The Department of Education has announced several new selections for the 2024 Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle and CLSC Young Readers programs.
World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments, by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, is a Week Seven CLSC Selection.
As a child, Nezhukumatathil called many places home: the grounds of a Kansas mental institution, where her Filipina mother was a doctor; the open skies and tall mountains of Arizona, where she hiked with her Indian father; and the chillier climes of western New York and Ohio. But no matter where she was transplanted—no matter how awkward the fit or forbidding the landscape—she was able to turn to our world’s fierce and funny creatures for guidance.
“What the peacock can do,” she tells us, “is remind you of a home you will run away from and run back to all your life.” The axolotl teaches us to smile, even in the face of unkindness; the touch-me-not plant shows us how to shake off unwanted advances; the narwhal demonstrates how to survive in hostile environments. Even in the strange and the unlovely, Nezhukumatathil finds beauty and kinship. For it is this way with wonder: it requires that we are curious enough to look past the distractions in order to fully appreciate the world’s gifts.
Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of the New York Times best-selling illustrated collection of nature essays, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks & Other Astonishments. She also wrote four previous poetry collections including Oceanic. Her most recent chapbook is Lace & Pyrite, a collaboration of epistolary garden poems with the poet Ross Gay. Honors include a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pushcart Prize, a Mississippi Arts Council grant, and being named a Guggenheim Fellow in poetry. She is poetry editor for Sierra magazine, the story-telling arm of The Sierra Club. She is professor of English and Creative Writing in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program and her forthcoming book of food essays is called Bite By Bite (Ecco, May 2024).
Mexican WhiteBoy, by Matt de le Peña, is a dual CLSC and Young Reader Selection for Week Seven.
Danny’s tall and skinny with arms long enough to give his pitch a power so fierce any college scout would sign him on the spot. A 95-mph fastball, but the boy’s not even on a team. Every time he gets up on the mound, he loses it. But at private school, they don’t expect much else from him. Danny’s brown. Half-Mexican brown. And growing up in San Diego that close to the border means everyone else knows exactly who he is before he even opens his mouth. Before they find out he can’t speak Spanish, and before they realize his mom has blonde hair and blue eyes, they’ve got him pegged.
Danny’s convinced it’s his whiteness that sent his father back to Mexico. And that’s why he’s spending the summer with his dad’s family. Only, to find himself, he might just have to face the demons he refuses to see right in front oh his face. And open up to a friendship he never saw coming.
An ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults (Top 10 Pick) and a Junior Library Guild Selection, Mexican WhiteBoy serves as a joint selection for the CLSC and the CLSC Young Readers program. His picture book, Milo Imagines the World, also serves as an Early Reader selection for Week Seven.
Matt de la Peña is the New York Times Bestselling, Newbery Medal-winning author of seven young adult novels (including Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here, and Superman: Dawnbreaker) and six picture books (including Milo Imagines the World and Last Stop on Market Street). In 2016 he was awarded the NCTE Intellectual Freedom Award. Matt received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific where he attended school on a full basketball scholarship. In 2019 Matt was given an honorary doctorate from UOP. de la Peña currently lives in Southern California. He teaches creative writing and visits schools and colleges throughout the country.
Celebrating the awe this world inspires in all things big and small, the wonder literature encourages us to pursue in our everyday lives as we seek to build a greater understanding of our shared humanity, and the significance of our shared reading experiences, Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Matt de la Peña will be featured together in conversation during our Week Seven CLSC Lecture on August 8, 2024, in the Hall of Philosophy.