TIGER BOY West Coast Book Launch and More!

It's been a busy week in the Bay Area launching my new book, TIGER BOY. Tomorrow I head to Boston for festivities on the other coast. Here's a taste of what's been going on this week in California — school visits, booksellers' conferences, and a happy launch party.

Linden Tree Books in Los Altos created this lovely display.
I visited Chabot Elementary School in Oakland. Not a bad place to sign books.

At Malcolm X. Elementary School in Berkeley, we learned about Bengali culture and Bengal tigers.
Kids never make me nervous.
This was the first time I got to talk about both books!
The actual book launch party was at Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore in Berkeley. Thanks, Mrs. Ds, and thanks to all the friends who joined me.
Parties are fun! Plus I got to read lovely notes from the fourth-graders at Malcolm X.
"Dear Ms. Perkins. Hi Ms. Perkins. I want to see you again Ms. Perkis. I love you Ms. Perkins"
Next stop: Pasadena, for the American Booksellers Association Children's Institute, where I signed and met many enthusiastic booksellers committed to connecting multicultural books and children. I also took a brief detour to wander around the Huntington Library and Gardens (photos below.)





On Preaching and Self-Censorship in Writing for Young Readers

I sat on a library panel this week with four other YA authors. I'd had a busy day, and was irritable already. I probably should have sat back, listened, and shut up, but of course I did no such thing.

"Do you purposefully put messages in your books?" someone in the audience asked.

"Do you feel you must censor yourself to any extent because you're writing for young people?" another attendee asked.

A few of the other panelists responded, and the consensus seemed to be a rousing no to both questions. They talked about the freedom we need to create good art, the disaster of didactic fiction, and the mandate to trust our young readers. They sounded so cool, and so right. But I've already told you I was feeling contrary. Without much thought, I leaped into the conversation.

I've been ruminating on why I erupted with such fervor and decided to air my responses out here on the Fire Escape. I'd love your comments and thoughts. Do you resonate with any of these statements/questions—all of which popped into my head, and some out of my mouth (more inarticulately than below)—and if so, which ones and why?

On putting "message" in our books:

"Aren't all stories containers for worldview, messages, and morals, even if it's the view that the world is morally uncertain? A belief that there are no definitive answers is a particular philosophy. An author's reluctance to convey any morals or ideologies doesn't mean a story isn't saturated with them. And if the head isn't in charge of weaving your worldview into a story, the gut will do it for you."

On writing more carefully for children than for adults:

"Children's stories are more powerful conveyers of worldview because a child is in the process of formation. Don't we have a responsibility as adults to discern the hidden as well as overt messages in children's stories, even our own? Shouldn't we steer them away from the 'danger of a single story,' for example, about certain kinds of people?"

"Is there a right 'age of consent' for young people to roam freely in the world of stories? Is a parent solely to decide or are we in the wider community of adult writers, publishers, and educators also called to defend young minds and hearts? If so, shouldn't we pay closer attention to our stories and perhaps limit our freedom more than artists who produce works for adults?"

Wow, was I cranky. But what do you think?  I don't mind you showing me why and how I was off. Or on. Or both. Don't hold back.

Happy Bengali New Year! It's also TIGER BOY's Book Birthday!

Happy Book Birthday to my new novel for young readers, TIGER BOY, set in the Sunderbans region of West Bengal, India! The publication date was picked months ago, and we had no idea that it would release on Bengali New Year's Day. It's the year 1422, people! Congratulations also to Jamie Hogan, the book's illustrator.
The Bengal tiger is even more breathtaking up close. This was taken in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in the Tiger Preserve.
Even the binding of the book is beautiful. Thank you, Charlesbridge.
Introducing Neel and his sister Rupa. Illustration courtesy of Jamie Hogan.
If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area 4/18 or in the Boston area 4/26 , you're invited to a book launch party.