Tony Abbott Wins Horace Mann Upstanders Book Award for
“The Summer of Owen Todd”
Mordicai Gerstein Wins 2018 Horace Mann Upstanders
Lifetime Achievement Award
Antioch University Los Angeles’ Education Department has announced its 2018 Horace Mann Upstanders Winners: Tony Abbott has won the Horace Mann Upstanders Book Award for “The Summer of Owen Todd” and Mordicai Gerstein, author of “The Boy and the Whale” has won the Horace Mann Upstanders Lifetime Achievement Award. The Upstanders Awards will be formally presented to Abbott and Gerstein on May 21, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. at the 11th Annual Upstanders Book Awards Ceremony at Children’s Book World at 10580 W Pico Blvd. in West Los Angeles.
The Horace Mann Upstanders Awards honor children’s literature that best exemplifies the ideals of social action and in turn encourages young readers to become agents of change themselves by standing up to injustice. “An Upstander is a person or a group who chooses to take a positive stand and act on behalf of themselves and others. These awards honor literature that encourages readers to take that risk and stand up for something they believe in,” said Dr. J. Cynthia McDermott, chair of Antioch University Los Angeles’ Education Department.
“The Summer of Owen Todd” focuses on the titular Owen and his best friend, Sean, who comes to Owen in a time of need when his new babysitter begins to abuse him. Owen soon finds himself in a difficult situation–risk his friendship by telling his parents of what Sean is going through, or preserve it by doing nothing. The Summer of Owen Todd opens up an honest and heartbreaking discussion on child molestation and a call for the friends of victims to take action for the sake of the people they love.
Abbott is the author of the popular book series “The Secrets of Droon” and the bestseller “Firegirl.” He earned his Bachelor’s in English Literature at the University of Connecticut and attended the workshops of Patricia Reilly Giff to further work on his writing afterward. “The Summer of Owen Todd” was published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in October 2017.
“A book is a face-to-face conversation between a writer and a reader,” says Abbott. ‘‘You can’t be anything but honest. If a difficult story is told truthfully and with respect, readers will respond with truth and respect, not only for themselves, but for the world we live in. That’s when change really happens.”
“The Boy and the Whale” tells the story of a young boy and his father coming across a whale tangled in their only fishing net. The boy, remembering a time when he too was once trapped in a net and was saved by his father, proceeds to free the whale despite his father’s orders not to. Partly inspired by a real life video account of a trapped whale being freed, Gerstein sends a heartfelt message of sticking with your convictions, defying the odds in order to do the right thing, and the power of empathy.
Mordicai Gerstein is a writer and illustrator, his most notable work being “The Man Who Walked Between the Towers,” which received the Caldecott Medal in 2004–the most prestigious award for an American children’s book next to the Newbery Medal. He also worked on the illustrations for the “Something Queer” Mysteries series with writer Elizabeth Levy from 1973 to 2003.
“Our imaginations are the greatest source of energy in our world,” says Gerstein. “I want my books to provoke questions, things to think about: why are things the way they are? Can they be different? What might I do to make a difference? Your answers are important.”
Karen Hamilton ’17 (Antioch Los Angeles, MA) is Antioch's Director of Marketing for Content and Communications. She has used her storytelling and copywriting skills for more than twenty years, crafting articles and creating publications. She believes that communication is a powerful driver for social change.