Boston Bookish Schmooze 5/31

With Laurie Halse Anderson pouting about not being at Book Expo America (BEA), and the BEA Twitty Party rising into the top ten trending topics on Twitter, a few of us who aren't in New York decided to host a Boston Bookish Tweetup.

When? Sunday, 5.31.09, 2 p.m.

Where? Porter Square Books, Porter Square Shopping Center, 25 White Street, Cambridge, MA 02140, (617) 491-2220. Plenty of parking.

Who? Anyone who loves books. You don't have to be on Twitter.

What? Informal chat and coffee, ARC swap, sharing of best social media tips for bookish folk, and Lauren MacLeod of the Strothman Agency is going to talk trends in Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction.

Why? Because we're not at BEA, and feeling sorry for ourselves.


Poetry Friday: New Age

I opened an old folder of poetry and found this one written years ago. Though I'm shy to share my own poems (never studied the craft), I offer it on the Fire Escape this chilly morning.

New Age

by Mitali Perkins

You clutch the faded scraps of cloth.
One they were silky squares of color, strongly sewn.
No use. Too few left. Loosen your fingers.
Watch the wind whisk them away.

You hear a whisper. Sense a shadow.
Smell the fragrance of a stranger’s breath.

A woven cloak falls across your shoulders.
Warmed, you wait for a voice to name a price.
But the air grows still, the leaves, the words in your mind.

The waves are like slate.
You search the quiet waters for the glimmer of a woman.
Do you see her? Clothed in linen, silver-gray, wrought by ancient hands?

Something makes you turn.

Beyond the grass, you see a table set for two.
Candles flicker. A basket lined with linen cradles fresh-baked bread.
Break it; the steam warms your hands.
Chalices brim with ruby wine. Sip the aged sweetness.

Drink your fill, beloved.
Fill your glass until it spills and stains the cloth.
There’s more on the way, and oil for your tired temples.

Poetry Friday is hosted this week at Live. Love. Explore.
Photo courtesy of Jim Frazier via Creative Commons.

Revising Your Author Visits

In some communities, if you know someone who knows somebody, or are a writer, you show up in the local classroom and talk about your work.

Not so in Newton, Massachusetts.

Yesterday, I showcased a presentation called "RICKSHAW GIRL and ALPANA ART" to sixty or so parent volunteers. Newton Public Schools' Creative Arts Director Cheryl Nelson (who has served in this capacity for 21 years) invited me to be a "surprise" guest during their annual celebratory brunch.

Basically, I'll say yes to anything this talented, experienced woman asks me to do in the schools, even though I'd much rather address a cavernous auditorium of kids than a cozy living room of adults. Grownups make me nervous; kids don't. But I owe a lot to Ms. Nelson.

Five years ago she got me started by previewing my LIFE BETWEEN CULTURES presentation for the fourth grade immigration unit. It wasn't very good back then. But her insightful suggestions helped me make changes that (1) engage boys as well as girls, (2) connect with my audience's five senses, and (3) reach different kinds of learners. How many authors get that kind of professional feedback (for free!) from a person who knows kids, teachers, and curriculum, and has watched countless presentations?

When she thought I was ready, Cheryl invited parents to preview my show. Once they gave the green light, I was listed along with other artists and writers in Newton's Blue Binder. Creative Arts and Sciences Committee members leaf through the binder to book enrichment programs for their schools. They evaluate performances rigorously, balance their chunk of the PTO budget, and listen to educators as they plan a year of programming. Cheryl sends me their feedback so I can keep improving my shows.

This is serious stuff. If I'm discussing an author visit in other towns, I'm glad to casually drop this bomb somewhere in the conversation: "Yes, I'm in the Newton Blue Binder." Believe me, they're impressed.

Authors, if we want to get invited into the classroom, our primary goal can't be promoting or selling our books. It takes time to design a program that adds value to the teachers and enriches the curriculum. If you're up for that goal, why not invite an experienced educator to help? But be ready for criticism like: "That part's a bit boring." Or, "You're leaving out a certain group of kids."

There's no getting around it: revision skills and a thick skin are required for every part of this profession.

My Top 5 Tweets Last Week

I share links about children's and YA books with my followers on Twitter. These were the most popular tidbits in my twitter stream last week:
  • Scholastic editor Cheryl Klein spells out her submissions guidelines and what she's looking for:

  • Kids' Book Events at BEA

  • Wanna tour the blogs when your YA/Kid book releases? Start by reading the best bloggers in the kidlitosphere now:

  • 2K9 debut MG and YA authors interview their editors (i.e., Joy Peskin/Viking, Jim Thomas/RH, Reka Simonsen/Henry Holt)

  • Editorial Anonymous says the Coretta Scott King Award race-based criteria is racist, and commenters leap into the fray:

Last Call For Poetry Entries

Here's the third prize winner from last year's contest (read the first-place poem and second-place poem) to remind you that the deadline for submission to the 2009 Fire Escape Short Fiction and Poetry Contests is June 1st. Please pass the word to teen writers between cultures.

For Your Pathos

by Miranda, China/USA, Age 17

you will pound mettle into me
before our years are over—
I sometimes wonder
if this is your intent, or
you have failed even yourself.

at one time
yours were my only margins,
and I fit snugly
between the lines of your page.

your stark nakedness of mind
was protected only
by the thin threads that bound us.

but soon, you snapped and were felled
by your own
thin daggers.

I resent you
because you remind me
of what is impossible.

This week's Poetry Friday is hosted by Susan Taylor Brown.

RICKSHAW GIRL Goes the Distance

My first novel for younger readers (as opposed to teens), published in 2007, is doing okay. Here are some of the reasons why kids in several states are reading RICKSHAW GIRL 2-3 years after publication:
Nominated for the 2010 New York Charlotte Children's Book Award

Nominated for the 2010 Oklahoma Sequoyah Award

Nominated for the 2010 Arkansas Charlie May Simon Award

Nominated for the 2010 Rhode Island Children's Book Award

Nominated for the 2010 South Carolina Children's Book Award

Nominated for the 2010 Children's Crown Award

Nominated for the 2009 Massachusetts Children's Book Awards

Maine Library Association Lupine Honor Book
Nice, right? The advances and royalties might be heftier if I wrote for adults, but this particular book has showcased two financial advantages of writing for kids:
  1. the buying power of educational markets, keeping books in print
  2. the supplemental income of author visits
Thank you, schools and libraries, for continuing to put Naima's story into the hands and minds of young readers. I'm also grateful to Charlesbridge and editor Judy O'Malley for acquiring and championing the book (which was rejected quite a few times by other houses.)

rgz LIVE! tonight with Laura Resau

Laura Resau, author of RED GLASS, is chatting with readergirlz tonight, Wednesday, May 20th, 9 o'clock EST/ 6 o'clock PST at the readergirlz blog.

Pop in and out of the chat as you watch Idol, chat with Laura about anything under the sun, and find out how she felt about all those awards and starry reviews.

RED GLASS was inspired by "over ten years of friendships with ESL students, immigrants, and refugees who shared their stories and showed how a person can live a meaningful, joyful life despite past traumas and losses." Here's the book description:

One night Sophie, her mother, and her stepfather are called to a hospital, where Pablo, a five-year-old Mexican boy, is recovering from dehydration. Pablo was carrying the business card of Sophie's step-father - but he doesn't recognize the boy. Crossing the border into Arizona with seven other Mexicans and a coyote, or guide, Pablo and his parents faced such harsh conditions that the boy is the only survivor. Pablo comes to live with Sophie, her parents, and Sophie's aunt Dika, a refugee from the war in Bosnia. Sophie loves Pablo - her Principito, or Little Prince - but after a year, Sophie's parents are able to contact Pablo's extended family in Mexico, and Sophie, Dika, and Dika's new boyfriend and his son must travel with Pablo to his hometown so that he can make a heart-wrenching decision.

Sophie has always been afraid of everything - car wrecks, cancer, becoming an orphan herself. But traveling with Dika, Pablo, Mr. Lorenzo, and Angel - people who have suffered losses beyond Sophie's imagining - changes her perception of danger. Sophie feels a strong connection to Ángel, but she fears losing him almost as much as she enjoys their time together. When a tragic event forces Sophie to take a dangerous journey, she recognizes that life is beautiful even in the midst of death - and that love is worth the risk of losing.

Hone The Craft in New England

For serious writers of children's books and YA fiction, New England offers a wealth of opportunities this summer to work on craft. We're a gorgeous destination for those who live elsewhere. Why not combine work and play? Here are three retreats and conferences, but feel free to add more in the comments:

Cape Cod Writer's Conference

The 47th Annual Writers Conference will take place August 15- 22 at the Craigville Conference Center in Centerville on Cape Cod. This year's double conference allows participants to attend for three OR six days of classes along with the usual opening night, keynote speaker night, afternoon/evening Master Class for each conference, plus readings by faculty and attendees.

Two three-day conferences allow the Center to compress the usual five meetings over one week (for the 7.5 hour courses) into three 2.5 hour meetings. This format allows for twice as many courses, smaller classes (class size capped at 18), and courses at different levels.

Faculty includes Roger Sutton, editor of the Horn Book, Mary Donovan of Candlewick, Deborah Kovacs of Walden Media, Alison Morris of Wellesley Booksmith, and authors Nancy Werlin (IMPOSSIBLE), Helen Frost (KEESHA'S HOUSE) and Martin Sandler (THE STORY OF AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHY), among others.

Costs are $65 per Short Course (2.5 hours, one day only), $135 per Master Class (6 hours with multiple faculty), and $185 for Three-Day Courses. For information about registration, accommodation, and becoming a member of the Center, head here.

Rhode Island ASTAL Summer Institute

From June 24-30, the Alliance for the Study and Teaching of Adolescent Literature (ASTAL) at Rhode Island College is offering an institute for those interested in learning to write for young people. This conference is perfect for unpublished writers, but experienced writers can also gain insight into technique and craft in advanced workshops.

Participants will write for six days, working with authors who serve as their instructors and mentors. They also attend presentations about book publishing featuring editors and publishers and meet and hear from guest authors. 

Faculty includes authors Kelly Easton (HIROSHIMA DREAMS), Mark Peter Hughes (LEMONADE MOUTH), Padma Venkatraman (CLIMBING THE STAIRS), Peter Johnson (I AM A MAN), and Steve Krasner (THE LONGEST GAME), and the editor-in-residence is Kara LaReau.

The instructor/mentor to student ratio is at most 1:8. Full registration costs $894 for credit and $750 for non-credit, a one-day workshop costs $10, attendance at the author presentations and luncheon is $70, and to just go to the luncheon and book fair with discounts on June 27 (featuring SOLD author Patricia McCormick), it's $30. For more information or to register, go here.

Vermont Postgraduate Writer's Conference

The Postgraduate Conference, August 11-17, held on the campus of the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, is open to all experienced writers with graduate degrees or equivalent backgrounds.

Teachers emphasize process and craft in workshops limited to 5-7 participants, and mingle with students at meals, individual consultations, readings, and social activities in scenic Vermont.

Faculty members for young adult fiction are Kathi Appelt (UNDERNEATH) and An Na (THE FOLD). Tuition is $825, and fees for lodging, meals, and other registration and application information may be found here. Limited scholarship support is available.

My Top Five Tweeted Links

Most of you know I microblog about YA and children's books on twitter. I post timely links there, and allows me to track which are the most useful to my followers. Here are five recent tweets pointing to links garnering at least a hundred clicks each:
The @bridgetzinn auction is heating up. I got outbid on the cookbook. For now. My book launch consult is going for $250:

Top ten SF/Fantasy novels for teens published in the last 12 months (picked by ALA Booklist's Gillian Engberg)

Four debut YA novelists face the music with reviews in Publisher's Weekly:

Survey of tweens and books from @ypulse: 42% borrow books, 35% buy from bookstores, 3% from Amazon. More results here:

List of YA bloggers on twitter:

2009 Skipping Stones Honor Awards

My award arrived in the mail yesterday from editor Françoise Bui, along with a copy of Skipping Stones Magazine's review of SECRET KEEPER:
There's nothing I enjoy more than a good love story, but I didn't expect to be so emotionally pulled into this tale. I was spellbound by the details ... It was a book that both educated and inspired ...
This is one of those awards that dovetails with my personal vision as a writer, honoring books that "promote cooperation and cultivate an awareness of our diverse cultures." Thank you, Skipping Stones!

Here's the full list of multicultural and international awareness honor books. Download this .pdf to see the list of nature and ecology books. Reviews of all the books are in the magazine's Summer 2009 issue.

52 Days by Camel by Lawrie Raskin with Debora Pearson. Annick Press. Ages 9-13.

A Boy Named Beckoning by Gina Capaldi. Carolrhoda Books.Ages 8-12.

As Good as Anybody by Richard Michelson, illustrated by Raul Colón. Alfred Knopf. Ages 6-10.

A is for Abraham by Richard Michelson, illustrated by Ron Mazellan. Sleeping Bear Press. Elementary grades.

Baila, Nana, Baila/Dance, Nana, Dance retold by Joe Hayes, illustrated by Mauricio T. Sayago. Cinco Puntos. Middle grades.

Ethiopian Voices: Tsion’s Life by Stacy Bellward, photographs by Erlend Berge. Amharickids. Ages 6-11.

Extraordinary Women from the Muslim World by Natalie Maydell and Sep Riahi, illustrated by Heba Amin. Global Content Ventures. Ages 9-13.

I Am Barack Obama by Charisse Carney-Nunes, illustrated by Ann Marie Williams. BrandNu Words. Ages 6-10.

Pitch Black, a graphic novel by Youme Landowne and Anthony Horton. Cinco Puntos. Ages 13-17.

Lana’s Lakota Moons by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve. Univ. of Nebraska Press. Ages 12 and up.

The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang. Coffee House Press. Ages 14 and up.

Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins. Delacorte Press. Ages 12 and up.

The Storyteller’s Candle by Lucia Gonzalez, illustr. Lulu Delacre. Children’s Book Press. Ages 6 and up.

Grandfather’s Story Cloth by Linda Gerdner and Sarah Langford, illustrated by Stuart Loughridge. Shen’s Books. Ages 4-9.

Book Talks on YouTube

A Brooklyn Public Librarian exploits the draw of YouTube (where the teens are at, yo) to book talk a novel (which happens to be mine):

Here are some other examples of libraries who are using this social media tool to share books with teens:
TIP: If you label your book talk video series with a tag like "librarian fail," teens will arrive by the hordes. Of course, you'll have to fall flat on your face at the end of the clip.

A Boston Summer of Children's Books

And you thought all the exciting stuff in the children's book world happened in New York! Check out these upcoming events and opportunities in the Boston area for fans, writers, and those who care about the next generation of storytellers.


May 16: Children's Book Week Celebration at the Boston Public Library

This Saturday from 10 a.m. — 1 p.m., in the Rey Children's Room of the Central Branch (700 Boylston Street, Copley Square), bring your kids to meet (in order of appearance) Alan Witschonke, Megan McDonald, Erin Dionne, Linda Urban, Michael Rex, Paul Carrick, Jarret J. Krosoczka, Kate Feiffer, and Sara Pennypacker. Find out more here.

May 19: The FCB presents New England Voices at Boston College

On Tuesday, May 19, 2009, at 7:30 p.m., in BC's Walsh Hall, the Foundation of Children's Books presents New England Voices, an annual event featuring area authors and illustrators reading from their new work and spotlights new talent in the field of children's literature.

Enjoy a wonderful evening of reading and reflection with acclaimed author/illustrator Grace Lin, who will read from her newest title Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Also, first-time author and long-time illustrator and cut-paper artist Giles Laroche will read from his new book, What's Inside? Both Grace and Giles have visited under-served schools with the Foundation for Children's Books. This event is free and open to the public, refreshments are served, and you can read more about it here.

June 7: PEN New England and the JFK Library present "A Tribute to John Updike"

On, Sunday, June 7th, at 3:00 PM, at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Columbia Point, Boston, Nicholson Baker, Samuel Shem (pen-name of Dr. Stephen Bergman), Gish Jen, Charles McGrath, William Pritchard, and others will honor the work of John Updike, who created many memorable teen characters. Christopher Lydon will moderate. To register, call 617-514-1643.


June 6: NESCBWI hosts a Salon for published writers on Marketing

On Saturday, June 6, 2009, in the Faulkner Room of Acton Town Hall, 472 Main St., Acton, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators is offering a Salon with Mark Peter Hughes (Lemonade Mouth) and Brian Lies (Bats at the Beach) called "Marketing Triumphs and Mishaps."

After describing their own experiences, these two successful authors will lead a group discussion of the ups and downs of promoting children's books. The cost is $20.00 for SCBWI members and $30.00 for non-SCBWI members. Lunch and beverage included, but bring your own coffee or tea. Limited to 50 participants. Registration details are here.

June 13: Deadline to apply for Newtonville Books' Writing Workshop

Aspiring authors of young adult and adult novels alike are invited to participate in a four-week Saturday workshop (June 20, June 27, July 11, and July 18) on writing fiction and memoir. The workshop is limited to eight writers and will meet at the bookstore from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The fee is $150, payable upon acceptance. The instructor is James Scott, and you'll find application details here.

June 22-26: Pine Manor College presents the Solstice Summer Writers' Conference

Pine Manor College celebrates the 5th Anniversary of the Solstice Summer Writers' Conference, scheduled from June 22-26. Set on the 60 wooded acres of Pine Manor College’s Chestnut Hill campus, Solstice offers writers an idyllic retreat within easy reach of downtown Boston. The Writing for Young People Workshop will be led by David Yoo & Marie Myung-Ok Lee. Call (617) 731–7697 for more information or visit the conference website.


May 19: 826 Boston invites you to a Spring Benefit

826 Boston is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. On Tuesday, May 19, from from 6 to 8 in the evening, come to their annual Spring Benefit and mingle with Dave Eggers (What is the What), co-founder of 826 Valencia, Steve Almond (Not That You Asked), and Julia Glass (I See You Everywhere), National Book Award winner. The benefit is hosted by Janis Pryor of Commonwealth Journal.

The evening will feature engaging author conversations and student readings, lively music, great food and wine, and spectacular views of Boston Harbor. It will also serve as the launch of 2% of 2% of All the World's Stories, a 170-page book of bedtime stories written by participants in 826 Boston's after-school writing and tutoring program. This is a free event; however, a donation at the door is suggested. All proceeds will support 826 Boston's free writing programs for students ages 6 to 18. Find out more here.

June 1: Grub Street needs sponsors for the YAWP Summer Teen Writing Fellowship

This program immerses students age 13-18 in the writers’ life of creative craft and publishing. In 2008, the program was funded by a substantial grant, but this year the grant was not renewed. To run the YAWP Summer Teen Fellowship, Grub Street must raise $15,000 by June 1st. For $300, you can sponsor a teen writer, giving them time to focus on their craft, commune with other writers, and take themselves seriously as emerging artists. Read more here.

Any events to add? Let me know. Here's to a wonderful summer season, Boston children book aficionados!

Call For Entries: New Voices Award

LEE & LOW BOOKS is on the hunt for excellent submissions to their tenth annual NEW VOICES AWARD, given for a children’s picture book manuscript by a writer of color.

Established in 2000, the New Voices Award encourages writers of color to submit their work to a publisher that takes pride in nurturing new talent. Past New Voices Award submissions published include The Blue Roses, winner of the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People; Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and a Texas Bluebonnet Masterlist selection; and Bird, an ALA Notable Children’s Book.

The Award winner receives a cash grant of $1000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash grant of $500.

  1. The contest is open to writers of color who are residents of the United States and who have not previously had a children's picture book published.

  2. Writers who have published other work in venues such as children's magazines, young adult, or adult fiction or nonfiction, are eligible. Only unagented submissions will be accepted.

  3. Work that has been published in any format is not eligible for this award. Manuscripts previously submitted for this award or to LEE & LOW BOOKS are not eligible.
  1. Manuscripts should address the needs of children of color by providing stories with which they can identify and relate, and which promote a greater understanding of one another.

  2. Submissions may be FICTION, NONFICTION, or POETRY for children ages 5 to 12. Folklore and animal stories will not be considered.

  3. Manuscripts should be no more than 1500 words in length and accompanied by a cover letter that includes the author's name, address, phone number, email address, brief biographical note, relevant cultural and ethnic information, how the author heard about the award, and publication history, if any.

  4. Manuscripts should be typed double-spaced on 8-1/2" x 11" paper. A self-addressed, stamped envelope with sufficient postage must be included if you wish to have the manuscript returned.

  5. Up to two submissions per entrant. Each submission should be submitted separately.

  6. Submissions should be clearly addressed to: LEE & LOW BOOKS, 95 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, ATTN: NEW VOICES AWARD.

  7. Manuscripts may not be submitted to other publishers or to LEE & LOW BOOKS general submissions while under consideration for this Award. LEE & LOW BOOKS is not responsible for late, lost, or incorrectly addressed or delivered submissions.
Dates for Submission

Manuscripts will be accepted from May 1, 2009, through September 31, 2009 and must be postmarked within that period.

Announcement of the Award

The Award and Honor Award winners will be selected no later than December 31, 2009. All entrants who include an SASE will be notified in writing of our decision by January 31, 2010. The judges are the editors of LEE & LOW BOOKS. The decision of the judges is final. At least one Honor Award will be given each year, but LEE & LOW BOOKS reserves the right not to choose an Award winner.

Fire Escape Poetry Contest Winner

In honor of Mother's Day, and to remind you that the deadline for submission to the 2009 Fire Escape Short Fiction and Poetry Contests is June 1, here's the second prize winner from the 2008 Poetry Contest:

Mother's Burden

by J. Javier, El Salvador/USA Age 17

Heavy snoring at night after a long day's work,
you soldier on through the quagmires of life.
Cries of children all day, teenage tantrums at night,
you swim your deep dark oceans,
force painful new strokes into the water,
no man to appreciate your agony,
burden of your beauty.

Arthritic legs from weeks of caring for strange babies,
yet you run through sword sharp fields of elephant grass, unharmed.
Dirty-diapered mornings, dirty-dished nights,
yet you carry our family on your embracing wings,
flying through green-back storms,
no man to understand your struggle,
a selfless burden.

Puffy, red eyes after years of working every day of the week,
yet you guide my hands to the lighted door in life's dark caves.
steps missed at sunrise; sunset meals unprepared,
yet you gallantly dance through burning forests,
avoiding the rain walking in the fire,
no man to respect your virtue,
a mother's burden, your life.

This week's Poetry Friday is hosted at Picture Book of The Day.

Launch Your Book For Bridget

Beloved librarian and YA author Bridget Zinn is battling cancer, and the kidlitosphere wants to help. Bloggers, illustrators, and authors have donated books, critiques, art, and signed first editions of bestsellers, and are bidding on them as well. Now it's my turn to offer something. Organizer Jone MacCulloch and I went back and forth on several options before deciding on this:
Personalized Book Launch Consult
by Mitali Perkins

Mitali Perkins is offering a personalized book launch consult using the latest social media — spreading the word about your book and events on twitter, Facebook, and even setting up a blog tour.

Mitali Perkins has written several novels including Monsoon Summer, First Daughter, and Secret Keeper. She’s often invited to present sessions for writers about branding and internet promotion because, as she puts it, she’s discovered the “power of her inner geek.”

Value: $100

Opening Bid: $50
Bid here. I'll help you launch your book with a bang, I promise.

Crossed a Border Lately?

"Reading makes immigrants of us all," said Hazel Rochman. "It takes us away from home, but, most importantly, it finds homes for us everywhere."

Check your nightstand. How far are you traveling in your fiction? Here's my border-crossing challenge.
Share the title of a children's or YA novel you've read recently or plan to read featuring a protagonist who (a) wasn't born in your country of origin.

Then tell us about a good book with a main character (b) who is someone most of your ancestors a hundred or so years ago might have been shocked and ashamed to see you marry or befriend.
For me, (a) is easy since I was born in India, so basically most of the novels I read qualify, but (b) means a good book featuring a Muslim young man, so Khaled Hosseini's KITE RUNNER (which I think is an upper YA read) fits the bill. What about you?

Evaluating a YA Book

YALSA's Best Books For Young Adults librarians and teens ask questions to decide whether or not the nominated books will make the final cut. I thought they might be helpful for all of us who review and evaluate novels. What do you think of these? Are there any surprises or questions you'd never ask?

  • How well did the author capture your attention?
  • How clear was the author’s theme or message?
  • How vivid were the details?
  • How well did the book build in intensity?
  • How clear was the resolution?
  • How well did the author’s language add to the book?
  • How well did the writing match the book’s intended audience?
  • How well did the characters develop?
  • How effective was the author’s voice?
  • How well did the dialogue match the theme and style of the book?
  • How enticing was the cover?
  • How enticing was the jacket blip?
  • How much did you enjoy reading this book?
  • How highly would you recommend this book?
  • How likely are you to reread this book?
  • How well did this book match your morals and ethics?
  • How heavily did the influence of others affect your choice to read this book?
  • How memorable was this book?
  • How 3-D and alive was this book?
  • How creative was this book?
  • Did you finish the book? Why? Why not?
  • What did you like or dislike about the cover?
  • Pick 5 words to describe this book.

Kids Books That Pass The Peace

Want your children to develop a passion for social justice? The Jane Addams Children's Book Award is given annually to books that "engage children in thinking about peace, justice, world community, and/or equality of the sexes and all races." This year's winners are a must for families and classrooms who care about peace on the planet (annotations are from the Jane Addams' Book Award Committee's official press release).

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai, written and illustrated by Claire A. Nivola, is this year's winner in the Books for Younger Children category:
Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai profiles the first woman from Africa to win the Nobel Peace Prize (2004). Environmentalist and activist Wangari Maathai founded Kenya’s Green Belt Movement (1977) in direct response to the devastated natural resources and poverty caused by the deforestation of her homeland for commercial purposes.

In a picture book that glows with orange and green landscapes dotted with bright blue, red, purple and yellow details, Nivola presents Maathai as a steady leader who saw community building as a way to resolve problems. She drew first on her own courage, then on the courage of many women, to sow seeds, nurture seedlings and plant trees. Together, they built a movement that continues to inspire people to take charge of their lives, their land and their future.
The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle is the winner in the Books for Older Children category (this book also just won the Américas Book Award):
The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom poignantly explores resistance to slavery and occupation in Cuba in the late 1800’s. Allied with the rebels fighting for independence, Rosa, born a slave and a healer, responds to bloodshed by healing compatriots and enemies alike.

Moving from cave to cave in the mountains, Rosa, her husband Jose and Silvia, a child they heal and nurture, commit to peace with each herb they gather, each wound they dress, each spirit they soothe.

Free verse poems in four distinct voices intertwine Cuban history, Engle’s own family story and historical fiction to create a searing, evocative portrait of healers who worked for peace so young people could “. . . have their chance/to dream/of new ways/to feel free . . .”

The Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos
, Story/Cuento Lucía González, Illustrations/Illustraciones Lulu Delacre was named an Honor Book in the Books for Younger Children category:
One of many immigrant children in New York City in the 1930’s, sprited Hildamar lives with her family in close-knit community as they face weather, language, food and customs so unlike those of their beloved Puerto Rico.

Their community widens and deepens when Hildamar and her cousin meet Pura Bulpré, the librarian at the local public library who not only speaks Spanish but invites families to the library to celebrate Three King’s Day!

With text in Spanish and English and sepia-toned illustrations with qualities of folk art, this picture book pays tribute to Pura Bulpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian for New York Public Library—a woman who instinctively understood the importance of culture and language in building community, acted upon those instincts and brought countless children into the circle of light and literacy shed by her storyteller’s candle.
Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad written and illustrated by James Rumford was also named an honor books in the Books for Younger Children category.
Ali, a boy living in Baghdad today, loves soccer, parent-rattling music, dancing, and, most of all, calligraphy. His lively life, extended family and thoughtful nature flow from pages that weave calligraphy, intricate patterns and backdrops of golden brown into their design.

Drawing strength from explicit visual and textual references to Iraq’s long history of literacy, the story of Ali’s passionate practice of calligraphy, first, highlights the power of literacy as a creative force in the midst of war, then, as a metaphor, invites reflection on the difficulty of practicing peace.
The Shepherd’s Granddaughter by Anne Laurel Carter, an Honor Book in the Books for Older Children category, is a realistic novel set in contemporary Palestine:
Firmly grounded in the values and love of her extended family, Amani rejoices when her grandfather wisely grants her wish to become the first female shepherd in a line of shepherds reaching back thousands of years. But, when the family pastureland is usurped by an Israeli settlement, Amani faces challenges different from any shepherd who has gone before her.

With immediacy and emotion, Carter’s novel purposefully centers on Amani’s family, its traditions and love of the land to give texture and meaning to an array of individual responses to violence and oppression. Amani’s struggle to come to grips with a world she cannot understand or accept creates a framework for addressing questions about peace, war and injustice that are of utmost importance in the world today.
Ain’t Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry, by Scott Reynolds Nelson with Marc Aronson, is also an Honor Book in the Books for Older Children category:
Ain’t Nothing But a Man tracks the real man behind the larger-than-life hero of folk song fame by following clues in the song, allusions in reference works, and discrepancies in historical records. With a text that embodies the excitement of its writers, Ain’t Nothing But a Man engages through curiosity and wonder to arrive at profound questions about the life of John Henry and the 40,000 African-American men who laid tracks for the railroad in the United States in the 1800’s.

Powerful photographs, cropped and enlarged throughout, underscore the importance of listening to the voices of those who have been unjustly silenced. This chronicle’s meticulous documentation bolstered by deeply-felt compassion make it clear that writing history can be a creative, humane way to address social injustice past and present.
The 2009 Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards will be presented Friday, October 16th in New York City. Details about the Award event and about securing winner and honor book seals are available from the Jane Addams Peace Association (JAPA). Contact JAPA Executive Director Linda B. Belle, 777 United Nations Plaza, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10017-3521; by phone 212-682-8830; and by e-mail