Widen Your Circle: Join us for KidLitCon 2014

One of the best ways to deepen our commitment to children's and young adult books is by meeting other people who share that passion. And I don't mean just virtually; I mean in real life, too. Well, here's our chance: the 8th annual Kidlitosphere Conference, aka KidLitCon, October 10-11, at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria in Sacramento, California. This is a gathering of people who care about children’s and young adult books, including librarians, authors, teachers, parents, booksellers, publishers, and readers.


Social Media, Blogging, and Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Literature

How might we use our blogs and social media platforms to widen the world of children’s and young adult literature? I'll be there, speaking about how we can change and affect the conversation about diversity, both in the industry and in the wider culture. Author Shannon Hale is going to speak also, via Skype.

Mark October 10th and 11th on your calendar—we'd love to see you there. And consider submitting a proposal by August 1st about how you might contribute to the conversation on children’s and young adult books. Or just register by September 19th.

Conference Organizers

Tanita Davis and Sarah StevensonFinding Wonderland
Jen RobinsonJen Robinson’s Book Page

Please help by spreading the word. Be a fan on Facebook and Follow KidLitCon on Twitter.

New Summer Reading for Anglophiles


Maybe it's the strawberries and cream at Wimbledon. Or maybe it's that I can't quite get rid of the influence of the Raj in my psyche. No matter—the fact remains that every summer my reader's heart starts to hanker after Brit Lit.

There's nothing quite like a good Susan Howatch novel, tea, scones, and clotted cream (which Whole Foods carries now, leading to the demise of my overly ambitious fitness plans.)

On the hunt for contemporary (still alive and writing) authors, I posted this on my social media yesterday:




I thought I'd compile a list of books and authors as suggested by my friends, in case other anglophiles out there are looking for a new read. Books that are asterisked received more than one mention. (Note: I have neither read nor vetted the titles on this list, so read at your own risk ... but I do have a smart social media set.)

Particular Books
  • The Fire-Eaters by David Almond
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  • *The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie and other Flavia DeLuce mysteries by Alan C. Bradley
  • Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman by Elizabeth Buchan
  • The Children's Book by AS Byatt
  • Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger
  • Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare
  • *The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  • The Memory of Love by Armineta Forna
  • *The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith 
  • Old Filth by Jane Gardam
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye by Rachel Joyce
  • Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesy
  • Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hillary Mantel
  • If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor
  • Saffy's Angel by Hilary McKay
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  • Rustication and The Quincunx by Charles Palliser
  • Lady Jane series by Deanna Rayborn
  • Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
  • *The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
  • *Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
  • *Sunday Philosophy Club and Dalhousie series by Alexander McCall Smith
  • Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe
  • Ian Rutledge series by Charles Todd
  • A Parcel of Patterns by Jill Paton Walsh
  • Maisie Dobbs series by Jacquelyn Winspear
  • *Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Other Recommended Authors
  • Rhys Bowen
  • Elizabeth Buchan
  • Margaret Drabble
  • Philippa Gregory
  • Elly Griffiths
  • Nick Hornby
  • Penelope Lively
  • Sarah Maclean
  • Elizabeth Noble
  • Maggie O'Farrell
  • James Runcie
  • Joanna Trollope
Dead Authors and Books People Couldn't Help Mentioning
  • Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
  • Rumer Godden
  • Dora Saint (Miss Read)
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Got other suggestions? Leave them in the comments for the rest of us to discover.

Asian Festival of Children's Content

Earlier in the summer, I was privileged to serve on the faculty of the Asian Festival of Children's Content, which seeks to "provide the world’s children with quality Asian content for education and entertainment." AFCC 2014 focused on India, lasted for six days, and drew 938 delegates from 27 countries. I spoke on several panels but also managed to enjoy the sights, tastes, smells, and sounds of Singapore, the third wealthiest country in the world.

My first panel was titled Young Adult Books as Windows and Mirrors. Here's the description: "Do books serve as a window to a different life or a mirror for your own? Mitali Perkins and Sampurna Chattarji examine why it’s important that young adult audiences have books that not only provide insight to the lives of others but also serve as mirrors of their own lives and cultures."

Next came The Vast Spread of the Sea: Asian Diaspora Writers and the Works, featuring author Gabrielle Wang, Illustrator Il Sung Na, and myself. "In this panel, we ask Asian authors who have worked in the UK, Australia, and the USA to speak on their experiences as creators of Asian descent. What issues, if any, remain universal to the Asian diaspora experience? What challenges have these creators faced and how did they overcome them to get published? Find out!"

Third and last, I spoke on Writing About Different Cultures with Gabrielle Wang. "As our global society embraces multiculturalism more and more, the question of how to tell effective stories that speak to multicultural communities become ever more important. How should writers, illustrators, and other story creators responsibly address writing about different cultures? Join in the discussion in this panel."

Fun to meet online friends in person, like Daphne Lee, Scholastic Asia editor...
... and Sayoni Basu, editor with India's Duckbill Books.
Editors Cheryl Robson (left) of the U.K. and Sayoni Basu (right) of India talked about acquisitions. Stacy Whitman of Tu Books (center) ably represented North American editors and publishers.
My turn to present: "Young Adult Books as Windows and Mirrors."
AFCC staff and volunteers were excellent at spoiling us. Many of our "Makan and Mingle" events took place on the top floor of the Singapore National Library, and featured a glorious 360 degree view.
The Children's Room at the Singapore National Library.
Bookseller Denise Tan of Closetful of Books organized my author visit to the ISS International School of Singapore.
Spoke with 9th graders from many Asian countries about stories between cultures.
I always feel at home in a roomful of global nomads and Third Culture kids.
A sweet-faced Indonesian student asked for a picture. Who could say no to that smile? Not me.
My extracurricular activities included a visit to the National Orchid Garden.  At every turn, you catch your breath and squelch a desire to burst into applause, because what will the other tourists think? Oh, well. Go ahead. They've all become flower and fountain paparazzi.
Perk of solo travel: paying closer attention to the symmetry, detail, and elegance at the National Museum of Singapore. A volunteer docent presented an enthralling 2.5 hours of history, full of unforgettable stories from the nation as well as from his own life. "Confucian families sadly didn't honor girl children as much as boys. During the time of hardship after the war, for example, girls were given to Malay families for adoption. One particular Chinese family had three daughters and two sons. They fought hard and somehow managed to keep the family intact, but the girls were not educated while the sons went to school. How do I know?" He hesitated to check his emotion. "Because I was one of those boys."
How do you know you're in Little India on a Sunday afternoon? By the monsoon rains, spicy vegetable biryani and sweet lassi, painted windows, and hundreds of Indians, strolling, shopping, and people-watching, just like you.
Need a break from the equatorial sun? Nothing better than a good book, a cup of Darjeeling, and biscuits in the Writer's Bar, where Ernest Hemingway and W. Somerset Maugham enjoyed different kinds of beverages.
 Last but not least, don't skip a moonlit riverboat ride. Glorious! Right, Junko (Yokota) and Marjorie (Coughlan)?
AFCC 2015 will be held from May 29 – June 7 in Singapore, and the country of focus is China. My recommendation? Don't miss it!

2014 South Asia Book Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature


The South Asia Book Award (SABA) 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 diaspora, 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 are also  recognized by the award committee.

 2014 Winners

A Moment Comes by Jennifer Bradbury (Atheneum, 2013)

Before India was divided, three teens, each from wildly different backgrounds, cross paths. And then, in one moment, their futures become irrevocably intertwined. Tariq, Anupreet, Margaret are as different as their Muslim, Sikh, and British names. But in that one moment, their futures become entirely dependent on one another. (Grades 8 and up).

Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education by Elizabeth Suneby (Kids Can Press, 2013)

Razia dreams of getting an education, but in her small village in Afghanistan, girls haven’t been allowed to attend school for many years. When a new girls’ school opens in the village, a determined Razia must convince her father and oldest brother that educating her would be best for her, their family and their community. Based on the true stories of the students of the Zabuli Education Center for Girls just outside of Kabul (Grades 3-8).

 

2014 Honor Books

Bye, Bye, Motabhai! by Kala Sambasivan, illustrations by Ambika Sambasivan (Yali Books, 2013). Pavan, an over-worked camel in the city of Ahmedabad, India, hates his job. He often dreams of being a racing camel in Dubai. But hitched to a heavy vegetable cart and with his owner Motabhai around, how is this possible? (Grades pre-K-3).

Gandhi: A March to the Sea by Alice B. McGinty, illustrations by Thomas Gonzalez (Amazon Publishing, 2013). Mohandas Gandhi’s 24-day March to the Sea, from March 12 to April 5, 1930, was a pivotal moment in India’s quest to become an independent country no longer ruled by Great Britain (Grades 3 and up).

 The Garden of My Imaan by Farhana Zia (Peachtree, 2013). The arrival of a new student, Marwa, a fellow fifth-grader who is a strict Muslim, helps Aliya come to terms with her own lukewarm practice of the faith and her embarrassment of others’ reactions to their beliefs (Grades 4-7).

Mother Teresa: Angel of the Slums by Lewis Helfand, art by Sachin Nagar (Campfire, an imprint of Kalyani Navyug Media, 2013). Mother Teresa knew from a young age that she wanted to become a nun. What she could not envision was where that service to God would take her, until she was sent to Calcutta to teach (Grades 6 and up).

2014 Highly Commended Books

 

The Fantastic Adventures of Krishna written and illustrated by Demi (Wisdom Tales, 2013). Set in a peaceful kingdom in India more than 5000 years ago, this is the enchanting tale of the child Krishna, who is sent by the God Vishnu to aid humanity (Grades K and up).

Gobble You Up! by Gita Wolf, art by Sunita (Tara Books, 2013). In this adaptation of a traditional oral Rajasthani trickster tale, a wily jackal, who is too lazy to go hunting himself, challenges his best friend to catch 12 fish. The narrative unfolds in cumulative rhyme, accompanied by distinctive finger paintings created in the ancient Mandna style (Grades pre-K-3).

In Andal’s House by Gloria Whelan, illustrations by Amanda Hall (Sleeping Bear Press, 2013). As a young boy in Gujarat, Kumar sometimes feels like he lives in two worlds. The old world where people and their choices are determined by prejudice and bigotry; and the modern world: in this world Kumar can be friends with whomever he chooses and his future looks bright (Grades K-3).

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J Freedman (Harry N. Abrams, 2013). Tara’s not sure she wants to have a bat mitzvah. Even though she’s attended Hebrew school, her mother’s Indian heritage has a pull on her, and she wonders if she dishonors her Indian grandparents by declaring her Judaism (Grades 5-8).

Torn by David Massey (Chicken House, 2013). The story follows Ellie, a 19-year-old British medic, during her tour of duty in Afghanistan. Her squad is attached to a small troop of American SEALs who must find a hidden cache of arms and learn about a children’s army that is fighting both the Western Coalition and the Taliban (Grades 8 and up).

The 2014 South Asia Book Award Ceremony will be held in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday, October 18, 2014.