I'm Over The Rainbow ...

...where dreams really do come true:

Emily of Deep Valley releases 10/12/10 from HarperPerennial, along with this gorgeous re-issue of Carney's House Party and Winona's Pony Cart, with foreword by Melissa Wiley:

2010 Jane Addams Book Awards

The Jane Addams Peace Association announced the winners of the 2010 Jane Addams Children's Book Awards today, and I'm delighted to introduce them on the Fire Escape:

Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter, Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, is the winner in the Books for Younger Children Category.

Nasreen’s parents are gone, her father taken one night by soldiers, her mother lost on her search to find him. Now living with only her grandmother, Nasreen stays inside herself, silent with trauma. Whispers about a forbidden school reach her grandmother who, with stealth, bravery and hope, brings Nasreen to the secret school hidden in the home of an equally-brave woman, a teacher of girls. Framed stylized paintings in hues that symbolically reflect the path of Nasreen’s healing extend the story told in the plain, heartfelt voice of her grandmother. The power of education and resistance stand out in this all-too-true contemporary tale of the human toll exacted by war and the oppression of women.

 Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge, Viking Children’s Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, is the winner in the Books for Older Children Category.

Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary is a breathtaking tribute to the courageous, passionate African-American children who demanded voting rights through nonviolent action in the historic 1963 March from Selma to Montgomery. Riveting chronology, stunning photographs, and telling details from oral history interviews recreate the children’s anger, terror, solidarity and purpose moment-by-moment. This palpable sense of immediacy crystallizes the commitment of young people who acted on behalf of human rights when they were most frightened and “the end” was unclear and out of sight. Vital and forceful, this testament to the power of youth and collective nonviolent action inspires activism by delving deeply into the heart of a pivotal moment in the history of youth and civil rights in the United States.

Two books were named Honor Books in the Books for Younger Children Category.

Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride, by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney, published by Disney-Jump at the Sun Books, is an honor book in the Books for Younger Children Category.

Born a slave in upstate New York, Sojourner Truth, an iconic figure in the abolitionist and woman’s suffrage movements, was “Meant for speaking. Meant for preaching. Meant for teaching about freedom.” Told with punch and vigor, this energetic picture book biography marches along with Truth as she frees herself from bondage and ultimately delivers her legendary women’s rights speech to a church filled with white men in 1851. Short storyteller-style sentences punctuated with exclamation points and meaningful capitalizations evoke Truth’s spirit and force. Illustrations in a palette of yellows alive with whirling lines keep the momentum, energy, sorrow, seriousness and fervor of Sojourner Truth’s unwavering quest for social justice front and center in an original rendering of this remarkable woman’s life.

You and Me and Home Sweet Home by George Ella Lyon and Stephanie Anderson is a Richard Jackson Book/Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, and an honor book in the Books for Younger Children Category.

Sharonda and her mother have been living in the back room of Aunt Janey’s apartment for more than a year now. When the pair’s church family declare that they are going to build them a house of their own, Sharonda responds: “Right . . . Like I’m going to tap dance on the moon.” Nurtured by Diane, the wise head of house construction, Sharonda benefits from shared work and a sense of community. Poetic text written in Sharonda’s voice captures the girl’s shifting emotions during the house-building process. Illustrations from many perspectives reinforce Sharonda’s growth in a blend of soft, primary and secondary colors held together by the brown tones depicting the African-American protagonist, her mother, the church family and the larger community.

Two books were named honor books in the books for Older Children Category.

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone, is published by Candlewick Press and an honor book in the Books for Older Children Category.

Fifty years ago, in the midst of the race into space, thirteen women pilots performed consistently better than men on the battery of psychological and physical tests required to become astronauts—and did not become astronauts. The spirit, resilience and determination of this group of women, now called the Mercury 13, infuse this gripping, well-researched chronicle of overt and institutionalized sexism. Framed by the launch of the space shuttle Columbia in 1999, the first space shuttle commanded by a woman, this heartbreaking story of untapped talent and lost dreams emphasizes that no effort on behalf of human rights is lost; indeed, each movement toward equality helps the next one along.

Claudette Colvin by Phillip Hoose, published by Melanie Kroupa Books/Farrar Straus Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, is an honor book in the Books for Older Children Category.

This biography of Claudette Colvin, a teenager whose energy, drive, intelligence and thirst for justice pushed her to put herself on the line not once, but twice, in the battle for African-American civil rights. On her own, Colvin challenged Montgomery, Alabama, bus segregation laws through civil disobedience months prior to the challenge that tripped the massive 1955 boycott. And, with characteristic determination, she challenged them again through the courts as a plaintiff in the Federal class action suit that ruled bus segregation laws unconstitutional. Intricate history of the period based in impeccable research blends smoothly with Colvin’s own words and adult reflections on her life and actions. This substantive photobiography explores both the effects of Colvin’s activism on civil rights and the effects of the civil rights movement on her life.

Since 1953, the Jane Addams Children's Book Award annually acknowledges books published in the U.S. during the previous year. Books commended by the Award address themes or topics that engage children in thinking about peace, justice, world community, and/or equality of the sexes and all races. The books also must meet standards of literary and artistic excellence.

Celebrating Girl Power on SECRET KEEPER's Paperback Release Day

Kirkus reviews captured my hope for my novel SECRET KEEPER (Random House): "Asha’s struggles will enlighten and inspire young women, and encourage them to value their own freedom."

In honor of SECRET KEEPER's paperback release, I'm turning over today's twitter stream to feature tweets from charities that empower girls. Track the tweets via hashtag #StrongGirls.

Paperback classroom copy sets available from Random House.  Order personalized copies for 7 bucks or so from my local indie, and I'll trot down the hill to sign them before shipping. Call 617-244-6619, or email Newtonville Books with your request. The book, of course, is also available for order via other booksellers.

My Bollywoodish Book Cover

HarperCollins India is releasing my First Daughter books next month, beginning with the first, and editor Pradipta Sarkar sent me the new cover. Here's the India version, followed by the American original. What do you guys think?

What's Your Vision Statement?

Last weekend at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Seattle, I tried to show how a vision statement can sustain us through turbulent times in the industry. Here's mine, created five years ago:
To create and celebrate good stories,
especially about children and teens in the margins of life.

I also created a visual picture by brainstorming words with a wordle:

If you don't have a vision statement yet for your vocation, here are some prompts to get you started creating your own:
  1. Describe two pivotal events in your life (one before age 20).
  2. Name two things you LOVE to do with your time other than writing or reading.
  3. Complete this eulogy: “S/he would have done ANYTHING to help …”
What's your vision statement? If you'd like, leave it in the comments along with a link to your website or blog. You don't have to be a writer, and it doesn't have to be brilliant or perfect—just something you use as a guide in the world of books.

Wheeee! Here I go!

I'll be sporadic in posting the next few weeks as I'll be in four different states. Here's my schedule:
4/9: Alderwood Middle School, Lynwood, WA 
4/10-11: SCBWI WWA Regional Conference, Seattle, WA 
4/16: Proctor School, Topsfield, MA 
4/20: South Hillsborough Elementary School, Hillsborough, CA 
4/26: International Reading Assocation Conference, Chicago, IL 
4/27: SECRET KEEPER paperback release
I'll be sending photos and blips via Twitter if you follow me there. Also, to celebrate the paperback release of Secret Keeper (which, to my amazement and delight, was just shortlisted for the Massachusetts Book Award), I'm dedicating my twitter stream to the re-tweeting of posts by ten organizations that empower girls.

Hope to see some of you in real life over the next couple of weeks!

A List of YA Novels that Battle Bullying

Here's a list of 35 classic and current YA novels recommended in response to yesterday's call for books about bullying in school, alphabetized by author last name. Scroll down to find out more about the titles in the widget below the list. As always, feel free to add more suggestions in the comments.
  1. The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill Alexander
  2. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  3. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  4. Names Will Never Hurt Me by Jaimie Adoff
  5. The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk
  6. Blubber by Judy Blume
  7. Hate List by Jennifer Brown
  8. The Truth about the Truman School by Dori Hillestand Butler
  9. Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood by Eileen Cook
  10. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  11. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
  12. This Is What I Did by Ann Lee Ellis
  13. The Skin I'm In by Sharon Flake
  14. Shattering Glass by Gail Giles
  15. Sticks and Stones by Beth Goobie
  16. Nailed by Patrick Jones
  17. Girl on the Other Side by Deborah Kerbel
  18. Stuck on Earth by David Klass
  19. Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles
  20. Schooled by Gordan Korman
  21. Poison Ivy by Amy Goldman Koss
  22. The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
  23. The Beckoners by Carrie Mac
  24. The Earth, My Butt and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
  25. Slam Book by Ann M. Martin
  26. The Smell of Old Lady Perfume by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez
  27. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
  28. Vintage Veronica by Erica Perl
  29. Burn by Suzanne Phillips
  30. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
  31. Bystander by James Preller
  32. Bullyville by Francine Prose
  33. Bad Apple by Laura Ruby
  34. Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
  35. Story of A Girl by Sara Zarr
Perhaps we should pair this list with a recent one we pulled together of YA books featuring forgiveness?

Teen Bullying, Adult Hypocrisy, and Seeking Books that Slam Slander

"Bullying is so much worse now than when I was a kid."

"Must be because of the internet and cellphones."

I overhear parking lot conversations like these between parents, and my blood boils a bit. I don't like adult hypocrisy when we talk about teen culture. Yes, gossip and slander are endemic and brutal in high school, but it's no surprise given that our entire culture seems to bond by trash-talking and celebrity-bashing. There's something in us that relishes tearing down as a way to gain power. And that old saw about sticks and stones stinks, because words are so powerful they can make you want to break your own bones.

I'm being asked to emphasize this problem during author visits here in Massachusetts thanks to a recent tragedy in our state and my own experiences in school. In order to stand before students with any measure of integrity, I have to start by searching my own habits:  Do I tear someone down—be they celebrity, cousin, or colleague—in my speaking or writing (including tweets, retweets, sharing links, blog posts, and status updates) to get cozy with a crowd or sound "cool"? Even if it's funny. Especially if it's funny.

I'd like to offer a list of good children's and YA novels that reveal the destructive power of gossip and slander. Got suggestions? I'll compile.

Good Friday For The Foreigner: A Poem

"So they decided to use the money to buy the potter's field as a burial place for foreigners."
(Source: The Gospel According to Matthew)

Good Friday For The Foreigner
by Mitali Perkins

The news spreads through our tents and shacks like birdsong:
We have some soil.

It’s strewn with shards of ceramic,
broken bits of pots and cups,
clay of no use or value.
I’ll pick them up, clean the ground with my hands,
and make a holy place.
I’ll water the dirt with my tears.

Who paid for it?

The piles of bodies had grown, the stench,
disease adding more to the heap.
We begged, we cried, we pleaded:
We die, too. We are not just passing through.
No word. A civic silence.

Who spoke for us?

The coins were stained with blood, we're told.
They were useless, too, like the clay, like the dead.
Now our bones, blood, and flesh
will mingle with theirs under the ground.
An inheritance for our beloved.
I weep, and bury, and kneel,
and whisper my thanks to the Unknown.

Originally published on Mitali's Fire Escape April 6, 2007