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Showing posts from March, 2010

Anisha Battles For Her School Librarian

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A couple of years ago I visited Haggerty School in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the invitation of librarian Karen Kosko and met Anisha (left). Like many communities around our country, Cambridge is debating the relative value of school librarians given tight budgets. With Anisha's permission, I'm delighted to share her thoughts on the matter (emphasis mine.)

My name is Anisha N. I am an eighth grader in the Cambridge Public Schools. Thank you for giving me a chance to speak. I am concerned about the proposal to cut librarian positions in schools. I understand budget cuts are not easy because they have affected me personally. But I still feel that we need to have librarians in the school system because of the tremendous teaching role they play in the community and in the education of children.

Our librarians certainly enriched our curriculum. I have been inspired by authors such as Lois Lowry and Susan Cooper, who were among many influential people invited to the library. …

In Which My Book Goes on Tour Without Me

On this rainy day in Boston, I'm loving being at home in my yoga pants and flip-flops. The best part is knowing that my novel Bamboo People is heading out on tour, thanks to my innovative friend Vivian Mahoney (otherwise known as blogger Hip Writer Mama.)

Here are the details according to Vivian:
BAMBOO PEOPLE ARC Road Trip!!
COMMENThere and include what U.S. state you live in—no addresses please, just your state.FIVE (5) people will be selected to participate in the BAMBOO PEOPLE ARC Road Trip. I'll map out the route and e-mail each person one address for mailing purposes.READ the ARC and POST a review on your blog.WRITE a message for Mitali in the ARC and MAIL it to the next person within 2 weeks. I haven't had a chance to get the book weighed at the post office, but it should cost less than $5.00 at book rate.THE final reader will send the ARC directly to Mitali!DEADLINE for commenting is Monday, April 5th at 11pm EST. I'm so grateful to Vivian for organizing t…

A Call for Best YA of the Decade

From Joan Kaywell, Membership Secretary for the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE (ALAN):
TOP YA PICKS FROM THIS DECADE 1999-2009

Every decade, Dr. Ted Hipple would ask YA enthusiasts what their favorite YA books were for the last decade. He would compile the list and publish the results in THE ALAN REVIEW. Given that he was my mentor, I figured I'd follow the tradition. So, here's my request. Please e-mail me (Joan Kaywell, professor) at kaywell@usf.edu your response to this question:

In your opinion, what are the 10 best YA books published between 1999 and 2009 with 1 being your favorite and so on? Please list title and author and identify your primary role in how you made your selections as (choose only one) either a secondary teacher, a university professor, an author, a media specialist, or a parent. The deadline for nominations is April 15, 2010. Please only respond one time. Thanks tons. I hope to have this published in the summer 2010 issue of THE A…

Talk About A Power Lunch

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Seventeen students from King Middle School in Portland, Maine traveled with two teachers and their fabulous librarian, Kelley McDaniel, to lunch with me today at a Burmese restaurant in Boston.  What a memory! I love my job.

My first stop was my ever-generous publisher Charlesbridge, where Donna Spurlock was waiting with books to give to the kids.
YoMa ("mountain") Burmese restaurant is owned by a Shan man who came to Boston in 1993 after receiving political asylum for his role in the 8/8/88 protests. Delicious food and gracious service.
The amazing Kelley McDaniel—a poster child for why we need school librarians—coordinated the entire event, including the signed bamboo stick they gave me as a gift.
Much to my amazement, three of the students were newly-arrived Karenni who came from a refugee camp like the one where my novel is set. They didn't speak much English, but they dressed up for the visit, and even mustered shy smiles for this photo. Find out more about Karenni ref…

5 Indie Kid/YA Booksellers on Twitter

For those unconvinced about Twitter, why not see it as a place to listen to passionate aficionados of children's and YA books on the front lines—booksellers and librarians?

Here, for example, are five independent booksellers who specialize in Kid/YA books and share a wealth of information and excellent perspective with the rest of us:
Bunches of Grapes Books, Martha's Vineyard, MA Flying Pig Books, Shelburne, VTHooray For Books, Alexandria, VARed Balloon Books, St. Paul, MN Voracious Books, Larchmont, NYIn fact, I follow 90+ independent booksellers on Twitter who care about keeping our selection of books deep, wide, and diverse, and and am always on the hunt for more. Librarians, you're next.

An Editor Goes Cliff Jumping: The Story of Tu Books

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As a social media user (addict?), I watched and cheered as unemployed editor Stacy Whitman broadcast her vision of publishing excellent multicultural science fiction and fantasy YA novels. She set up a blog, rallied us for startup funds through a Kickstarter campaign, and spread the news artfully through Twitter and Facebook.

It didn't take long for publisher Lee and Low to notice how much support Stacy was garnering. A few weeks ago, we got this good news:
Lee and Low Books, the respected independent children's book publisher specializing in diversity, has acquired Tu Publishing, an independent press focusing on multicultural fantasy and science fiction for middle grade and young adult readers.

“This is a natural fit for us,” says Lee and Low publisher Jason Low. “Our customers have been asking us for years to publish stories for older readers. Tu represents an excellent way for us to bring diversity to a whole new audience.”Now Tu Books is up and running and Stacy's move…

5 Great Picture Books About Water

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Every 15 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease. Can you believe it? This horror must end, and thankfully many good people around the globe are engaged in the battle.

When it comes to those of us who care about books and kids, you've heard me say it before: books can play a part in shaping a child's heart to care and learn about this issue.

In honor of World Water Day, here are five tried-and-true picture books illuminating the life-giving power of water (please add more suggestions in the comments):

BRINGING THE RAIN TO KAPITI PLAIN (Dial, 1981) by Verna Aardema, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal

Based on a Kenyan folktale, this Reading Rainbow selection uses cumulative rhyme to show how Ki-pat ingeniously brings rain to the arid Kapiti Plain.

THE WATER HOLE (Abrams, 2001) by Graeme Base

As one rhino gives way to two tigers, then three toucans, on up to 10 kangaroos, die-cut pages reveal the water hole in 10 different worldwide habitats, from African plains to Himalayan …

Growing Up Biracial in America

"I have nightmares that half my body is getting beaten up."

Thanks to the wonderful Lee and Low blog (put it on your must-surf list), I'm posting this video as a follow-up to my thoughts about the Princeton lecture on race.

Children's Books and a Changing Definition of Race

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Last week I was privileged to hear Princeton President Shirley Tilghman deliver the Center for African American Studies' James Baldwin lecture called Race In The Post-Genome Era (that's my birds'-eye view from the balcony). Several of Dr. Tilghman's ideas jumped out at me:

At the level of the genome we're 99.9% identical to one another.

Differences between individuals are significantly greater than differences between groups.

The classic view of race, based on physical characteristics such as skin color and facial structure, would have placed South Asians in a distinct racial group, yet the genome analysis identifies (us) as a genetic amalgam ... The biological, as opposed to the cultural, notion of race does not hold up to close scrutiny.

Genetic distinctions among individuals that we continue to define as members of different races based on physical and cultural characteristics are declining rapidly ... almost certainly because of intermarriage over the last 300 yea…

You Bring Out The Blank In Me

Sandra Cisneros' poem, You Bring Out The Mexican In Me (listen to the poet read it here), is inspiring other Americans to respond. Here's the poet Bao Phi performing his acclaimed version, "You Bring Out the Vietnamese In Me":



What about you? What does Cisneros' poem bring out in you?

Phi blogs for the Minnesota Star-Tribune, and his recent essay exploring the catch-22 of being a non-white Tolkien-loving geek, Nerds of Color, is worth a read. Here's an excerpt: ... I always chose to ignore the weird feeling I got when I realized that, in my dreams, I was always, literally, a white knight. When I dreamt I was a superhero, I was a white dude with superpowers and the Mary Jane to my Peter Parker was always white. Even though I had a nagging feeling about it, I thought I was justified in my dreams because, hey, none of King Arthur’s knights were Asian and therefore my dreams wouldn’t be real if I dreamt otherwise ...

5 Outstanding Literacy Warriors

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One of my favorite aspects of Twitter is the chance to follow people and organizations who champion causes dear to my heart. For example, here are five great nonprofits fighting hard to get kids reading:

Reading is Fundamental
Founded in 1966, RIF is the oldest and largest children's and family nonprofit literacy organization in the United States. RIF's highest priority is reaching underserved children from birth to age 8. Through community volunteers in every state and U.S. territory, RIF provided 4.4 million children with 15 million new, free books and literacy resources last year.

The President's proposed budget cuts funding for this great program, so now is the time to contact your Senator and urge him/her to keep RIF alive.

RIF is represented eloquently on Twitter by Carol Hampton Rasco, CEO of RIF.

First Book

First Book provides free and low cost new books to schools and libraries serving children in need, addressing one of the most important factors affecting literacy …

Road Trip: Princeton and Brooklyn

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One of the benefits of being a full-time children's book author is visiting schools, and receiving a host of surprises and serendipities when you're on the road. This week I spent three days in New Jersey and New York.


Crossroads Middle School was ready. Not only had they set up a great author visit page, but the kids wrote essays about life between cultures, created three videos, and one of the librarians even painted a portrait of my book cover!
Faculty and students were wearing these pins to welcome me. Thank you, Crossroads!

Day one ended with a solitary, relaxing stroll along the Princeton Canal.

Day two of school visits in New Jersey was followed by a late afternoon walk around the gorgeous Princeton campus.
Day three included a reading of RICKSHAW GIRL plus Q and A at St. Ann's School in Brooklyn, and a visit to Word Brooklyn in Greenpoint, where I finally met Gbemi (left), author of 8th GRADE SUPERZERO, and Stephanie Anderson (right), manager of the bookstore.
Via Twitte…

The Danger of a Single Story

As we cross borders to read with children, let's heed this warning issued by novelist Chimamanda Adichie about the dangers of listening to only one story about another culture. I especially appreciated her thoughts on power and storytelling.





In the comments, Pittsburgh librarian Sarah Louise posed some great questions as a follow-up to this video:
What is YOUR single story? What is the one *facepalm* question you get asked again and again because of the color of your skin, your accent, the state you are from, the country you are from, the school you went to?

How can your writing, or teaching, or suggestion of books to read, change someone's single story into a faceted story?

A Dozen YA Novels With Asian Guy Protagonists

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Last week, I issued a call for YA novels published in 2007-2010 with Asian or Asian American guys as main characters. I got great suggestions, but didn't include any middle-grade titles, those published before 2007, or novels in which the Asian guy was a sidekick, romantic interest, or one of several protagonists.

It was tough coming up with a dozen books within those parameters. I haven't read all of them--in fact, I've only read three. The descriptions are publisher annotations.

Three of the titles have adopted heroes, three are graphic novels, and four are historical fiction. Half have Asian American main characters, with the rest of the books set completely in Asia. Note the lack of recent titles featuring teen guys with South Asian roots. And—apart from Lawrence Yep's and Laura Manivong's novels—there's not a whole, not-squashed Asian guy face on any cover (which is okay with me, as frequent Fire Escape visitors may recall.)

Here's the final list in al…

YA Novels With Girl Heroes that Guys Read ... And Like

Which young adult novels featuring girl protagonists do guys like to read? I asked the question on Twitter, and we came up with this list (books have to feature only one protagonist who is female), which is up for discussion:

Science Fiction / Fantasy
GRACELING and FIRE by Kristin CashoreMORTAL INSTRUMENTS series by Cassandra ClareHUNGER GAMES and CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne CollinsINCARCERON by Catherine FisherCRY OF THE ICEMARK series by Stuart Hill DUST OF 100 DOGS by A.S. KingGONE series by Lisa McMannTWILIGHT series by Stephenie MeyerMAXIMUM RIDE series by James PattersonLIFE AS WE KNEW IT: THE WORLD WE LIVE IN by Susan Beth PfefferHIS DARK MATERIALS series by Philip PullmanMORIBITO by Nahoko Uehashi (Graphic Novel)RUNAWAYS by Brian K. Vaughan (Graphic Novel)UGLIES series by Scott WesterfeldTHE BOOK THIEF by Marcus ZusakContemporary Fiction
SPEAK by Laurie Halse AndersonHEIST SOCIETY by Ally Carter CRANK and other books by Ellen Hopkins LIAR by Justina Larbalestier THE COMEBACK SEASON …

Rally for Massachusetts Libraries March 9th

Massachusetts readers, writers, students, and parents, here's an important call for support from our friends at the Massachusetts Library Association and the Massachusetts Shool Library Association:
Massachusetts library supporters will gather at the State House at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 9th, 2010 to rally against the impact of drastic funding reductions to the Commonwealth’s libraries.

The Governor’s proposed FY11 budget for the state library budget is a 37.2% cut from FY2009. Services that are threatened by budget cuts include:
Regional Library Systems, which coordinate the delivery of millions of library books, CDs and DVDS to residents and school libraries of the Commonwealth, and provide electronic research materials integral to learning and scholarship. Access to technology that is used more now than ever as so many residents have lost jobs and cannot afford computer and Internet resources. Schools also rely heavily on the informational databases provided by MBLC. Litera…

Yep. Me. That's Right.

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Since PW just tweeted it, I guess it's okay to share: I'll be speaking at BookExpo America's children's breakfast this May.

For those who don't know why I'm desperately trying to lose five pounds for this event, the other speakers were just announced: Richard Peck and Cory Doctorow.

And guess who'll be serving as Master of Ceremonies? Sarah Ferguson. I'll be in the green room with the Duchess of York.

Stay tuned for more, plus obviously I'll need you to weigh in on a vital question: WHAT DO I WEAR?!?

5 Tips For Middle School Author Visits

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I'm visiting a bunch of middle schools this month, and they can be a tough crowd. Masters of the eye-roll, an 8th-grade audience prepares to be bored by any visiting adult who isn't Will Smith or Jay-Z. If an ancient angst returns in full measure when you're facing a room of early teens, try these tips:
Engage as many of their senses as you can. Get them to smell, touch, hear, and see with engaging props and slides. For example, you could pass around the hard-as-a-rock Teddy Bear that you secretly slept with in seventh grade as you share a life-changing memory from that time.

Use self-deprecatory humor. Make fun of your foibles, and especially of your generation's. For example, hold up a pair of your favorite bell-bottom high-school jeans as an example of fashion faux pas fromback in the day.

Refer to icons from their culture. If you're out of it, stalk high school relatives on Facebook to find out what's hot and what's not (middle-schoolers prefer older teen …

5 Quick, Free Ways to Buzz Your Book

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Take an hour or so this week to get the word out about your book through one of these free online services:

1. Goodreads: Set up an author page, because passionate members recommend books, compare what they're reading, review, discuss, debate, and join book clubs. Tip: Offer a free giveaway for the book.

2. Indiebound: This American Booksellers Association site allows you to make lists of your titles and other favorites, "fan" your favorite indies, and sign up for an affiliate account to generate links to books. Tip: Create a free book widget to post on your website or blog.

3. Amazon: The Author Central program makes it easy to view and edit your bibliography, add a photo and biography to a personal profile, and upload missing book cover images. Tip: Import your blog posts to your Amazon author page.

4. GetGlue: Glue serves as a web-based concierge to help people find books (and other entertainment). Their techie folk create free book widgets for authors. Tip: Submit your b…