Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I'd like 3 cups of anything but tea right now!

Dear Readers,

I am sorry to have been MIA last week. A funny thing happened on my way to my blog... Actually, it wasn't funny at all. Last Sunday night, as many of you know, 60 Minutes aired an expose on Greg Mortenson. Greg is a co-founder of Central Asia Institute, co-author of the bestselling books, Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools and creator of the program Pennies for Peace whereby American children collect pennies, bring them to school and collectively donate them to Central Asia Institute for the development, building and strengthening of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. A barrage of unflattering accusations have been hurled at Greg over the last week; claims that the most compelling stories in his books were fabricated, claims that he has mismanaged funds and claims that he has not built all the schools he claims to have built, has not spent the money on them he claimed to have raised for that purpose and that many of those schools that were built are not operating as schools at all. Like so many people, I was deeply saddened and disillusioned by the multitude of claims. I had long ago drunk the kool-aid. Greg Mortenson, as far as I was concerned, was a hero who had energized the masses to think globally and step up to make a difference in the lives of others and, further, to recognize that by bettering someone else's circumstances, we make the world a better place. Greg's mission and vision were based on the belief that education and literacy, particularly of girls, were the most effective tools to bring about global peace. I was such a believer that when someone on my staff suggested some time ago that we honor Greg with the Impact Award at the Children's Choice Book Awards gala, I thought it was the most brilliant idea I had ever heard. When we approached Greg's publisher with our invitation over the summer and Greg accepted, I felt as though I'd won the lottery. Well, the gala is on May 2, just one week away, and Greg Mortenson will not be there. In light of the current accusations and unanswered questions, we agreed it was best to forego the presentation of an Impact Award this year. Our gala will still be a fabulous event that celebrates the children's books that inspire, excite and entertain kids and teens and the talented authors and illustrators that create them. While saddened by the recent developments, we are able to go on, nearly unscathed. But what about the legions of kids who were motivated to break their piggy banks open to participate in Pennies for Peace and what about the children in Pakistan and Afghanistan whose opportunities for education have been jeopardized. Greg Mortenson may or may not have done some bad things but what is incontrovertible is the fact that he raised awareness of a serious and critically important issue and people responded. My hope is that we, as a global community, hold onto the good and do not become so distrustful that it causes us to stop trying to help others. Each and every person really can and should step up and make a difference.

Before leaving you last week, I was working my way toward blogging about each of the finalists for the Children's Choice Books Awards. As you'll recall, voting closes on Friday, April 29. That means it's not too late so if you know kids who haven't voted, please encourage them to visit and vote now! Every vote counts!

In connection with my hope of what will emerge from the Greg Mortenson debacle, I'd like to introduce you to a 6th grader who gets it; who actually utters, "I'm DESTINED FOR GREATNESS". He knows this because a fortune cookie told him so. His name is Nate and he's the star of Big Nate: In a Class By Himself and the other Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce. He's funny and his antics are a riot. Good for him for believing he is destined for greatness - I hope he uses his power for good!

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