2015 South Asia Book Award Winners

Looking for a high-quality children's or young adult book published in the U.S.A. that portray South Asia or South Asians living abroad? Check out the South Asia Book Award.  To encourage and commend authors and publishers who produce such books, and to provide librarians and teachers with recommendations for educational use, the South Asia National Outreach Consortium (SANOC) offers a yearly book award to call attention to outstanding works on South Asia. Congratulations to this this year's winners.

2015 South Asia Book Award Winners

Twenty-Two-Cents
Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank by Paula Yoo, illustrated by Jamel Akib (Lee &Low Books Inc., 2014). Twenty-Two Cents smartly chronicles the life and inspiration behind Nobel Peace Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus, and the internationally transformative Grameen Bank’s micro-lending system. Coupled with rich illustrations that vibrantly capture the essence and depth of Yunus’ experiences, this poignant picture book easily lends itself to readers of all ages. Includes an afterword and author’s source notes. (Grades 2-5)
Bombay Blues
Bombay Blues by Tanuja Desai Hidier (PUSH, an imprint of Scholastic Press, 2014). The dense, chaotic, yet lyrical, pulse of daily life in Bombay collides with the dissonant, hip-hop sensibility of affluent, urban Indian youth in this story of Dimple, a young Indian-American woman’s journey of self-discovery. (Grades 10 and up)

 2015 Honor Winners

A Time to Dance
A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2014). Skillfully told in verse, Veda’s inspirational story reveals an athletic young woman passionate about traditional Indian dance. When she loses a leg in an accident she must fight to determine her identity and future. (Grades 6 and up)
Chandra's Magic Light A Story in Nepal
Chandra’s Magic Light: A Story in Nepal by Theresa Heine; illustrated by Judith Gueyfier (Barefoot Books, 2014). Living in a traditional village in Nepal, young sisters pick and sell flowers at the market to earn money to buy a solar lamp which will help the air quality in their home. Soft complimentary illustrations. Excellent end notes. (Grades K-3)
God Loves Hair
God Loves Hair by Vivek Shraya; illustrated by Juliana Neufeld (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2014). A seemingly unconnected collection of beautifully written vignettes, tells the true story of a young Indian teen trying to find his place in the world. Shraya writes with intense honesty and insight about the cutting pain of not only being of a different race and religion, but also discovering that he is gay. Readers will be amazed by the author’s strength and resilience. (Grades 7 and up)
Secrets of the Sky Caves
Secrets of the Sky Caves: Danger and Discovery on Nepal’s Mustang Cliffs by Sandra K. Athans (Millbrook Press, 2014). The Mustang Cliffs in Nepal have been untouched for thousands of years. Discover how mountain climbers, archaeologists, scientists and historians all learned how to traverse the seemingly inaccessible “Sky Caves.” What secrets will these modern day adventurers discover – keys to an ancient civilization or simply plundered cave dwellings? (Grades 4-6)

2015 Highly Commended Books

A Pair of Twins
A Pair of Twins by Kavitha Mandana; illustrated by Nayantara Surendranath (Karadi Tales, 2014). A vibrantly illustrated and empowering tale of an Indian girl and her “twin,” an elephant born the same day, who bravely break down cultural and gender barriers while taking on roles historically restricted to males. (Grades K-3)
King for a Day
King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan; illustrated by Christiane Krömer (Lee & Low Books Inc., 2014). Despite being confined to a wheelchair, Malik endeavors to capture the most kites during Basant, the spring festival of kites in Lahore, Pakistan, and become “king” of this special day. Includes author’s note. (PreK-Grade 2)
Escape from Tibet
Escape from Tibet: A True Story by Nick Gray with Laura Scandiffio (Annick Press, 2014). Based on a true story, two brothers from Tibet embark on a dangerous journey to India in search of a better life. A thrilling story of courage and adventure, readers will delight in Tenzin and Pasang’s trek to freedom. (Grades 5-8)
Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal
Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson; illustrated by Adrian Alphona (Marvel Worldwide Inc., 2014). Kamala Khan is many things – a teenager, Pakistani-American, Muslim, Fangirl, and the super hero protector of Jersey City! How is she able to balance all these roles and be the perfect daughter to her parents? Can Kamala be the new Ms. Marvel and still honor her heritage? (Grades 5-8)
The Secret Sky

The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi (Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2014). This classic tale of taboo love illuminates the cultural and political complexities of present-day Afghanistan. Wrought with tension and dreams of a brighter tomorrow, The Secret Sky humanizes a land often only ever heard about in news sound bites. (Grades 8 and up)

"You Are Me," Says A Young Comedian

I got a high compliment recently from Middleton High School student Ali Khan, who told me, basically, that he was my mini-me. Last year, Ali created a trailer for my book OPEN MIC: RIFFS ON LIFE BETWEEN CULTURES IN TEN VOICES (Candlewick, 2013). Our approach in that anthology of adding humor to discussions of race strongly resonated with Ali, who happens to be hilarious (go ahead, watch the trailer he made).

Read On Wisconsin and the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin, Madison arranged an interview to bring us together to share thoughts on the book, racial identity, and humor. Here's an excerpt from the interview:



2015 Jane Addams Book Awards

JANE ADDAMS CHILDREN’S BOOK AWARDS ANNOUNCED

Recipients of the 2015 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.
Winner in the Books for Younger Readers Category

Separate is Never Equal, written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers. When Sylvia Mendez and her siblings enrolled in a new school system, they were told they must attend an inferior “school for Mexicans” because they were dirty, uneducated, and didn’t speak English –despite that all of these things were demonstrably untrue. Sylvia’s family worked tirelessly to unite the Latino community and bring an end to the segregation. Separate is Never Equal brings the story to life with illustrations done in a style meant to echo Mayan codex figures.

Winner in the Books for Older Readers Category

The Girl From the Tar Paper School by Teri Kanefield, also published by Abrams Books for Young Readers. Sixteen year old Barbara Rose Johns, a high school student, led a student walk out to protest racial inequality in the school system. It was the first public protest of its kind, and one of the cases that helped end segregation as part of Brown vs. the Board of Education.

Honor Books in the Younger Reader Category


Whispering Town, written by Jennifer Elvgren, illustrated by Fabio Santomauro, and published by Kar-Ben Publishing, tells the story of a young child in a small town in Nazi-occupied Denmark that united to smuggle Jews out of the country. Perfectly balancing the dread of the situation with the heroism of the townspeople, this book is an excellent introduction to the subject matter for young children.

Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914, by John Hendrix, published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, tells the story of the Christmas Truce in the trenches of WWI. The powerful story conveys the futility of war and the powerlessness of individual soldiers who are nonetheless united in eking out a moment of shared humanity amid chaos.

Honor Books in the Books for Older Children category

Revolution, by Deborah Wiles, published by Scholastic Press, uses a unique format that incorporates primary source documents and song lyrics from the 1960’s with more conventional novel narration to tell the story of Freedom Summer through the eyes of young people whose worlds are turning upside down. Primarily told through the voice of Sunny, a young white girl, depth and perspective are added to the narrative through Raymond, a black boy, and a third-person narrator.

Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal, by Margarita Engle, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is a complex book that uses free verse poetry to give a voice to the many lives touched by the creation of the Panama Canal including the workers from the Caribbean, indigenous people, employees from the U.S., and even the jungle itself, conveying a story of profound injustice and inequality – and a fight for basic human rights.

A national committee chooses winners and honor books for younger and older children. Members of the 2015 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Committee are Marianne Baker (VA), Kathryn Bruce (TN), Ann Carpenter (chair, MA), Julie Olsen Edwards (CA), Susan Freiss (WI), Lani Gerson (MA), Jacqui Kolar (IL), Lauren Mayer (WA), Beth McGowan (IL), Mary Napoli (PA), Heather Palmer (MN), Ilza Garcia (TX), Sonja Cherry-Paul (NY). Regional reading and discussion groups of all ages participated with many of the committee members throughout the jury’s evaluation and selection process.

The 2015 Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards will be presented on Friday, October 16, 2015 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.

Children's Publishers Donate Books to Prison-Nursery Libraries

In honor of Mother’s Day, the last day of Children’s Book Week 2015, the Children’s Book Council (CBC) partnered with The unPrison Project — a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to empowering and mentoring women in prison, while raising awareness of their families’ needs — to create libraries of books for incarcerated mothers to read with their babies at prison nurseries in 10 states: California, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska, New York, South Dakota, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

17 of the CBC’s member publishers donated copies of 45 hand-picked titles for children ages 0-18 months for each library. I'm excited, because four of the publishers are mine!

The books will be paired with simple interactive reading guides— fostering mother-child dialogue and bonding — and will be hand-delivered and organized in the nurseries by Deborah Jiang-Stein, founder of The unPrison Project and author of Prison Baby. Jiang-Stein was born in prison to a heroin-addicted mother, and has made it her mission to empower and mentor women and girls in prison. 15 additional titles have also been donated by these publishers to stock visiting room libraries for inmates and their older children.

CBC members participating in the effort are:

  • ABRAMS Books for Young Readers
  • Candlewick Press
  • Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.
  • Creston Books
  • Disney Publishing Worldwide
  • Finding My Way Books
  • Five Star Publications, Inc.
  • HarperCollins Children’s Books
  • Holiday House, Inc.
  • Kane Miller, a division of EDC Publishing
  • Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • National Geographic Kids
  • Nobrow (Flying Eye Books)
  • Penguin Young Readers Group (Nancy Paulsen Books)
  • Random House Children’s Books
  • Scholastic, Inc.
  • The RoadRunner Press

“Of the 200,000 women in prison in the United States, 80% have children. Reading together can be one of the most powerful ways for mothers and their children to stay connected during a prison sentence, but visiting rooms in prisons are vastly underserved and books are hard to come by,” says Deborah Jiang-Stein, founder of The unPrison Project. “These prison-nursery libraries will fill that void for mothers and their babies.”

About the Children’s Book Council (CBC)

The Children’s Book Council is the nonprofit trade association for children’s book publishers in North America. The CBC offers children’s publishers the opportunity to work together on issues of importance to the industry at large, including educational programming, literacy advocacy, and collaborations with other national organizations. Our members span the spectrum from large international houses to smaller independent presses. The CBC is proud to partner with other national organizations on co-sponsored reading lists, educational programming, and literacy initiatives. Please visit www.cbcbooks.org for more information.

About The unPrison Project

The mission of The unPrison Project (UP) is to empower, inspire, and cultivate critical thinking, life skills, self-reflection, and peer mentoring for women and girls in prison as tools to plan, set goals, and prepare for a successful life after their release, and at the same time bring public awareness about the needs of incarcerated women and their children. The unPrison Project is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit. Learn more at www.unprisonproject.org.

TIGER BOY East Coast Book Launch and More!

After I launched TIGER BOY in the San Francisco Bay Area, I headed to the coast I used to call home for the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference, several author visits, and a book launch party at Newtonville Books. What a joy to see old friends and meet new ones. Travel along with me.

My NESCBWI workshop for fellow writers:
"12 Questions to Help us See Race and Culture in our Stories"
Signing with author friends: From L to R, Me, Debi Mishiko Florence (Japan: A Kaleidoscope Kids Book), Mike Jung (Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities), Grace Lin (Starry River of the Sky), and Padma Venkatraman (A Time to Dance).

Delightful to see a bunch of brown faces at the conference (From L to R: Sona Charaipotra, Visi Tilak, Nandini Bajpai, me)
Book Launch Party at Newtonville Books!
Author (me), illustrator (Jamie Hogan), editor (Yo Scott), baby (belongs to Yo), tiger, book: what else do you need for a bookstore party?
"Buy this book, please."
Illustrator Jamie Hogan captivates the crowd with stories about research and technique.
Next came five school visits in three days, starting with writing workshops for fifth-graders at Willard School in Concord, Massachusetts.
Several of these fourth-graders at Zervas School in Newton started following me on Instagram after I visited. They are nine.
Haggerty School in Cambridge is full of mini-mes like this one.
New England seemed shell-shocked from the winter, as though bracing for a next snow. But the daffodils and crocuses were in bloom and the lilacs were budding. Happy Spring, Boston! I miss you!