For Celebrating The Distinctives, Thank You, Booksellers!

I blitzed into town to accept my Honor Awards from the American Booksellers' Association yesterday. I was given two minutes for some remarks, and here's the gist of what I said (although I was nervous so it wasn't polished):
One of my favorite things about independent booksellers is your ability to celebrate the distinctive over the generic. When most people ask me where I'm from, for example, they don't really care about the details. They don't want to hear about how I was the fattest baby born in Kolkata, India. They don't want to know about being the only kid who wasn't white in my suburban North American middle school. They want a quick answer so they can slot me into a category and move along.
You, however, have time, energy, and imagination for the distinctives. You care about what defines each of us as storytellers and champion stories that aren't generic.
Thanks for honoring BAMBOO PEOPLE, a book featuring characters on the edges of global power and privilege. Thanks  for fighting for marginalized voices, showcasing and selling stories that otherwise might not be received by readers, and cheering us on with creativity and sacrifice.
I love the sense of place that defines each of you, so keep battling for the unique and rejecting the generic in your stores. We're with you all the way.
A Sarah Dessen truck was giving out free whoopie pies outside the Javitz Convention Center, but sadly it was closed when I arrived at noon from Boston.
The ABA Booksellers Luncheon program was lovely, showcasing honorees and winners.
David Levithan accepted his honor for WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON on behalf of himself and John Green.
Laurie Halse Anderson showed us why she deserved the win in the Most Engaging Author category.
After Laurie's acceptance speech, bookselling daughter Stephanie Anderson (of Word in Brooklyn) took it upon herself to keep Mom humble.
From right to left: Jennifer Donnelly, who won in the YA category for REVOLUTION, Laurie Halse Anderson, and me.
I popped into the YA Book Buzz Editors Panel before my wonderful agent Laura Rennert treated me to afternoon tea.
My old friend Babar sent me back to Boston after confessing a desperate longing for a shower and change of clothes.
At home, I unwrapped my goodies: a gorgeous Levenger pen and notebook and two award plaques, one honoring BAMBOO PEOPLE in the YA category and one honoring me in the Most Engaging Author category. (As Lisa Yee tweeted, it's a lot better than being known as a Most Enraging Author.) Thank you, booksellers! I've loved you for years, but knowing it's not unrequited feels fabulous.

BookExpo America and BAMBOO PEOPLE on Audio

I'm at BookExpo America today in New York City accepting honor awards from the American Booksellers Assocation for Bamboo People in the YA novel category and for myself in the "most engaging author" category. (Pressure's on -- I'd better try and be engaging in my acceptance comments.) I'll also be signing from 2-2:30 in the ABA Booksellers' Lounge.

On the train, I plan to listen to a gift that just arrived from Charlesbridge in the mail:
Here's a lovely review of the audiobook:
Narrator Jonathan Davis rises to the challenge of depicting both sides of an ethnic war with distinct voices and steadfast pacing. Eschewing accents, he clearly portrays characters of both genders and diverse ages and nationalities. Davis’s serious, calm delivery of a few tense scenes makes for a gripping listen.

Foundation For Children's Books Author Events

Today I'm spending the day with 110 middle-schoolers who attend Boston Collegiate Charter School. My visit was organized by The Foundation for Children's Books, a wonderful non-profit headquartered in the Boston area. The FCB worked with my generous publisher Charlesbridge to provide every student with a copy of Bamboo People, ensuring that the students have read my novel before my visit. It doesn't get better than that.

On Tuesday, May 24, at 7:30 p.m., the FCB will host New England Voices, a free event in Boston College's Walsh Hall featuring four New England authors reading from their new work:
  • Karen Day writes funny and poignant middle-grade novels that explore all the ups and downs of that age. Her latest, A Million Miles from Boston, is the story of 12-year-old Lucy, who finds that this summer's trip to Maine will be turned upside down.
  • Nancy Poydar has written and illustrated twelve picture books, many in school settings--perhaps because before becoming an author/illustrator, Nancy taught 6th grade for 14 years. Her latest is No Fair Science Fair.
  • Susan Lynn Meyer is the author of Black Radishes, her debut novel about a young boy in Nazi-occupied France that School Library Journal calls "a dramatic tale of courage and determination."
  • Christine McDonnell, an area children's librarian, has written several endearing picture books. Her latest, Goyangi Means Cat, is the gentle story of a young girl who comes from Korea to live with her new American family and eventually finds home.
This event includes refreshments, book sales and signing.

A Whirlwind Trip To Orlando and Tampa

Only managed to take a few photos during my trip to Florida, but hopefully they'll give you a feel of the International Reading Association Convention where I delivered a speech ("Books Between Cultures") at an Institute moderated by Kathy Ganske and Junko Yokota called "Discussions That Matter: Fostering Critical Reading, Critical Thinking, and Critical Literacy Across the Grades." I also visited St. John's Episcopal School in Tampa where I spoke to sixty eighth-graders ("Stories on the Fire Escape.")
Author-Illustrator Chris Myers waits for our panel at the Institute. He also keynoted, as did author Jacqueline Woodson.
Ah, the tropical air!
Illustrator Ralph Masiello and Author Stephanie Brockway (who happen to be married) show off book one in their new series for Charlesbridge, The Mystic Phyles: Beasts.
No, this is not the line of people waiting for my books. Guess which author garners this kind of fan devotion and you won't be in the least bit wimpy.
I was delighted to meet author Rukhsana Khan in person for the first time.
My time in Florida ended with a nice visit to St. John's School in Tampa.

Books That Smell Good And My IRA 2011 Schedule

The Indian version of SECRET KEEPER just arrived. The book's design and texture are gorgeous, and it smells like India (confession: I love sniffing new books.)

The copyright page includes a statement we don't see here in the States: "Mitali Perkins asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work." Wonder where that originated?

I'm heading off to Orlando for the International Reading Association Convention, where I'll be presenting at one of the pre-conference Institutes on Sunday (right after Jacqueline Woodson, yikes). On Monday, I'm signing copies of Bamboo People from 11-12 at Charlesbridge, Booth 542, and then signing copies of Secret Keeper from 1-2 at Random House Children's Books, Booth #1413. Hope to see some of you there!

Share Your Process Of Creating Characters Across Cultures Or Class

Crossing boundaries of culture, race, and class to create characters can be tricky, but as fantasy/romance author Mary Anne Mohanraj thoughtfully points out, "You will get it wrong. This is what you should do."

Children's book author A.C.E. Bauer makes the case that we can't include a character of a different race without seeing that "it's not like choosing the color of her hair."

It always helps to learn from one another's mistakes and processes, so I'm seeking input from my fellow writers. Here are my questions, and they apply to historical, contemporary, dystopian, and fantasy novels:
  1. When you crossed boundaries of power (cultural, racial, economic) to create characters, what behind-the-scenes homework did you do (research, interviews, etc.)?
  2. Did your editor ask for more research or tweaks when it came to issues of race, culture, or class? If so, when and why?
There are no right or wrong answers — basically, I'm looking for tips that we might all find useful. I'd love to compile comments, so share titles, release dates, and publishers of published works, and working titles of books-in-progress. Thanks!

2011 Jane Addams Children's Book Awards

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

Congratulations to the 58th Jane Addams Children's Book Awardees: Linda Glaser, Claire A. Nivola, Linda Sue Park, Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Gwen Strauss, Floyd Cooper, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Brian Pinkney, Jewell Parker Rhodes, and Larry Dane Brimner.

Winner of Books for Younger Children
Emmas Poem
Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty
by Linda Glaser with paintings by Claire A. Nivola
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Emma Lazarus wrote a sonnet in 1883 that became one of our nation’s most familiar sonnets and one that accompanied the Statue of Liberty as well. Emma also helped to shape the heart of the nation in her urgent message to declare the statue as a welcome to all immigrants.
Winner of Books for
Older Children
A Long Walk to Water
A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park
Clarion Books | Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

This dual narrative features young Nya and young Salva in Sudan. Nya walks eight hours every day so her family has water. Salva is in school when shots are fired and he flees into the bush to begin his every day walking. How does their future impact the future of war-torn Sudan?

Honors for Books for Younger Children
Ruth and the Green Book
by Calvin Alexander Ramsey with Gwen Strauss
illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Carolrhoda Books | Lerner

In the 1950s, young Ruth and her parents travel south in their new car when she discovers her African American family is not always welcome along the way. An Esso attendant shows the family a Green Book as a way to safety in the Jim Crow era, enabling Ruth to relish the kindness of strangers.
Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down
by Andrea Davis Pinkney
illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | Hachette

Four young black men stood up for civil rights in 1960 by sitting down at a Woolworth lunch counter with the sign WHITES ONLY and came up with the perfect recipe for a peaceful protest.

Honors for Books for
Older Children
The Ninth Ward
by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | Hachette

Twelve-year-old Lanesha has only Mama Ya-Ya, and that’s just fine by her. Mama Ya-Ya’s visions of the arrival of hurricane Katrina busy the two in preparation, but Lanesha can’t imagine what she’s being prepared for.

Birmingham Sunday
by Larry Dane Brimner
Calkins Creek | Boyds Mills Press

In Alabama in the 1960s frequent racial bombings had been terrifying but not yet deadly before September 15, 1963, when six children lost their lives in the attack. Larry Dane Brimner highlights FBI files, police records, and multiple additional primary sources to tell the story of the church bombing on Birmingham Sunday, placing it in the historical context of the Civil Rights movement.