Showing posts from January, 2010

YA Covers that FLY off Shelves

Librarians and booksellers weighed in on my call for great covers on books featuring protagonists of color. According to the experts, pictured below are several jackets popular with teens in many different kinds of communities (scroll down to see the cover art.)

Please note I'm not making any statement on the literary quality of these books (in fact, they differ quite a bit in writing style and substance), just their popularity based on the covers. Does anything strike you about the covers? Why would these kinds of designs draw teens?

If you sell or circulate books to young adults, feel free to add titles in the comments. Tune in on Monday, when I review the poll and share some lessons learned.

BOOKS PICTURED BELOW: THE SKIN I'M IN by Sharon Flake CODETALKER by Joseph Bruchac BLUFORD HIGH series by Anne Schraff and Paul Langan DRAMA HIGH series by L. Divine KIMANU TRU series by various authors ROMIETTE AND JULIO by Sharon Draper LIAR by Justine Larbalestier EXTRAS by Scott Westerfeld SU…

A Call For Yummy PoC Kid/YA Book Covers That Worked

While we're waiting on the results of my unscientific poll on Kid/YA book covers, I thought I'd put out a call for GREAT covers on recent books that have sold or circulated well featuring protagonists who are people of color.

Before we start, I'd like to reflect on the term "people of color," because I'll admit that it makes white people sound bland and colorless. A 1988 New York Timesessay by William Safire puts the term in a historical and cultural context:
As we speak, however, the English language seems to lump the colors together and treats white — the noncolor — as a race and a word apart ...
It strikes me, then, that people of color is a phrase often used by nonwhites to put nonwhite positively. (Why should anybody want to define himself by what he is not?) Politically, it expresses solidarity with other nonwhites, and subtly reminds whites that they are a minority [on the planet.]
When used by whites,  people of color usually carries a friendly and resp…

Brown Faces Don't Sell Books? A Poll For Booksellers and Librarians

[No time to read this post? Just vote in the sidebar to the right.]

[Know a recent title featuring a POC protagonist that DID sell or circulate well? Please share it here.]

How much power do authors have over their covers? Not much. Dutton did give me the green light to post two possibilities for my First Daughter books and ask your opinion. And with Charlesbridge's permission, we debated the presence of a gun on the cover of Bamboo People via Twitter and Facebook (ended up with no gun.) But other than that, I take what I get, like most authors.

The fact remains that none of my books with brown young people on the covers have been picked up by the chains. Monsoon Summersometimes turns up in a Barnes and Noble here or there, but it's the only book of mine with a cover that's ambiguous about the race of the protagonist. Get over it and write better books, I tell myself. Sometimes, though, I can't help wondering whether cover art has played any part in my struggle to sell b…

Party Day at ALA

Thought I'd share some snippets and snapshots of my whirlwind day at the American Library Association's Midwinter Meeting in Boston last Saturday.

Donna Spurlock of Charlesbridge met me at the booth with 100 advance review copies of Bamboo People, coming July 1, 2010. I signed, and thanks mostly to Twitter and Facebook friends, all  the ARCs were gone by the end of the hour—a first for me.

Ran into friends everywhere on the exhibit floor, including Anindita Basu Sempere, Edith Cohn, and readergirlz Diva Holly Cupala, who signed an ARC of Tell Me A Secret, coming June 2010 from HarperTeen.

Just before my "Five Questions For ..." interview with Roger Sutton (on the left) of the Horn Book, we ran into Brian Kenney, editor-in-chief of School Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly.

"Do you like the label 'multicultural', Mitali?" Roger asked. "Has it helped or limited you? Oh, and does social media sell books?" No idea how I answered, but I h…

ALA Midwinter And Beyond

I'll be spending most of Saturday loitering around the whereabouts of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, since the 2010 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting is conveniently (for me) going to be there this weekend. Here's my schedule in case you want to say hello.

At 10 a.m. on Saturday, stop by booth 1417 (Charlesbridge), where I'll be signing advance review copies of BAMBOO PEOPLE (hot off the presses, I'm told).

At noon, Roger Sutton of the Horn Book will be asking me five questions in booth 1564, right after he does the same to Kristin Cashore at 11. He'll be hosting Lois Lowry at 2, and M.T. Anderson at 3.

From 4-6 p.m., I'll be meeting and mingling with 200 or so people I mostly know in social media venues like Twitter or Facebook at our ALA Midwinter Great Kid/YA Lit Tweetup. We'll be swapping books and matching faces with profile pictures. In case excessive airbrushing was used to create particular online photos, we're providi…

2009 Illustrated Books with African American Characters

In honor of MLK Weekend, I secured permission to reprint an excellent list of books compiled by Laura Scott of Farmington Community Library through the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) list-serv. Please feel free to add more suggestions in the comments section. Thanks, Laura and ALSC!

Illustrated Books with African American Characters Published in 2009

Bryan, Ashley. Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life’s Song.Atheneum. 

Greenfield, Eloise. Illus. George Ford. Paul Robeson. Lee and Low.

Nelson, Vaunda Micheaux. Illus. R. Gregory Christie. Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bess Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshall.CarolRhoda.

Shange, Ntozak. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson.  Coretta Scott. Katherine Tegen Books.

Hoose, Phillip M. Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice. Melanie Kroupa Books.

Pinkney, Andrea Davis. Illus. Brian Pinkney. Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp-Stride.  Hyperion. 

Rockwell, Anne. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Open The door To Liberty! A Biography of Touss…

Kid/YA Books Set in Haiti

As we focus on the disaster in Haiti, I thought I'd compile a few books written for children and teens set in that country. Stories can bring faraway people and places from the screen into our homes and hearts, and keep them there, even through information overload or compassion fatigue. As always, feel free to suggest additions in the comments.

by Youme Landowne
Cinco Puntos Press, 2005
Ages 5 to 10

The true story of Sélavi ("that is life"), a small boy who finds himself homeless on the streets of Haiti. He finds other street children who share their food and a place to sleep. Together they proclaim a message of hope through murals and radio programs.

by Karen Lynn Williams, Catherine Stock (Illustrator)
Clarion, 1995
Ages 4 to 8

After selling oranges in the market, a mother and daughter have enough money to ride the tap-tap, a truck that picks up passengers and lets them off when they bang on the side of the vehicle.


A Dream-Come-True Invitation

I was sampling veggie burgers in a Costco aisle yesterday when I decided to check my email. My phone uploaded a message from Jennifer Hart of HarperPerennial; here's part of what she wrote:
... I was wondering if you would be interested in writing the foreword to the new edition of Emily of Deep Valley. I’m thrilled to be bringing this one back especially as so many fans cite it as among their favorites of Maud Hart Lovelace's books. I also think it touches on so many interesting themes that are still relevant today ...
I re-read the email, heart racing, tears blurring my eyes. The veggie burger guy watched with a look of concern as I managed to word this response on my iPhone:
Do you know how much I love Emily of Deep Valley? I have re-read it countless times since I discovered it as a newcomer to this country years ago in the Flushing library.
I am honored, thrilled, ecstatic, over-the-top, doing-a-Bollywood-Dance delighted.
I accept with gratitude and humility as I consider Ms.…


Here are ten reasons I'll be happy if this year's ALA Printz Award goes to MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD by Francisco X. Stork:
10.  The story is classic bildungsroman.

9.  We get a Latino teen guy protagonist who isn't in a gang, on the streets, or primarily defined by cultural angst.
8.  We're intrigued and captivated by descriptions of music. (Stork even created a playlist to accompany the book for the New York Times' blog, Paper Cuts.)
7. We're given a stark, honest portrayal of sexual tensions in the workplace.

6. Who doesn't enjoy a good legal thriller?

5.  We root with all our might for a flawed but brave hero in Marcelo.

4. We come to love a flawed but strong character in Jasmine.

3. We'll want to know more about an individual's situation the next time we hear the word "autism."

2.  Faith is expressed and explored freely.

1.  Justice rolls down as the "weak" are able to right wrongs perpetrated by the "strong."
Best of …

Crossed Any Borders To Read?

During the last Twitter #kidlitchat, I asked, "What's a recent Kid/YA book you've read featuring a protagonist of a different race than yours?" I thought I'd kick off another year on the Fire Escape by sharing the responses, some of which were new to me.

One caveat is that almost all of the responses came from white authors, partly because those of us who aren't white often cross racial/ethnic lines to read in English. It's the rule of reading for us rather than the exception. Also, I only included books published in the last two years; feel free to add more in the comments including titles and authors.

Middle Grade
The Prince of Fenway Park by Julianna BaggottThe Magical Midadventures of Prunella Bogthistle by Deva Fagan The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street by Sharon FlakeBrendan Buckley's Universe And Everything In It by Sundee T. FrazierWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Paris Pan Takes The Dare by Cynthea LiuAlvin Ho: Allergi…