Written by Nina Lesowitz
Guest lecturer Christian Robinson wrapped up his remarks at the 20th Anniversary Effie Lee Morris Lecture on May 31 by describing how essential it is for him to help make children’s books more inclusive.
“Picture books are an introduction to the world for children,” he said. “It is important that we see pictures that look like us. If we don’t, we send a message that maybe we aren’t that important.”
Everyone was made to feel important at the reception preceding the lecture which took place at the Children’s Center at the San Francisco Main Library.
New president Brenda Knight greeted guests at the door. Once inside, our volunteers handed out programs and free raffle tickets, then directed guests to the abundant spread of food, the books for sale by Friends of the Library, and the signing table where Christian Robinson had a line of people waiting to meet him.
The event flowed very smoothly thanks to the extraordinary organization of past president Kate Farrell and library staff. The reception hosted a diverse group of approximately 50 people of all ages and the children in attendance seemed very excited about meeting Christian Robinson.
Robinson carefully curated the display wall before the event by posting pages of his original art for his award-winning picture books and storyboards for his animations.
His illustrations grace Josephine (Chronicle) which won a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, and Gaston (Atheneum) which was named a Best Book of 2014 by Kirkus and Amazon. He also received a 2016 Caldecott honor for his latest work, the illustrations in Last Stop on Market Street (written by Matt de la Pena), a book that also won the 2016 Newbery Medal.
Andrea Brown, WNBA past-president and co-founder of the ELM Lectures series spoke movingly about Effie Lee Morris. In 1963, Ms. Morris joined the SFPL as its first children’s services coordinator. A year later, she created the library’s Effie Lee Morris Historical and Research Collection for out-of-print children’s books, featuring titles that depict the changing portrayals of ethnic and minority groups during the 20th century.
From 1971 to 1972, she was the first African-American President of the Public Library Association. In 2008, Ms. Morris was elected to honorary membership in the American Library Association, the organization’s highest honor, given to a living member of the Association, who has made significant contributions to the field of librarianship.
Ms. Morris was also the founder of San Francisco Chapter of WNBA in 1968, and a recipient of the WNBA national award in 1984 for “Extraordinary Contributions to the World of Books and, Through Books, to Society.” The SF Chapter of WNBA created the annual Effie Lee Morris Lecture Series in 1996 to salute Ms. Morris for her outstanding contributions to the San Francisco Public Library and the children of San Francisco.
“Christian Robinson would have been a top choice of Effie Lee for our 20th-anniversary lecture,” said Ms. Brown. His inspiring story – which covered his challenging childhood, his mentors, and the influence of leading illustrators and animators in the 20th century – served as a real life example of Effie Lee’s advocacy for the needs of children from all communities.
All in all, a very successful event.
WNBA-SF Chapter Vice-President Nina Lesowitz is a bestselling author, the founder of Spinergy Group and a Senior Producer for Litquake, where she has been on the executive committee for over twelve years. Previously, she worked in the book publishing field as a marketing director. At Conari Press (Berkeley, CA) and Backbeat Books (San Francisco, CA), Nina promoted a wide variety of nonfiction titles for authors and celebrities. Co-author of the bestselling titles Living Life as a Thank You, What Would You Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail, and The Grateful Life, she currently counsels authors.