Honoring Salman Rushdie: An Intimate Reading and Dinner

Believe me, if I were in New York City on May 6th, I'd be at this event. The Asian American Writer's Workshop is inviting us to honor Salman Rushdie at Tribeca Cinemas, and to sweeten the deal, they've added a fabulous lineup of other guests: Zadie Smith, Jonathan Safran Foer, Téa Obreht, Amitava Kumar, Himanshu Suri (formerly of Das Racist) and Top Chef competitor Dale Talde. Get tickets and/or find out more here.

2013 Jane Addams Children's Book Awards


APRIL 27, 2013… Recipients of the 2013 Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards were announced today by the Jane Addams Peace Association. 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 conventional standards of literacy and artistic excellence.

Each Kindness, written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis and published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin, is the winner in the Books for Younger Children Category. We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March, written by Cynthia Levinson and published by Peachtree Publishers, is the winner in the Books for Older Children category.

Each Kindness Small actions, or the lack of them, can be haunting as is the case for Maya and for Chloe in their rural elementary school. This open-ended, profound tale created in free verse and sober watercolors glimpses interactions between Chloe and Maya, the new girl arriving midyear in broken sandals, before the teacher invites students to ponder their kindnesses.

We’ve Got a Job In 1963, four thousand young African American students, from elementary through high school, voluntarily went to jail in one of the most racially violent cities in America. Focusing on four of these students, this photo essay recounts the riveting events throughout the Children’s March.

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

Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers, written by Sarah Warren and illustrated by Robert Casilla, published by Marshall Cavendish Children, has been named an Honor Book for Younger Children. In California in the 1950s, teacher Dolores Huerta was concerned for her students. Learning the conditions of the migrant families, Dolores became a determined activist who fought for labor rights through her words and actions.

We March, written and illustrated by Shane W. Evans, and published by Roaring Brook Press, a Neal Porter imprint of Macmillan, has been named an Honor Book for Younger Children. Simple and powerful illustrations capture the excitement and hope for even the youngest reader of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The colorful crowd of 250,000 demonstrates their strength and unity in marching to Martin Luther King’s historical speech for racial equality.
Two books were named Honor Books in the Books for Older Children category.

Marching to the Mountaintop: How Poverty, Labor Fights and Civil Rights Set the Stage for Martin Luther King Jr’s Final Hours, written by Ann Bausum and published by National Geographic, is named an Honor Book for Older Children. A long sanitation worker strike began in 1968 following the deaths of two sanitation workers on the job sanitation workers in Tennessee. The strike became part of the larger civil rights movement and brought Martin Luther King, Jr. to Nashville to support the workers in their fight for for integration, safety, better pay and union protection.

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery, published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, is named an Honor Book for Older Children.  This biography with much first person input from Ms. Grandin herself explains how her autistic mind works, how her peers and family perceive her, and her relentless efforts as an activist.

A national committee chooses winners and honor books for younger and older children. Members of the 2012 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Committee are Marianne Baker (Chair, Barboursville, VA), Ann Carpenter (Harwich, MA), Julie Olsen Edwards (Soquel, CA), Lauren Mayer (Seattle, WA), Beth McGowan (DeKalb, IL), Sonja Cherry-Paul (Yonkers, NY), Tracy Randolph (Sewanee, TN), Lani Gerson (Watertown, MA), Susan Freiss (Madison, WI), and Jacqui Kolar (Chicago, IL). Regional reading and discussion groups of all ages participated with many of the committee members throughout the jury’s evaluation and selection process.
The authors and illustrators of the 2013 Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards will be honored on Friday, October 18, 2013 in New York City.  Details about the award event and about securing winner and honor book seals are available from the Jane Addams Peace Association (JAPA.)  Contact JAPA Executive Director Linda B. Belle, 777 United Nations Plaza, 6th Floor, NY, NY 10017-3521; by phone 212.682.8830; and by email japa@igc.org.

For additional information about the Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards and a complete list of books honored since 1953, see www.janeaddamspeace.org.

2013 South Asia Book Award for Children’s and YA Literature

The South Asia Book Award, administered by the South Asia National Outreach Consortium, is given annually for up to two outstanding works of literature, from early childhood to secondary reading levels, which accurately and skillfully portrays South Asia or South Asians in the diasporas, that is the experience of individuals living in South Asia, or of South Asians living in other parts of the world. Up to five Honor Books and Highly Commended Books will also be recognized by the award committee for their contribution to this body of literature on the region.

The RumorThe Rumor by Anushka Ravishankar, illustrations by Kanyika Kini (Tundra Books, 2012).  In the village of Baddbaddpur, the people like to tell tales. Pandurang is so dour that he can make milk turn sour. One day he coughs up a feather. As the story of Pandurang’s feather is passed from one person to another it grows and grows and grows until it can hardly be recognized. (Grades PreK-4).
Kids of KabulKids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through a Never-Ending War by Deborah Ellis (Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press, 2012). Deborah Ellis went to Kabul to find out what happened to Afghanistan’s children since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.  She interviewed children who spoke about their lives. They are still living in a country torn apart by war, violence and oppression still exist, particularly affecting the lives of girls, but the kids are weathering their lives with courage and optimism. (Grades 5 – 12).

ChainedChained by Lynne Kelly (Farrar Straus Giroux, Margaret Ferguson Books, 2012). To work off a family debt, ten-year-old Hastin leaves his desert village in India to work as a circus elephant keeper but many challenges await him, including trying to keep Nadita, a sweet elephant, safe from the cruel circus owner. (Grades 4-7).
The Elephant's FriendThe Elephant’s Friend and Other Tales from Ancient India by Marcia Williams (Candlewick Press, 2012). Drawing from three books of best-loved Indian folktales — Hitopadesha Tales, Jataka Tales, and Panchantra Tales — this graphic storybook collection, alive with kid-friendly illustrations, is infused with humor and warmth. (Grades K-4).
The Wooden SwordThe Wooden Sword by Ann Redisch Stampler, illustrated by Carol Liddiment (Albert Whitman & Company, 2012). Disguised in servant’s clothes, an Afghani shah slips out of his palace to learn more about his people. When he encounters a poor Jewish shoemaker faithful that everything will turn out just as it should, the shah grows curious. Vowing that no harm will befall the poor man, he decides to test that faith. (Grades  K-5).
Same Sun HereSame Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani (Candlewick Press, 2012). A twelve-year-old Indian immigrant in New York City and a Kentucky coal miner’s son become pen pals, and eventually best friends, through a series of revealing letters exploring such topics as environmental activism, immigration, and racism. (Grades 4-7).

Ganesha's Sweet ToothGanesha’s Sweet Tooth by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes (Chronicle Books, 2012). The bold, bright colors of India leap right off the page in this fresh and funny picture book adaptation of how Ganesha came to write the epic poem of Hindu literature, the Mahabarata. (Grades Prek-3)
ShadowShadow by Michael Morpurgo (Feiwel and Friends Book, an imprint of Macmillan, 2012).  14 year old Aman and his mother flee the horrors of war in Afghanistan and escape to England.  But just as they are getting settled in their new home, Aman and his mother find themselves in a detention center.  Their only hope is Aman’s friend Matt, Matt’s grandfather, and the dream of finding Shadow, Aman’s  trusted and loyal canine companion. (Grades 5-8).
SweetestMangoThe Sweetest Mango by Malavika Shetty, illustrations by Ajanta Guhathakurta (Tulika Publishers, 2012). The sweet, simple story and luscious pictures evoke delicious flavors of hot days, warm friendships and the smell of mango in the air. (Grades PreK-3)
tina-coverTina’s Mouth: an Existential Comic Diary by Keshni Kashyap, illustrations by Mari Araki (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012).  Tina Malhotra, a sophomore at the Yarborough Academy in Southern California, creates an existential diary for an assignment in which she tries to determine who she is and where she fits in. (Grades 9-12).
WholeStoryThe Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani (Delacorte Press, 2012). When Sonia’s father loses his job, she must move from her small, supportive private school to a public middle school.  The new school, her father’s diagnosis of clinical depression, and her half- Jewish and half- Indian heritage leave Sonia feeling more confused about herself, her friends, and her family.  Grades 5-8).

Congratulations to the winners! 
Download the 2013 South Asia Book Award announcement.

PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Children's Book Discovery Award 2013

One of my favorite literary involvements in New England is serving on the Pen New England Susan P. Bloom Children's Book Discovery Award Committee. This year, I was delighted that two of my writing buddies, Katherine T. Quimby and Anna J. Boll, won the award.

The best entries were all about voice, and these two accomplished Vermont College graduates absolutely nailed their main characters' respective voices. If you're in the area, join us at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA on May 19 at 6:30 p.m. to hear the authors read their work, snack, schmooze, and celebrate children's books.

Farewell, New England. Hello, San Francisco Bay Area.

Maybe you've noticed that I haven't been as active on the Fire Escape or on social media lately. Here's why: after 12+ years in beautiful Boston, my husband was offered a new job and we're moving back to the San Francisco Bay Area this summer. We'll be living in the East Bay, close to my parents and sister and near Saint Mary's College of California, where our sons attend and where I've taught a course on children's books for the past two January terms.

It's been a sweet season: we raised our sons here from second grade until the college launch. Our church is my home away from home. As for my writing vocation, the children's literature community here in Boston is nonpareil. I will miss the schools, colleges, and libraries I visit every year. Charlesbridge and Candlewick, two of my publishers, are here. My work has been enriched by New England organizations like the New England Booksellers Association, the Foundation of Children's Books, Primary Source, the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Grub Street, MSLA, MLABoston Author's Club, Associates of the Boston Public Library, and others. My books have launched at excellent independent bookstores like Newtonville Books, Porter Square Books, and Wellesley Bookstore, and supported by stellar libraries, including my very own Newton Free Library. Last but not least, my writing buddies have made this vocation ten times as fun and significantly less lonely. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am sad to lose you all.

For those in the Boston area, my friend Karen Day is hosting a farewell party for me in Newton on May 11 from 3-5. If you're interested in stopping by, drop me an email RSVP and we'll send you the address: mitaliperk-at-yahoo-dot-com. Peace be with you, New England. San Francisco Bay Area, here I come.