The Fire Escape's Great Limerick Ending Contest

In honor of my birthday, I'm emulating Bilbo Baggins and giving away a bag of my favorite savory, nutty, spicy Hot Mix and a signed copy of Rickshaw Girl. To win, you must supply the best 9-syllable last line of advice in one of two limericks. Ready?
From Reader To Writer

To imagine the best children's book,
You must closet yourself in a nook,
Forget fame and glory,
And just tell the story,


From Blogger To Writer

I'm not wantin' to put you to shame,
But I see you've been googlin' your name,
My stat counter's showin',
Your visits are growin',

Winner TBA on Poetry Friday. Submit as many endings as you'd like for one or both limericks; prizes below.

2007 Jane Addams Children's Book Awards

Two books about Japanese-American girls in internment camps during World War II have won the 2007 Jane Addams Children's Book Awards.

A Place Where Sunflowers Grow by Amy-Lee Tai (Children's Book Press), illustrated by Felicia Hoshino, won in the Books for Younger Children category.

Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata (Atheneum / Simon & Schuster), won in the Books for Older Children category.

Honor Books for Younger Children:

Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom by Tim Tingle (Cinco Puntos Press), illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridges, tells the story of the Choctaw people who live on one side of the river Bok Chitto and the plantation owners and African American slaves who live on the other.

Night Boat To Freedom by Margot Theis Raven (Melanie Kroupa Books / FS&G), illustrated by E. B. Lewis, tells of an enslaved boy who repeatedly risks his life to row others across the river to Ohio.

Honor Books for Older Children:

Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Russell Freedman (Holiday House) and Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop (Wendy Lamb Books / Random House), a novel about a French-Canadian girl who has to leave school to work in the mills of Vermont in the early 1900s.

Sparrow's MySpace Campaign

Over at Sparrowblog, Sameera's trying to friend all the presidential candidates on MySpace. In the process, she's given one of them Sparrow's MySpace Freedom of Speech Award and another a MySpace Ding.

She's also hoping to get adds from any and all of the First Kid wannabes. After she posted something about the Romney brothers probably singing in perfect harmony, one of them -- Josh Romney -- answered with a comment on Sparrow's MySpace site:
I had a chance to read the blog and really enjoyed it. All four of my brothers are campaigning for my dad and we are all really enjoying the experience. By the way, we do not all sing in key, I can assure you.
Sameera's blog is also already getting as many hits as mine. I think she's forgetting she's fictional and starting to run amuck.

Comics Can Change The World

Manga has familiarized Americans with Japanese culture much more than any official effort by the Japanese Embassy. Now the Arab world has a chance to do the same. The Christian Science Monitor reports on a new comic book series featuring Arab heroes:
Since October, youngsters throughout the Middle East have been discovering the legend of the Noor Stones in a new monthly comic book called "The 99." The series is inspired by Islamic culture and history – the title refers to the 99 names and traits attributed to God in the Koran – and aims to spread a universal message of teamwork along with plenty of action, adventure, and "kapow!"
Find out more or order your own copy of The 99 at Teshkeel Comics.

Book Launch and Bhangra Party in D.C.

You’re invited to a Book Launch and Bhangra Party for
First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover (Dutton, June 2007)
Hosted by the D.C. Public Library

A novel for teens about a Pakistani-American girl whose dad
wants to be the most powerful guy on the planet.

When: Saturday, June 23rd, 2007, 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Martin Luther King Memorial Library, Room 443 on the fourth floor
Space is limited so RSVP to

Come listen to me read from the novel ...
Nosh on samosas & lassis and/or tiny franks & diet cokes ...
Play trivia and win a signed copy ...
Discover your inner Bollywood ...

If you’ll be at ALA’s Annual Convention, the Martin Luther King Library is a short one-block walk south from the Convention Center on the Northwest corner of 9th and G Streets, NW, across the street diagonally from the National Museum of American Art. If you’re driving, the library has an underground parking lot located at 10th Street, NW and G Place, NW. From 10th Street, turn left onto G Place.

Sameera Righton, the main character in the novel, is keeping track of the real First Kid wannabes in the ‘08 presidential campaign at — check it out. BONUS: the top five traffic-sending library sites or blogs linking to sparrowblog get a signed copy on pub date.

Bhangra lesson and demo offered by the delectable desi dance teachers at dhoonya dance.

Gadgets and Gizmos

Since I've been informed that I'm a bit of a geek, I feel obligated to offer some techno tips every now and then on the Fire Escape. Here are a few fun (and free) web toys:

Crazy Egg: Want even more information about who's consuming what you generate on-line? Find out who clicked where, when, and how -- tracking up to 5000 visitors is free.

Ace Polls: Want to rock a vote? Here's the easiest way to generate a zany or illuminating poll on your blog.

Musicovery: Got writer's block? Find music that matches your bad mood or inspires you to new creative heights.

Show Stash: If that doesn't work, might as well indulge your inner potato and watch a comfy re-run.

Librarians Who Move And Shake

Know a librarian with the power to change the planet? Nominate her/him immediately to be a part of Library Journal's compilation of the top fifty innovators in the profession.

No Namesake For Us

My sister and I visited our parents this past weekend in California. One of our goals was to convince them to experience Mira Nair's film cross-generationally — an experience highly recommended by several South Asian friends.

The challenge was that my parents never go to the movie theater. After we'd wheedled and begged for a while, they finally agreed to go this time because (a) our beloved city of Kolkata appears in The Namesake and (b) Bangla, our language, also co-stars, since Jhumpa Lahiri, the novel's author, is Bengali.

But this once-in-a-lifetime event was not to be. We'd just settled ourselves in our seats when an usher announced that the projector's bulb had suddenly burned out with no chance of a fix. I exchanged a look of disgust with my sister.

Ma and Baba could tell we were disappointed. "We'll go to the cinema the next time you come," Baba promised.

"But The Namesake won't be around then," my sister said.

"And you guys won't ever go to a movie theater again, I just know it," I added skeptically.

"Oh, yes we will," Ma said. "And soon, too."

"When? When will we ever hear Bangla in an American feature movie again? Or see scenes from Bengal on the big screen?"

"When they make a film out of one of your books," Ma answered, her voice ringing with the delusional maternal conviction that demolishes rational argument. "Now let's go home and relax."

And that's exactly what we did.

Share Here, Swap There, Read This, Upload

I'm heading away for the weekend, but here are some places to go, Fire Escape visitors:

Kahani Magazine Wins Parents' Choice Award

Kahani (which means story in Hindi), a South Asian literary magazine for children, has won a 2007 Parents’ Choice Foundation Approved Award. Other winners in the same category include Sesame Street Magazine and American Girl.

Published four times a year, Kahani is an ad-free children’s literary magazine that features a vibrant mix of original short stories, nonfiction articles, biography series, interactive activities, comics, and book reviews. The editorial mission is simple: empower, educate, and entertain. While focused on the experiences of South Asian children raised in North America, “…this literary magazine reflects unique life experiences from which each of us can learn,” announced the Foundation.

The magazine won a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Association of Educational Publishers last year and also received the 2006 Multicultural Children’s Periodical Award from the National Association for Multicultural Education. Why all the buzz about Kahani? Go there and see for yourself — it's fantastic.

Getting What I Don't Deserve

Instead of a sharp reprimand for my self-indulgent whine about an ego-crushing book signing at TLA, I am given grace and informed that I am hot. How did that happen? Not sure, but hey, the word "hot" isn't paired with the word "flash," and that's good news.

Relieved By The Race Of A Killer?

I went to bed last night not yet knowing the identity of the Virginia Tech killer. Rumors were circulating on the web about terrorism, an Asian perpetrator, and the high number of Pakistani Muslim students on the campus. Pathetically, perhaps reflecting the tension many South Asians and Arabs are feeling these days, I confess actual relief this morning when I read that the assassin was "a South Korean native in the U.S. as a resident alien."

How sick is a reaction of gratitude that Cho Seung-Hui was not (a) Muslim or (b) South Asian or Middle Eastern? As a mother of brown sons in a society still processing what happened in September 2001, perhaps the word realistic is more apt. That's yet another reason why Paula Jolin's insightful novel (another class of 2k7 debut), In The Name of God (Roaring Book, April 2007) needs to be on every high school reading list in America. Come back soon to the Fire Escape for an interview with Paula about the book.

Never Sign Near Mo And Other Conference Survival Tips

Ah, me. On the whole, the TLA convention was a blast, don't get me wrong, but watching (from my lonely author signing booth RIGHT NEXT DOOR) a long line of librarians waiting for Mo Willems was not so much fun. A score of sopranos squealed ecstatically when young Mr. Willems eventually appeared. Another one of Betsy Bird's Hot Men of Children's Literature, John Green, elicited a question during a YA author panel from a middle-aged woman who gushed embarrassingly about his cuteness. As E. Lockhart (Dramarama) commented when we commiserated over the young-guy-author-groupie-magnet factor, we are cute, too. Okay, she is cute, especially with that intricate Olde English tattoo fully encircling one buff upper arm.

I also got to chat with Kirby Larson of Hattie Big Sky fame (one of the three kind people in my author signing line), Cynthia Leitich Smith who wrote Tantalize (as generous with her Texas hug as she is with links and news on her famous blog), Esme Raji Codell (stylish, sweet, and smart in person and in print), and Copper Sun author Sharon Draper (who, on a hotel shuttle bus, passed on good advice about school visits and a lovely two-handed blessing she'd received years ago from Virginia Hamilton). The list goes on ... many other luminaries and celebrities were present, proving once again that Texas occupies a big, big place both in the country and in the world of children's literature.

Now I'm off to the 116th annual gathering of librarians in Connecticut, where author Joseph Bruchac is scheduled to provide the swoon factor.

School Visits, San Antonio, and Gratitude

I'm doing three days in a row of middle school visits (today, Brown Middle School in Newton, tomorrow I'm at McCall Middle School for the Winchester Author Festival, after which I fly to San Antonio for day #3 at Leal Middle School and the TXLA conference). I'll try and post from Texas, but I wanted to share an excerpt from a thank-you note I received a few days ago from a seventh-grader in Rhode Island:
...You are an idol which many different people admire. Your work is similar to a gigantic river that consists of voluptuous chocolates. I extremely enjoyed your thrilling life-story ... the characteristics of your unique family members kept me on the edge of my seat ...
Now that's why I write for middle-schoolers. I'll bet Jhumpa Lahiri never gets fan mail like that.

A Call For Blogging Courtesy

I posted recently on Sparrowblog about Duke University student Andrew Giuliani and his relationship with his father. I edited the post many times, as one of my goals in tracking the First Kid wannabes is to avoid trashing them. I'm glad I took time to fiddle with the words, as my stats shortly revealed a visitor from a dorm at Duke University searching for "Andrew Giuliani." Now I know young Giuliani's not the only student there, but if he was indeed googling himself, I'd want him to leave my blog feeling like he'd been treated with courtesy.

The New York Times yesterday reported on a new discussion among prominent bloggers in A Call For Manners in a World of Nasty Blogs that was spurred by disturbing death threats posted on Kathy Sierra's technology blog:
... Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Wales (creator of Wikipedia) talk about creating several sets of guidelines for conduct and seals of approval represented by logos. For example, anonymous writing might be acceptable in one set; in another, it would be discouraged. Under a third set of guidelines, bloggers would pledge to get a second source for any gossip or breaking news they write about.

Bloggers could then pick a set of principles and post the corresponding badge on their page, to indicate to readers what kind of behavior and dialogue they will engage in and tolerate. The whole system would be voluntary, relying on the community to police itself.

...Some online writers wonder how anyone could persuade even a fraction of the millions of bloggers to embrace one set of standards. Others say that the code smacks of restrictions on free speech ...

Robert Scoble, a popular technology blogger who stopped blogging for a week in solidarity with Kathy Sierra after her ordeal became public, says the proposed rules “make me feel uncomfortable.” He adds, “As a writer, it makes me feel like I live in Iran.”
The Kid Lit corner of the blogosphere needs to weigh in. I like the idea of a self-imposed standard that's made clear by some kind of communally-understood badge on my blog, and even though I don't moderate comments, I have deleted a few nasty anonymous ones here on the Fire Escape. How about you?

Ypulse Gives Sparrowblog a Shout-Out

Anastasia Goodstein (Totally Wired) of Ypulse fame described Sparrowblog as "a very cool blog promoting a forthcoming YA novel:"
...All you YA authors out there, take note: Ypulse reader Mitali Perkins just launched a fictional character blog to promote her book First Daughter: White House Rules. The character is "Sameera, who can't vote but still wants to make a difference. She's also Pakistani-American, adopted, and provides a non-partisan insider's view of campaigning." This is why I want to write YA -- it seems like so much FUN.
Nice! The steady flow of traffic to Sparrow's blog from Ypulse revealed the power of Anastasia's validation.

Library Association Gigs: TXLA, CLA, RLA, ALA

On Saturday, April 14th, I'll sign copies of Rickshaw Girl at the Texas Library Association Convention in San Antonio (expected temperature in the seventies, wahoo!) from 10-11 a.m. in the Author's Area, and in booth 2519 from 11-noon. (Remember this sweepstakes in School Library Journal? Well, Leal Middle School in San Antonio won, so I'll be speaking to their students on Friday, April 13th.)

Next comes the Connecticut Library Assocation's conference on Monday, April 16th, where my talk, "Books Between Cultures," will be sandwiched between two presentations by the brilliant storyteller and writer Joseph Bruchac.

On Friday, June 8th, I'll be addressing a kaboodle of librarians at the Rhode Island Library Association's annual conference in Providence.

And finally, I'll be signing copies of Rickshaw Girl at the American Library Association's Annual Convention on Saturday, June 23rd in Washington D.C. Breaking news: On Saturday afternoon, June 23rd, the D.C. Public Library (a short walk from the Convention Center) is hosting a book launch party for First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover (Dutton, June 2007). More to come on that, as we're hoping to provide a brief bhangra lesson and demo, and I plan to invite my old professor to attend, Dr. Condoleeza Rice. (Hey, I slaved for those As in her classes; it doesn't hurt to ask, right?) Kid lit bloggers going to ALA -- this would also be the perfect venue to meet and schmooze with each other ...

Poetry For Immigrant Teens

The Houston Chronicle reports today on the city's district-wide annual Immigrant Writing Festival, where high school students meet once a week to articulate their experiences of dislocation through poems and essays.

"Poetry is the clearest form by which I can cry without shedding a single tear," said one student. "It is the form by which I may scream without bothering anyone ... Poetry is the language of my soul."

"It is a way we can write what we are feeling, but aren't brave enough to say," added another.

This is exactly why I love reading submissions to the Fire Escape's annual poetry and short fiction contests for teens between cultures. Deadline this year for submissions is June 1st, so please spread the word.

My Debut on MySpace

With my return to the teen lit scene in June, I've been advised to get a MySpace page, so if you're there already and want to befriend me, go here. Or maybe you want to add my main character, Sameera Righton; if so, go here. Sameera may also be facebooked, if that's your social networking preference.

Don't Want A Zodiac Sign On MySpace?

If you're an html geek and want to hack your MySpace to cut your profile's zodiac sign, here's the code to insert (if you need help let me know in the comments and I'll try and walk you through it):

tr[id="Zodiac"] {

visibility: hidden!important;


tr[id="Zodiac"] td, tr[id="Zodiac"] td span, tr[id="Zodiac"] td a {

height: 0px;






Notable Books In The Language Arts

Here's the list of 2007 notable children's books in the language arts. Hooray for The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin!

Poetry Friday: Good Friday For The Foreigner

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests picked up the coins and said, "It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money." So they decided to use the money to buy the potter's field as a burial place for foreigners. (Source: The Gospel According to Matthew).

Good Friday For The Foreigner
by Mitali Perkins

The news spreads through our tents and shacks like birdsong:
We have some soil.

It’s strewn with shards of ceramic,
broken bits of pots and cups,
clay of no use or value.
I’ll pick them up, clean the ground with my hands,
and make a holy place.
I’ll water the dirt with my tears.

Who paid for it?

The piles of bodies had grown, the stench,
disease adding more to the heap.
We begged, we cried, we pleaded:
We die, too. We are not just passing through.
No word. A civic silence.

Who spoke for us?

The coins were stained with blood, we're told.
They were useless, too, like the clay, like the dead.
Now our bones, blood, and flesh
will mingle with theirs under the ground.
An inheritance for our beloved.
I weep, and bury, and kneel,
and whisper my thanks to the Unknown.

Know Your Immigration Lingo

Think you're up to speed on the words we use to talk about immigration? Take this interactive quiz from Energy of a Nation, a wonderful resource for teachers, home schoolers, and anyone else interested in learning more about newcomers to America.

Four ARCs of First Daughter

If anybody wants to read First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover (Dutton, June 2007) before pub date, I have four author's advance reader's copies left. Comment on this post if you review teen books and I'll get your snail mail from you off-list. Thanks!

Results on Talking Books Poll

Remember when I asked if you wrote or talked freely about books you haven't read? Well, 23 of you voted, and here are the results:

Do You ...
Answers Votes
1. feel free to chat/write about what you've heard even if you haven't read the book? 7 30%
2. buy or borrow it, skim it, read reviews, then enter the fray? 10 43%
3. keep mum until you've read it from cover to cover? 6 26%

As for me, as long as I'm admitting I haven't read a book, I'll share what I've heard and from whom -- but only if it's positive and I trust the source. If what I've heard is negative, I'll read the book before weighing in. But I think it's important to have all three different kinds of bloggers in the kid lit world, don't you? BTW, I still need help picking a title for my next novel, so please head over to Sparrow's Election '08 blog and vote, vote, vote.

Alvina Ling Live!

Just One More Book! podcasts Little Brown editor Alvina Ling about her progression in the book publishing industry, the role of an editor, and the risks she took to bring Jimmy Liao’s The Sound of Colors to North America.

Don Tate: Hunting For Artists Behind Bars

Illustrator Don Tate recently published an inspring essay in the Austin-American Statesman about visiting a group of incarcerated young men. For those of us who speak often to kids and teens, the clarity of Don's purpose statement is an inspiration:

When I present to groups of kids, I'm on the lookout for young artists, especially males who might not realize art as a career choice. I seek to encourage them, to serve as a model. I want them to see a hard-working, successful man, using his talents beyond the basketball court or the football field. Most times, I don't have to look far. Once I start drawing, the spirit of every artist in the room lights up.

If you were asked to talk about your life and work with a group of young people, could you sum up your own intentions equally clearly? Try commandeering Don's words and filling in the blanks for yourself:
When I present to groups of kids, I'm on the lookout for ____________________, especially _______________________________. I seek to encourage them, to serve as a model. I want them to see _________________________________________________.

CCBC Book of the Week

The Book of the Week Archive is a wonderful resource provided by the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (and not only because my darlin' Rickshaw Girl is this week's choice). Also, their moderated listserv is top-notch when it comes to focused discussion around children's books.