Antioch University Los Angeles’ Education Department has announced its 2020 Horace Mann Upstanders Winners: Lynne Kelly has won the Horace Mann Upstanders Book Award for Song for a Whale and Gordon Korman, author of Unteachables, has won the Horace Mann Upstanders Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Upstanders Awards will be formally presented to Kelly and Korman at the 13th Annual Upstanders Book Awards Ceremony which will be held virtually on Monday, June 1, 2020 at 5:00 pm (PT) / 8:00 pm (ET). Register for the Award Ceremony here.
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, Professor and Regional Director, Chair Antioch University Los Angeles and Santa Barbara Education Departments.
Lynne Kelly Wins Horace Mann Upstanders Book Award for Song for a Whale
Song for a Whale began with a Twitter search that serendipitously led Lynne Kelly to “The Loneliest Whale in the World.” This real whale sings at 52hz; “a frequency much too high for other whales to understand.” The lonely whale sings but never gets a response. As a sign-language interpreter and educator, Kelly resonated with the plight of the whale. After diving into the quiet world of this unique whale, Kelly rose to the surface with middle-school suspense novel about a twelve-year-old deaf girl named Iris and a whale with a song no whale can hear, Blue 55, In a sea of hearing classmates, Iris feels isolated and voiceless among them but she thrives in the “world of wires” and electronic devices. When she learns of Blue 55, her purpose becomes clear and she embarks on a perilous journey from junkyards of Texas to the cold shores of Alaska in an attempt to write and communicate one of the most profound songs ever written to a whale.
This is Lynne Kelly’s second novel. Her first, Chained, also explores the bond between child and animal. Currently available in three different languages, Chained tells “The story of a boy and an elephant who have a friendship stronger than any lock, shackle, or chain.”
Ten-year-old Hastin’s sister has fallen ill, and his family must borrow money to pay for her care in the hospital. To work off the debt, Hastin leaves his village in northern India to work in a faraway jungle as an elephant keeper. He thinks it will be an adventure, but he isn’t prepared for the cruel circus owner. The crowds that come to the circus see a lively animal who plays soccer and balances on milk bottles, but Hastin sees Nandita, a sweet elephant and his best friend, who is chained when she’s not performing and punished until she learns her tricks perfectly. With the help of Ne Min, a wise old man who seems to know all about elephants, Hastin protects Nandita as best as he can. Still he wonders–will they both survive long enough to escape?”
When not writing, although she is currently excited about having more time to write, Lynne Kelly continues to educate and empower students about language through writing and sign. Kelly discovered her passion for ASL and writing novels for children after she took a few sign language courses at an East Texas college while completing her BA in Psychology. For a few years, she worked as a special education teacher. “I’ve always loved reading, but it was during those teaching years I fell in love with children’s literature all over again and became interested in writing, so there’s nothing about that I’d change.”
Gordon Korman Wins Horace Mann Upstanders Lifetime Achievement Award with recognition of The Unteachables
The Unteachables is a redemption story of a burnt-out middle school teacher and a class of castaways. Once a praised and influential teacher Mr. Zachary Kermit has fallen from grace after a cheating scandal shattered his career over twenty years ago. After spending years carelessly teaching under the shadow of the scandal, he’s finally within a year of retirement when the school assigns him the task of teaching the unteachables. Conversely, the Greenwich Middle School students in room 117 have been shoved into the fringes of Greenwich’s social and academic ecosystem.
However, “the Unteachables never thought they’d find a teacher who had a worse attitude than they did. And Mr. Kermit never thought he would actually care about teaching again. Over the course of a school year, though, room 117 will experience mayhem, destruction—and maybe even a shot at redemption.”
It was chosen as Barnes and Noble’s Book of the Month for January 2020 and made the New York Times Bestsellers Monthly list for February 2020.
Korman has written over ninety books for kids and teens which have been sold over 30 million copies and translated into 32 languages. But his writing career all began in the 7th grade with a track field coach who had to teach English at Korman’s school. “For creative writing, he gave us total freedom to work on whatever we wanted for the rest of the year.” Four months later that year, This Can’t Be Happening At MacDonald Hall was completed.
As the class monitor for Scholastic Book Orders at his school, Korman took a chance on sending his manuscript to Scholastic. “Full disclosure: my mom had to type my book for me,” Korman admits. But it worked! Scholastic published This Can’t Be Happening At MacDonald Hall, his first novel, while he was a freshman in high school.
Korman makes regular appearances at schools, libraries, and bookstores. Fans and curious readers can engage with him in the Reader’s Forum on his website where he happily answers questions about books and writing.
ASL interpreter will be provided during the event.
A Special Message From the Founder of the Horace Mann Upstanders Book Awards Dr. Cynthia McDermott
“In these curious times and as we present the Horace Mann Upstanders Awards in a new way – virtually, I ask that everyone consider the light and hope that books bring to our humanity. Please support the GoFundME Campaign to save one of our National Treasures – City Lights Books.”
From the Keep City Light Open GoFundME page: Books are a repository for human knowledge and creativity, and a bookshop is like a storehouse for our collective soul. Though it’s dark now, City Lights is there, quietly waiting for us, and when the doors can be opened once more to welcome everyone back inside, the bookstore will become a home again, a place to gather and celebrate together. Until then, please keep faith, read books, and know that we appreciate you so much.
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.