Showing posts from September, 2008

Great Children's Books About Africa

Tired of generic "African" children's books that don't mention particular cultures or countries? Check out Africa Access, a nonprofit founded in 1989 to help schools, public libraries, and parents improve the quality of their children's collection on Africa.

The Africa Access Review Database contains over 1000 annotations and reviews of children's books written by university professors, librarians, and teachers, most of whom have lived in Africa and have graduate degrees in African Studies.

And this November 13-16 in Chicago during the Teachers' Workshop at the annual meeting of the African Studies Association, Africa Access will present the 2008 Children’s Africana Book Awards, established in 1991 by the Outreach Council of the African Studies Association to encourage the publication and use of accurate, balanced children’s materials on Africa in U.S. schools and libraries.

This year, Ifeoma Onyefulu is the winner of the Best Book for Young Children award f…

Kid Lit Conference: Read All About It!

If you, like me, couldn't make it to Portland, Oregon for the second annual children's and YA book bloggers' conference, you can do the next best thing -- tune into a plethora of diverse blogging voices as they dish about the weekend.
News Flash: The conference is coming to the East Coast next September, organized by the one and only Mother Reader.

I'll Bet Condi Never Heard This Line

An odd interaction between President Zardari of Pakistan and Governor Sarah Palin brought a blush to many cheeks between cultures:

“I am honored to meet you,” Ms. Palin said.

“You are even more gorgeous than you are on the ...,” Mr. Zardari said.

“You are so nice,” Ms. Palin replied. “Thank you.”

“Now I know why the whole of America is crazy about you,” Mr. Zardari continued.

An aide tells the two to shake hands.

“I’m supposed to pose again,” Ms. Palin said.

“If he’s insisting,” Mr. Zardari said, “I might hug.”
And the title of this post has nothing to do with my opinion of Condi Rice's appearance vs. Sarah Palin's -- it's an attempt to poke fun at the ways South Asian cultures have traditionally viewed "fair" skinned folks as more attractive.

Source: SAJA Forum

Blog Love, Kiva, and Writing Workshops

Blogging is toil, and I've been doing it for 3.5 years. That's why love like this cyber kudo from Mother Reader means so much.

I was also delighted to find out yesterday that my friend Aline Pereira of Paper Tigers somehow managed to convince KIVA (an organization I love) to feature RICKSHAW GIRL as a recommended resource.

One of the best parts of my job description is to inspire other writers, young or old, to create a sense of place in fiction. I kicked off my fall season of author visits with a workshop last Saturday in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.

YA librarian Dan (who did an amazing job convincing a bunch of kids to show up on a sunny Saturday) has posted some of the products of that workshop here.

October Night Bites Author Chats at rgz

Mark your calendars now because we're hosting a bundle of fantastic authors at readergirlz to celebrate YALSA'S Teen Read Week.

Here's the official press release.

More than a dozen authors to converge on rgz forum to chat with ravenous teen readers

Sept. 18, 2008 (Seattle, Wash.) – In celebration of Young Adult Library Services Association’s (YALSA’s) Teen Reed Week™, readergirlz (rgz) is excited to present Night Bites, a series of online live chats with an epic lineup of published authors. The chats will take place at the rgz forum, Oct. 13-17, 2008.

Playing off YALSA’s theme of “Books with Bite,” Night Bites will feature five themed chats designed to appeal to an array of literary tastes. Sure to suck in even the most reluctant teen readers, the complete Night Bites schedule is as follows:
Monday, Oct. 13: Multicultural Bites with authors Coe Booth (TYRELL), An Na (THE FOLD), and rgz diva Mitali Perkins (SECRET KEEPER)


Are You Branding Your Blog?

Why do people come to your blog? How does it stand out from the crowd? A periodic check of the keywords revealed in your site statistics can help you define your brand or niche.

To get to Mitali's Fire Escape, for example, people typed the following phrases into a search engine of choice, and then decided to click on one of my posts that turned up in the results:
economics books for high school childrenmulticultural books for young childrenthe asian pacific american literary awardmulticultural children's book festivalsocial justice, picture booksethnic authors children's booksshould ethnic awards for books be given?mitali perkinsglobal poverty and picture bookskahani magazinepicture book social justicepolitics and teenschildren's books world culturesfunny short stories about latinoselection politics for teensmulticultural books for young readersrace color descriptionrealistic fiction books globalAs I take stock of this list, I gain insight into my unique place in the cyb…

Paula Yoo chats with readergirlz

During the month of September at readergirlz, we've been spending time with the one and only Paula Yoo, screenwriter, musician, and talented novelist -- a true renaissance woman. Her acclaimed new novel GOOD ENOUGH is about Patti Yoon, a talented musician who's stressing out about college applications and falling in love at the same time.

Teens, authors, divas, and other fans had a chance to ask Paula questions during her hourlong rgz Live! chat at the forum. I know you'll enjoy her honest, bubbly, and often hilarious answers, remembering that her fingers were flying because she was answering in real time:

Q. Do you prefer novel writing or screenwriting better? What do you like best about each one? What’s the most challenging thing about each one?

I would say novels and screenplays are like apples and oranges. They’re sooo different in terms of storytelling. Right off the bat, I would say I love novels the best, period. I was always planning to be a novelist and accidentally…

Poetry Friday: Evening Walk

I wrote this one in my journal years ago when the boys were small and solitude was at a premium.


by Mitali Perkins

Last light spills across the sea,
I watch it, standing silently.
Savoring the singing space,
Lilac hour, liquid grace.

When it’s done, I take the quiet,
Carefully, I fold it, tie it,
Bring it to my house of sound,
Store it so it’s quickly found.

Discover more of today's Poetry Friday offerings.

Paper Tigers Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

News from the award-winning PaperTigers website ...
After our July/Aug literacy focus, we now make way for Hispanic Heritage Month, a celebration of the cultures and traditions of US residents who trace their roots back to Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean. There are all sorts of events happening throughout the country, and right here at PaperTigers you will find lots of great features and children's books to help you make the most of it - in your classroom, library or at home.

Highly-acclaimed author Pam Muñoz Ryan talks about her heritage, her new book, Paint The Wind, and her commitment to writing good stories, no matter the theme.

Bilingual coordinator of youth services at the Houston Public Library, Rose Zertuche-Treviño talks about the joys and challenges of her work, and offers some advice for those considering a career in children's librarianship...

David Diaz's fiesta-inspired colors lend thems…

Create a Sense of Place in Shrewsbury

This Saturday, September 20th, the Shrewsbury Public Library in Massachusetts is hosting my Stories on the Fire Escape presentation from 11-12, serving up a savory Indian lunch (free!) from 12-1, and inviting people to my writing workshop, "Weaving the Magic Carpet of Place," from 1-2. If you're in the vicinity, please stop by.

rgz live with Paula Yoo

You're invited to chat with Paula Yoo, brilliant musician, television screenwriter for shows like West Wing, reporter for mags like People, and author of the acclaimed debut YA novel GOOD ENOUGH.

Mark your calendars: this Thursday, September 18th, 6 p.m. PST / 9 p.m. EST. See you there!

Want To Fight About Politics and Children's Books?

I was getting irritated by the political squabbling that's commandeered most of my online groups, listservs, and forums. I've always relished the freedom to disagree as a sign of a healthy system. After all, as was recently noted by the moderator of child_lit:...People need to accept and be prepared for forceful argument because children's texts are at the center of significant cultural debate about weighty matters, such as how we relate to our culture and how we define ourselves as human beings.So why are these particular arguments bothering me so much? Maybe because they're defined by contempt. I feel like a child forced to dine with parents who despise each other and are doing their best to triangle me into their destructive relationship. It takes a lot of energy to sit still and say nothing, and leaping into the fray feels like a no-win solution.

In the children's literature world, we need clear guidelines for appropriate online practices when it comes to forum…

Poetry Friday: Poets Behind Bars

Campaigning here in the States is intensifying and writers are wielding words to convince, confound, confuse, and confront -- and, in a culture where humor is perhaps our mightiest weapon, to entertain.

When I get heated up by something I read or hear, I look across the sea to places where freedom of expression -- even a joke -- is a crime. Consider poet/comedian Zargana, imprisoned again last June (he's pictured above):(Last) time he got five years, several months of which were spent in solitary confinement. Reading and writing were banned, so he scratched poems on the floor of his cell with a piece of broken pottery, and committed them to memory. Poems - words - have power in Burma, and the military authorities realize it.Listen to Zargana's poem OBLIVION, published in This Prison Where I Live: The Pen Anthology of Imprisoned Writers (edited by Siobhan Dowd, Caslon Press, 1996):

At night the moonbeams snap.
The stars are suffocated.
That maligned, unhappy barn owl

Facial Expressions, Culture, and Stories

During an event at the Newton Free Library last night, I asked the presenter Gareth Hinds (BEOWULF/Candlewick) a question that's been on my mind when it comes to comics:

Me (paraphrased; I sounded more incoherent): "One thing I don't like in manga is when artists use darker skin for evil characters. And there's a certain genre of movie where fat people always get killed first. Big noses, pudgy bodies, slanty eyes -- how do you avoid using the lazy shortcut of stereotypes in portraying character traits to your readers?"

Gareth Hinds (paraphrased; he sounded more eloquent): "I don't have a hard-and-fast rule, but am very aware of that issue. I pick extras for my graphic novels who can communicate the emotions I need for the story with great facial expressions. So in MERCHANT OF VENICE, for example, I didn't draw Shylock with a big nose -- I looked for a model who could sneer really well." I liked his answer, but now I have another question. People o…

Hey, Thanks, Anonymous!

Some unknown wonderful reader nominated FIRST DAUGHTER for YALSA's Popular Paperbacks For Young Adults list, and another generous soul is going to hand deliver copies of both books as a gift to Meghan McCain, a daughter you have to admire no matter what your political affiliation.

NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL by Justina Chen Headley

Here's a confession: I'm not always dazzled by books my friends write.

That's why I loved the moment in NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL when I forgot completely that it was penned by fellow readergirlz diva Justina Chen Headley.

I was swept into Terra's story, a compelling tale about the freedom to celebrate flaws instead of desperately trying to camouflage them.
A couple of themes lingered in my mind long after I finished the last page of the book. (Don't you love when that happens?) I found myself contemplating the power of flaws I've long despised and taking stock of some relational Great Walls that need repairing.

Best of all, I can guarantee that teen girls will love the book -- it's got unforgettable characters, a heart-thumping romance, exciting border crossings, and an intriguing mother-daughter relationship.
NEWS FLASH: I'm organizing an exclusive one week NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL blog tour during February 2009 and have a few slots open, so if you blog about teen boo…

Hyphen Magazine Short Fiction Contest

Hyphen magazine and The Asian American Writers' Workshop (AAWW) are hosting a Short Story Competition. The winner gets $1000, publication in and a subscription to Hyphen, and membership in AAWW. Last year's winner, Preeta Samarasan, published her debut novel, Evening is the Whole Day, through Houghton Mifflin this past May. Finalists will have their work judged by Samarasan and Monica Ferrell, whose novel, The Answer Is Always Yes, was published by Random House this past April. Review the rules and enter by Monday, September 29, 2008!

First Brown Daughter Buzz

Thanks to the fact that there's bound to be a brown girl in the White House no matter who wins, the First Daughter books are getting a bit of buzz. Which is good, because the fate of a paperback WHITE HOUSE RULES depends on how well the PB of EXTREME AMERICAN MAKEOVER sells.

Slate writer Nina Shen Rastogi discovered the books, and over at Sepia Mutiny, blogger Taz took the time to read my Cynsations interview and report that I didn't know about Bridget McCain before I wrote the books. Really, I didn't. I'm just a run-of-the-mill powerful prophet.

And last but not least, my main character's sparrowblog got 8500 unique visitors last Friday (you fellow site-stat-checking geeks might know what that means).


The first review of your forthcoming novel feels almost as dear as a first kiss -- if it's sweet, that is.

Book Embargo, a blogger who works at an indie, had this to say about SECRET KEEPER (Delacorte, January 2009):
...It was a beautiful book. (Haven’t I said that already?) But it really was. The family dynamics, with the father gone to America, the mother and two sisters left to live with relatives. The money problems, the Indian culture, it was all so beautifully written and described. However, it was not a romance novel where everyone lives happily every after in their perfect world. It was a novel of family honor and respect, doing what is right even though it may kill you inside. It was beautiful and worth it, but have tissues ready at the end!I have no idea how she got a copy of the book as I haven't even seen the galleys yet, but there's much about this industry that befuddles me. Chalk it up to wonder and mystery -- just like that first smooch.

rgz TV!

be part of readergirlz TV!

After reading a fabulous book, sometimes we just want to sit the author down for a "why did you do that to your character" chat. We at readergirlz have come up with the next best thing to meeting your favorite authors face-to-face: rgz TV on YouTube.

Listen to authors (including Rachel Cohn, Sonya Sones, Jay Asher, and Paula Yoo, author of this month's featured book, Good Enough) as they share the scoop on writing, writers block, and much, much more.

Or even better -- become a readergirlz correspondent! If your dream author is visiting your library, school, or bookstore, shoot a short, 2-3 minute segment asking about his or her books and inspiration. Then forward it to us, we'll upload your interview on YouTube, credited of course, and send you one of our limited edition rgz buttons!

Waxing Interest in Candidates' Offspring

Blog visitor statistics for Sparrowblog, where the protagonist of my FIRST DAUGHTER novels is keeping track of the real First Kid and First Veep Kid wannabes in Campaign '08, reveal the rising interest in the candidates' families thanks to the Conventions:

But here's the bottom line on the Fire Escape: DO THEY BUY THE BOOKS?

In New York This Autumn? Then You're Invited!

To My Fire Escape Friends

You are cordially invited to join me as RICKSHAW GIRL
is one of the books honored at the fifty-fifth
Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Ceremony

Date: Friday, October 17, 2008 so mark your calendars
Time: Ceremony begins at 2:30 o'clock in the afternoon
Location: 777 United Nations Plaza, 6th Floor, New York, New York

Admission is free and open to all.

For more information, contact Linda Belle, Executive Director,
Jane Addams Peace Association, 212-682-8830, e-mail:

Six Questions To Ask About A Story: #6

Here's the next installment in the Fire Escape's summer series of six questions to ask about a story. This time, let's get physical.

Question Six: How is race described?

We've talked before about the dilemma of writing race on the Fire Escape. Remember the description of perfect physical beauty in Pretties, Uglies, and Extras, the futuristic sci-fi trilogy by Scott Westerfeld, with straight hair (not kinky) and wide eyes (not squinty) as that evil society's ideal? Remember the wide range of phrases J.K. Rowling wielded when white people emoted in Harry Potter, while characters like Parvati, Padma, and Lee Jordan were never able to blush or pale?

And then there are the tired clichés that have long cued race in our culture. I'm talking about coffee-colored skin, high cheekbones, flat noses, big lips, almond eyes. Ask yourself if the storyteller has stretched the language to come up with fresh terms or is relying on overused, boring descriptors.

Last but not least, …