Jane Addams Children's Book Award Award Ceremony

The Jane Addams Peace Association and
the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
invite you to the

Jane Addams Children's Book Award
59th Annual Award Ceremony

Friday, October 19th at 2:30 PM
New York City
777 United Nations Plaza (2nd Floor)
on the corner of 44th St. and 1st Ave. 

Join us for a memorable afternoon of award presentation and responses by authors and illustrators.  Come meet and talk with the honored guests, including Award winners Winifred Conkling, Susan L. Roth, and Cindy Trumbore and honorees Anna Grossnickle Hines, Calvin Alexander Ramsey, John Holyfield, Bettye Stroud, Kadir Nelson, and Thannha Lai. Enjoy a reception, hosted by The Hastings Peace and Justice Fund, and an opportunity for book signing after formal presentation of the awards. All the award books will be available for purchase.

This event is free and open to all.
Reservations are not needed.  Please come and enjoy!

The Award Winners
Sylvia and Aki by Winifred Conkling, Tricycle Press, an imprint of Random House is the winner in the Books for Older Children category. The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families written by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore with collages by Susan L. Roth, published by Lee & Low is the winner in the Books for Younger Children category.

The Honor Books
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson, published by Baltzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins, and Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins are honor books for Older Children. Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Bettye Stroud and illustrated by John Holyfield, published by Candlewick Press and Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts About Peace by Anna Grossnickle Hines, published by Macmillan, an imprint of Henry Holt, are honor books for Younger Children

For additional information about the Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards and a complete list of books honored since 1953, see www.janeaddamspeace.org  For more information about the Award event, contact JAPA Executive Director Linda B. Belle, 777 United Nations Plaza, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10017-3521; 212-682-8830; japa@igc.org.

On The Radio With Jarrett J. Krosoczka!

I'm on The Book Report with JJK at SIRIUS XM'S KiDS Place LiVE this Thursday 9/27 at 5:40 p.m. ET / 2:40 p.m. PT. And in real life as in the cartoon he drew below, my head IS twice as wide as Jarrett's! Now I have to get a pair of green pumps and an orange necklace.

Book Launch Parties for Reluctant Authors

Several writer buddies have asked lately if I think in-real-life launch parties are worth it in a virtual age. If you're about to celebrate the publication of your first (or second or third) book, should you throw a book launch party for friends, fans, and family members? 

I'm a social media geek, but there's still no better way to invite people into your stories than to appear in person. You spread the word about the book through press coverage and social media, creating a ripple effect around each event. You support and encourage the indie booksellers who faithfully support and encourage our books.

How many events should you plan?

Admittedly, launch parties are a lot of work. Thankfully, publishers and booksellers share the work load, but the ball is in the author's court. I'm fundamentally an introvert, like many writers, and the experience of being in the limelight is draining. That's why I usually aim for only one party per book, but try to schedule a West Coast launch and an East Coast launch—places where I know people.

Do you plan the party for young readers or for the adults who usually show up?

I cherish the teen and tween young readers who set aside time to come to these events. I know how busy they are. But I also see each launch as a chance to nurture a community of adults who care about those young readers. More and more adults are reading YA books. They want good storytelling imbued with hope, and they're turning to our genre to find it. At my parties, I welcome both the young and the young at soul.

I like to tell a couple of interesting stories behind the story so attendees feel privy to an inside scoop. I also invest in some book-appropriate, inexpensive giveaways. For Bamboo People, for example, I gave away bamboo bookmarks I'd picked up in a Thai market. For Monsoon Summer, I bought a bunch of incense sticks from our local Indian grocery and handed those out. Brainstorm ideas for suitable giveaways with a creative buddy, and prepare with a good tale or two about the writing of the book.

How can social media help pull everything together?

These tools are superb ways to gather a story-hungry circle around the fire. On Facebook, I take the time to sort my friends into geographical lists and target my invites that way, trying to make them as individualized as possible. On Twitter, I find folks in the area outside my writing circles who might be interested in the subject matter of the book and invite them to the party via a personalized tweet.

Even if not many people show up, don't be discouraged. Ask someone to take photos so that you can post them on twitter, facebook, pinterest, and your blog if you have one. In fact, that's the key to seeing the event's publicity potential—understanding the multiplication effect of getting the word out about your book, first by invitations and announcements, then via the press and your delightful bookstore host, and lastly through social media's tags and share functions.

The bottom line, though, is that a launch party is a celebration of your book. By planning and hosting the event, you underline your pride and joy in this story as you send it out to readers. Bon Voyage, new book!

Authors Laya Steinberg (THESAURUS REX) and Karen Day (A MILLION MILES FROM BOSTON) celebrate the publication of Karen's NO CREAM PUFFS at Wellesley Booksmith.
Other questions? Ask them below, or share your favorite tips for successful book launch parties.

Boston Public Library's Literary Lights for Children 2012

Sunday, September 30, 2012, 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Bates Reading Room, Central Library, Copley Square

The Associates of the Boston Public Library is pleased to invite you to the fourteenth annual Literary Lights for Children tea party on Sunday, September 30th in the beautiful Bates Reading Room of the Boston Public Library. The 2012 honorees are:
"Literary Lights for Children" seeks to raise awareness of children's literature, promote literacy, honor children's authors, and raise money for the Boston Public Library's children's services and collections. Students selected from Boston area schools introduce and present the awards to each of the honored authors. The honorees then discuss their writing careers and share their love of books with the audience of over 400 children and adults. Tea refreshments are served.

Eventbrite - Literary Lights for Children 2012

to the Literary Lights Tea Party

Immediately following the tea party, there will be a book signing session. Books will be available for sale, or children are welcome to bring their own books. The book sales & signing portion of the program is free and open to the public.

For more information and sponsorship opportunities, please contact the Associates Office at:

Associates of the Boston Public Library
700 Boylston Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02116
Phone: 617-536-3886
Fax: 617-536-3813
Email: associates@bpl.org

Reading is Fundamental's new Multicultural Book Collection focuses on Science, Math, and Technology

Reading is Fundamental's new Multicultural Book Collection focuses on Science, Math, and Technology
RIF Releases STEAM Multicultural Book Collection Connecting STEM, the Arts and Early Learning WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) is launching a multi-year early childhood literacy campaign to inspire the next-generation of innovators through an approach…

2012 Teens Between Cultures Prose Contest Winner

I'm delighted to announce the winner of the 10th annual Mitali's Fire Escape Teens Between Cultures Prose Contest. In the past, I've award three prizes (first, second, third), but this year I decided to pick only one. Agonizingly, I narrowed the best entries to three and then asked my friend, author and teacher Cynthia Leitich Smith, to select the winner. Here it is—enjoy.

Chow Mein with a Chance of Meatballs 
by Whitney S., Age 18

Growing up as the headstrong daughter of Chinese immigrants, I – surprisingly – didn’t question my parents’ strict emphasis on academic achievement. I didn’t fight back against the forced piano lessons, I didn’t begrudge the embargo on sleepovers, and I didn’t sulk (for long, anyway) when I brought home an A-studded report card and got only distracted nods in response. No, I accepted everything except the food.

I first realized my own gastronomical ignorance in elementary school, when my friends discussed their favorite restaurants and I could only name the two fast-food places I passed daily on my way to school. Before that, I had lived complacently under what I assumed were the unspoken, unquestioned rules of my household: No sodas, candies, or carb-based munchies could be found in the pantry. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were served at prescribed times, with one afternoon snack of fruit and no nibbling allowed in between. Getting a hamburger from McDonalds was a twice-a-year treat for outstanding behavior (like winning a spelling bee) or consolation for a serious misfortune (like getting stitches when I cut my scalp open). And formal restaurants? I was lucky I knew what real, “Western” silverware looked like.

“Why don’t we ever eat out?” I demanded once, in a fit of indignation.

“Do you want to weigh 500 pounds? Americans put so much oil and flavorings in their cooking, it’s disgusting,” said my mother in dismissive Chinese. “And how much money we’d waste if we ate out every week, like American families do! Do you think we’re rich?”

My parents loosened up sometimes – if only to sample genuine Chinese restaurants where the owners and servers all spoke Chinese. They’d order standard mainland dishes, furrow their brows as they ate, and spend the rest of the night debating the authenticity of the food. For someone like me, with a sweet tooth and an adventurous appetite, it simply wasn’t enough.

I could pinpoint with 99% accuracy what we’d be having for dinner any given night, before even coming home from school. There was always the essential staple, rice. Then there was steamed or stir-fried bok choy (and if not bok choy, some other leafy green vegetable). Lastly, a meat dish, maybe mixed with more vegetables and maybe standing alone. On the rare occasions that we didn’t eat rice, we ate dumplings or noodles. And oh, how I hated fulfilling popular stereotypes – but we did all of the above with chopsticks.

My classmates complained about eating Brussels sprouts; they whined about not being able to have dessert before the entrée. My dreams (okay, perhaps my speculations when I got bored) were made of the stews, casseroles, lasagnas, pizzas, and steaks they ate at home. My peers gasped at the multisyllabic words I recited and rolled their eyes whenever I churned out another math problem at record speeds. How would they see me, though, if they knew that the great Whitney had no idea how to pay the check at a restaurant?

When my parents finally allowed me to carry pocket money around, I got sneaky. My middle school hosted a snack booth, and I felt a small high every time I purchased a forbidden pastry or soda. But it was immediately followed by an overwhelming cascade of guilt. I saw, in my mind’s eye, my mother lecturing me on how hard she worked to cook meals with minimal salt and oil, how much she despised “American” foods, which were inarguably fatty and unnatural. A part of me always hung her head in shame, promising never to venture down the road to sin again. The other part of me wanted to lash out against my parents. Was it really such a big deal if I deviated from their oh-so-precious customs here and there? I was a model child in every other department. Fortunately, I had never been bullied for my ethnicity; in my stubborn independence, I had rarely folded under the pressure to conform either. But this, the food – it was my way of saying Yes, I do want to be an American! I do want to share in a part, however trivial, of this society!

My parents started to relax their grip when I entered high school, most likely because they grew worried. “Stop studying so much, Whitney,” they told me. “You’re too stressed. Go out with your friends once in a while.” That, and once the trips I took with clubs dragged on past lunchtime, it became inevitable that my teammates and I would stumble into a restaurant. Learning basic skills like ordering from the menu and tipping etiquette were cheek-reddening experiences, mortifying both for me and my friends. I would explain awkwardly that my parents were traditional, that they – cue self-deprecating chuckle here – disapproved of American cooking, for some convoluted reason. I was lucky; most friends nodded and smiled and didn’t ask anything more. Their seeming acceptance soothed my insecurities, but not by much.

It was difficult for me, when I was younger, to justify my parents’ prejudices. How could they be so closed-minded? I thought angrily. Did they want our family to be outcasts? In my childish bravado, I would often proffer various favorites (“They’ll change their minds when they taste this spaghetti!”). As time passed and my parents kept turning away my offerings, though, I had to swallow the truth. They weren’t going to change. They were middle-aged immigrants; they had grown comfortable with their ways, which had endured the grueling transition to a different hemisphere.

But that doesn’t mean I have to remain a shut-in. My parents have begun to loosen their hold in this tug-of-war. I still keep a rigid diet at home, but I have been allowed to sample multicultural cuisines, even if it is always by myself and always out of necessity. My parents don’t understand it, but they are finally acknowledging it. For me, cultural immersion and exploration will always lie in the next order of macaroni and cheese.

Whitney on growing up between cultures: 

The hardest thing about balancing two cultures is trying to fit in with other kids when you're young. Most kids now have been brought up to be tolerant and accepting of other cultures, but there are still those who are narrow-minded or just not ready to accept others who are different. I definitely felt a distance between me and other kids when I was young because of the different traditions I practiced at home.

The best thing about balancing two cultures is enjoying the added richness to your life when you're older. I can speak two languages, make authentic foods from different cuisines, enjoy two different styles of entertainment, and connect to people from two different ethnic backgrounds. Now that I can appreciate the depth that being both Chinese and American has brought me, multiculturalism has become a benefit rather than a burden.

Photo courtesy of Gary Soup via Creative Commons.

Andrew Karre on Editing in the "YA Boom" Era

Yesterday on Twitter, I shared a link to an article in the Guardian about a "new" trend in publishing — a genre of books labeled for "New Adults," a.k.a. readers aged 14-35. Andrew Karre, editorial director of Carolrhoda books, responded with a one-word tweet: "Preposterous." Intrigued, I invited him out to the Fire Escape to explain.

Could you tell us why you think setting up a "New Adult" label is nuts?

It’s nuts because I think it’s a backwards way to make art. Allow me to elaborate further after I answer your last question.

Why do you think the YA genre has boomed recently?

A number of factors have pushed the boom in the past decade. Bear in mind, this is driven more by anecdotal observation and hunch than anything else. I’d actually love to hear somebody who was closer to the action take on the question.
  1. Demographics. I believe the teenage population of the US crested at an all-time high sometime around 2007. I have no idea where I saw that number, but I know I saw it.
  2. My sense of the lasting legacy of Harry Potter is that the series made books and authors something that existed in real time for teens and pre-teens. In other words, kids knew when these books were coming without any intermediation; they wanted to share their experiences (and they could, globally); and they expected the author to be a public figure, preferably one they could interact with. Publishing doesn’t notice much, but we noticed this. I’ve spoken about this at length in Hunger Mountain.
  3. It became possible to walk into a bookstore and buy a YA novel without walking through a section of picture books. I attribute this to B & N, but I don’t know for sure. I bet Joe Monti does. Libraries have wisely followed the trend, it seems to me. (Our own, recently built Minneapolis Central Library placed the teen center in a nook completely separate for most of the rest of the library and as far from children’s section as possible. It’s a perfect bit of design in my opinion.)
  4. And I’m probably forgetting another factor.
How (if at all) has this boom affected your editorial style?

Insofar as the fact of the YA boom has allowed me to have the job I do, it’s affected my editorial style. If publishers hadn’t wanted to add YA lists over the last decade, I’d be doing something entirely different in all likelihood.

Beyond that, though, my style is more inward facing than it is outward looking. Adolescence as a cultural phenomenon is endlessly interesting to me. I see teenage stories everywhere—ask my wife. I firmly believe we--late modern humans--created the teenage years and that those years are one of a handful of roughly universal and largely public experiences humans have in western culture. And I think this makes it a very good subject for art (in much the same way war, parenthood, falling in love, and dying are great subjects for art). This is why I say I think YA is a genre about adolescence rather than a product category for adolescents. The first thing this frees me from is answering the unanswerable question: “What do teens want?” In fact, that teenagers read the majority of YA is kind of coincidental to my editorial style, to be honest. I love teenagers dearly, but I make books for readers, first and foremost. (I get away with it because most teenagers are as curious about themselves as I am about them.) In my utopia, there is no YA section, and authors don’t self-identify as YA novelists, but there are tons of YA novels. I don’t think this is the only approach to YA, the right approach to YA, or even the best. But it’s mine and I’m fond of it.*

So, what does this have to do with "New Adult"? My (admittedly meager) understanding of what’s meant by “new adult” is that it’s an audience description (I’ve seen 14-35, and that is preposterous)—something akin to a TV demographic. This is a great way to sell advertising (I guess), but I think it’s a s***** way to make art. For me, genres are campfires around which artists gather, not ways of understanding an audience for art or entertainment. I think there easily could be a bonfire to be built around the shifting definition of adulthood. I think that’s a real cultural phenomenon, but it needs to come from the writers not the marketers.

* One big caveat: I think it’s important to push myself into less comfortable places as an editor, so it’s not hard to find inconsistencies with this approach among the ostensibly YA books I’ve edited. No Crystal Stair, for example, doesn’t fit neatly into any of the foregoing. It’s just a great book that was a joy to publish.

Thanks, Andrew! As a writer, I resonated with this statement: "The first thing this frees me from is answering the unanswerable question: 'What do teens want?' ... I love teenagers dearly, but I make books for readers, first and foremost.” Fellow writers, check out Carolrhoda's submission policy.

2012 Teens Between Cultures Poetry Contest Winner

I'm delighted to announce the winner of the 10th annual Mitali's Fire Escape Teens Between Cultures Poetry Contest. In the past, I've award three prizes (first, second, third), but this year I decided to pick only one. This made judging the contest harder than ever. To compound the difficulty, I received more entries this year than ever before and many of those were stellar. Agonizingly, I narrowed the best to three and then asked my friend, brilliant poet Naomi Shihab Nye, to select the winning poem.

Naomi confirmed my opinion: in her words, Moon Cake by Cathy G. is "lush and elegantly cadenced and heartbreaking," and deserved the win. With thanks to Naomi for helping me with this tough decision, please enjoy the 2012 Fire Escape Teens Between Cultures Poetry Contest winner.

Moon Cake

by Cathy G.

My mother had beautiful hands. Poised
with a brush and a palette of color,
she showed me the movement of landscape
and its words: da hai, for the sea she never
saw in childhood,
sha mo, for the desert sand of Lanzhou
in her mouth,
cao ping, for the great plains in which hundreds of
Tibetan girls sang with skirts
made from jasmine petals and rain
that was on the verge of hail.

My mother had beautiful hands.
She coiled them around the moon cakes
when our lunar calendar turned, holding mine
gently as she traced the outline of a
sky. Moon cakes are a
cure for loneliness, for homesick. We see
the same moon here and there, we have the
same moon inside us.
I was then too young

to understand tradition or void.

My mother had beautiful hands.
Time would not be as merciless,
its hair pushed back with shoulders set hard
in a Western way. My mother
slowly developed an ache
from long hours at the fabric
factory, and the year I turned twelve
she began to wear gloves.
My mother had beautiful hands.
With them she hid the outline of
a crescendo, quiet breakage like a
stone wrapped secretly in silk.
The chasm in mistranslation between
us grew with every Zodiac’s turn.
Moon cake, moon cake.

How the constellation
inside me trembles even now,

"My parents were integral in shaping my childhood experience, and this poem is for them," Cathy says. Here are her reflections on growing up between cultures:

The equilibrium between the culture of my past heritage and immediate reality has always been difficult to master. I was uprooted from the wide, rural plains of a province in central China to settle in the Connecticut shoreline. Growing up, I found myself pulled into two equally vivid ways of life. My parents exposed me to the complex truths in Oriental thought, while the world around me continued to evolve in a starkly contrasting Western way. One day I was struck by the fact that I had let separate elements of my being completely depart from each other. The urbane, American teenager in me wanted a sensational, modern life my parents did not understand. The reserved daughter in me wanted the rich history of the past. Who was I? I was neither one or the other. I was not both. I was lost in the white space between an absolute dichotomy. Reconciling those two different "essences" would prove to be the hardest (ongoing) struggle I would have to face in adolescence, but also provide the greatest reward. For I am able to experience the beauty of two sides of the spectrum together.

Photo courtesy of jimmiehomeschool, via Creative Commons. Stay tuned for the prose contest winner!