War Horse Author on Campus

by Sofia Tokar

On May 16, the School of Education partnered with the Youth Services Section of the New York Library Association to host the 44th annual May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture. Established in 1969, the prestigious lecture series celebrates May Hill Arbuthnot, a distinguished writer, editor, and children’s literature scholar. College and university education departments, library schools, and children’s library systems nationwide have hosted the lecture, and past speakers include Lois Lowry, Ursula K. LeGuin, Maurice Sendak, and Philip Pullman.

This year’s speaker was Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse, the story of the bond between a young boy and his horse during World World I. The novel was adapted for Broadway and won the 2011 Tony Award for best play and was a 2011 award-winning movie directed by Steven Spielberg.

The lecture, titled “War Boy to War Horse,” was held on campus and drew more than 300 attendees. Morpurgo discussed his life writing, the journey from being a World War II baby to becoming Britain’s Children’s Laureate, and the success of War Horse on stage and screen.

Morpurgo’s appearance—his first in New York state—was tied to two other significant events for librarians and readers of children’s and young adult literature: the eighth Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival (known as TBF and hosted on the Nazareth campus) and the 38th annual Youth Services Section Spring Conference.

Local partnerships were crucial in securing Nazareth as the academic partner and official site of the 2013 Arbuthnot lecture. Lisa C. Wemett, retired librarian and chair of the

local arrangements committee, advocated for this trifecta of events by working with Stephanie Squicciarini, founder and director of TBF, and Professor in Language, Literacy, and Technology Laura Jones, Ph.D., the School of Education’s liaison to TBF.

“We had academic institutions, state associations, local non-profits, and others that readily stepped up to add their voice and support to our application for a visit by the former British Children’s Laureate,” explains Wemett.

“The Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival set the bar in our region for collaboration between schools, libraries, and the Nazareth College School of Education,” she says. “If it had not been for this atmosphere of collegiality and community collaboration, the Youth Services Section of the New York Library Association would not have been able to bring an internationally known author such as Michael Morpurgo to upstate New York.”

Sofia Tokar is the assistant editor in Nazareth’s marketing department.

horse silhouette

For more information, visit naz.edu/education.