MARE'S WAR Makeover: Do You Love It?

Mia Cabana, astute young adult librarian and YALSA blogger, shares the new paperback cover for Tanita S. Davis' award-winning novel, MARE'S WAR, anticipating increased circulation. Booksellers, librarians, what do you guys think (new cover is below the original)?

DAY OF AHMED'S SECRET: A Picture Book For Egypt

With all eyes on Cairo, Egypt today, here's a book written some years ago (1995) that might help us introduce the city to children, followed by links to some discussion guides. Any suggestions for new titles of fiction set in contemporary Egypt?

by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gillilan
Illustrated by Ted Lewin
HarperCollins, 1995
ISBN: 0-590-45029-8

Browse inside this book

From Publishers Weekly: In this admirable introduction to life in an alien culture, readers are whisked to the busy streets of Cairo—where young Ahmed is making his daily rounds on a donkey cart, delivering large canisters of butane gas. The city is presented through his eyes, and text and illustration work together in harmony to produce a sense of place so vivid that readers can almost hear the cry of vendors in the crowded marketplace and feel the heat rising from the streets. On this particular day, Ahmed carries a secret with him (he has learned to write his name in Arabic), one children will enjoy trying to guess. The authors have produced fluid prose, and Lewin's sensitive, luminous watercolors hint at the mystery and timelessness of this exotic city. Ages 6-9.

Teaching About Egypt: Ideas from Bernadette Simpson
Homeschool Lesson Plan
Classroom Lesson Plan

How does life in THE SHALLOWS affect the imagination?

You know I'm a social media aficionado.

I've been blogging since 2005.

It's uncomfortable to admit for some reason, but I'm online for hours each day (except Sundays, when I strive to be screen-and-plug-free), surfing, reading, shopping, booking travel, doing research, answering email, playing Scramble or WordTwist, stalking friends and family on Facebook.

One begins to wonder how this activity affects a writer's brain.

In his newest book, THE SHALLOWS, Nicholas Carr presents a brilliant case based on the latest neurological research: the Internet is rewiring our brains, and it's not good news for the future of imaginative, deep work. Wired magazine provides a good summary of Carr's argument. Here's an excerpt:
There's nothing wrong with absorbing information quickly and in bits and pieces. We’ve always skimmed newspapers more than we’ve read them, and we routinely run our eyes over books and magazines to get the gist of a piece of writing and decide whether it warrants more thorough reading. The ability to scan and browse is as important as the ability to read deeply and think attentively. The problem is that skimming is becoming our dominant mode of thought. Once a means to an end, a way to identify information for further study, it’s becoming an end in itself—our preferred method of both learning and analysis. Dazzled by the Net’s treasures, we are blind to the damage we may be doing to our intellectual lives and even our culture. What we’re experiencing is, in a metaphorical sense, a reversal of the early trajectory of civilization: We are evolving from cultivators of personal knowledge into hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest. In the process, we seem fated to sacrifice much of what makes our minds so interesting.
I can see this in my own life. My thinking is more scattered and shallow, and my writing online  comes in short bits and pieces. Now that I tweet and write status updates, it's  harder to compose longer blog posts. This is scary, especially since I'm in the business of creating long, imaginative works of fiction. 

To write his own book, Carr confesses that he had to detach himself painfully from his Net addiction. I'm going to have to do the same. I've always tried to take Sabbath days once a week, staying away from screens and plugs on Sundays, but the time has come to preserve and nourish the depth of my imagination with a more proactive approach. How about you?

We're not Luddites—we love the Net for it's wealth of community and information, and will continue to use it, but we need to give our brains space to rest, reflect, contemplate, learn, and dream. Got any ideas, habits, or practices that work for you? Interested in joining me in 2011 in an effort to keep our Net use within limits? Leave a comment below with a plan or idea, fellow addicts. I need your help.

Thank you, Primary Source!

Primary Source, an organization dedicated to "educating for global understanding, hosted a global read of Bamboo People last week. Here's the update about that event from their site:

Bamboo People Global Read Event a Huge Success

On Wednesday, January 12th, Primary Source launched an innovative, all-online Global Read book discussion. Over 120 people from across the country registered for the chance to join Mitali Perkins in a discussion of her young adult novel, Bamboo People.
As part of the web-based discussion forum, one teacher wrote, "Thank you, Primary Source, for this opportunity for an online book discussion, and, thank you, Mitali, for writing a book that makes our students ponder uncomfortable realities like repressive governments, third world people, and war and human conflict."
Then, educators, parents, and students joined Mitali on January 19th for a one-hour live online chat. This was a truly unique opportunity and an engaging discussion! Couldn't make it to the live chat on January 19th? View a full recording online.

Also, be sure to check out the special companion resource guide created by the Primary Source Library. It includes recommended books, films, and websites related to Bamboo People.

Weigh In: African American Read In and I Am This Land

In honor of the NCTE's African American Read-In, the book blogging community has decided to pick and discuss a book during February. Doret, Edi and Ari (bookseller, librarian, avid young adult reader—great combination) narrowed it down for us to 6 YA titles by African American authors about African American teens. Vote here for the book you want us to read and discuss.

You may also vote on (and submit) videos about diversity in America created by young people at "I Am This Land," like this one about a young Muslim girl who has to stand up for herself both inside and outside her home. Which confrontation took more courage?

What Teachers See In My Novel

Primary Source is hosting a global read of Bamboo People this week involving 90+ educators and students. I'm tuning in every now and then before my official live appearance on Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. EST (register here if you're interested in joining us). I've been absolutely fascinated by the deep insights and responses to my novel. Here's an example of one of the questions posed in the forum followed by answers from six different educators.


What significance did Chiko's glasses play throughout the book?

  1. Throughout the book, Chiko's glasses represented his tenuous grip on his own destiny. They set him apart from the other Burmese characters in the book, most of whom were illiterate. They were the key to his reading, which in turn was the key to his survival when he was at the Burmese army camp. Several times in the novel, he lost his glasses, and he had to rely on others to return them to him. This demonstrates how he often felt like he had no control over his future, and that one person's strength is not enough to get him or her through a difficult time. The fact that the glasses were damaged, but still useful to Chiko reflects his own condition ...
  2. Perhaps losing his eyeglasses also indicates that Chiko must learn to "see" people and the world in a new way. Before the events of the book, he had lived a sheltered, protected life and seen the world through the lenses or eyes given to him by his parents. In the story, he experienced the reality of life for himself, both good and bad, to become his own person. He would always rely on the view of the world first instilled in him by his family, but he had to discover that one sees and learns about living through more than just the eyes.
  3. Chiko was lucky enough to have been taught to read, unlike most people in his country. The glasses are a symbol of his ablility to read, to be open and learn, to be worldly, and survive in the rebel army. They allowed him to stay alive. He was useful to those "above him" and was protected, even from the abusive captain, by his ability to read. To some extent, his reading also helped his young friend in the army as well. I also believe that the glasses helped Chiko and Tu Reh to have a new lens into each others' cultures. Chiko was always more open and giving, but Tu Reh was filled with rage and hositility towards the enemy, and Chiko at first, was the enemy. Tu Reh's rage abated somewhat when he continued to see a wounded Chiko reach for his pocket for his lost glasses. The lost glasses made Chiko vulnerable to the enemy and made the anger of Tu Reh vulnerable as well.
  4. One lens was cracked, the other, still intact as I recall. Could a cracked lens mean the loss of a sheltered homelife, the loss of the innocence of Chiko and the demands of the cruel world he was being exposed to? Is the intact lens the hope and love that Chiko carries in his heart throughout the story from a home filled with love and education, even when death had threatened him by a bullet and by the "enemies" in the camp who had Chiko's life in their hands?
  5. The comments above have given me more to think about in regard to the glasses—how Chiko sees the world, the broken lens like his broken body. I was thinking of the glasses as a symbol of intelligence and common sense—qualities possessed by civilized human beings. When the glasses were knocked off Chiko's face it was through brutal, uncivilized behavior. The glasses seemed to rest on the balance between the two worlds. Just as they kept slipping down Chico's nose and getting lost, so was his world. The world of books and knowledge as he knew it was sliding away and the world of chaos was closing in. The fact that only one lens was broken and that they were returned each time they were lost provided a sense of hope. As the glasses would never be the same, so his life would not. But there was always hope.
  6. Chiko was the only individual ever described as needing glasses throughout his time at the training camp and later at the refugee camp. This distinction is important because it highlights that he is the only individual, in either camp, that has the benefit of an education that allows him to view this conflict in its entirety, taking into account what his father has taught him about his Karenni friend and about the world in general. Because his education is so comprehensive and modern in the sense that he is encouraged to have a very open view of the world, Chiko has a different outlook, represented by his unique set of glasses. However, Chiko's glasses do not remain perfect and, as a result, his outlook changes. It is at the training camp that one of his lenses becomes cracked. This represents that the army has influenced his outlook of his recent life absorbed in his books. Despite this minor setback, Chiko remains resilient, never abandoning his academic roots.
It's humbling--and a bit eerie--to realize that much of the symbolism seen in my novel by these observant teachers was not consciously intentional on my part. More evidence that stories are penned by heart as well as mind, and then enriched and illuminated by the reader's eyes.

Boston-Area Kid Lit Gatherings Winter 2011

If you're getting New England cabin fever and are longing to see actual people in real life instead of profile pictures who tweet, we have two possibilities for you this winter.

First, if you're anywhere close to Boston, you're invited to an informal schmooze/tweetup/Boston Kid Lit get-together on Monday, January 31st from 6-8 pm.

We're meeting at Andala Cafe in Central Square, in their big space downstairs. Andala is near the Central Square T stop on the red line, 286 Franklin St, Central Square, Cambridge, MA 02139. If you're driving, look for metered lots on Bishop Allen Dr. (parallel to Mass Ave) as well as the Green Street parking garage at the corner of Green and Pearl. The garage costs $1.50 per hour.

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No need to register--just show up. Bring a friend or two. We'll provide nametags, you provide the schmoozing. Hope to see you there.

Second, if you're anywhere near the western suburbs or central Massachusetts and don't want to come all the way into the city,  author Kristine Assselin has just the thing for you. On Tuesday, 2/15, 7 p.m., you're invited to gather with other Kid/YA lit aficionados at the Westford Grille, 142 Littleton Road, in Westford, MA. RSVP via Twitter to @KristineAsselin.

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Applying the Women-in-Movies Test to Race-in-Stories

The Bechdel Test challenges us to ask three simple questions about films:
  1. Are there two or more women with names?
  2. Do they talk to each other?
  3. Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?
So many of my favorite films failed the test:

I wonder if we could apply a similar set of race-related questions to stories in diverse settings, whether they come to us via books, television, or movies. Let's call it the "Friends" test, based on that outstandingly non-diverse television show set in New York City, and ask these questions:
  1. Are there two or more people of color with names?
  2. Do they have a significant conversation with each other?
  3. Do they talk about something other than race?

2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults

I'm flying high today after hearing the news that Bamboo People is a top ten book on the Best Fiction for Young Adults 2011 list from the American Library Association. Here are the top ten titles with annotations courtesy of YALSA librarians:
  • Bacigalupi, Paolo. Ship Breaker. Little, Brown, and Co. Nailer is a light crew scavenger tearing up old hulks of ships, living day to day, until a rich girl and her gleaming ship run ashore in a storm on the beach and his life gets more dangerous.
  • Donnelley, Jennifer. Revolution. Random House Children's Books/Delacorte. Haunted by the death of her brother, Andi is taken to Paris by her estranged father where an encounter with a mysterious diary may bring her back from the edge.
  • Marchetta, Melina. Finnikin of the Rock. Candlewick. Finnikin and his fellow exiles from Lumatere wish to return to their cursed homeland. Finnikin must go on an epic journey with a mute novice named Evanjalin to return home.
  • Matson, Morgan. Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour. Simon & Schuster. Amy and Roger must both learn to deal with loss while on a road trip across the country which doesn't go as expected.
  • McBride, Lish. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. Macmillan Children's Book Group/Henry Holt. When Sam discovers he is a necromancer he must learn to control his power in order to defeat a powerful and corrupt rival and save his friends.
  • Mulligan, Andy. Trash. David Fickling Books. Three garbage-picker boys find an item of great value to a corrupt politician on their rounds, setting off a tense hunt to see who will triumph.
  • Perkins, Mitali. Bamboo People. Chiko, a Burmese soldier and Tu Reh, a Kerenni refugee meet on opposite sides of war and each must learn what it means to be a man of his people.
  • Reinhardt, Dana. The Things a Brother Knows.  Random House Children's Books/Wendy Lamb. Boaz is back and hailed as the hometown hero, but he is not at all the same. Can his younger brother Levi help him truly make his way home?
  • Saenz, Benjamin. Last Night I Sang to the Monster. Cinco Puntos Press, 2009. Weeks in therapy go by and 18-year-old Zach is still unable to remember the monstrous events that left him alone and haunted by nightmares.
  • Sedgwick, Marcus. Revolver. Roaring Brook Press. Sig is alone with his father’s body when the lawless man his father had managed to escape appears out of the icy wilderness.

You're Invited: A Global Read of BAMBOO PEOPLE

Next week, Primary Source (Educating for Global Understanding) is hosting a discussion forum for a global read of Bamboo People. 90+ educators and students have already signed up, but there's room for more. Here's the official announcement:
Global Read of Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins
Online discussion forum: January 12-19, 2011
Live chat session with the author: Wednesday, January 19, 3-4 p.m. EST
Primary Source is proud to announce a unique global reading opportunity. Responding to requests from educators, Primary Source will facilitate a FREE worldwide book discussion, or "Global Read," featuring an online discussion forum followed by a "live" web-based session.
You are invited to join us for a discussion of the young adult novel, Bamboo People, by Mitali Perkins — a compelling coming-of-age story about child soldiers in modern Burma. The online discussion forum will begin on Wednesday, January 12th. Then join the author for a live chat on January 19th.
Register early to guarantee your spot! Registration is free but participants are responsible for obtaining their own copy of the book.
As if that weren't enough, the librarian at Primary Source, Jennifer Hanson, has created a wonderful curriculum guide to use in coordination with the book.

ALA Midwinter in San Diego: Sunshine and Signings

Spent the morning by the fire in Boston watching the ALA Youth Media Awards announcements (Newbery, etc), but still relishing the sunny respite in San Diego, courtesy of Charlesbridge, who published Bamboo People. I took two long walks along the water:

It was 18 degrees in Boston when I took this in San Diego.
They were enjoying the sunset as much as I was.
San Diego's marina in the evening ...
... and in the morning.
So Cal Caloric Splurge: Swordfish Taco and Waffle Fries

... Presented a speech during USBBY's annual meeting, after the Outstanding International Books of 2011 were announced:
The 2011 list is revealed ...

Photo courtesy of Cindy Pon (SILVER PHOENIX).
... And signed copies of Bamboo People as well as the foreword to Harper Perennial's re-issue of Emily of Deep Valley, along with Melissa Wiley, who was equally flabbergasted to be signing the foreword to Carney's House Party / Winona's Pony Cart.

Ed and Eve Bunting stopped by the Charlesbridge booth. They've been married for 60 years and he still carries her books. 

Librarian Beth Friese and I shared a fangirl moment after the Buntings departed. For goodness' sake — I had to personalize a copy of Bamboo People to EVE BUNTING!
Photo courtesy of Sarah Stevenson, who was there signing copies of her excellent debut YA novel, The Latte Rebellion (Flux).
The triumvirate--Tib (Melissa Wiley), Betsy (HarperPerennial editor Jennifer Hart), and Tacy (me)--after our signing.

ALA Midwinter in San Diego

"San Diego." "Midwinter." Don't you love the juxtaposition? This weekend, I'm fortunate to be attending the American Library Association's Annual Midwinter Conference in San Diego, California.

I'm speaking at USBBY's Membership Meeting during the ALA Library Conference on Friday, 1/7, 8-10 p.m. at the Hilton in Indigo 202A/B. The Outstanding International Children's Books Committee will present their 2011 selections, followed by my talk. Anyone with an interest in children's and/or young adult literature is welcome to attend.

On Saturday, I'll be in Charlesbridge's booth from 10-11 (#1808) signing BAMBOO PEOPLE. Then I head over to Harper Collins' booth (#2016) from 11:30-12:30, reverentially signing Maud Hart Lovelace reissues with author and fellow foreword writer Melissa Wiley -- I'll be signing EMILY OF DEEP VALLEY while she personalizes CARNEY'S HOUSE PARTY.

Last but not least, I'm excited that Bamboo People is nominated as an ALA Notable Children's Book and is a candidate for YALSA's Best Fiction for Young Adults. We shall see if it makes the final lists, but it's an honor to be considered.

Will I see you in San Diego? I hope so.