Showing posts from May, 2008

Padma's CLIMBING THE STAIRS Blog Tour Finale

Padma Venkatraman, author of CLIMBING THE STAIRS (Putnam, April 2008), has been on a whirlwind blog tour. Today she joins us on the Fire Escape where I'm honored to host her final stop. 
Before we start, though, I have to confess a bit of personal history related to this interview. Françoise Bui, editor of Secret Keeper, my forthcoming book from Random House, called recently. Just before we ended the conversation, she shared that she'd read a novel with some similar themes to my own. It was called CLIMBING THE STAIRS. Apparently, Padma and I had both featured an Indian girl who moves into her joint family's home, created a romantic interest with a boy upstairs, and delved into the loss of a father. "But they're very different stories," Françoise told me.
Despite those editorial reassurances, I began Padma's novel with trepidation, worried that our books might be too similar. And hers came out first, darn it. And got bundles of starred reviews, too. Would I …

Religious Authors and Children's Fiction

In response to yesterday's post about Stephenie Meyer and Mormonism, Pooja Makhijani asked an interesting question: Don't you agree that an author's religious worldview MAY somehow shape his or her fiction and this is worth a critical--but non-offensive--discussion?An author's religious worldview definitely shapes his or her fiction, but I worry about assumptions that drive such a discussion in the realm of children's literature. A story has always been a dialectic between a storyteller and the one who hears or reads it. When it comes to life-changing influence, I'd even make the case that the person on the receiving end has more power than the one who tells it -- even when the teller is an adult and the receiver is a child.
In the world of children's literature, a critical discussion about an author's faith tends to devalue the role of the child or teen reader. This can lead to talk of censorship. But a human being old enough for story is no tabula rasa…

The Stephenie Meyer Controversy

Has anybody been tracking the discussion over at YALSA-BK listserv, where librarians and authors alike are weighing in on this negative review of Stephenie Meyer's TWILIGHT, and the argument that Meyer's faith (Mormonism) influenced the creation of her "submissive" female protagonist?

I've not read the books yet, but the proposition that an author's religious worldview MUST somehow shape his or her fiction is provocative. Are we talking about the faith practiced in our family of origin during our formative years? Or the convictions that define us now?

Fusion Stories Buzz and Events

Photo of Asian Week taken by Lisa Yee

During this year's Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I want to thank my fellow Fusion Stories authors for our joint whirlwind of events, articles, interviews, and reviews: Cherry Cheva, Justina Chen Headley, Grace Lin, An Na, Joyce Lee Wong, Janet Wong, Lisa Yee, Paula Yoo, and David Yoo. We had fun collaborating, as Lisa Yee recently discovered.
Two future events include an evening panel (7 p.m.) at the Asian American Writer's Workshop on June 5, 2008 in New York City and another one at the New England Conference on Multicultural Education, Wednesday, October 8, 2008 in Hartford, Connecticut.
Thanks, too, to the many people who are supporting our efforts, including those on our buzz list below:
Abby The LibrarianAsian WeekBlue Rose GirlsClouds ComeCrazy QuiltsCynsationsHip Writer MamaInto The WardrobeJen Robinson's Book PageLittle WillowNiles Public LibraryOne Writer's StoryPaper TigersreadergirlzSchool Library JournalSlant Eye …

Jama Rattigan Shares My Dal Recipe ...

... along with a nice review of my First Daughter books. Jama's Asian Pacific Heritage Month recipes from a variety of authors are keepers. If anybody tries mine, which is vegetarian and bursting with fiber, let me know how it goes. Oh, and if you want something other than basmati rice, get some yummy frozen garlic naan from Trader Joe's, pop them in the toaster oven for several minutes, and serve up as a nice carb accompaniment.

James Patterson loves readergirlz!

... or at least his people called our people, because readergirlz just won a $2,500 PageTurner Grant from author James Patterson:New York, NY, April 28, 2008: James Patterson announced today the 34 U.S. winners and 3 Canadian winners of the 3rd annual James Patterson PageTurner Awards. Winners will receive cash prizes totaling $250,000. Among them are libraries, schools, bookstores, and innovative individuals and organizations that go to extraordinary lengths to spread the FUN of books and reading across the country.

Patterson says: ’This year’s winners are doing great work and at a time when getting people excited about reading and books is especially important. I’m thrilled to help them do what they do so well.’ The winners truly embody the spirit and energy of the PageTurner Awards — to spread the excitement of books and reading as far and wide as is humanly possible. And for that, we salute them all!"Thanks to the whole crew over at readergirlz, we’ll be using this grant to br…

Shannon Hale TONIGHT on readergirlz!

Chat live with author Shannon Hale (BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS) on the readergirlz forum tonight at 6 p.m. PDT and 9 p.m. EDT. The chat will last about an hour. Shannon has been her usual funny, articulate, and honest self as our featured author this month, so we're expecting a lively discussion. Next month we'll be talking all about PROM with Laurie Halse Anderson, so stay tuned ...

Is Protagonist Pride Permissible?

When one of my novels receives praise of any kind, whether it be a sweet fan letter, a good review, or an award, I feel strangely and secretly proud of my main character. Why? Because they are the daughters I never had, the friends I wanted when I was their age, the girls who are partly the me I was and the me I hope to be. 
Today I'm happy for Naima, Jazz, and Sameera (aka Sparrow). Naima's Rickshaw Girl was nominated for the 2008-2009 Massachusetts Children's Book Awards, Jazz's Monsoon Summer for the State of Minnesota's Maud Hart Lovelace Award, and Sameera's First Daughter: White House Rules is getting lovelyreviewshere and there.

Karen Day's Book Launch Party!

Authors Laya Steinberg (THESAURUS REX) and Karen Day (TALL TALES) celebrate the publication of Karen's NO CREAM PUFFS at Wellesley Booksmith
Karen Day successfully launched her newest book, NO CREAM PUFFS (Wendy Lamb Books), at Wellesley Booksmith last Sunday, even though we discovered hours before the party that most of the town's roads would be closed thanks to a parade and (free) Beach Boys' concert. 
Undaunted, friends and fans made it to the store and packed into the cellar to hear Karen's witty, articulate presentation, chomp on cookies, and leave with signed copies in hand along with the author's gift of mood rings (the book is set in 1980). 

Here's an excerpt of the fabulous review NO CREAM PUFFS got from Kirkus: ... Coming-of-age themes emerge naturally at home and on the field ... (Madison's) feelings and choices ring true as do her teammates’ complex reactions. Since controversy still surrounds girls playing football, this fine sports story is fres…

Summer Blog Blast Tour 2008!

Manhattan Dinner With Kid Lit Legends

After the awards ceremony at Lincoln Center last night, the gracious folks at Simon & Schuster, including Emma Dryden, veep-cum-publisher-cum-editor, invited several of us to Josephina's to celebrate Theresa Nelson's win.
I had the privilege of sitting across from Richard Jackson, who has edited books for 46 years (including Susan Patron's The Higher Power of Lucky), and next to Phyllis Naylor (of Alice and Shiloh fame), who sponsored the PEN work-in-progress award and walked hand-in-hand to the restaurant with her husband of 48 years.
Before the evening ended, I asked the witty and easygoing Mr. Jackson about his dreams for the publishing industry. He thought for a minute. "I'd give five hardcover books to every registered voter in the country," he said. We'd spent a good chunk of the conversation mourning the loss of relationships and manners in the industry, as well as the the waning place of books as artifacts in our society.
Of course the star di…

PEN Literary Awards Ceremony

I'm doing a school visit in Eastchester, New York today (I'm on lunch break right now - two sessions to go), and then heading down to Lincoln Center tonight to present the PEN Phyllis Naylor Award to Theresa Nelson (JULIA DELANEY, Simon & Schuster) on behalf of our judging committee. I'm actually as nervous about my brief laudatory intro as I would be if I were an honoree and had to give a real speech. The point, though, is that while all the entries were amazingly good, the character of Julia and her funny, heartfelt story captured me from the start. Congratulations, Theresa, and thanks to Christopher Paul Curtis and Sid Fleischman, the other two judges.

My First Daughter Fairy Tale

A couple of reviewers have applied the phrase "fairy tale" to my First Daughter books. Homeschool teacher and former librarian Sherry Early laments that the real world can't be like Sameera's, nonetheless giving First Daughter: White House Rules a lovely review and ending with a question one hopes many story consumers will ask:It’s well-written teenage romance and adventure with a subtle, understated message of anti-racism, acceptance and respect for other cultures. What’s not to like?

Wanted: Excellent Father-Daughter Books

I'm hoping to compile a list of a dozen or so children's books that celebrate a daughter's relationship with her Dad. I'm looking for fiction picture books as well as novels. Any suggestions?

Six Words on Love and Heartache

My six-word autobiography was in the first book. Now they're publishing a second one. Can you sum up your story of love and heartache in six words? Here's my attempt (submitted with image of my parents, circa 1956):

Proposal. Dowry. Betrothal. Marriage. Children. Love.

Good News For The Kid Lit World

Editor Judy O'Malley (who deserves much of the credit for Rickshaw Girl) is back on the scene with an update. We are grateful for you, Judy!

Soirée at the Boston Public Library

Seems like we're talking a lot about awards on the Fire Escape lately, doesn't it? Well, I'm not complaining. Today I'll be at the Boston Public Library where the Boston Authors Club is hosting the 11th Annual Boston Authors Club Award Luncheon. The 2008 Young Reader Award Recipients are:Brian Selznick, THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET


Mark Peter Hughes, LEMONADE MOUTH Highly recommended titles include:Loree Griffin Burns, TRACKING TRASH

Ralph Fletcher, THE ONE O’CLOCK CHOP 


Peter Johnson, WHAT HAPPENED

Mitali Perkins, RICKSHAW GIRL (yippee!)

Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris, THE ROGUES Here's a complete list of the Boston Author Club 2008 Awards as well as details on today's award luncheon. The library itself, founded in 1848 and hosting over 2.2 million patrons a year, is a definite destination when you come to Boston.

The 2008 Skipping Stones Honor Awards

From Skipping StonesMagazine comes an announcement about their annual awards, bringing more good news for Rickshaw Girl:The 15th Annual Skipping Stones Honor Awards recognize 26 exceptional books and teaching resources. Together, they encourage an understanding of the world's diverse cultures, as well as nature and ecological richness. The selection promotes cooperation, nonviolence, respect for differing viewpoints, and close relationships in human societies. We present these great books to you as the summer season stretches before us. It's a time of year when many travel to explore new places in the world, or to revisit meaningful ones. Reading books is another way you can explore cultures, places and even other time periods. The winners are featured in our summer issue. Welcome to the wonderful world of words!
Download the official
press release here
. Multicultural & International Awareness Books:One City, Two Brothers by Chris Smith, illustr. Aurélia Fronty. Barefoot B…


Today is book launch day for author and fellow writing group member Karen Day (TALL TALES / Wendy Lamb Books). Like the first novel, her second (NO CREAM PUFFS / Wendy Lamb Books), features an unforgettable twelve-year-old protagonist growing up in the Midwest. While the stories are quite different, a fan of Meg in TALL TALES (a Texas Bluebonnet book) is sure to enjoy befriending Madison, the down-to-earth hero of NO CREAM PUFFS. Karen's on the Fire Escape today to answer a couple of quick questions about NO CREAM PUFFS, a book about baseball that's also a universal tale about leaving girlhood to join a circle of strong women -- a circle that surprisingly includes a girl's own sometimes bewildering, often irritating mother.
Q. NO CREAM PUFFS is set in 1980, yet a Kirkus reviewer (who raved about the book) recently said that "this fine sports story is fresh and relevant." How do you think a twelve-year-old reader in 2008 will relate to Madison's story?

Girls tod…

Children's Book Week Begins Today

According to the Children's Book Council, a week dedicated to children's books was established in 1919 by several venerable partners including the American Booksellers' Association, the Boy Scouts, Publishers Weekly, the New York Public Library, and the American Library Association. Frederic Melcher, who at different times in his career served as PW editor and the secretary of the ABA, articulated a vision for Book Week that still holds true 89 years later: (It) brings us together to talk about books and reading and, out of our knowledge and love of books, to put the cause of children's reading squarely before the whole community and, community by community, across the whole nation. For a great nation is a reading nation.

Américas Book Award Winners

The 2008 Américas Awards for Children's and Young Adult Literature, sponsored by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs, are given each year in recognition of U.S. works of fiction, poetry, folklore, or selected nonfiction published in the previous year in English or Spanish that "authentically and engagingly portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States."

This years winners are Red Glass by Laura Resau (Delacorte) and Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Que Rico!: America's Sproutings by Pat Mora, illustrated by Rafael López (Lee & Low). Honorable mentions went to Nochecita/Little Night by Yuyi Morales (Roaring Brook/Porter) and Raining Sardines by Enrique Flores-Galbis (Roaring Brook).

Commended Titles:

ABUELITA FULL OF LIFE / LLENA DE VIDA by Amy Costales. Illustrated by Martha Avilés. Flagstaff: Luna Rising, 2007. 32 pgs. ISBN 978-0-87358-914-7

Argueta. Illustrated by Luis Garay. To…

Asian Pacific Heritage Month May 2008

Celebrate the month with the Asia Society

Foundation For Children's Book Event in Boston

New England Voices:Three Area Authors Read from their New Books
Free & Open to the Public

Tuesday, May 20, 2008, 7:30 p.m.

Barbara O'Connor will read from her latest middle-grade novel Greetings from Nowhere. Barbara has written 14 novels and biographies for children and her books have won the Massachusetts Book Award and the Parents' Choice Award. "O'Connor's knack for well-developed characters and feisty protagonists is evident, as is her signature Southern charm."- School Library Journal

Susan Goodman will read from See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes and the Race to the White House. Susan is the author of dozens of non-fiction books for kids. Using witty anecdotes and clear explanations, Goodman takes readers from the birth of democracy to the Electoral College; from front-porch campaigning to hanging chads. Illustrated by Ellwood Smith.

Lita Judge will read from One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II, a 2008 ALA Notable…

Jama's Recipes From Authors and Illustrators

Author Jama Rattigan (DUMPLING SOUP) is presenting a wonderful series on her blog (which is appropriately titled Alphabet Soup), featuring recipes from children's book authors and illustrators. Check out this enlightening interview with Fusion Stories author Grace Lin (YEAR OF THE RAT), who shares her recipe for gingerbread cupcakes with candied ginger icing. YUM!

On readergirlz: Book of a Thousand Days

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
When Dashti, a maid, and Lady Saren, her mistress, are shut in a tower for seven years for Saren's refusal to marry a man she despises, the two prepare for a very long and dark imprisonment. The arrival outside the tower of Saren's two suitors - one welcome, and the other decidedly less so - brings both hope and great danger, and Dashti must make the desperate choices of a girl whose life is worth more than she knows. With Shannon Hale's lyrical language, this forgotten but classic fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm is reimagined and reset on the central Asian this month's posterDiscuss the book with the author herself! Shannon Hale will be chattinglive at the readergirlz forum on Thursday, May 22nd at 6 PM PST/9 PM EST.The chat will last for about an hour.

Cyclone in Burma: How to Help

With the death toll rising in Burma, I thought I'd pass on one way to help -- through World Vision:World Vision is airlifting emergency supplies to survivors of the devastating cyclone that struck Myanmar over the weekend. Right now, more than 20,000 people are feared dead. Thousands more have been left homeless and desperately need food, shelter, and fresh, clean water. World Vision is delivering emergency supplies to the children and families who've lost their homes in the cyclone. Some of the most important items include emergency food, survival kits, water purifiers, tarps and shelters, and mosquito nets for survivors.
World Vision's National Director in Myanmar, James Tumbuan, described a chaotic scene: "Yangon totally collapsed. All the roads were blocked with fallen trees ... Getting drinking water is a real problem. We need water purification units like those that were used in the tsunami. It could take days to get the electricity back."If you know of othe…

Got A Minute? Express Yourself!

Here's a chance for young people to share their voices with a wider audience by making a one-minute video and submitting it by May 15, 2008 here:
What are oneminutesjr videos?
They are sixty-second videos made by young people (between the ages of 12 and 20) from all over the world. Time may be limited in a oneminutesjr video (this challenges the youngsters to form their ideas clearly), but not the freedom to express oneself creatively, which is the basic right of every person.

What is the oneminutesjr network?
It is a non-commercial community without any set political belief or ideology. The network gives young people -- especially those who are underprivileged or marginalized -- the opportunity to have their voices heard by a broad audience, to share with the world their ideas, dreams, fascinations, anxieties, and viewpoints.

What does the network consist of?
It consists of the interactive oneminutesjr website, a yearly festival competition, workshops across the world, video broadca…

Day Six of My School Visit Marathon

For some reason 8 straight days of school visits sounded like a good idea last year when I booked them. Last Monday through Thursday I started my townwide tour of Needham by visiting oodles of fifth graders, then stopped by Barbieri Elementary School's annual author day on Friday (along with Jackie Davies, Jarret Krosoczka and Barbara Macgrath, among others), and am beginning this week with two more days in Needham and Wednesday in Newton at Underwood Elementary School. As my Dad asked today in amazement: "You tell the same jokes in every show?" Yes, Dad, I do. And thankfully the kids are still laughing (at me? with me?), so I must be making some sense.

May is Latino Books Month!

Tipped off by Little Willow, I'm now aware that May is not only about Fusion Stories and Asian Pacific Heritage Month, it's also Latino Books Month. Here's the announcement along with an interesting list of books pulled together by the Association of American Publishers Publishing Latino Voices for America (PLVA) Task Force:Throughout the month of May, booksellers, librarians, and others in the book industry are encouraged to promote reading among Latinos in their communities, and to raise awareness of the rich variety of books authored by Latinos that are available, in both English and Spanish. For a copy of the summer recommended reading list for 2008 in celebration of Latino Books Month, click here. LBM List - May 08

So How's My Book Doing?

Authors like to tease each other about checking Amazon sales rankings three times a day. But it's no joke. When you're stuck alone in a chair slogging along word by painful word, and royalty statements come twice a year, it's a quick adrenaline fix to see the numbers jump on The Big Lady. If it's your first book (or your seventh), your heart might actually beat a bit faster once you realize that someone hit that 1-click button and bought your book.

Okay, so it's not the most exciting profession in the world.

But what if your Amazon rankings plummet, day in and day out, falling inexorably into the six digits and perhaps even nearing that dreaded SEVEN DIGIT number?

Well, that's when you stop by your favorite indie, where faces light up at the sight of you, your books are featured in a nice display, and they tell you that sales are brisk because of a local "fan base" (a.k.a., your faithful church buddies).

Or else you turn to Worldcat, where the libraries a…