By Marc Kovac
Two Kent State University professors are urging lawmakers to name native Ohioan Virginia Hamilton as the state’s official children’s and youth-literature author.
Carolyn Brodie and Alexa Sandmann provided testimony to the Ohio House’s State Government and Elections Committee this week as proponents of the selection, which would be codified if House Bill 190 is approved and signed into law.
The legislation would also designate Hamilton’s book, “M.C. Higgins, the Great” as Ohio’s official youth-literature novel.
“Virginia Hamilton is a most distinguished literary voice who wrote for young readers [and] is known as America’s most honored writer of children’s literature,” Brodie said. “Virginia’s accomplishments over her 35-year career in youth-book publishing resulted in 41 books and countless awards.”
Hamilton was born and spent much of her life in Yellow Springs, near Dayton. She published her first children’s book in 1967 and received numerous accolades for her work, said Rudine Sims Bishop, professor emerita at Ohio State University.
“M.C. Higgins, the Great” received the John Newbery Medal, “the most coveted award given to American children’s book writers,” Bishop said. “It is a classic Ohio story, richly deserving of the honor of being named the official Ohio youth novel. Furthermore, its author, Virginia Hamilton, because of the exceptional quality of her work, because her work is so deeply rooted in the soil of Ohio and because she has brought honor and attention to the state through the numerous national and international honors and recognitions she has earned, deserves, more than any other writer, to be the official Ohio author of youth literature.”
Brodie and Sandmann are co-directors of the annual Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature for Youth at KSU. Hamilton attended the event until her death in 2002, and her family continues to be involved.
Next year’s conference is April 12 and 13.