Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Children's-YA Literature Community Joins in Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts

Gayleen Rabakukk
By Gayleen Rabakukk
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Last week, I ached seeing the images of flooding and devastation in Houston and surrounding areas along the Gulf coast. With reports of record-setting high water also came amazing stories of people helping each other. I couldn't be more proud of my newly-adopted state!

For those in the kidlit community, once the immediate needs of food and shelter are met, the next priority is books. Our community has stepped up with aplomb to meet that challenge.

This post outlines a few of the initial efforts to restock libraries and classrooms in the affected areas. As we learn of other recovery projects, we'll be sharing those with you in the coming weeks and months. In a recent press release, the Texas Library Association said the most accurate metaphor for this recovery might be an "ultra-marathon combined with an ultra-triathalon."

Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston has made it easy for those who would like to donate books to be delivered to shelters and affected libraries in the greater Houston by purchasing a gift card online and marking it as "Hurricane Harvey Books."

Complete instructions can be found on the Hurricane Harvey Relief page on their website. If you live outside the area, this not only saves you shipping costs, but also contributes to the Houston economy - a positive impact that's greatly appreciated right now.

On Saturday, the store was featured on Harper Collins Book Studio 16, the video store tour with owner Valerie Koehler is available here.

Author-illustrator Bob Shea promoted Blue Willow's donation efforts by offering to send a unicorn drawing to each person who donated at least $20 over the holiday weekend.

Author Kate Messner organized the KidLit Cares Auction to benefit the Red Cross and Global Giving relief efforts for those affected by the hurricane. Agents, editors, authors and illustrators donated manuscript critiques, author visits, books and other services for the winning bidders who will make donations directly to either of the relief funds. In all there are 201 entries in the auction; bidding on some items ends Sept. 5, but others continue through Sept. 7.


Second-grade teacher Kathryn Mills of Katy, Texas organized the Hurricane Harvey Book Club on Facebook with the goal of giving her students a distraction while they were stuck in their homes or shelters. Since then the group has grown to include more than 72,000 members from all over the world, with adults and children reading books in English, Spanish and sign language. As word of the Book Club spread, it's been featured in national media and Publishers Weekly.

Kathryn shared this message with the group members and gave us permission to publish it on Cynsations.

"The publishers have been so gracious and sweet. They have been amazingly supportive of this precious book club, understanding and knowing that it was a project for a season and a reason.  
"Thank you does not seem enough for the companies who allowed this project to even exist. This project started as a heart project, a small grain of sand and it grew into a mighty mission. It became a vessel for readers of all ages to come together from all over the world, simply for the love of people and the love of reading. This little book club allowed a gentle distraction for some and an act of service for others."

She announced the Facebook group will end on Sept. 10, but she has challenged the members to "grow friendships through the pages of your books" by setting up book clubs in communities, schools and playgroups. "There is love and joy in the pages of books."

Many teachers and students in the Houston area will be going back to school Sept. 11.

Kathryn told us, "My school and classroom fared very well. I am so glad that other flooded schools have been able to make connections for donations and support on this page."

The Book Club's T-shirt fundraiser has raised more than $22,000 to replace books lost during the hurricane. Sales benefit Books Between Kids, a non-profit in Houston founded in 2012 to put books in the hands of children. T-shirt sales will continue through Sept. 13.

After Sept. 10, the Hurricane Harvey Book Club will continue on Twitter as @HHarveyBookClub as forum "to bring joy & normalcy to so many currently dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey through storytelling."


The Texas Library Association's Disaster Relief Fund directly assists libraries through grant awards to aid in recovery efforts. Since TLA operates as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, all donations are tax deductible. Coloring books including illustrator artwork benefiting the Disaster Relief Fund are also available for purchase.

The Texas Book Festival has compiled Ways to Help After Hurricane Harvey. Peek: "Best-selling YA author Marie Lu (a headlining author at the 2017 Texas Teen Book Festival), as well as Leigh Bardugo, Joelle Charbonneau, and Kevin Hearne are pledging matching donations to and running the campaign for the Global Giving Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund."

The Houston SCBWI Conference set for Oct. 7 & and Oct. 8 at the Marriott Houston Westchase will take place as planned.

Regional advisor Vicki Sansum let us know that the hotel had no damage during the storm and all scheduled speakers will be attending.

"Locally though, many of our members had their houses flooded which is heartbreaking," Vicki said. "To lose the majority or all of your possessions is overwhelming to say the least.

"Our keynote speaker is Bruce Coville who has published over 100 books. He is also giving a three-hour novel-writing intensive on Sunday called 'At the Corner of Plot and Character.' We are excited to have Bruce as a speaker, he is passionate about writing for kids and is generous in sharing his knowledge and expertise. His series Aliens Ate My Homework (Aladdin, 1993) is being made into a live-action movie with William Shatner."

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