Bear Pond was happy to be present at this year's DCF conference at the Stoweflake Inn on May 2nd. We got to chat with many friends and make some new ones. The lovely Jo Knowles was the keynote speaker and had many in the audience in tears as she spoke about a particular shy girl who would not have become the person she is today without the guidance and support of her teachers, librarians and one highly influential book called The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. "He told the truth." said Jo about Cormier to the standing room only audience who also gave her a standing ovation.
One of the wonderful workshops, the "Not DCF list ", was hosted by Steve Madden--Camels Hump middle school librarian-- and two of his students, who book talked the many creative and attention-worthy titles published by international authors last year. Art and identity were two of the major themes that the students described as being central to many of these books, offering some surprising and unique perspectives.
Rushing straight from the Burlington airport to the podium, author Gary Schmidt discussed the ways in which stories support complex thought, and how that complexity allows us to support our children and see the world with compassion. As a writer, Schmidt explores the landscape in which his characters begin "turning towards adulthood", and what propels them to that point. Both Knowles' and Schmidt's novels tend to plumb the depths of our collective compassion and humanity, which is why we booksellers are used to seeing librarians and teachers walking around with Jo's and Gary's books clutched to their chests, exclaiming "I LOVED this book!"
The last emotional moment of the day, in a long string of them, was when the DCF committee stood up and donned their party hats to sing a variation on "Leaving on a Jet Plane" for the irreplaceable Grace Greene, retiring DCF Chairperson, whose wit and passion has fostered the vibrancy that the DCF program has today. Grace, you have touched the lives of many, and have made us laugh louder and harder than is socially acceptable.