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On Sunday we surprised the cast and crew of Rickshaw Girl
by showing up for their last performance in San Ramon before the show heads to San Francisco. This Bay Area Children's Theatre performance of Aditi Kapil's well-paced, poignant script, directed masterfully by Vidhu Singh, surpassed my wildest dreams. Beauty abounded — spilling over from the set design, through the music and dancing, via the actors, until it filled the faces of the rapt audience.
I especially enjoyed hearing whispered comments from young theatergoers that revealed a deep engagement with the story and affection for the characters. Thanks to one and all involved for the gift of this show to me and my family. (If you want to see it during the next few weekends in S.F. or in Berkeley, you may order tickets here
|The stage design transports you to a village in Bangladesh.|
|Ma and I quietly took our seats. Can you spot us?|
|Afterwards, we greeted the actors in the lobby.|
|My Ma with Naima's Ma (Ariel Irula) and Baba (Pankaj Jha)|
|Aren't they adorable?|
|Even seeing the tickets was thrilling.|
Here's the official video from the Bay Area Children's Theater, followed by some professional shots taken during the show by Joshua Posamentier.
Every Saturday and Sunday at 11 and 2 from 4/2-5/22, you can catch the Bay Area Children's Theater's beautiful adaptation of my novel Rickshaw Girl. GET TICKETS HERE!
And if you want to get a signed copy, come to the show when I'll be there (see below). Thanks for supporting this story of a brave girl who finds a way to honor her family.
I'm an advocate of safe spaces. I like creating them, especially for children. I also like creating in them. In my years as a writer of children's stories, it feels to me like the tension and hostility about issues such as appropriation and authenticity is growing. Sometimes this exhausts me, and I'm tempted to crawl off the fire escape and hide. But there's too much at stake (i.e., the well-being of children). So, in order to keep pressing on in my mission, I offer these questions as a checklist for fellow authors and illustrators, perhaps as fodder for discussion in critique groups and conferences, or for your private journaling pleasure.
As always, conversation is encouraged as we pass the tea and biscuits.
- "How big is the power gap between me and my main character?"
- "What kinds of power gaps exist between me and my characters in the time and place of their story?" (i.e., class, culture, education...)
- "How do these gaps matter in the time and place of potential receivers of my story?"
- "How have I crossed those gaps in real life?"
- "Given my answers to 1-4, should I begin the work of listening, learning, and loving needed to tell this story? Or should I leave it for another to tell?"
I'm scheduled to be a Highlights Foundation mentor this summer, and so was recently interviewed by author Barbara Dee on a blog called "From The Mixed Up Files ... of Middle-Grade Authors." She asked me about middle-grade fiction and mentoring, and then added a question about whether or not white authors can write main characters of color. I want to share my answer to that here.
Do you feel white authors should avoid writing from the POV of a character of color?
No. I’m alarmed that this question is increasingly asked. As adults who write for and about children, ALL of us have to confront the intersections of our privilege before telling a story. As we explore how we are crossing different kinds of power borders to tell a certain character's story, it should become more clear to us whether or not we should proceed with that story. For example, take my RICKSHAW GIRL. Naima, my main character, and I do share the same cultural origin, skin color, and gender — we are both brown-skinned Bengali girls. But she is an uneducated daughter of a Muslim rickshaw puller while I am the overeducated daughter of a Hindu engineer. Do Naima and I REALLY have the same POV, as some readers might reverentially gush? It’s tricky, though, as some power differentials shriek with pain in our culture thanks to the realities of American history while others are more muted. Tread carefully, friends, as all of us must in this powerful, mind-shaping vocation, but don’t set up some crazy apartheid system in the realm of stories. Ethnicity is a social construct: in a world where we are mixing and melding more than ever, are you going to decide who is a Muggle and who is Pureblood enough to tell a story?
is one of five finalists for the Mare di Libri Prize
(Sea of Books) for best Young Adult fiction of 2015. The winner will be chosen by a jury of 10 dedicated (strong) readers in the 14-15 year old range, garnered from all parts of Italy. The five finalists were chosen by seasoned librarians, booksellers, editors and teachers.
The prize, in its third year, was created because young adult boy and girl readers have become the true judges of literature geared toward them. The announcement of the five finalists is the first important stage of the Mare di Libri Festival, the first and only festival in Italy dedicated exclusively to teenagers. The ninth edition of the festival will take place from June 17-19 in Rimini.
The other finalists are The Secrets of Heap House
, Edward Carey; Tinder
by Sally Gardner; Escape Crime
by Christophe Leon; and Tell Me About a Perfect Day
by Jennifer Niven.
(As translated by my former next-door neighbor and friend, Lory Zottola Dix — Grazie, Lory!)
My novel for elementary-aged readers, RICKSHAW GIRL
(chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the best books for children over the past 100 years), is pedaling to the stage in a wonderful musical adaptation! The Bay Area Children's Theatre
will put on shows at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday from April 12 to May 22, first in San Ramon's Front Row Theater, next at the San Francisco's Children's Creativity Museum, and last but not least in Berkeley at The Osher Studio.
Here's the ticket purchase information
. If you want to say hello and get a signed book, I plan to be there at the opening shows in San Francisco (Saturday, April 16 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.) and the closing shows in Berkeley (Sunday, May 22 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.).
I'm all for truth and justice, but question Scholastic's recent decision to recall a book. The slope is too slippery.
What about books published last year? Ten years ago? A century ago? Should they be recalled also? Should we protect today's children from the positive depictions of colonialism in TINTIN IN THE CONGO and BABAR by recalling them? What about black Asia and Silas standing in the back of the room in LITTLE MEN and JO'S BOYS?
Instead of recalling, Scholastic could seize this chance to get a dozen MORE books out there about the history of African-Americans in the United States. They could lead the way to avoid the danger of a single story. They could set a new goal to actively publish excellent books for and about African-American children told by many voices.
But I fear they won't. It's too dangerous now.
I hope we aren't veering towards banning, recalls, and censorship steered by social media because outcry can go many ways. It's thrilling that depictions of kids on the margins, past and present, are now questioned and debated with passion and fury. That's the real victory, and the best modeling for the next generation.
Thanks, Girls Leadership
, for selecting RICKSHAW GIRL as a Parent / Daughter Book Club Pick, and for inviting me in to your offices to be interviewed by the brilliant Daliya.
My Saint Mary's College of California Jan Term students are beginning to consider the consequences of growing up with food insecurity and poor nutrition in our neighboring City of Oakland. This class is a community engagement course, one of Saint Mary's core curriculum requirements, and a distinctive for the school.
|"Eat it," said Sara,|
"And you will not be so hungry.
When it comes to hunger, I plan to fill their minds with statistics, research, and facts, and they're using hands and hearts to work with children in the Oakland schools, but I still think there's nothing better than fiction to inform the imagination. I remember hating fictional hunger in the pit of my nine-year-old stomach when reading about the Pepper family in THE FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS, Sara Crewe in A LITTLE PRINCESS, the Hummel family in LITTLE WOMEN, the Brinker family in HANS BRINKER AND THE SILVER SKATES, and the Ingalls family in THE LONG WINTER.
What other children's books inform the imagination when it comes to the experience of hunger?
Why do I love Dr. Huck? First, because of her commitment to children's literature. Here are excerpts from her 2005 obituary
in the L.A. Times
The educator's 33-year effort to develop and enhance an academic program in children's literature at Ohio State University established her as a national authority on the subject.
Huck's reputation grew with the 1961 publication of her textbook, "Children's Literature in the Classroom," now in its seventh edition, and with her 1976 creation of the quarterly review Wonderfully Exciting Books, covering classroom use of children's books.
"Reading was part of my life, and I wanted children to have the same opportunity," Huck said in a 1981 appearance on television's "Good Morning America."
A native of Evanston, Ill., Huck studied at Wellesley College and earned her bachelor's degree from Northwestern University. After teaching briefly in Midwestern elementary schools, she completed her master's and doctorate at Ohio State University and joined its faculty in 1955.
While she was teaching teachers how to boost children's reading, Huck earned Ohio State's Distinguished Teaching Award in 1972 and the Landau Award for Distinguished Service in teaching children's literature in 1979.
Huck also served on the American Library Association committees for the Newbery and Caldecott medals, awarded to outstanding writers of children's literature.
Huck retired from Ohio State in 1988. But she wasn't finished.
Relocating to Redlands, she wrote five children's books herself: "Princess Furball," "Secret Places," "Toads and Diamonds," "The Black Bull of Norroway" and "A Creepy Countdown."
Huck helped create an annual children's literature festival at the University of Redlands, similar to one she had developed at Ohio State. The Redlands festival was named for her in 2000.
"We must keep reading aloud to children," she advised teachers at the 1998 festival. "If you're not reading aloud to them, you're not teaching reading. The story is what motivates children to want to read."
Now that's a children's literature champion.
The second reason I love her is because of this award
established in her honor by the National Council of Teachers of English. The award recognizes "fiction that has the potential to transform children’s lives by inviting compassion, imagination, and wonder." What a glorious statement! And to my extreme delight, Tiger Boy
has been selected as a 2016 NTCE Charlotte Huck Outstanding Fiction for Children Honor Book (in excellent company)!
I've changed my vocational statement thanks to Dr. Huck. From now on it is to "invite compassion, imagination, and wonder" through my fiction. Congratulations to all the winners!
I'm thrilled that parents and kids are reading Rickshaw Girl together this month, thanks to a recommendation from Girls' Leadership, a wonderful organization with this mission:
Girls Leadership teaches girls the skills to know who they are, what they believe, and how to express it, empowering them to create change in their world.
Please join us on December 2nd (8 p.m. EDT, 5 p.m. PDT) for a live video chat about the book.
Flashback to me as young parent: I'm taking our two brown boys to the library on a weekly outing that never fails to delight. They tug me into the children's section, drop my hands, and race off to wander freely through aisles of beautiful picture books. (I browse, too, but keep an eye on them and the public bathrooms. I've heard my mother's stern warnings about her grandchildren's safety even though I roll my eyes when she issues them.)
Tim picks his usual fairy tales and adventures. Jim finds the scary stories and funny books. I look for good historical fiction to add to the pile. I also am on a constant hunt for brown faces in all kinds of stories. Ezra Jack Keats (A SNOWY DAY) comes home with us, along with Vera Williams (MORE, MORE, MORE SAID THE BABY). Trina Schart Hyman's illustrations of brown princesses and Chinese princes catch my eye.
There weren't any picture books I could find back then about the Indian-American experience and/or our colonial heritage, but today, I could have added CHACHAJI'S CUP by Uma Krishnaswami, for example, and GRANDFATHER GANDHI by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus to our pile.
But what if the ONE BOOK I could find featuring an Indian child was a sweetly-told tale about food? In one panel, a sari-clad mother and her brown child are standing around a table of feasting Brits, serving them during the Raj period. The Indian mother and daughter are smiling and looked safe, but later they subversively and courageously claim part of the meal while hiding in a closet.
Our boys were four; they colored self-portraits at school with dark brown crayon. They knew they were Indian. Their grandmother wore a sari. They knew who they resembled physically and ethnically on big and small screens, as well as on the pages of books. If the story I described in the preceding paragraph had been the ONLY BOOK—the single story—reflecting their emerging ethnic identity, I might have hesitated to take it home. How could I use this ONE BOOK to explain to the boys why Indians had been forced to serve the British for so many years? How would I underline the suffering of colonial oppression that our ancestors had endured?
But what if I'd also had access to both of the picture books I listed earlier, and more? What if there were multiple stories around which we could gather as a family that represented the uniqueness (windows) and
normalcy (mirrors) of Indian people, both past and present? Then my decision about that ONE BOOK would have changed. I would have loved to take it home, because we had a wide collection of stories and images in which to place it. I could have said, "Remember in CHACHAJI'S CUP when we read about how Britain ruled India? This story takes place in that time. This is before GRANDFATHER GANDHI led the Indian people to freedom."
Given the current discussion
about the representation of slavery in picture books, I'm posting my favorite TED talk by Chimamanda Adichie below. My hope is that even during this racially-charged season of history as a nation, we remember not to outsource the entirety of the black experience to a single story. Let's take stock of the emerging and existing collection of stories we offer children around the storytelling fire. Are we creating, publishing, sharing, compiling, buying, featuring, and promoting MANY excellent stories all year around about black lives, past and present, offering a plethora of windows and mirrors?
And then, writers and illustrators, get to work! Let's hone our craft, pursue excellence, and tell a whole bunch of great stories in creative freedom. We're going to make even more mistakes than we already do if our books are forced to bear the burden of serving as that ONE STORY. If you relied on me and my books alone to represent the South Asian experience, I'd crumble under the pressure. I've made too many mistakes already.
Editors, publishers, booksellers, prize committees, and reviewers, I love that you are producing and celebrating MANY STORIES about MANY CHILDREN! Keep it up! MORE, MORE, MORE, say the babies!
Teachers, parents, librarians, booksellers, as you display, handsell, promote, and read MANY STORIES aloud, maybe we won't need this heated and difficult discussion about ONE BOOK. Although part of me is glad that we're talking about it so widely. Because back when our boys were four and I was leading them through a library, it felt like I was the only one keeping an eye out for brown and black faces in books. Now I have you guys, thanks be to God.
Last night I had a magical experience. I was invited to attend a workshopping of RICKSHAW GIRL, the stage version, by the Bay Area Children's Theater (BACT). Playwright Aditi Kapil was in town from Minnesota to work with director Vidhu Singh, and our evening started with dinner at Toast in Oakland.
|From L to R: Me, Vidhu Singh, Water Bottle, BACT's Ben Hanna, and Aditi Kapil|
After dinner, we headed to BACT headquarters in Montclair, Oakland, and the talented team of actors, director, producer, and playwright began to work through the script. When you create a story in your head and people it with characters who exist only in your imagination, it is otherworldly to see them come to life. As I listened in wonder, I found myself moved by the plight of a young Bangladeshi girl who wants so desperately to help her family. I had written the darn thing, but last night Naima's story was presented to me in a fresh and sweet form. It was the same; it was completely different. It was magic.
|Aditi's amazing script adds song, dance, staging, character depth, pacing, and emotional resonance to the story.|
|The actors who play the main characters, Naima and Saleem, are as adorable in real life as they are in this picture.|
|"What is scansion?" wondered the theatrical neophyte. In silence, of course.|
|Here's the first read-through of the rickshaw crash scene.|
|The RICKSHAW GIRL team: actors, director, author, and playwright. |
From Publishers Weekly Nov. 2, 2015 issue:
FSG Crosses the ‘Borderline’ With Perkins
After winning a multiple-round auction, Grace Kendall at Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers took world rights, for six figures, to Mitali Perkins’s YA novel Borderlines. The book, which is set for a fall 2017 release, was sold by Laura Rennert at the Andrea Brown Agency. Perkins has written nine books for children and won multiple literary awards, including the E.B. White Young Adult Honor. Rennert said Borderlines, which links 15 stories about a Bengali family in Queens, features “the literary charm of The House on Mango Street and the bittersweet poignancy of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent.” Perkins was born in Kolkata, India, and the novel, Rennert noted, is “inspired by [the author’s] own experience as the youngest of three sisters who arrived in America with a wave of immigrants in the 1970s.”
Yesterday I spoke on a panel of all female young adult authors and editors
. Our audience was a group of almost all female librarians. After our panel, a representative from Gender Spectrum
shared his understanding of gender and children, and his organization's mission to serve transgendered children.
As he spoke, I found myself getting more and more irritated. At the end, I raised my hand and fired off an aggressive question—I can hardly remember what I asked. Then, as he was answering diplomatically and politely, I cut him off, blurting out something like, “That’s a lot of powerful adults making a decision for a powerless child!”
It got worse. I stormed out of the panel and leaped in my car. It took a few minutes for the a wave of shame to overwhelm me. I’m not usually that rude, am I? Maybe I’m turning into the wicked villain of western fairy tales: a curmudgeonly old woman, I thought. That’s it. I’ve become a crone.
But as I drove to my parents’ house, I realized I was more than cranky and irritated. I was furious. But why?
He was championing marginalized children. I’m all for that.
He was encouraging us to create safe spaces for children in danger of bullying or self-harm. I’m definitely for that.
He was telling us that children should be free to decide their own identities. I can advocate for that.
Then why was I so ANGRY? I've been ruminating over the possible reasons for my rage, and here’s what I've realized.
(1) In his portrayal of gender as three-fold—in biology, expression, and identity—he didn’t mention the unique capacity of women to become pregnant, sometimes against our will
. Being born with a biological uterus brings a potential cost that doesn’t come with expressing
yourself as a woman and identifying
as a woman. Especially in villages where brown and black women suffer through fistula
, female genital cutting
, child marriage
, and rape
. Think about living in places where a girl can be shot in the face for speaking up (I love you, Malala
(2) In his portrayal of gender as fluid, he didn’t mention the history of oppression that women have and continue to experience—especially brown and black women
. Out of her suffering and marginalization, Sojourner Truth won the right to ask, “Ain’t I a Woman?
(Take your time to watch the video below of Alfre Woodard re-enacting this landmark speech--it's beautiful.)
To choose to be a woman is significantly different than to choose to be a man given the history and continued existence of pervasive misogyny
. Maybe this is why we are seeing an odd rift
between feminists and the trans community. We're all in favor of championing marginalized voices, but we can't nod our heads dumbly without exploring the nuances and tension within each particular situation. “Diversity” is complex, and rightfully so.
(3) In his push to prove that gender is no longer binary (male and female), the Gender Spectrum speaker seemed to contradict himself: apparently, it’s no longer binary unless a child insistently, persistently, and consistently decides to be male or female. Why this particular statement was a punch in the gut didn’t come to me until this morning, when I realized it was an emotion akin to how I feel when I encounter cultural appropriation.
It's a question of power.
Here was a white, adult man telling me it was essentially the same thing for a girl to want to be a boy as for a boy to want to be a girl. It was all about the choice and desire of the child, he was saying. He was drawing squiggly lines here, there, and everywhere to show how anybody could choose to be anything. And this made the little brown girl in me furious, because the rights of powerless biological girls are consistently, persistently, and insistently overcome by the desires and intentions of powerful adults, usually men.
I was born a third daughter in a culture that scorned my mother for producing me. In response, she dressed me as a boy in public. People would laud her for giving her husband such a chubby, healthy son. I knew how unhappy she was, and so I (insistently, persistently, and consistently) wanted to be a boy for years. I wanted to make my mother happy—what child doesn’t?
|Guess which one wanted to be a boy?|
If powerful adults want to change the gender of a powerless child (which means, given the reality of this world, typically a child biologically born as a girl), and we provide the means and technology for them to do so from infancy on
, won’t this further skew cultures away from a 50-50 ratio of biological men and women
Even if son-desiring parents wait until the child can express her gender and her identity, as this speaker was advocating, couldn’t a desire for adult approval and cultural power lead to this child passionately expressing a desire to become a boy?
My rage came to a head when I arrived at my parents’ house. Sixty years ago my mother was given in marriage to a man she didn’t know. The dowry was good. She was a teenager without voice or choice. (My great-grandmother was nine when she was married off, so I guess it wasn’t so bad for Ma—everything’s relative, right? No pun intended.) Now my mother is tenderly caring for a man she didn’t choose to marry, and she's doing it with grace and joy. If she could have looked ahead to the miscarriages, traumatic childbirths, shame, abuse, onerous maternal duties, and lack of power she experienced ALL THROUGHOUT her life as a woman, would the child version of her have chosen to identify and express herself as a man? Wouldn’t she have changed the biology of her daughters in the womb if science had given her the capacity?
I’m grateful for a sisterhood of suffering brown women around the globe, and the chance to speak up on their behalf. Here’s what I want to say to the folks at Gender Spectrum before they make their next presentation: Step outside of North American borders, please, and exit modern time for a moment. Set your discussion about gender in the context of history as well as while acknowledging the present-day oppression of women. The biology of being born a girl, and especially a brown girl, launches you on a different hero’s journey. If you're not convinced, come over, have a cup of tea with my mother, and listen to her stories.
In the meantime, I’m casting my vote for Malala as woman of the decade.
"Tiger Boy is a story of hope; it’s about the splendour of the mangrove forests and islands, the magnificence of the tiger and its vulnerability, and human resilience in the face of adversity." — National Geographic Traveller India
"Read the book to find out who finds the cub — and how. It will be time well-spent. The language is easy, the tale, gripping. Young (and adult) readers are bound to get caught in the suspense and the action that surrounds the siblings’ quest for the cub. I found myself racing toward the end in one satisfying read. On the surface, the story is simple. But what I liked about the book is the multiplicity and complexity of issues that the author weaves in, effortlessly, in the narrative: climate change, gender discrimination, the press of poverty and how it compels you to work against your conscience. — Indian Express
"It’s only once a while that you get a book that manages to create a lump in your throat and at the same time makes you read as fast as you can because you want to know what happens next. Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins, published by Duckbill Books, is one such book." — Indian Moms Connect
For more on the book, visit www.tigerboy.org.
This summer, as kids set up lemonade stands, car washes, and dog walking services, consider inspiring them to give a portion of their entrepreneurial proceeds to the children of Nepal.
Before the earthquakes, Nepalese were working fiercely to increase the literacy rate by building libraries across the country. Apart from our sorrow over the loss of life during and after the disaster, we also grieve a devastating setback in the country's efforts to progress in education.
We can help rebuild education and literacy in Nepal. Why not read a book featuring that beautiful Himalayan country with your children, Girl Scout/Boy Scout troop, summer reading program, Sunday School or Vacation Bible School class? Then encourage them to raise money for an organization working to rebuild libraries and literacy in response to the earthquakes. Check out a few choices below (reviews courtesy of School Library Journal), and please add more options for good books to read and organizations to support in the comments.
Books Set in NepalChandra's Magic Light: A Story in Nepal
by Theresa Heine (Author), Judith Gueyfier (Illustrator), published by Barefoot Books, May 2014.
K-Gr 3—While shopping in the marketplace, Chandra and her sister, Deena, watch a man selling solar lights. Because few have electricity, at home, Nepali families use tukis, or kerosene lamps, that are very smoky and produce unhealthy fumes. Although the solar lamp is expensive, the girls are certain that it would help quiet their baby brother's smoke-induced cough. They excitedly share the information about the "magic light" with their father. However, it isn't until he sees one working at a neighbor's house that he becomes interested. The new lamps cost more than the family has available, so the girls brainstorm ways they can earn the money. They decide to sell bunches of colorful rhododendrons that grow in the hills. Arriving early to market, Deena has time to tell Chandra a story of the sun god, Surya, and the moon god, Chandra. The young girl is proud to be named for such a powerful god. The girls' stall does well, and they are able to purchase the last solar light available. That night, their little brother sleeps and breathes peacefully. The full-color, mixed-media illustrations dominate the pages with vitality and detail. Thorough endnotes provide much information about Nepal, its people and solar power as well as instructions for making a solar oven. This tale of sibling compassion and ingenuity provides enough story for enjoyment alone but would also work well as an introduction to another culture and religion. — Sara-Jo Lupo Sites, George F. Johnson Memorial Library, Endicott, NY, School Library JournalNamaste!
by Diana Cohn (Author), Amy Cordova (Illustrator), published by Steiner Press, February 2013.
K-Gr 2 — Nima lives in the mountain country of Nepal. Every year her father has to leave to work as a mountain guide for climbers from around the world. The child and her mother part from him with prayers and rice offerings, and by placing a khata, the traditional shawl, around his neck for good luck. Then Nima walks to school. Along the way, she greets yaks, tourists, porters, traders, and Tibetan monks with a "Namaste" by bringing the palms of her hands together and bowing slightly. This greeting translates into "the light in me meets the light in you," and readers soon learn that Nima brings light to everyone around her. The vibrant folk-art illustrations showing the details of Nima's life in her village support the simple story perfectly. This beautiful book will appeal to primary readers and make an ideal addition to multicultural collections. An extensive glossary explains Nepalese terms, and an afterword gives background on Nepalese culture. — Monika Schroeder, American Embassy School, New Delhi, India, School Library JournalI, Doko: The Tale of a Basket
, written and illustrated by Ed Young, published by Philomel, November 2004.
K-Gr 3 – This fable begins at the marketplace, when a young father chooses a new basket for his family. Told from the point of view of the basket, the story proceeds as the baby boy grows up, the man's wife dies, and the son marries and has a family of his own. Through the years, the basket carries infants, crops, and even the woman's body to her grave; it becomes part of the family in a very fundamental way. At last, the father is a disabled old man and his son proposes to leave him at the temple so the priests will have to take care of him. The basket is consigned to carry him there, until the grandson intervenes with a haunting question that offers the moral of this traditional tale from Nepal. A quote from Kung Fu Tze in the sixth century B.C. opens the book: "What one wishes not upon oneself, one burdens not upon another." The simple text offers a splendid backdrop for the beautiful illustrations. Done in gouache, pastel, and collage, the pictures have graceful lines, subtle textures, and magnificent colors. With gold endpapers and gold edgings around each page, there's a timeless quality suited to the story. Lovely. – Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL, School Library JournalSold
by Patricia Mcormack, published by Hyperion Books for Children, 2008.
Gr 9-Up – As this heartbreaking story opens, 13-year-old Lakshmi lives an ordinary life in Nepal, going to school and thinking of the boy she is to marry. Then her gambling-addicted stepfather sells her into prostitution in India. Refusing to be with men, she is beaten and starved until she gives in. Written in free verse, the girls first-person narration is horrifying and difficult to read. In between, men come./They crush my bones with their weight./They split me open./Then they disappear. I hurt./I am torn and bleeding where the men have been. The spare, unadorned text matches the barrenness of Lakshmis new life. She is told that if she works off her familys debt, she can leave, but she soon discovers that this is virtually impossible. When a boy who runs errands for the girls and their clients begins to teach her to read, she feels a bit more alive, remembering what it feels like to be the number one girl in class again. When an American comes to the brothel to rescue girls, Lakshmi finally gets a sense of hope. An authors note confirms what readers fear: thousands of girls, like Lakshmi in this story, are sold into prostitution each year. Part of McCormicks research for this novel involved interviewing women in Nepal and India, and her depth of detail makes the characters believable and their misery palpable. This important book was written in their honor. – Alexa Sandmann, Kent State University, OH, School Library Journal
A film based on McCormick's award-winning novel, Sold: The Movie
, produced by Emma Thompson, is available for screening. Here's the trailer.
Organizations working to (re)build literacy in NepalREAD Nepal
READ has its roots in Nepal, where their first office opened in 1991 after a rural villager told the organization's founder that all he wanted for his village was a library. Since then they have opened READ Centers across the country, offering training programs in livelihood skills, literacy, health, and technology. With partner communities, READ has seeded sustaining enterprises that address community needs: from fish farming and turmeric farming to a community radio station. Almost 4,000 women participate in savings cooperatives at READ Centers in Nepal.Room to Read Nepal
In 1998, Room to Read's Founder, John Wood, delivered his first few hundred books to a school high in the Himalayas, and the organization—then known as Books for Nepal—was born. Since then, Room to Read's local team has expanded operations in the country to include school libraries, reading and writing instruction, school construction, book publishing and girls’ education. They now work in both the Himalayan region and the lowlying Tarai flatlands to improve educational opportunities for Nepal's children.Magic Yeti Children's Libraries
The Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation maintains seven rural libraries in Nepal, and is seeking to build more. Once books arrive in Nepal, volunteers sort through them and divide them between the libraries. Books are either flown or taken by truck to the trail head and then loaded onto yaks, dzopkyos, donkeys, horses or people who carry them to their remote destinations.
For an overview of Nepalese Children's Literature, check out History of Children’s Literature In Nepal
by Biswambhar Ghimire (Chanchal), courtesy of the International Board of Books for Young People.
What's all the Hubbub about? It's the first annual book festival solely for children in Boston this Saturday, June 20. I'll be appearing on a panel (moderated by WBUR's Meghna Chakrabarti) with Jeanne Birdsall and Tor Seidler in the Old South Sanctuary from 11:45-12:45 to talk about the theme of home in middle-grade fiction: "Welcome Home: Great Books for Middle-Grade Readers."
Then, from 3:45-4:45 in the Boston Public Library's Del Rey Room, I'm leading a workshop for upper elementary and teen writers on creating a sense of place in fiction: "A Whole New World: Weaving the Magic Carpet of Place."
Perhaps it's appropriate that my focus will be on "home" and "place," since Boston was both of that to me for almost thirteen years. Will I see you there? It's going to be a beautiful day in Copley Square.
The children's and young adult book publishing community is converging in San Francisco for the American Library Association's Annual Convention this weekend. The buzz is palpable; the parties already starting. Here's my schedule:
Wednesday, June 25:
Author Series: A GROWN-UP CONVERSATION ABOUT CHILDREN’S BOOKS, at the Battery Club in San Francisco. Here's the description of the event:
You may not know it, but a golden age of literature is now unfolding on our bookcases’ lowest shelves. For too long we have neglected a much loved, widely read, artistically significant literary form: the picture book. Join Mac Barnett, Carson Ellis, Jon Klassen, and Christian Robinson, four young voices in children’s literature, for a discussion about how picture books work, why they matter, and how we can ensure our children get the great art they deserve.Thursday, June 26
I'll be partying with my agent, Laura Rennert, and other writers and agents at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency ALA Get-Together from 6-8 p.m.Saturday, June 27
Daniel Handler and Jacqueline Woodson with We Need Diverse Books are hosting a celebration of
Scott Bonner, director of the Ferguson Public Library and winner of the 2015 Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity. This event will take place from 6-9 p.m. Sunday, June 28
From 9-10, a bunch of YA authors and librarians will be mingling at the YALSA Coffee Klatch
. Here's the description:
Enjoy coffee and meet with YALSA's award winning authors! This informal coffee klatch will give you an opportunity to meet authors who have appeared on one of YALSA’s six annual selected lists or have received one of YALSA's five literary awards. Librarians will sit at a table and every 3 or 4 minutes, a new author will arrive at your table to talk about their upcoming books!
From 10:30 - 11:30, I'll be signing copies of TIGER BOY in Charlesbridge booth #3116. Please stop by and say hello.
At noon, I'll join Sage Publications and ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom at the 2nd annual Banned Books Readout Booth, where I'm going to read a short passage from THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie, and then speak from the heart about why that book matters to me.
Hope to see you there!
Charlesbridge provides stellar discussion and activity guides for my books, and here's the new one for TIGER BOY to prove my point.
I'm delighted that my novel TIGER BOY is heading for publication in India, thanks to Duckbill Press. In honor of International Tiger Day, here's the almost-final cover designed by Tanvi Bhat in the traditional patachitra style of the Bengal region. Isn't it beautiful?
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If there's a shortage of clotted cream in the British Isles, feel free to blame my recent visit to London. As usual, I overdosed on Darjeeling and scones laden with liberal servings of my favourite (note the spelling) dairy product.
My husband suggested that we see WAR HORSE
in the theater, and I reluctantly agreed, curmudgeon that I am when it comes to literary adaptations. Let the record stand: I didn't see the film. The curtain went up, and to my amazement, I was hooked within minutes. Much of my pleasure was derived from the creative puppetry provided by South Africa's Handspring Productions
. These artists made it easy to suspend disbelief and cheer for the beautiful horses on stage.
I popped into Blackwell's Bookshop in Oxford
to buy a copy of the book
by Michael Morpurgo and read it on the flight home. The novel is delightful, but the stage production takes it to a new level thanks to the added talents of directors, actors, stage designers, and most of all, the puppeteers.
I stand corrected about theatrical adaptations, at least when handled with excellence in craft and story. And I'm more hopeful and excited to see what the creative team at the Bay Area Children's Theater will do with their adaptation of my novel RICKSHAW GIRL
April 16, 2016 on the stage of the Creativity Theater in San Francisco
We writers like to be in charge of our stories, but magical things can happen when we release the reins and harness the talents of others. Perhaps our stories will be able to gallop into the hearts and minds of a much wider audience. Fodder for thought? (Sorry.)