy anyone the task of presenting after lunch on day 2.5 of a conference, but they had enough energy to transmit some to us.
Before and during the conference, I thought about all kinds of things "the body electric" might mean. Toward the end, I took a fresh look at Whitman, and it's all there. I was surprised to see how closely connected his words were to Laban Carrick Hill's and Bryan Collier's presentations. But really, everything's connected. (Currents. Circuitry. Joints and sinews. Describe it as you will.) Helen Frost connected her books to each other and to her family history. Grace Lin's questions about whether "multicultural" books can be for everyone were easy to connect to Amy Pattee's images of books about overweight characters; is putting a relatively thin girl on the cover the only way to make this sort of book cool enough for everyone? Much of what Sara Pennypacker said connected with my own interests and values, enough so that I'm planning to write a separate post on her talk.
That certainly isn't all; I enjoyed and got something out of every presentation and every breakout session, as well as the conversations I had with friends old and new. M.T. Anderson spoke about how the world of stories is changing in ways that can both worry and excite us, and he's right. But as long as this community's here, I know I can find people who care about the things I care about.
I celebrate the us yet to come.