Programs - 2000
Passionate Reader, Eloquent Writer, Multicultural Teacher, Soulful Friend
by Kaye Anderson, Ph.D.
Department of Teacher Education
California State University, Long Beach
It is with pleasure that I introduce our featured speaker,
Jane Kurtz, who will be speaking on the topic of Teaching Empathy:
Helping U.S. Students Understand What Its Like for Children of War.
Jane has always been passionate about reading. She grew
up without television and the multitude of books available in U.S. libraries.
Nevertheless, in the earliest home that she can recollect in Ethiopia,
she remembers that her family did own some classic childrens literature
selections such as Charlottes Web, Winnie the
Pooh, Black Beauty, and Caddie Woodlawn,
and she read and reread these books many times over, developing a lifelong
love of literacy.
As an adult, she read tons and tons of books to her own three
children, and she continues to read voraciously, as she writes a review
column of childrens literature as part of her responsibilities in
the guaranteed income part of her career as a teacher educatorshe
teaches childrens literature in the English Department at the University
of North Dakota half time.
Her homesickness for Ethiopia, her childhood home, was
the gnawing void which inspired her to write. She found early success
in writing when some of her poetry was accepted for publication. Her first
childrens book was published ten years ago, and her writing career,
the uncertain income part of her career, took off with the
book Fire on the Mountain. While at this point she has numerous
books to her credit (see below), fortunately for us, she considers herself
just at the beginning of her writing career.
Through her books she has found an opportunity to share some of the stories
and culture which was a vital part of her own experience of growing up
in a culture outside the United States as a child of a missionary family.
For years she felt that the two worlds she experienced were greatly disjointed.
Her writing has helped her to bridge the gaps between her two worlds which
in turn has helped her to reconnect with her own childhood. Thus, her
writing has not only been a service to others but also has been a healing
liniment bringing a wholeness to her own psyche.
Definitely part of the age of technology, Jane uses a computer to compose
her stories. She is also an early pioneer who has established her own
website where she provides
an opportunity for browsers anytime and any place to experience a virtual
visit where she responds to the questions of fans and shares related information
about her books and her interests (see below).
Janes books capture the sights, sounds, smells, and
feels of life in another culture and she has brought to life diverse cultures
and perspectives: Africa, pioneer America, Southwest U.S., and Inca, to
name a few. In doing so, she helps her readers develop an appreciation
for others who are different from themselves, a vitally important in developing
empathy, a pressing need in todays society, as she explores the
commonality of universal experiences.
Her first novel, The Storytellers Beads, depicts the
friendship which overcomes inbred prejudice of Sahay, a Christian Kemant
girl, and Rahel, a blind Jewish girl, who find themselves together on
a forced journey from Ethiopia to their shared homeland of Jerusalem during
the famine and warfare of the 1980s. This book was selected by the International
Reading Associations Childrens Literature and Reading Special
Interest Group as one of last years Notable
Books for a Global Society (Lehman, et al, 1999).
The two dozen books featured in this award program annually are described
Dragon Lode with annotations, teaching suggestions, and lists
of related books (Siu-Runyan, et al, 1996; Siu-Runyan, et al, 1997; Siu-Runyan
et al, 1998; IRA CL/R SIG, 2000). Thus, through her work, Jane recognizes
the need for bringing to public consciousness the universal experiences
and themes which all of us need to examine so that we too can extend beyond
our limited and sometimes selfish viewpoints and attain a multicultural
perspective which features the common good of all and which overcomes
the debilitating aspects of cultures and perspectives when they clash
and collide with one another.
Jane herself is a model for becoming a multicultural teacher intimately
aware of multiple cultures, and as a professor of childrens literature
is helping bring the awareness of the need for a global perspective to
prospective teachers (Anderson, 2000).
As a teacher for ten years at the elementary and high school
levels, Jane is extremely aware of the need to bring to light some of
the riveting issues facing young peopleand all of our societyat
this volatile time in history. Her work deals with such profound issues
as belonging, prejudice, authenticity, and self-knowledge.
Jane says that she loves going to IRA
and being surrounded by many people who are passionate about books. I
believe she might be even happier to be among those who share her concerns
for social responsibility, justice, and peace which are woven among her
We are indebted to Harcourt Childrens Books for making Janes
visit here in person possible, and I invite you to join me in giving a
warm welcome to a passionate reader, an eloquent writer, a multicultural
teacher, and our soulful friend, Jane Kurtz.
# Kurtz, Jane, Bryant, Michael (Il.), and Lewis, Earl.
(2000). Faraway Home. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace.
Desta, a young African American girl whose father must return home
to Ethiopia to visit his sick mother, cant bear the parting and
develops an understanding of his fathers parting from the people
he left behind.
* # Kurtz, Jane, and Brennan, Neil (Il.). (1999). River Friendly,
River Wild. NY: Simon & Schuster.
Inspired by the 1997 flood of Grand Forks, ND, Kurtz weaves a story
of a family who escapes the flooding river in 18 free-verse poems.
* # Kurtz, Jane, and Havice, Susan (Il.) (1999). Im Sorry,
Almira Ann. NY: Henry Holt.
Readers can readily identify with the tribulations of Sarah, a spunky
child in pioneer America.
* Buzzeo, Toni, and Kurtz, Jane. (1999). Terrific Connections with
Authors, Illustrators, and Storytellers: Real Space and Virtual Links.
Great information for planning, hosting, and enjoying author visits.
Explores virtual visits where students
and authors can communicate on-line by using television/satellite links.
Kurtz, Jane. (1999). The American Southwest Resource Book: Volume
I: The People and the Culture. Eakin Publishers.
A Resource Book for Teachers and Students. Collected true stories from
Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, and New Mexico are enhanced with activities,
suggested books for students and teachers to read, and other background
* # Kurtz, Jane. (1998). The Storytellers Beads. San
During the political strife and famine of the 1980s, 2 Ethiopian girls,
one Christian and the other Jewish and blind, struggle to overcome many
difficulties, including their prejudices about each other, as they make
the dangerous journey out of Ethiopia.
# Kurtz, Jane, Lewis, Earl B. (Il.), and Kurtz, Christopher. (1997). Only
a Pigeon. NY: Simon & Schuster.
A boy in Addis Ababa spends his time away from school and work caring
for pigeons and protecting them from danger.
* # Kurtz, Jane, and Bernhard, Durga (Il.) (1997). Trouble.
San Diego: Harcourt.
A retelling of a traditional Eritrean tale in which a young goatherd
disobeys his father by inadvertently trading away the board game that
was supposed to keep him
out of trouble.
* # Katz, Jane, and Frampton, David (Il.). (1996). Miro in the Kingdom
of the Sun. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
A young Inca girl succeeds where her brothers and others have failed,
when her bird friends help her find
the special water that will cure the kings son.
# Kurtz, Jane, and Lewis, E. B. (Il.). (1994). Fire on the Mountain.
NY: Simon & Schuster BFYR.
A clever young shepherd boy uses wits to gain a fortune for himself
and his sister from a haughty rich man.
* # Kurtz, Jane, and Cooper, Floyd (Il.) (1994). Pulling the Lions
Tail. NY: Simon & Schuster.
Her grandfather finds a clever way to help an impatient young Ethiopian
girl get to know her fathers new wife.
# Kurtz, Jane. (1991). Ethiopia: The Roof of Africa. Dillon
Describes the geography, history, culture, economy, and people of the
mountainous country in Northeast Africa troubled in recent years by drought,
famine, and civil unrest. Discovering Our Heritage Series.
# Kurtz, Jane, (1990). Im Calling Molly. Morton Grove,
Four-year-old Christopher has just learned to use the telephone, calls
Molly with various ploys to persuade
her to play with him, but she is busy with another friend.
Kurtz, Jane.. A Treasury of the Southwest: Resources for Teachers
and Students. Currently out of print.
* Listed as a Five Star Book by Amazon.com, based on reviews
of her work submitted electronically
# Part of library collection in the Mesa, AZ, library system
A virtual visit to Jane Kurtz website reveals an array of enriching
information. The site:
- Provides information about Jane Kurtz, the person and
- Includes hints about her writing, how she is inspired,
advice she gives students, a sample rejection letter, as well as a sample
of her work before and after an editors suggestions
- Features eight of her books, each with excerpts from
reviews and ideas for activities which teachers and librarians have
used in connection with her books
- Highlights her recent homecoming trip to
Ethiopia where she served as Author in Residence at three schools, one
which she herself attended as a child
- Publishes works of students related to the recent flood
of Grand Forks, ND, her current home
- Links browsers to many useful sites related to childrens
literature and themes/topics in her books: Ethiopia/Africa, multicultural
sources, the Americas, Jewish sources, blindness, goats, and other topics
Readers are invited to write her; she responds to selected questions on
Anderson, K., et al. (2000, Spring). Childrens literature: A vehicle
to promote multicultural curriculum at its best. The Dragon Lode.
18/2, pp. 71-75.
IRA CL/R SIG. (2000). Notable books for a global society. International
Reading Associations Childrens Literature and Reading Special
Interest Group Website. [On-line]. Available:
Lehman, B. A. et al. (1999, Fall). 1999 Notable books for a global society.
The Dragon Lode. 17/1, pp. 11-24.
Siu-Runyan, Y., et al. (1998, Fall). 1998 Notable books for a global society.
The Dragon Lode. 16/1, pp. 1-14.
Siu-Runyan, Y., et al. (1997, Fall). 1997 Notable books for a global society.
The Dragon Lode. 15/1, pp. 15-26.
Siu-Runyan, Y., et al. (1998, Fall). 1996 Notable books for a global society.
The Dragon Lode. 14/1, pp. 14-23.