Showing posts from November, 2006

Teen Book Video Awards

The winning short films from The Book Standard's Teen Book Video Awards are now available for viewing (and voting): The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, and A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. What a brilliant combination of media, especially for this generation -- watching the films leaves you desperately wanting to read the books. Hey, Dutton, listen up: the First Daughter series is ripe for a video promo, and a short film based on Sparrow's character could be light and funny, unlike these three intense films. Whaddaya think?

Hooked on Heroes

It's no wonder teens like mine are devouring NBC's hit show. I'm addicted, too, despite my low tolerance for violence on the screen. I watch because (a) well, it's good entertainment, and (b) Heroes highlights so much of what I celebrate about teenagers:

This generation's relaxed take on interracial relationships. There's the lovable Japanese guy and sweet Southern redhead, the Italian-American hospice nurse and his elegant biracial-ish lady, and the violent, gorgeous blonde mother, her African-American husband, and their mixed-race child. Best of all, you don't even notice the different hues of skin as you watch these characters struggle through their relationships.

This generation's realistic grasp of human nature. As noted by Matthew Gilbert of the Boston Globe, this cast of imperfect heroes have weaknesses that are the shadow side of their strengths: One of the brilliant strokes in creator Tim Kring's "Heroes" concept is that some of the…

Wander The Edge Of The Forest

Head over to peruse this month's The Edge of The Forest (who thought of that fabulous title, anyway?), an online journal about children's literature. This issue features an interview with blogging writer Lisa Yee, author of Millicent Min, Girl Genius and other humorous middle grade novels. I love Lisa's books because they rarely get stuck in the "multicultural" pile even though they feature Asian American characters.

The White House, PaperTigers, and Just One More Book

Back from a weekend in D.C. where I kept imagining Sameera, the heroine of First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover (Dutton 2007) gazing down from the solarium on the third floor of the White House. As I tried to identify the languages in the myriad of conversations swirling around me, I thought of our first visit to D.C. about a year after arriving in America (pictured are my parents during that visit in the 1970s -- note the absence of wire across the fence.) Who knew I'd be writing a book years later with 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as a setting?

Now I'm wading through my in-box, and want to feature a few great links sent my way. First, from Aline Pereira, editor of PaperTigers:
Interview with author Cynthia Chin-LeeInterview with author Debjani ChatterjeeDi Wu's galleryPooja Makhijani's article on blogs (A String of Bright Lights)Cynthia Chin-Lee's article about why she writes multicultural booksAnd check out Just One More Book!, featuring podcasts about beloved bo…

Writing Process: Don't Do This

People sometimes ask about how I get inspired and push through writer's block, so I prepared this short video to demonstrate what I used to do. Do not, I repeat do not, try this at home.

Yes, that was eight pieces of double bubble gum in my mouth -- AT THE SAME TIME. The video (taken by my son -- that's his desk, not mine; mine is messier) is a re-enactment of an actual event that took place two years ago and marked the onset of TMJ in my life. I had to quit gum cold turkey (no seasonal pun intended) -- even soft Bazooka, my absolute favorite. So I'm still on the hunt for a replacement writer's block relieving strategy that won't damage body, mind, or soul. Any suggestions (PG only, please)?

(I'm leaving the Fire Escape for T-day, so for a holiday-oriented tidbit, I offer you last year's post about how this is the absolute best holiday for immigrants. Be safe, be grateful, and come back to chat on Monday).

SLJ's Best Books of 2006

Books between cultures on the just-released School Library Journal's best books of 2006 list of 67 titles include:
LOOK, Lenore. Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything. illus. by Anne Wilsdorf. S & S/Atheneum/Anne Schwartz Bks. RTE $15.95. ISBN 0-689-86460-4. Gr 1-3–The exuberant second grader befriends her deaf cousin, newly arrived from China, in what turns out to be a mutual learning experience involving sign language, vegetables, summer school, and friendship. A nifty chapter book about an earnest, if slightly misguided, heroine. (July)YANG, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. illus. by author. Roaring Brook/First Second. pap. $18.95. ISBN 1-59643-152-0.
Gr 7 Up–This heartfelt coming-of-age story, illustrated with crisp cartoon panels, blends traditional Chinese fables and legends with modern humor and school yard dynamics. An engaging graphic novel that addresses issues of racism, sterotyping, and spirituality.Min, Katherine. Secondhand World. Knopf. Tr $23. ISBN 0-307-26344-4.YA—An…

Making Peace With Massachusetts

As I face the onset of my seventh winter in Massachusetts, I'm sensing that my friends are a wee bit tired of my annual whining spell: "... blah, blah, blah early nightfall, icy streets, can't hike, ergonomically not designed for skiing, blah, blah, blah..."

That's why I've decided to morph myself into a Massachusetts woman for the holidays.

Yes. You heard it here first, fire escape friends. No more indulging in futile longing for the white sands of Zuma beach or day hikes in the Mount Diablo foothills. No more late-night cyber JetBlue visits to ferret out deals on the Boston-Oakland flight. And enough with gazing lustfully at my tropical island screensaver when I should be writing.

The first step in this transformation was predictable. Like every good nerd, I took a quiz and scored a 100% on "How Massachusetts Are You?" That's an A+, people.

Step two .... presenting the top ten reasons I'm thankful to be a Massachusettsian -- er, wait, is it Ma…

Ode To A Winter Tree: A Poem

In honor of poetry Friday, I present the poem that won the Bonnie S. Baker Creative Writing Award at Valley View Intermediate School in 1976:
Ode to a Winter Tree
by Mitali Bose

Her scraggly arm is a silhouette against the winter sky,
The claw that scratches the empty air echoes her lonely sigh,
Gone is the warmth of green foliage that covers with sweet embrace,
She prays and pleas for blossoming buds to shelter her ugly face,
Her only answer is the callous snow that tries to bury her grief,
And slyly swallows the warmth that is left like a cold and sneaky thief.Note #1: I was living in Pleasant Hill, California. It never snows in Pleasant Hill, California.
Note #2: There were only six other entries for the contest.
Note #3: The Bonnie S. Baker Creative Writing Award always adorns the wall of my writing space.

Tasers In The Sanctuary

Libraries have always been havens for immigrants; they've certainly felt like that to me ever since I first walked wide-eyed into the Flushing branch of the NYPL all those years ago. Maybe that's why what happened Tuesday night in the UCLA library of all places is doubly disturbing. If you can stomach it, witness this cell-phone footage of campus security officers using a Taser stun gun on a 23-year old Iranian man who refused to show his ID during a routine random late-night check: So it's come to this, has it? Strident, important words like "secure" and "safe" can no longer serve as adjectives describing one of my favorite nouns: "sanctuary." Still, that age-old whisper of desire isn't going anywhere, despite all the shouting.

Octavian Nothing Wins National Book Award

2006 National Book Award Winner
Young People's Literature

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party (Candlewick Press) by M.T. Anderson. Set against the disquiet of Revolutionary Boston, this novel, the first of two parts, re-imagines the past as an eerie place that has startling resonance for readers today.

You and Me at the Newton Free

No, it's not a folk song title, it's an invite. I'll be presenting "Life Between Cultures" at the wonderful Newton Free Library today, Wednesday, November 15th at 7 o'clock in the evening. The program is geared for anyone aged 9 and up, and I'll also be doing a brief reading of Rickshaw Girl (Charlesbridge, 2007). Come one, come all -- it's free, as the Friends of the Library organization kindly is sponsoring the event.

Bring Invisible Children To Your School

Want to help the young people in your school gain a vision to change the world? Check out Invisible Children's free assembly program, and introduce your community to the forgotten children of Uganda and their desperate hopes for healing now that a fragile peace has been brokered in their land.

Yaoi: Graphic Graphic Novels

No, I didn't make a mistake when I used the g-word twice in the title of this blog post. Check out this article (warning: lots of g-word content) in the Village Voice about Yaoi (mostly pronounced Yow-ee, I think) a boy-on-boy genre of erotic manga originating in Japan that more and more teen and even pre-teen girls in North America are consuming:
English-language manga is one of the fastest growing segments of the American publishing industry. Sales of that category amounted to about $175 million in North America last year, around triple the sales in 2002 ... National chain bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble are scrambling to find more shelf space for these hot-ticket items, and are installing benches and couches at which readers can lounge. In that context, yaoi is the success story within the success story ...

Yaoi's success with its target audience has surprised even comic industry insiders. "When it was first presented to us, we were very skeptical," s…

Amazon's Top Ten Teen Reads

The folks at Amazon list their top ten teen books for 2006.

Two Blog Takes on Rickshaw Girl

"Girl Power, Bangladeshi Style," declares Readers' Rants in a review of Rickshaw Girl (Charlesbridge, 2007). And the hand that rocks the cradle has oodles of power -- especially when it comes to books. That's why I was delighted to read MotherReader's nice review as well. Thanks for your support, kid lit bloggers!

The Real Macaca: S.R. Sidarth

If you're curious about the Virginia high school student (now collegian) who inadvertently may have changed the course of American history simply by being brown, check out this interview. (Source: Sepia Mutiny, of course.)

Bulletin's Rising Star: Lenore Look

The challenge of a "multicultural" author is to win that knowing nod from young readers who share your cultural heritage as well as to engage and entertain readers from all backgrounds. As the Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books points out, author Lenore Look seems to be pulling off this challenging feat: In the chapter books Ruby Lu, Brave and True, an ALA Notable Children's Book, and its sequel, Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything, Look has created an enduring and appealing heroine, with boldness and creativity enough to appeal to readers from any background and with cultural resonance that will entice outsiders and welcome insiders. Ruby's life brings a bicultural flair to the early reading format through the seamless incorporation of such details as lessons and activities in Chinese school, the differences between American and Chinese sign language that are raised as Ruby gets to know her deaf cousin who is a recent immigrant, and the infusion of Cantones…

Cynsations Interviews Yolanda LeRoy of Charlesbridge

Life's not fair. Yolanda LeRoy really is as mega-glam as she appears in this photo, and a Harvard grad to boot. But fuggedaboud that stuff -- what we care about here on the Fire Escape is her innovative vision as editorial director of Charlesbridge, right? With two novels coming from Charlesbridge, Rickshaw Girl (2007) and The Bamboo People (2010), I've been experiencing firsthand the author-coddling that Yolanda describes in an enlightening interview conducted by Cynthia Leitich Smith: As far as the benefits for an author or illustrator working with us, I like to think there are many: individual attention, a greater proportion of our focus on each person's book (one of fifteen per list, as opposed to one of 150), the flexibility to publish projects that might not work elsewhere, not being beholden to shareholders or large governing boards, and a team-oriented, family business atmosphere, to name a few.

A Bollywood Countdown to Christmas

On my daily jaunt to Sepia Mutiny's wonderful blog, I came across this video created by boymongoose, an animated boy band about to release a Christmas album with other songs like "Hark The Herald Angels Singh" and "We Are Wishing You A Merry Christmas." Enjoy about four minutes of procrastination, courtesy of Sepia Mutiny and the Fire Escape.

The English Language Is Bare Sick, Bluds

Regular visitors to the Fire Escape may recall that I'm fascinated with the Urban Dictionary, a site that tracks the morphing, wonderfully-flexible English language this side of the Atlantic. I was interested to learn from the Independent that, thanks to (1) the ability of immigrant teens to move fluidly between cultures and (2) the power of music in youth culture, English-speaking teens in the U.K. are also becoming bilingual: (Sue) Fox and her colleagues have studied the speech patterns of a sample of teenagers across (London). "One of our most interesting findings," she says, "was that we'd have groups of students from white Anglo-Saxon backgrounds, along with those of Arab, South American, Ghanaian and Portuguese descent, and they all spoke with the same dialect. But those who use it most strongly are those of second or third generation immigrant background, followed by white boys of London origin and then white girls of London origin."The researchers h…

Creating a Sense of Place

Feel free to download a .pdf file of my article, "A Whole New World: Three Ways To Create Magical Places on Paper," which originally appeared in the October 2006 issue of Weekly Reader's Writing, a classroom periodical published six times a year for middle and high school audiences. The magazine features author interviews, how-to articles, timely features, teacher's guides, and a blog. (For subscription information, click here.)

The article includes a writing exercise I use in my workshop (Weaving The Magic Carpet of Place) for teen or adult writers. If you're looking to procrastinate and be inspired by a new generation of writers at the same time, check out the samples of in-class writing produced by eighth-graders at Devotion Middle School as well as a few of their responses to my visit.

2007 Best Books For Young Adults

232 books have been nominated for YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults 2007. For between cultures fiction fans, a few titles of note are:

La Perdida by Jessica Abel

From the Harvey and Lulu award–winning creator of Artbabe comes this riveting story of a young woman’s misadventures in Mexico City. Carla, an American estranged from her Mexican father, heads to Mexico City to “find herself.” She crashes with a former fling, Harry, who has been drinking his way through the capital in the great tradition of his heroes, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. Harry is good—humored about Carla’s reappearance on his doorstep—until he realizes that Carla, who spends her days soaking in the city, exploring Frida Kahlo’s house, and learning Spanish, has no intention of leaving.

Jimi and Me by Jamie Adoff

After his father is murdered, a 13-year-old biracial boy named Keith and his mother try desperately to pick up the pieces of their lives. But his father’s death has left them devastated—both emoti…

Multicultural Children's Book Festival

If you're in the D.C. area, head over to this free festival at the Kennedy Center on Saturday, November 4th from noon to 5 o'clock. Be sure to watch a live demo of Grace Lin's gorgeous illustrations and listen to excellent writers like Pooja Makhijani read their work.

Turns Out Fusion Is Good For You

Taz of Sepia Mutiny reports on this interesting London-based study of teens between cultures, which divided subjects into four groups:integrated identity: adoption of attitudes and behaviors from both the culture of origin and the newly encountered culture.marginalized identity: both sets of attitudes and behaviors are rejected.assimilated identity: host culture is preferred over culture of origin.traditional identity: culture of origin is retained and host culture rejected.Apparently, studies in the past have found that "integration is the most healthy outcome, marginalization is the most risky outcome, and traditionalism (also called segregation) and assimilation carried intermediate levels of risk for mental health problems." This particular study, however, took a look at friendships, and found that "fewer mental health problems were found among adolescents making culturally integrated friendship choices."

Given these findings, making friendships with lots of d…