Friday, July 18, 2014

Widen Your Circle: Join us for KidLitCon 2014

One of the best ways to deepen our commitment to children's and young adult books is by meeting other people who share that passion. And I don't mean just virtually; I mean in real life, too. Well, here's our chance: the 8th annual Kidlitosphere Conference, aka KidLitCon, October 10-11, at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria in Sacramento, California. This is a gathering of people who care about children’s and young adult books, including librarians, authors, teachers, parents, booksellers, publishers, and readers.


Social Media, Blogging, and Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Literature

How might we use our blogs and social media platforms to widen the world of children’s and young adult literature? I'll be there, speaking about how we can change and affect the conversation about diversity, both in the industry and in the wider culture. Author Shannon Hale is going to speak also, via Skype.

Mark October 10th and 11th on your calendar—we'd love to see you there. And consider submitting a proposal by August 1st about how you might contribute to the conversation on children’s and young adult books. Or just register by September 19th.

Conference Organizers

Tanita Davis and Sarah StevensonFinding Wonderland
Jen RobinsonJen Robinson’s Book Page

Please help by spreading the word. Be a fan on Facebook and Follow KidLitCon on Twitter.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

New Summer Reading for Anglophiles


Maybe it's the strawberries and cream at Wimbledon. Or maybe it's that I can't quite get rid of the influence of the Raj in my psyche. No matter—the fact remains that every summer my reader's heart starts to hanker after Brit Lit.

There's nothing quite like a good Susan Howatch novel, tea, scones, and clotted cream (which Whole Foods carries now, leading to the demise of my overly ambitious fitness plans.)

On the hunt for contemporary (still alive and writing) authors, I posted this on my social media yesterday:




I thought I'd compile a list of books and authors as suggested by my friends, in case other anglophiles out there are looking for a new read. Books that are asterisked received more than one mention. (Note: I have neither read nor vetted the titles on this list, so read at your own risk ... but I do have a smart social media set.)

Particular Books
  • The Fire-Eaters by David Almond
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  • *The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie and other Flavia DeLuce mysteries by Alan C. Bradley
  • Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman by Elizabeth Buchan
  • The Children's Book by AS Byatt
  • Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger
  • Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare
  • *The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  • The Memory of Love by Armineta Forna
  • *The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith 
  • Old Filth by Jane Gardam
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye by Rachel Joyce
  • Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesy
  • Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hillary Mantel
  • If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor
  • Saffy's Angel by Hilary McKay
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  • Rustication and The Quincunx by Charles Palliser
  • Lady Jane series by Deanna Rayborn
  • Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
  • *The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
  • *Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
  • *Sunday Philosophy Club and Dalhousie series by Alexander McCall Smith
  • Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe
  • Ian Rutledge series by Charles Todd
  • A Parcel of Patterns by Jill Paton Walsh
  • Maisie Dobbs series by Jacquelyn Winspear
  • *Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Other Recommended Authors
  • Rhys Bowen
  • Elizabeth Buchan
  • Margaret Drabble
  • Philippa Gregory
  • Elly Griffiths
  • Nick Hornby
  • Penelope Lively
  • Sarah Maclean
  • Elizabeth Noble
  • Maggie O'Farrell
  • James Runcie
  • Joanna Trollope
Dead Authors and Books People Couldn't Help Mentioning
  • Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
  • Rumer Godden
  • Dora Saint (Miss Read)
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Got other suggestions? Leave them in the comments for the rest of us to discover.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Asian Festival of Children's Content

Earlier in the summer, I was privileged to serve on the faculty of the Asian Festival of Children's Content, which seeks to "provide the world’s children with quality Asian content for education and entertainment." AFCC 2014 focused on India, lasted for six days, and drew 938 delegates from 27 countries. I spoke on several panels but also managed to enjoy the sights, tastes, smells, and sounds of Singapore, the third wealthiest country in the world.

My first panel was titled Young Adult Books as Windows and Mirrors. Here's the description: "Do books serve as a window to a different life or a mirror for your own? Mitali Perkins and Sampurna Chattarji examine why it’s important that young adult audiences have books that not only provide insight to the lives of others but also serve as mirrors of their own lives and cultures."

Next came The Vast Spread of the Sea: Asian Diaspora Writers and the Works, featuring author Gabrielle Wang, Illustrator Il Sung Na, and myself. "In this panel, we ask Asian authors who have worked in the UK, Australia, and the USA to speak on their experiences as creators of Asian descent. What issues, if any, remain universal to the Asian diaspora experience? What challenges have these creators faced and how did they overcome them to get published? Find out!"

Third and last, I spoke on Writing About Different Cultures with Gabrielle Wang. "As our global society embraces multiculturalism more and more, the question of how to tell effective stories that speak to multicultural communities become ever more important. How should writers, illustrators, and other story creators responsibly address writing about different cultures? Join in the discussion in this panel."

Fun to meet online friends in person, like Daphne Lee, Scholastic Asia editor...
... and Sayoni Basu, editor with India's Duckbill Books.
Editors Cheryl Robson (left) of the U.K. and Sayoni Basu (right) of India talked about acquisitions. Stacy Whitman of Tu Books (center) ably represented North American editors and publishers.
My turn to present: "Young Adult Books as Windows and Mirrors."
AFCC staff and volunteers were excellent at spoiling us. Many of our "Makan and Mingle" events took place on the top floor of the Singapore National Library, and featured a glorious 360 degree view.
The Children's Room at the Singapore National Library.
Bookseller Denise Tan of Closetful of Books organized my author visit to the ISS International School of Singapore.
Spoke with 9th graders from many Asian countries about stories between cultures.
I always feel at home in a roomful of global nomads and Third Culture kids.
A sweet-faced Indonesian student asked for a picture. Who could say no to that smile? Not me.
My extracurricular activities included a visit to the National Orchid Garden.  At every turn, you catch your breath and squelch a desire to burst into applause, because what will the other tourists think? Oh, well. Go ahead. They've all become flower and fountain paparazzi.
Perk of solo travel: paying closer attention to the symmetry, detail, and elegance at the National Museum of Singapore. A volunteer docent presented an enthralling 2.5 hours of history, full of unforgettable stories from the nation as well as from his own life. "Confucian families sadly didn't honor girl children as much as boys. During the time of hardship after the war, for example, girls were given to Malay families for adoption. One particular Chinese family had three daughters and two sons. They fought hard and somehow managed to keep the family intact, but the girls were not educated while the sons went to school. How do I know?" He hesitated to check his emotion. "Because I was one of those boys."
How do you know you're in Little India on a Sunday afternoon? By the monsoon rains, spicy vegetable biryani and sweet lassi, painted windows, and hundreds of Indians, strolling, shopping, and people-watching, just like you.
Need a break from the equatorial sun? Nothing better than a good book, a cup of Darjeeling, and biscuits in the Writer's Bar, where Ernest Hemingway and W. Somerset Maugham enjoyed different kinds of beverages.
 Last but not least, don't skip a moonlit riverboat ride. Glorious! Right, Junko (Yokota) and Marjorie (Coughlan)?
AFCC 2015 will be held from May 29 – June 7 in Singapore, and the country of focus is China. My recommendation? Don't miss it!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

2014 South Asia Book Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature


The South Asia Book Award (SABA) is given annually for up to two outstanding works of literature, from early childhood to secondary reading levels, which accurately and skillfully portrays South Asia or South Asians in the diaspora, that is the experience of individuals living in South Asia, or of South Asians living in other parts of the world. Up to five Honor Books and Highly Commended Books are also  recognized by the award committee.

 2014 Winners

A Moment Comes by Jennifer Bradbury (Atheneum, 2013)

Before India was divided, three teens, each from wildly different backgrounds, cross paths. And then, in one moment, their futures become irrevocably intertwined. Tariq, Anupreet, Margaret are as different as their Muslim, Sikh, and British names. But in that one moment, their futures become entirely dependent on one another. (Grades 8 and up).

Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education by Elizabeth Suneby (Kids Can Press, 2013)

Razia dreams of getting an education, but in her small village in Afghanistan, girls haven’t been allowed to attend school for many years. When a new girls’ school opens in the village, a determined Razia must convince her father and oldest brother that educating her would be best for her, their family and their community. Based on the true stories of the students of the Zabuli Education Center for Girls just outside of Kabul (Grades 3-8).

 

2014 Honor Books

Bye, Bye, Motabhai! by Kala Sambasivan, illustrations by Ambika Sambasivan (Yali Books, 2013). Pavan, an over-worked camel in the city of Ahmedabad, India, hates his job. He often dreams of being a racing camel in Dubai. But hitched to a heavy vegetable cart and with his owner Motabhai around, how is this possible? (Grades pre-K-3).

Gandhi: A March to the Sea by Alice B. McGinty, illustrations by Thomas Gonzalez (Amazon Publishing, 2013). Mohandas Gandhi’s 24-day March to the Sea, from March 12 to April 5, 1930, was a pivotal moment in India’s quest to become an independent country no longer ruled by Great Britain (Grades 3 and up).

 The Garden of My Imaan by Farhana Zia (Peachtree, 2013). The arrival of a new student, Marwa, a fellow fifth-grader who is a strict Muslim, helps Aliya come to terms with her own lukewarm practice of the faith and her embarrassment of others’ reactions to their beliefs (Grades 4-7).

Mother Teresa: Angel of the Slums by Lewis Helfand, art by Sachin Nagar (Campfire, an imprint of Kalyani Navyug Media, 2013). Mother Teresa knew from a young age that she wanted to become a nun. What she could not envision was where that service to God would take her, until she was sent to Calcutta to teach (Grades 6 and up).

2014 Highly Commended Books

 

The Fantastic Adventures of Krishna written and illustrated by Demi (Wisdom Tales, 2013). Set in a peaceful kingdom in India more than 5000 years ago, this is the enchanting tale of the child Krishna, who is sent by the God Vishnu to aid humanity (Grades K and up).

Gobble You Up! by Gita Wolf, art by Sunita (Tara Books, 2013). In this adaptation of a traditional oral Rajasthani trickster tale, a wily jackal, who is too lazy to go hunting himself, challenges his best friend to catch 12 fish. The narrative unfolds in cumulative rhyme, accompanied by distinctive finger paintings created in the ancient Mandna style (Grades pre-K-3).

In Andal’s House by Gloria Whelan, illustrations by Amanda Hall (Sleeping Bear Press, 2013). As a young boy in Gujarat, Kumar sometimes feels like he lives in two worlds. The old world where people and their choices are determined by prejudice and bigotry; and the modern world: in this world Kumar can be friends with whomever he chooses and his future looks bright (Grades K-3).

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J Freedman (Harry N. Abrams, 2013). Tara’s not sure she wants to have a bat mitzvah. Even though she’s attended Hebrew school, her mother’s Indian heritage has a pull on her, and she wonders if she dishonors her Indian grandparents by declaring her Judaism (Grades 5-8).

Torn by David Massey (Chicken House, 2013). The story follows Ellie, a 19-year-old British medic, during her tour of duty in Afghanistan. Her squad is attached to a small troop of American SEALs who must find a hidden cache of arms and learn about a children’s army that is fighting both the Western Coalition and the Taliban (Grades 8 and up).

The 2014 South Asia Book Award Ceremony will be held in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday, October 18, 2014.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

3 YA Novels To Help Us Remember Our Nigerian Girls

I've been reading The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence by Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros, which makes a strong case against the atrocities of gender violence. Yesterday I ran across this troubling article from ThinkProgress explaining how the world quickly stopped caring about the kidnapped Nigerian girls, and this opinion in the Telegraph that hashtag campaigns may fail by giving the perpetrators exactly what they want: global publicity.

There's another way to keep our minds and hearts focused on the true protagonists of this horrible event—through the power of fiction. Here are three great reads that can connect us to the girls themselves as we hope and pray for their release.

 No Laughter Here (Harper) by Rita Williams-Garcia

Even though they were born in different countries, Akilah and Victoria are true best friends. But Victoria has been acting strange ever since she returned from her summer in Nigeria, where she had a special coming-of-age ceremony. Why does proud Victoria, named for a queen, slouch at her desk and answer the teacher's questions in a whisper? And why won't she laugh with Akilah anymore?  Akilah's name means "intelligent," and she is determined to find out what's wrong, no matter how much detective work she has to do. But when she learns the terrible secret Victoria is hiding, she suddenly has even more questions. The only problem is, they might not be the kind that have answers.

"This exquisitely written short novel tackles an enormous and sensitive subject… Unapologetic, fresh and painful." — Kirkus Reviews (Starred review)

"Combines a richly layered story with accurate, culturally specific information ..... [a] skillfully told, powerful story."— ALA Booklist (Starred review)

The Other Side of Truth (HarperTrophy) by Beverly Naidoo, winner of the Carnegie Medal.

A shot. Two shots at the gate in the early morning and a car screeches away down an avenue of palm trees. A tragedy - and a terrible loss for Sade and her younger brother Femi, children of an outspoken Nigerian journalist. Now terror is all around them and they must flee their country. At once. And alone. Plans for their journey have to be hastily arranged. Everything must be done in secret. But once Sade and Femi reach England, they will be safe - won't they?

"Totally gripping, somewhat shaming and entirely believable, this is an engrossing and thought-provoking read for 10-years-olds plus." — Sunday Telegraph

"Narrated with exceptional skill in a bracing, unadorned style…" — The Scotsman

"…an unforgettable novel." — The Times


Purple Hibiscus (Algonquin) by Chimamanda Adichie

Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in a beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They're completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear. Although her Papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home—a home that is silent and suffocating.

As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent to their aunt, a university professor outside the city, where they discover a life beyond the confines of their father’s authority. Books cram the shelves, curry and nutmeg permeate the air, and their cousins’ laughter rings throughout the house. When they return home, tensions within the family escalate, and Kambili must find the strength to keep her loved ones together.

"Prose as lush as the Nigerian landscape that it powerfully evokes. . . . Adichie's understanding of a young girl's heart is so acute that her story ultimately rises above its setting and makes her little part of Nigeria seem as close and vivid as Eudora Welty's Mississippi." — The Boston Globe

"In a soft, searing voice, Adichie examines the complexities of family, faith and country through the haunted but hopeful eyes of a young girl on the cusp of womanhood. Lush, cadenced and often disconcerting. — Publishers Weekly

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Kids Will Love These Five Books "Between Cultures"

Waxing poetic about Thanhha Lai's
Inside, Out, and Back Again at
Mrs. Dalloway's Books in Berkeley, CA.
Anne Whaling, children's book buyer at Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore in Berkeley, asked me and a couple of other visitors (Nina Lindsay, Oakland public librarian and author-illustrator LeUyen Pham) to share a few recommendations of books featuring diverse characters for ages 5-10.

I was delighted to introduce a few of my favorites to an audience of eager readers and their parents. Here are my "quick picks," with annotations provided by Anne and a quick description of why I like the books.

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Williams (Eerdmans). When relief workers bring used clothing to the refugee camp, everyone scrambles to grab whatever they can. Ten-year-old Lina is thrilled when she finds a sandal that fits her foot perfectly, until she sees that another girl has the matching shoe. Soon Lina and Feroza meet, each wearing one coveted sandal. Together they solve the problem of having four feet and two sandals. (What I particularly love in this story: the exploration of power, and the fact that the resolution is brought about by the person with least power.)

Rain School by James Rumford (HMH). It is the first day of school in Chad, Africa. Children are filling the road. "Will they give us a notebook?" Thomas asks. "Will they give us a pencil?" "Will I learn to read?" But when he and the other children arrive at the schoolyard, they find no classroom, no desks. Just a teacher. "We will build our school," she says. "This is our first lesson." Starred review, Booklist. (What I particularly love in this story: the revelation to the North American reader that school is more than just a building—it's actually a community of learners and teachers—and the fact that the children of Chad are the revealers of this truth.)


Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything by Lenore Look (Simon and Schuster). When Ruby's cousin Flying Duck emigrates from China to live with her, Ruby decides the best thing about Flying Duck is that she is a great new friend. BUT the worst thing about Flying Duck is that now, no one speaks English at home. Plus, there's strange food on the table every night and only chopsticks to eat it with. And Flying Duck is deaf, and Ruby doesn't know any Chinese Sign Language. As if that weren't enough, this summer proves to be even more perilous as Ruby faces the dangers of swimming lessons, the joys of summer school, the miracle needed to keep a beautiful stray dog that wanders into her life, and much more. Is it all too much for anyone -- even the Empress of Everything -- to handle? Starred review, SLJ (What I particularly love in this story: the humor and strong characterization make this the perfect book to illuminate Betsy Bird's concept of "casual diversity.")


Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (Harper). Inspired by the author's childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama, this coming-of-age debut novel told in verse has been celebrated for its touching child's-eye view of family and immigration. Newbery Honor Book, and a winner of the National Book Award. Starred reviews, Horn Book, Kirkus, PW, SLJ. (What I particularly love in this story: readers will love seeing their own sibling relationships mirrored in the author's depiction of three very different older brothers, plus this is a beautiful "between-cultures" read that is award-winning and accessible.)


 
The No. 1 Car Spotter by Atinuke (Kane Miller). When a cart breaks down and the villagers can't get their goods to market, Oluwalase Babatunde Benson, otherwise known as the No. 1 Car Spotter in his village, comes up with a brilliant solution. (What I particularly love in this story: it makes me laugh out loud and shatters any "single story" of Africa that might be lurking in the back of the reader's mind.)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Notable Social Studies Trade Books 2014


The books that appear in the slides above were evaluated and selected by a Book Review Committee appointed by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and assembled in cooperation with the Children's Book Council (CBC). They were written for children in grades K-12, published in 2013, and meet the following criteria: 
  • emphasize human relations 
  • represent a diversity of groups 
  • sensitive to a broad range of cultural experiences 
  • present an original theme or a fresh slant on a traditional topic 
  • easily readable
  • high literary quality
  • pleasing format
  • where appropriate, include illustrations that enrich the text 
Happy disclosure: OPEN MIC: RIFFS ON LIFE BETWEEN CULTURES IN TEN VOICES (Candlewick) is on the 2014 list (slide #88.)


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Hats Off to a Legion of Librarians in Boston and Brooklyn!

I had a marvelous ten days visiting schools in the Boston area and in Brooklyn, as well as teaching a few workshops at the annual New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference and the Muse and the Marketplace 2014 conference sponsored by Grub Street.

In case you missed my whirlwind trip via social media, I've gathered a few photo highlights. As you can see below, it took a bundle of librarians to make this trip happen. I returned from my journey even more impressed by these talented cheerleaders of kids and reading. They are truly an American treasure.
I started and ended the trip by presenting with authors David Yoo and Francisco Stork, who both contributed to OPEN MIC. David (pictured above) met with middle schoolers at the Fenn School in Concord, Massachusetts. Meanwhile, Francisco shared with high schoolers and I spoke to upper elementary students.
These days, school librarians must be book experts, tech geniuses, and marketers extraordinaire, like Susan Fisher of the Fenn School.
Chatting with students after my talks is always a joy, especially when school librarians have prepared the kids well for my visit. Students at the Fenn School gathered to chat about the differences between books and movies as story venues and to ask questions about BAMBOO PEOPLE.
Next I headed to Nashoba Brooks Academy to meet with school librarian / diversity champion Sam Kane, who coordinated my presentation to second graders about RICKSHAW GIRL. I had a bit of time so I stopped by the Old Manse in Concord, where Thoreau planted this garden at the Old Manse as a wedding present for the Hawthornes. It's doing fine.
My creative spirit stirred on a raw spring day as I walked the grounds where famous writers used to dwell. But there's little time for writing during an author visit maelstrom. The day after my sessions at the Fenn School and Nashoba Brooks Academy, I visited Zervas and Underwood schools in Newton, Massachusetts, where I was hosted by parents serving on Creative Arts and Sciences committees.
Next stop, Springfield Massachusetts for the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference, where I taught workshops on dialogue and virtual book launches. I enjoyed this reflection of the Campanile from my  hotel room.
Seeing writing buddies galore (Lisa Papademetriou and Ammi-Joan Paquette are pictured above) is one of the best reasons to go to this marvelous conference.
Tara Sullivan shows off the forthcoming paperback issue of GOLDEN BOY, her award-winning novel about Habo, a Tanzanian boy with albinism.
Trend spotted: cute agents with bangs. (Kaylee Davis on the left and Lauren Macleod on the right.)
After a quick session on crafting place in fiction at the Muse and the Marketplace conference in Boston, I headed to Brooklyn for an assembly at Packer Collegiate School, where Lois Lowry studied as a girl.
The grounds and building reeked of tradition, and the auditorium looked like an old chapel. The students were receptive and engaged, thanks mostly to school librarian Kristyn Dorfman, who welcomed and hosted me.
Next I taught kids at P.S. 230 in Brooklyn how to draw alpanas. Since many of them are Bangladeshi, they're naturals, and the art was amazing. Thanks for this visit goes to Susan Brill, a superb teacher who cares deeply about reading global books in her multicultural classroom.
I knew RICKSHAW GIRL was a "mirror" book for the kids of P.S. 230 when I saw this poster on the gate.
That afternoon I strolled across the Brooklyn Bridge and back.
Stopped to watch handball on one of the playgrounds and was tempted to get in line for a game.
Next stop was Brooklyn Friends School, where I led writing workshops for 8th graders and presented a session for the 5th grade.
Middle School Librarian Angie Ungaro took excellent care of me at Brooklyn Friends. Again, note the superb signage.
Back in the Boston area, I visited Derby Academy in Hingham, established in 1784. Tuition used to be an armful of firewood. I think it might be a bit steeper now. Librarian Barbara Zinkovich arranged my visit impeccably.
I've gotten good at multitasking during presentations. Here I'm teaching one kid to bargain for bananas in an imaginary Bangladeshi marketplace while I wrap a saree around a second volunteer.
After full-day gigs at the two middle schools in Reading, Massachusetts, where school librarians Christine Steinhauser and Robyn Ferrazzani took care of me, public school librarians celebrated OPEN MIC with Thai food. (From L to R: Young Adult Librarian Susan Beauregard, author Francisco Stork, Adult Services Librarian Andrea Fiorillo, author David Yoo, and Young Adult Librarian Renee Smith.)
Reading Librarian Andrea Fiorillo, David Yoo, Francisco Stork, and a lovely bookseller from Andover Bookstore after our Big Read panel on growing up between cultures.