MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Davina Morgan-Witts, BookBrowse editor

Since the first publicly-funded library opened in the USA in 1833, many generations of children have been inspired and nurtured by local librarians - none more so than the two generations of children in Old Greenwich, Connecticut who have had the privilege to be members of the Young Critics' Club at Perrot Memorial Library.

The club (actually, two clubs, one for grades 4-5 and one for 6-8) was founded by librarian Kate McClelland over 25 years ago (the oldest "Young Critics" are now in their 40s) and up until this week was run by Kate, her colleague Kathy Krasniewicz, and library director Mary Clark.

That was until yesterday when an apparently drunk driver veered into an airport bus on its way to Denver airport, killing two of the passengers, identified as Kathy Krasniewicz, 54 and Kate McClelland, 71 - who were returning home from the American Library Association's Midwinter meeting. Greenwich's local newspaper, The Greenwich Times, has more details.

I did not know either woman personally but have followed the Young Critics' reading lists for some years and have admired the club from afar; so I considered myself extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to interview Kate just three months ago to find out more about the Young Critics' Clubs. You can read the full interview here, but here is a small snippet of Kate's words that, to me, sums up the impact that a single person can have when she (or he) is doing something she loves and has the drive to share that enthusiasm with others:

"It is inspiring, and it is the kids themselves in all their quirky, funny, loud, interruptive glory who inspire. The meetings are highly amusing and entertaining... like herding the proverbial cats. I feel like I spend way too much time asking them to "hush" so I can hear people speak, but one day I overheard them talking about how they thought club meetings were a party; and I thought, "well, that's cool!"

I once heard a new member telling her mother in the parking lot how thrilled she was because she loved books and none of her friends read so she never had anyone to talk to about her books... they only wanted to talk about TV shows and movies. She said that in one room, for the first time, she met more people to talk to than she'd ever met before in her life!

We always tell the Young Critics that no one ever has to leave and many come back to visit. As you might guess, they are always overrepresented when awards are handed out senior year. We see them on breaks from college when they want to gather up all the YC books and read them ALL over the break. One visited a summer club meeting and gave a booktalk of Carl Hiaason's 'Flush'. At least two have gone into publishing. One became a journalist. One is a librarian who has been very active in the Young Adult Literature community."

Picture shows author Libba Bray, Kate McClelland and Mary Clark (l to r).

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The Inner Lives of Book Clubs