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Celebrating ANGEL ISLAND: GATEWAY TO GOLD MOUNTAIN by Russell Freedman, Winner of the 2016 FOCAL Award

By Carolinearnoldtravel @CarolineSArnold

Celebrating ANGEL ISLAND: GATEWAY TO GOLD MOUNTAIN by Russell Freedman, Winner of the 2016 FOCAL Award

ANGEL ISLAND by Russell Freedman, 2016 FOCAL Award Winner, and Puppets by Jesse Kingsley

On Saturday, January 28, 2017, librarians, teachers, students, parents, and lovers of books for children met at the Border Grill in downtown Los Angeles to celebrate noted author Russell Freedman’s book Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain (Clarion Books, 2014), winner of the 2016 FOCAL Award. FOCAL (Friends of Children and Libraries) is the support group of the Los Angeles Public Library’s Children’s Literature Department.
Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain tells the story of the immigration center on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, once called the “Ellis Island of the West”, that processed immigrants, mostly from China and Asia, between 1910 and 1940. It highlights a tumultuous time when immigration policies were used in discriminatory ways. The book gives the reader insight into the struggles and hopes of the people who passed through this center and to the efforts to preserve it as a historic site. Russell Freedman was unable to come to the luncheon, but in his stead, his editor, Dinah Stevenson, VP and Publisher at Clarion Books, came to accept the award.

Celebrating ANGEL ISLAND: GATEWAY TO GOLD MOUNTAIN by Russell Freedman, Winner of the 2016 FOCAL Award

Table centerpiece created by the students of art teacher Ray Moszkowicz at Nobel Middle School, LAUSD

As people arrived at the restaurant, a wonderful slide show of all the past FOCAL award winners, prepared by Mara Alpert of LAPL, played on a screen at the front of the room. Tables were decorated with incredibly detailed mini-sculptures portraying the themes of the book. They were made by art students at Nobel Middle School under the guidance of art teacher Ray Moszkowicz.

Celebrating ANGEL ISLAND: GATEWAY TO GOLD MOUNTAIN by Russell Freedman, Winner of the 2016 FOCAL Award

Student essay winners meet Dinah Stevenson, Editor of Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain

The program began with a welcome by Renny Day followed by a delicious lunch, beginning with my favorite, green corn tamales, and then main courses of our choice. I chose the torta but everything looked delicious! In addition to the “chef’s signature cookies” for dessert we also had fortune cookies, in keeping with the theme of the book.

Celebrating ANGEL ISLAND: GATEWAY TO GOLD MOUNTAIN by Russell Freedman, Winner of the 2016 FOCAL Award

Student essay winners Rokshana Burshra, Caleb Kim and Noah Kim introduced by Sandy Schuckett

After lunch we heard the student essay winners read their excellent essays telling why they liked the book and would like to meet the author. Then Sada Mozer, the FOCAL Award Committee Chair, introduced Dinah Stevenson, who accepted the award for Russell Freedman and read a letter from him telling us about his childhood in California and  how he got the idea for the book–from a suggestion by librarian Milly Lee–and his subsequent research. Dinah then told us about her experience working with Russell over the years. It was an excellent presentation!

Celebrating ANGEL ISLAND: GATEWAY TO GOLD MOUNTAIN by Russell Freedman, Winner of the 2016 FOCAL Award

Puppeteer Jesse Kingley presenting puppet to Dinah Stevenson

Finally, Dinah was presented with a puppet depicting a Chinese immigrant dressed like many who came to Angel Island. The second puppet will become part of the collection of puppets at LAPL.
For many years I have admired the books of Russell Freedman, who, as Dinah said, has been called the “guru of nonfiction writing for children.” I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet him in person, but Dinah Stevenson’s presentation made me feel as if I had.

Celebrating ANGEL ISLAND: GATEWAY TO GOLD MOUNTAIN by Russell Freedman, Winner of the 2016 FOCAL Award

Award Committee Chair, Sada Moser (right) with centerpiece depicting Angel Island

As a former FOCAL Award Committee member, I know how much work goes into selecting the book and planning the luncheon. Thanks to the Award Committee, the essay judges, the FOCAL Board, the Children’s Literature Department at LAPL, and everyone else who contributed, for another great luncheon!

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