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FOCAL: Connecting Children and Authors for 38 Years

FOCAL Friends of Children and Literature,
Cover of the book Chasing Secrets and text that reads essay contest

If you are a parent or an educator this information is for you! Meeting an author is inspiring for students.The Children’s Literature Department at the Central Library and the Friends of Children and Literature (FOCAL) group have been getting children and authors together for 38 years!

FOCAL is a Friends Group that gives a children’s literature award to an extraordinary book featuring California settings, history, or people. FOCAL sponsors a city-wide essay contest for students in grades 4-8 and select 2 winners. The winning students are invited to eat lunch with the author and read their winning essays aloud to the author and a group of teachers, librarians, and book lovers. It is a wonderful opportunity and a memorable experience for all. And, making a connection with an author can awaken confidence, motivation, and deepen the love of literature in children.

This year FOCAL awarded Gennifer Choldenko’s middle grade story Chasing Secrets. The story is both a mystery and an adventure set in San Francisco in the early 1900’s. Choldenko won a Newbery honor award and a FOCAL Award for Al Capone Does My Shirts. Her prose transports one right inside each of her stories. Meeting Gennifer Choldenko will be a treat for our essay winners - your student can enter and win this meeting!

FOCAL Award Winners 2017-2013

The FOCAL Award is presented annually to an author or illustrator for a creative work which enriches a child's appreciation for and understanding of California. A complete list of all FOCAL winners from 1980-2017 is also available.

Chasing Secrets
Choldenko, Gennifer

Angel Island
Freedman, Russell

Separate Is Never Equal
Tonatiuh, Duncan

The Tree Lady
Hopkins, H. Joseph.

One Crazy Summer
Williams-Garcia, Rita

Three sisters make the trip from New York to California during the summer of 1968 to visit their mother. The sisters have an unforgettable time, learning about themselves and the world, by finding power in the community. A National Book Award finalist, winner of both the Coretta Scott King and Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction awards and a Newberry Honor book.

As the author of this post, Carol Raby appreciates the opportunity to share her enthusiasm for FOCAL. She has served on the Board of Directors for the friends group for 6 years. She managed the library program at an elementary school for 18 years and is passionate about children’s literature, and she invited authors to the school every year. Now, she works at the William H. Hannon Library in the Outreach and Communications Department at Loyola Marymount University where she selects all the books for the Curriculum Materials Collection (children’s books).