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Looking Past the Cover • Children's Book Publishing • Diversity and Race • Conversation The blog of independent children's publishing company Lee & Low Books, The Open Book talks about publishing, books, library and school news, race and gender, discrimination and diversity, and more.
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1. Banned Book Week Roundtable: The Evolution of Censorship

This week is Banned Book Week, a celebration of the freedom to read and an acknowledgement of the ongoing fight against censorship. There is much to talk about this year, including a fascinating survey by School Library Journal about librarian self-censorship and a PEN America report on challenged diverse children’s books, coupled with recent conversations sparked by author Lionel Shriver’s controversial comments about cultural appropriation and freedom of speech.

So, where are we when it comes to censorship? We asked authors, scholars, teachers, and librarians to share their thoughts with us in today’s roundtable. Participants:

  • Guadalupe García McCall, author and teacher
  • Jo Knowles, author
  • Pat Scales, librarian
  • Debbie Reese, scholar
Pat, as the former chair of the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, you’ve seen a number of book challenges over the years. What has changed since you first began looking at these issues? What has remained the same?

Pat Scales: Issues related to profanity, violence, and sex have always brought the censors calling. In the early 1970s and 1980s Judy Blume was being censored in school and public libraries coast to coast because she dealt with topics related to sex, bullying and other issues associated with coming of age. These were relatively new topics at the time. Now, her books aren’t challenged so much, but a host of others are. 21st century issues and concerns have ushered in a new wave of books that trouble censors. The Supreme Court decision that made gay marriage legal has caused some conservative groups to target books that deal with LGBTQ topics. As states wrestle with issues like North Carolina’s “Bathroom Bill,” the censors storm libraries looking for books about transgender youth like George by Alex Gino, Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart, and I Am J by Cris Beam. These books are the subject of Internet chatter on various listserves and blogs. Book Fair and Book Club companies refuse to offer these books in an effort to avoid controversy. And librarians, especially school librarians, sometimes avoid purchasing the books because they themselves are uncomfortable with the topic, or because they don’t want to “raise a red flg” to the censors.

The growing incidents of school violence in this country have caused censors to question whether violence has a place in children’s and young adult literature. Never mind that violence has always been present in children’s literature, and that children and young adults get a healthy exposure to street violence on the nightly news.

Conservative Christian groups have always raised concerns about topics that conflict with their religious beliefs. In the days when OIF and NCAC began tracking book censorship attempts, there were lists of “Inappropriate Literature” circulated among conservative organizations. Now these groups have websites and make such lists available by simply clicking a mouse.   These websites come and go, but it remains alarming that a small number of groups want to control the narrative about what children should or shouldn’t read. There is some good news: Calling out censorship attempts to the public has caused the number of challenges to decline.

Book censorship does reflect trends. There is no way to predict what will be next. We must deal with them one at a time.

Jo, your novel Lessons from a Dead Girl appears on ALA’s list of frequently challenged books. How do you respond as an author when your book is challenged? Have you seen challenges change over time?

Jo Knowles: I can’t think of a single conference I’ve attended in the Banned Book Week quote, Jo Knowlespast ten years in which at least one person has not said to me, “I love your books but could never have them in my library/classroom.” Often they say their community is too conservative for books with
“homosexual content.” Sadly, this hasn’t changed.

How do I respond? I share on social media in an attempt to start a thoughtful conversation. At a librarian dinner a year or so ago, one librarian noted she couldn’t have See You At Harry’s in her library (for the usual reason), and then another agreed. I asked them: “What would happen?” One said, “A parent would complain and I’d probably have to remove it.” “That’s it?” I asked. They both got quiet, then agreed they could handle that. I realize that in some communities, people fear losing their jobs. It’s a sad reality. But I still have to try to have the conversation, because sometimes people realize the risk isn’t that great. And if one kid gets to read the book and feel less alone or gain more compassion for others before it gets pulled from the shelves, it’s worth it.

As a teacher and a writer, how do you balance the need to tell the truth about history and parents’ desire to protect their children?

Guadalupe Garcia McCall: As a teacher, parent, and now grandparent, I do have to consider my audience carefully. Because I am in the classroom, I am sensitive to the concerns of parents and other teachers. I try to balance writing about controversial issues by writing with young people’s best interest in mind. That is, I always try to approach these topics honestly, but also respectfully and responsibly. Truth is, young people have information at their fingertips. Even as we are talking about a topic or time period, they reach for their phones and Google it. So there is no point in trying to pretend these things (e.g. the lynching of Mexicans by Texas Rangers in South Texas at the turn of the century) didn’t happen. . . . By discussing sensitive issues in a respectful manner, we are teaching young people not only to have respect for these topics but also to be sensitive to others.

Thinking about recent examples of books with problematic content (i.e., content that was not culturally accurate) being pulled prior to or just after publication, how do you feel about the publishers’ decisions to pull the book?

Debbie Reese: I hope that the recent decisions by publishers to withdraw a book, just before or after the book has been released, marks a turning point for us. We all care about the quality of representations of people. We’re not all in the same place in understanding what “quality” means, but I think social media is helping us reach a wider audience, and therefore, we’re in a substantially different moment.

Pat Scales: Books that reflect a culturally diverse society need to be in classrooms and in school and public libraries. But I’m uncomfortable with a “checklist” that leftist groups have developed to critique these books. I fear that publishers have become so sensitive to these groups that they have second thoughts about books they have committed to publication.

Jo Knowles: If I was a publisher and had a book recently released, or about to be, only to discover that we overlooked a very problematic aspect of the content, at the very least I would want to pull it back for revisions. I know if I were the author or illustrator of such a book I would want the same. If there’s a way to correct the problem, why wouldn’t you?

What, if anything, differentiates these examples from censorship?

Jo Knowles: Teachers and librarians weed books from collections when they discover they’ve become outdated or have incorrect information all the time. I don’t see that as censorship but as standard practice for collection development and management.

What differentiates these examples from censorship is that they are an issue of factual inaccuracy and cultural misrepresentation. That’s not the same as pulling a book because an individual found the content inappropriate for personal reasons, such as containing the presence of witchcraft, use of the word “scrotum,” or, as is often the case with my books, including an LGBT character.

Pat Scales: Publishers have an obligation to “fact-check” their booksBanned Book Week quote, Debbie Reese for “accurate portrayals” of diverse groups before the books are actually published.   Companies are for profit, and make business decisions regarding the sales of books, but when a book is pulled prior to or immediately following publication it smacks of censorship. Is the concern that a reviewer may pan the book, and therefore affect sales? Or, is it about doing the right thing?   Teachers and librarians are placed in the position to defend books when the censor calls, and publishers should defend the books they elect to publish. Librarians make mistakes, and so do publishers. But those mistakes die a natural death.

Debbie Reese: I don’t view publishers making decisions to hold or withdraw a book as engaging in censorship. These are business decisions made by business people who’ve reflected on concerns they heard. They responded to those concerns. We aren’t privy to the conversations, but my guess is that some of the conversation was about the public relations and reputation of the company, and that some of it was about the new information brought forth via social media.

I imagine the conversations were terse at times, with some arguing that the company should not “give in” to voices of dissent. I also imagine that such arguments were countered with an argument that the demographics in the US are shifting, and that it is a wise business decision to pay attention to that shift.

The ideal is to have more books with good representation, but problems do persist. How should we handle books with incorrect or culturally insensitive content? 

Debbie Reese: Even very young children understand the concept of fairness. I think that concept is one avenue by which teachers can approach incorrect or culturally insensitive content. I firmly believe that the idea that young children are “too young” to be taught about bias and stereotyping is a problem. It lets ideas they absorb–simply by being a person moving through a society laden with stereotyping at every level–take root. It makes it harder for children to unlearn these stereotypes. Some resist, while others feel betrayed that their teachers gave them worksheets for years, of (for example), smiling Indians at Thanksgiving.

Teachers have a very important job: to educate. Parents trust that teachers won’t do wrong by their kids. There is an implicit trust in the teacher’s judgement. Teachers choose–every day–what they will, and will not, share with their students. . . . If a teacher gives children a book with inaccurate information in it, I believe they have a responsibility to point out those errors–or choose something else! If they choose to use it and point out the error, it teaches children a valuable lesson: you can’t trust every word in a book. That’s a powerful lesson!

Debbie Reese

Tribally enrolled at Nambe Pueblo, Debbie Reese founded American Indians in Children’s Literature in 2006. Her book chapters and articles are taught in Education, Library Science, and English courses in the US and Canada. A former schoolteacher and assistant professor in American Indian Studies, she conducts workshops for librarians and teachers and delivers papers and lectures at professional and academic conferences.


Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Guadalupe Garcia McCall was born in Mexico and moved to Texas as a young girl, keeping close ties with family on both sides of the border. Trained in Theater Arts and English, she now teaches English/Language Arts at a junior high school in San Antonio. McCall’s debut novel Under the Mesquite earned the Pura Belpré AwardHer newest novel is Shame the Stars.


Jo Knowles

Jo Knowles is the author of seven young adult novels, including Lessons from a Dead Girl and Still a Work in Progress. She lives in Vermont and teaches in the MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University. Find her online here.


Pat Scales

Pat Scales is a retired middle and high school librarian from Greenville, SC.  She has authored five books that deal with banned and challenged books, including Defending Young Adult Books: A Handbook for Librarians and Teachers, (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016).  She also writes a column “Scales on Censorship” for School Library Journal and is a regular contributor to Book Links magazine.

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2. Building Classroom Community in First Grade

Check out LEE & LOW BOOKS’ Building Classroom Community Unit for First Grade! The FREE and downloadable unit consists of eight read aloud lesson plans to inspire your best classroom community yet.

The start of first grade is ripe with opportunities for building long-lasting positive school behaviors and attitudes. Time spent building relationships and establishing social and academic expectations can pay dividends all year long.

Using a rich collection of diverse picture books to support this work lays the foundation for a classroom culture of appreciation and acceptance.

The Building Classroom Community Unit for First Grade consists of eight read alouds and provides a structured approach for this important work, yet the lessons are flexible enough for you to teach language and behaviors specific to your students’ population, preferences, and goals. Each lesson is intended for multiple days so that from the beginning students are exposed to close reading and the value of multiple readings. We believe the first eight read alouds, or roughly the first two months of school, are critical to setting the tone of your classroom community, read aloud procedures, and expectations for engagement.

PINTEREST Building Classroom Community in First GradeDuring this unit you will:

  • review and build on the expectations for listening and discussion participation introduced in kindergarten, with a new emphasis on staying focused on a topic and building on others’ responses
  • encourage students to learn about one another through discussions of favorite individual and family pastimes and goals for the year ahead
  • engage in rigorous yet developmentally appropriate discussions about crucial topics such as individual strengths and challenges, managing disagreements kindly, and persevering through mistakes and difficult tasks

Each lesson may be used as a stand alone, but we hope that using these books as a broad unit will help lay the foundation for a strong classroom community with strong learning expectations. We designed the unit to spiral. Additionally, each lesson and book can be adapted for other grades (and we hope you will do this!).

Book extension activities encourage exploration of these topics through writing, drama, and art, as well as lay the foundation for collaborative learning during your year.

Here’s to a meaningful year of reading!

Screen Shot 2016-09-15 at 1.06.57 PM
Scope & Sequence

Download the FREE Building Classroom Community Unit for First Grade here

Further reading on teaching literacy in FIRST GRADE

Guided Reading Collections from Bebop Books

Stay tuned for second grade!

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3. Diversify Your Nonfiction With These 5 STEM Innovators of Color

How diverse is your nonfiction collection?

Often when we look at biographies featuring people of color, they repeat the same themes: slavery & civil rights, music, sports. But people of color have contributed positively in every field, including the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. These contributions should be celebrated all year long, not just during heritage months or when there’s a special focus on diversity!
5 STEM Innovators of Color

Today on the blog, we feature 5 STEM innovators of color. Who else would you add to the list?

1. Soichiro Honda

honda

Hondaby Mark Weston, illus. by Katie Yamasaki

 Founder of the Japanese car brand Honda, Soichiro Honda had an inventive mind and a passion for new ideas, and he never gave up on his dream. A legendary figure in the world of manufacturing, Honda is a dynamic symbol of lifelong determination, creativity, and the power of a dream.

Purchase the book here.

2. Gordon Sato

the mangrove tree

The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families, by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore, illus. by Susan L. Roth

Dr. Gordon Sato spent part of his childhood in the Manzanar Internment Camp during WWII, and later became a scientist. He created the Manzanar Project, which found a way to use mangrove trees to provide fuel and food for communities in Eritrea. With alternating verse and prose passages, The Mangrove Tree invites readers to discover how Dr. Gordon Sato’s mangrove tree-planting project transformed an impoverished village into a self-sufficient community.

Purchase the book here.

3. Wangari Maathai

seeds of change

Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace, by Jen Cullerton Johnson, illus. by Sonia Lynn Sadler

Wangari Maathai was the first African woman and environmentalist to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Seeds of Change brings to life her empowering story, from her childhood in Kenya to her role leading a national movement.

Purchase the book here.

4. Vivien Thomas

tiny stitches

Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas, by Gwendolyn Hooks, illus. by Colin Bootman

Vivien Thomas was an African-American surgical technician who developed the procedures used to treat blue baby syndrome. Overcoming racism and resistance from his colleagues, Vivien ushered in a new era of medicine—children’s heart surgery. This book is the compelling story of this incredible pioneer in medicine.

Purchase the book here.

5. Muhammad Yunus

twenty two cents

Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank, by Paula Yoo, illus. by Jamel Akib

Muhammad Yunus is an economist from Bangladesh who founded Grameen Bank and pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance, for which he won a Nobel Peace Prize. Twenty-two Cents is an inspiring story of economic innovation and a celebration of how one person—like one small loan—can make a positive difference in the lives of many.

Purchase the book here.

Also check out our STEM collections:

Adventures Around the World Collection earth day poetry collection

Earth Day Poetry Collection

Environmental Collection

Water Collection – World Water Day

Who did we miss? Let us know in the comments!

1 Comments on Diversify Your Nonfiction With These 5 STEM Innovators of Color, last added: 9/29/2016
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4. Celebrating 25 Books from 25 Years: Chess Rumble

LEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year! To recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today and hear from the authors and illustrators.

Today, we are celebrating Chess Rumble, which explores the ways this strategic game empowers young people with the skills they need to anticipate and calculate their moves through life.

Featured title: Chess Rumble

 Author: G. Neri

 Illustrator: Jesse Joshua WatsonChess Rumble cover image

Synopsis: In Marcus’s world, battles are fought everyday—on the street, at home, and in school. Angered by his sister’s death and his father’s absence, and pushed to the brink by a bullying classmate, Marcus fights back with his fists.

One punch away from being kicked out of school and his home, Marcus encounters CM, an unlikely chess master who challenges him to fight his battles on the chess board. Guarded and distrusting, Marcus must endure more hard lessons before he can accept CM’s help to regain control of his life.

Awards and Honors:

  • Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, American Library Association (ALA)
  • Notable Books in the Language Arts, National Council of Teachers of English
  • Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, International Reading Association (IRA)
  • Top Picks for Reluctant Readers, BoysRead.org

G. Neri, an award-winning filmmaker whose work has earned him several honors. Inspired by his editor, Jennifer Fox, who had wanted to do an urban chess story for years and finally saw the possibility of making it come to life through him, Neri dove into the project with unbridled enthusiasm. “I loved the idea of using chess strategy as a way to approach life. I had dealt with a few teens who had come from troubled pasts and had difficulty finding an outlet for their inner struggle. So the idea of pairing a kid like this with a chess mentor who did not back down came naturally. It was a very organic process, and I let the characters tell me their stories.”

Neri hopes that readers will come away from Chess Rumble “think[ing] about their lives and the choices they make before they make them.” Pressed to continue, Neri says, “I hope they are intrigued to play chess, and maybe start thinking about acting on, instead of reacting to, negative situations. Acting considers what can happen if you make one choice versus another. Reacting just responds impulsively to the problem instead of thinking ahead three steps and maybe making a better choice.

Resources for teaching with Chess Rumble: 

Watch the trailer:

You can purchase a copy of Chess Rumble here.

For more titles about different experiences with bullying and peer pressure, check out our Bullying/Anti-Bullying Collection here.

Bullying Collection Cover Images

Have you used Chess Rumble? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection.

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5. Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: George Crum and the Saratoga Chip

lee & low 25th anniversaryLEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used across the country in classrooms and libraries today.

Today we are featuring one of our favorite titles: George Crum and the Saratoga Chip.  This fun story looks at the history behind everyone’s favorite snack food: the potato chip! 

Featured title: George Crum and the Saratoga Chip

Author: Gaylia Taylor

Illustrator: Frank Morrison

About the book: Growing up in the 1830s in Saratoga Springs, New York, isn’t easy for George Crum. Picked on at school because of the color of his skin, George escapes into his favorite pastimes — hunting and fishing. george crum and the saratoga chip

Soon George learns to cook too, and as a young man he lands a job as chef at the fancy Moon’s Lake House. George loves his work, except for the fussy customers, who are always complaining! One hot day George’s patience boils over, and he cooks up a potato dish so unique it changes his life forever.

Readers will delight in this spirited story of the invention of the potato chip — one of America’s favorite snack foods. George Crum and the Saratoga Chip is a testament to human ingenuity, and a tasty slice of culinary history.

Awards and Honors:

  • Texas Bluebonnet Masterlist, Texas Library Association
  • Best Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education
  • Distinguished Children’s Biography List, Cleveland Public Library

gaylia taylorAuthor Gaylia Taylor began writing for children after she retired from many years working as a Reading Recovery® teacher. Taylor stumbled across George Crum’s story while researching African American inventors on the Internet.

“I’m always looking for a story to tell, and George Crum caught my attention because his invention, the potato chip, is loved by so many people,” says the author in an interview. “I have to admit that a story about the potato chip peaked my own curiosity, because it is my favorite snack.” The more Taylor read about George Crum, the more interested she became in his life. The author says that all her research described George Crum as having a very distinct and colorful personality. “I just couldn’t let him go,” says Taylor. “I said, ‘George, we’ve got a story to tell!’”

Resources for Teaching With George Crum and the Saratoga Chip:

Explore Other Books About Food:

hot hot roti for dadaji cover

Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji

by F. Zia, illus. by Ken Min

sweet potato pie cover

Sweet Potato Pie

by Kathleen D. Lindsey, illus. by Charlotte Riley-Webb

hiromi's hands cover

Hiromi’s Hands

written and illus. by Lynne Barasch

cora cooks pancit cover

Cora Cooks Pancit

by Dorina Lazo Gilmore, illus. by Kristi Valiant

Also check out our Food and Cooking Collection! These books explore different foods and cuisines from around United States and around the world!

food and cooking collection

Have you used George Crum and the Saratoga Chip? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection.

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6. My Friend Cora, and Other Children’s Books About Filipinos

pia ceres summer internPia Ceres was LEE & LOW’s summer intern. She is a recipient of the We Need Diverse Books Internship Program grant. She’s a senior at Brown University, where she studies Education & Comparative Literature, with a focus in French literature. When she’s not reading, you can find her watching classic horror movies from under a blanket, strumming pop songs on her ukulele, and listening to her grandparents’ stories about the Philippines. In this blog post, she describes a friendship she developed with a character, and highlights some of LEE & LOW’s Filipino titles.

Do you know my friend Cora? I met her this summer.

Cora is the star of the picture book Cora Cooks Pancitby Dorina Lazo Gilmore. She’s sweet, tan-skinned with a child’s moon-like face. She dreams of helping her mother cook Filipino dishes like adobo and lumpia and pancit, and one glorious day, she does just that. When Cora sits on the floor thinking about food while licking a spoon, I know we’re meant to be.

cora
image from Cora Cooks Pancit

Of course, we make friends in books for reasons other than shared cultural experience. (Jo March, you’re my day one girl.) However, it’s increasingly critical that readers see their stories in books. When the values communicated in political rhetoric and popular culture can make a child feel ashamed or threatened for their differences, reflective stories provide crucial opportunity to help reframe their experiences in an affirming light.

When Mama asks Cora what she would like to cook, Cora “scrunched up her pug nose and began to think.” Memories of being teased about my low-bridged nose came tumbling back from time. But now, where there used to be shame, or longing for a Barbie doll’s features, Cora’s story creates the possibility of pride. She has a nose like me, and she’s smart, helpful, and adorable! At last, the positive mirror I didn’t even know I was waiting for until now.

So in the hope of inspiring conversation about taking pride in one’s heritage, and also recognizing the beauty of cultures different than one’s own, I’ve rounded up a few of LEE & LOW’s other Filipino and Filipino-American titles. With hope, they will be just the start of books that capture the Filipino/FilAm experience, making these stories accessible to all children.

  1. Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderella

Readers will be captivated by lush illustrations in this retelling of Cinderella, set in the little-represented world of the pre-colonial Philippines. Abadeha’s story begins as most Cinderella stories do, but what follows is an enchanting series of events that are deeply rooted in local mythologies. Magic takes unexpected forms, and fairytale fans will find Abadeha’s ending familiar, yet entirely new.

abadeha cover

Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderella, by Myrna Paz, illus. by Youshan Tang

Purchase a copy of the book here.

  1. Lakas and the Manilatown Fish

A warm and whimsical Manilatown, San Francisco, is the setting for a young boy’s adventures catching a troublesome talking fish. As the slippery ectotherm whirls through the streets, townspeople join Lakas’s rag-tag fish-hunting band. The language is doubly musical, as the book is written in both Tagalog and English!

lakas and the manilatown fish

Lakas and the Manilatown Fish, by Anthony Robles, illus. by Carl Angel

Purchase a copy of the book here.

  1. Willie Wins

When his teacher announces a contest to see who can save the most play money, a baseball-loving Filipino American boy brings his father’s alkansiya, a bank made out of a hollow coconut shell, to school. Even though the bully mocks his “old, dusty shell,” Willie is determined to win the competition and learns an important lesson about his heritage. For any reader who has brought a part of their home culture with them to school and been teased (be it a packed lunch or article of clothing), this book is a reminder that where we come from makes us special.

willie wins cover

Willie Wins, by Almira Astudillo Gilles, illus. by Carl Angel

Purchase a copy of the book here.

For more Filipino and Filipino-American books, check out our Philippines and Filipino Culture collection:

Philippines and Filipino Culture Collection

The quest for more diverse books never ends! Do you have any recommendations for books about the Filipino/FilAm experience? When was the first time you saw yourself in a book? Share in the comments below!

 

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7. #DVpit is Back on October 5th and 6th!

After the success of the first #DVpit event in April, #DVpit is back for another round of Twitter pitching fun on October 5th and 6th! If you’re unfamiliar with this event, #DVpit is a Twitter pitch contest created to showcase pitches by marginalized voices and help connect them to agents and editors.

While the number of diverse books is increasing, the number of new diverse authors entering the field remains low. Significant barriers remain for authors of color, Native authors, disabled authors, and other marginalized voices. With that in mind, we are excited to share information on this special Twitter event! The information below is cross-posted with permission from literary agent Beth Phelan’s #DVpit website.

#DVpit

A Twitter Pitching Event, Hosted + Moderated by Beth Phelan

October 5, 2016: 8AM – 8PM ET for Children’s and Teen Fiction/Nonfiction
October 6, 2016: 8AM – 8PM ET for Adult Fiction/Nonfiction

#DVpit logo

 

What is #DVpit?


#DVpit is a Twitter event created to showcase pitches about and especially by marginalized voices. This includes (but is not limited to): Native peoples and people of color; people living and/or born/raised in underrepresented cultures and countries; disabled persons; people with illness; people on marginalized ends of the socioeconomic, cultural and/or religious spectrum; people identifying as LGBTQIA+; and more.

The first #DVpit took place on April 19, 2016 and was a national trending hashtag. There have been over 15 authors signed by agents as a direct result of this event so far, with editors from small to mid-size to Big Five publishers requesting to receive the manuscripts at submission stage.

#DVpit was covered by Bustle, Salon, YA Interrobang, and multiple blog sites like Lee & Low Blog and Daily Dahlia.

The event was created and is moderated by Beth Phelan, a literary agent at the Bent Agency.


 

When is the next #DVpit?


#DVpit will occur over two days. Please make sure you are pitching your work on the appropriate day; many of the agents and editors will only tune in on a specific day, to see the pitches in the categories they represent/acquire.

October 5th will be for Children’s & Teen Fiction/Nonfiction (picture books, chapter books, graphic novel, middle grade, young adult).

October 6th will be for Adult Fiction/Nonfiction (all genres, commercial and literary).

The event will run on each day from 8AM ET until 8PM ET using the hashtag #DVpit on both days.


 

What kind of work can you submit?


The participating agents and editors will be looking for a variety of work, including all categories of fiction for adults, teens, and children, as well as nonfiction—as long as they qualify per the description here.

Please only pitch your completed, unpublished manuscripts.


 

How do you submit?


The event will be broken up over two days, one for Children’s & Teen Fiction/Nonfiction (October 5) and the other for Adult Fiction/Nonfiction (October 6). Please make sure that you pitch on the appropriate day.

Your pitch must fit the 140-character max, and must also include the hashtag #DVpit.

Please try to include category and/or genre hashtags as well.

We will trust that your pitch is for a diverse book / you are a diverse author, but if you want a quick way to make the diversity in your work more apparent in your short pitch (and you can fit a few more characters), I also encourage you to include an abbreviation as an easier way to get that information across. Examples: OWN (to suggest #ownvoices), POC, LGBT, DIS (disability), IMM (immigration), etc. These codes are up to you—I’m in no place to judge or police how, or even if, you label your experience. Please remember they are optional. You will *not* be at a disadvantage if you don’t include them! If you do want to add, please make the abbreviation as clear and straightforward as possible for our agents/editors.

Please pitch no more than once per hour. You may use the same pitch, or shake things up by using different pitches for the same project. You may pitch more than one project at a time, as long as they are completed and unpublished.

Please do not tweet-pitch the agents/editors directly!

The event will run from 8:00AM ET until 8:00PM ET, so please only tweet your pitches during that block of time, on the appropriate day.


What happens next?


Agents/editors will “like” your pitch if they’d like to see material from you, so please don’t “like” other authors’ pitches. Please also do not retweet. To show support, you can always reply or quote-tweet with compliments.

Each agent/editor will have their own preferences for receiving submissions, so if you get a “like” from someone, please refer to their Twitter feed to see what they ask for, and how you can contact them.

All of these agents/editors are invested in finding more marginalized voices, so if you’re comfortable with it (and ONLY if you are comfortable with it), I encourage you to self-identify in your query, or just simply let us know that the story and/or character(s) reflect your own experience (or even in your pitch if you have the space and the inclination).

If you see that multiple agents/editors from the same company have “liked” your pitch, please contact them directly for their policy on multiple submissions, or reach out to me and I will be happy to find out for you.

Keep in mind that many agents/editors will get sidetracked with their usual work or unexpected crises and may have to revisit the feed after the event is over. So don’t be surprised if you receive “likes” after the period closes!


Our own Stacy Whitman, publisher of our Tu Books imprint, will be participating again this round. So get those pitches ready for October 5th!

If you need help with your pitch, check out these helpful resources here.

For more information, please visit the #DVpit website.

 

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8. Exploring the Juvenile Justice System in the Classroom

Perfect LiarsFrom a distance, Andrea Faraday looks perfect: she is the junior class valedictorian at the exclusive Woodruff School, where she was voted Most Likely to Do Everything Right. But looks can be deceiving. When her parents disappear, her life—and her Perfect Girl charade—begins to crumble, and her scheme to put things right just takes the situation from bad to so much worse. Pretty soon she’s struck up the world’s least likely friendship with the juvenile delinquents at Justice Academy, the last exit on the road to jail—and the first stop on the way out.

Kimberly Reid’s YA novel Perfect Liars is an engrossing story that asks a big question: What makes someone a criminal? The discussion questions below, based on Perfect Liars, can help guide a conversation in classrooms about the juvenile justice system and its effects:

  • In the beginning of the story, Drea has a strong independent streak, almost to the point of being aloof. Why does Drea struggle to make friends and to trust others? Why does her outlook change around friendship and camaraderie?
  • How does Drea’s perception of adolescents in the juvenile justice system change?
  • Why is Drea ashamed of how her family attained its privilege?
  • What connection can be made between Damon’s choices (becoming a police officer) and Drea’s choices (in unrelenting pursuit of perfectionism) and the choices of their parents (being con artists)?
  • Drea’s friends at the Justice Academy solve the problem with the very skills that led them to being in the juvenile justice system. What do you think the author, Kimberly Reid, wants readers to take away?
  • Look up imposter syndrome and “Duck Syndrome.” Do either of these describe Drea’s experiences? Is her pursuit of perfectionism unique to Drea’s personality and internal pressures or are there systemic pressures as well? How might Drea’s gender contribute to her anxiety and stress in being perfect? Does Drea face additional pressures or unfair expectations to be successful because she is biracial in an elite, mostly white prep school?
  • How are Drea and Xavier similar?
  • Do Drea and Xavier see each other as equals? Why or why not?
  • Examine the reasons that led to Gigi, Xavier, and Jason each being in the juvenile justice system. Do their actions define them as “bad” people? Does their involvement with Drea mean they are redeemed?
  • Which characters do you particularly admire or dislike?
  • Unlike the students Drea meets at Justice Academy, she has had access to elite institutions, privileged experiences, and influential people. Does Drea make the most of these resources?
  • Drea strives to be independent and self-sufficient. Does she achieve the freedom she seeks? Why or why not?
  • What impact do you think Drea’s experience in collaborating with the students at the Justice Academy might have on her view of her parents’ choices and lifestyle?

Purchase Perfect Liars here.

Read an interview with author Kimberly Reid.

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9. Knock Down the Wall: 5 Books About Mexico to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

books about mexicoToday marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month. During this period from September 15-October 15, we recognize the contributions made and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States, including people from Mexico. 

With the heated current political climate and Donald Trump’s call to “build a wall” across the Mexico-US border, the relationships between Latinos in the US and US politicians have been strained, to say the least. Instead of isolating people because we deem them “others,” we think it makes much more sense to celebrate our differences and the things that connect us. America is great because of the variety of cultures and people that live here–and for many years, Mexico has been a friend and ally to our South, whose immigrants have contributed so much to American history and culture. So let’s celebrate the work and accomplishments of people from Mexico, as well as the beauty and culture of Mexico with these great books:

pot that juan built cover

The Pot That Juan Builtby Nancy Andrews-Goebel, illus. by David Diaz

This story is sure to enlighten all who are fascinated by traditional art forms, Mexican culture, and the power of the human spirit to find inspiration from the past.

Purchase the book here.

my papa diego and me

My Papa Diego and Me/Mi papá Diego y yo, by Guadalupe Marín, illus. by Diego Rivera

Guadalupe Rivera Marín shares some of her childhood memories of the world-renowned artist who also happened to be her papá. This intimate artistic portrait will delight readers, from the youngest art lovers to Diego Rivera’s biggest fans.

Purchase the book here.

summer of the mariposas

Summer of the Mariposas, by Guadalupe García McCall

This is not just a magical Mexican American retelling of The Odyssey, it is a celebration of sisterhood and maternal love.

Purchase the book here.

from north to south

From North to South/Del norte al sur, by René Colato Laínez, illus. by Joe Cepeda

José loves helping Mamá in the garden outside their home in California. But when Mamá is sent back to Mexico for not having proper papers, José and his Papá face an uncertain future.

Purchase the book here.

school the aztec eagles built

The School the Aztec Eagles Built: A Tribute to Mexico’s World War II Air Fighters, by Dorinda Makanaonalani Nicholson

This is the exciting story of how a Mexican Air Force squadron and an unknown schoolteacher made their mark in history by coming to fight alongside the US Air Force during World War II.

Book available for purchase in October!

Also consider these collections:

Mexican Culture Collection – This collection includes both fiction and nonfiction stories that highlight the work and accomplishments of people from Mexico, as well as the beauty and culture of Mexico.

Carmen Lomas Garza Collection – Carmen Lomas Garza is one of the most prominent Mexican American painters working today. She has many award-winning books including Family Pictures, In My Family, Magic Windows.

Juan Felipe Herrera Collection – Juan Felipe Herrera was 2015’s U.S. Poet Laureate and an award-winning author of  four beloved picture books for young readers from our Children’s Book Press imprint.

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10. Building Classroom Community in Kindergarten

Check out LEE & LOW BOOKS’ Building Classroom Community Unit for Kindergarten! The FREE and downloadable unit consists of eight read aloud lesson plans to inspire your best classroom community yet.

The start of the kindergarten year is ripe with opportunities for building long-lasting positive school behaviors and attitudes. Time spent building relationships and establishing social and academic expectations can pay dividends all year long.

Using a rich collection of diverse picture books to support this work lays the foundation for a classroom culture of appreciation and acceptance.

The Building Classroom Community Unit for Kindergarten consists of eight read aloud lesson plans. Each lesson paired with a book is intended for multiple days so that from the beginning students are exposed to close reading and the value of multiple readings. We believe the first eight read alouds, or roughly the first two months of school, are critical to setting the tone of your classroom community, read aloud procedures, and expectations for engagement.

Scope and Sequence
Scope and Sequence

During this unit you will:

  • help students connect to one another by discussing things they like and their families
  • share goals for the kindergarten year to create a sense of shared purpose
  • establish a common vocabulary for discussing emotions, which will support both social and literacy goals
  • generate clear, specific expectations for active listening in groups and partnerships, respectful communication, treating one another with kindness, solving problems, and working together as a community of learners.

Each lesson may be used as a stand alone, but we hope that using these books as a broad unit will help lay the foundation for a strong classroom community with strong learning expectations. We designed the unit to spiral. Additionally, each lesson and book can be adapted for other grades (and we hope you will do this!).

Book extension activities provide initial opportunities to practice these crucial behaviors, and the resource materials you create will support ongoing focus on these topics.

Here’s to a meaningful year of reading!

Download the FREE Building Classroom Community Unit for Kindergarten here

Building Classroom Community in Kindergarten (1)Further reading on teaching literacy in kindergarten

Guided Reading Collections from Bebop Books

Stay tuned for first and second grades!

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11. Press Release: LEE & LOW Partners with First Book and NEA Foundation to Expand New Visions Award

WASHINGTON – The National Education Association (NEA) Foundation and publisher Lee & Low Books have joined forces with First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise, to expand the Stories for All ProjectTM, First Book’s groundbreaking initiative to increase the diversity in children’s books. The new two-year collaboration, supported with funding from the NEA Foundation, includes the publication of a brand new book by a never-before-published author of color, and the production of thousands of diverse books, companion tipsheets and funds available for educators working with children from low-income families.

The diverse books include eight titles from Lee & Low Books, the largest U.S. multicultural children’s book publisher, and feature first-time authors of color, award winners, or books that previously were only available in hardcover formats. The titles will be printed as more affordable special edition paperbacks and available on the First Book Marketplace, First Book’s award-winning site offering First Book Logo brand new books and educational resources – at the lowest possible prices or for free – to schools and programs serving children in need. A free, downloadable tipsheet will be developed for each title, with guidelines on how educators can use the book to create opportunities for student learning and shared experiences that embrace the importance of diversity and foster understanding both in and out of the classroom setting.

In addition, more than $100,000 from the NEA Foundation will be used to provide educators with credits to purchase diverse books through the First Book Marketplace. Many schools and programs have little or no budgets for books or resources for their programs; 74 percent of educators served by First Book spend their own money on educational resources for their students; national surveys indicate that teachers spend an average of $500 or more annually out of their own pocket.

LEE & LOW’s New Visions Award Expands; Manuscripts Due October 31 

First Book and the NEA Foundation are also working with Lee & Low to introduce a new middle grade or young adult book by a never-before-published author of color, as part of the publisher’s existing New Visions Award. The collaboration will enable Lee & Low to expand its New Visions Award by selecting and publishing work by an additional new author of color. The winning book is expected to New Visions Award sealbe released in 2018 as a hardcover edition at retail, and as a special edition paperback available exclusively on the First Book Marketplace. Award submission deadline is October 31; full submission information can be found here.

“Educators around the country have increasingly more diverse classrooms, with children from a wide variety of home environments, family structures, religions, cultures, ethnicities, languages and more,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “First Book has been out in front of the need to provide our educators with relevant, affordable books and resources that they can use in their classrooms every day. Diverse books and resources are not only critical to foster understanding and empathy, they’re critical to learning. To have kids see themselves and their families in books lets kids know that books are, in fact, for them! Sharing diverse stories is a powerful tool for learning and belonging.”

First Book, which has operations in both the U.S. and Canada, works with formal and informal educators serving children in need ages 0-18 in a wide range of settings – from schools, classrooms, summer school and parks and rec programs, to health clinics, homeless shelters, faith-based programs, libraries, museums, summer food sites and more. Almost 32 million children are growing up in low-income families in the U.S. alone; in fact, in U.S. public schools, children in need are now the majority. First Book currently works with more than 275,000 under-resourced classrooms and programs; more than 5,000 new programs and classrooms sign up with First Book every month.

The need for books featuring diverse voices was underscored by feedback from First Book’s membership. In a survey, 90 percent of respondents indicated that children in their programs would be more enthusiastic readers if they had access to books with characters, stories and images that reflect their lives and their neighborhoods. Additionally, 51 percent use books and resources from First Book as a way to enable kids to learn about other cultures and experiences. By aggregating the purchasing power of its network, First Book is able to work with publishers to expand content that accurately reflects diversity of race, ability, sexual orientation and family structure in an ever diversifying world.

“Lee & Low has long been publishing multicultural and inclusive content, and we’re pleased to be expanding the New Visions Award in partnership with NEA Foundation and First Book. First Book has been leading the charge to bring this content to a broader market, and for developing partnerships like this one that make diverse content more affordable and more widely available to educators and children in need,” said Craig Low, president of Lee & Low Books, Inc.

“One only needs to read the headlines to know how important it is to help celebrate our similarities and learn how our differences can make us stronger,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “We are grateful to the NEA Foundation and the team at Lee & Low Books to help us expand our Stories for All Project and our ongoing effort to arm heroic educators with best-in-class resources of all kinds.”

Organizations serving children in need can sign up to access First Book’s wide range of books and educational resources at firstbook.org/join. For more information on First Book, visit firstbook.org.

About First Book

First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise founded in 1992 that has distributed more than 150 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada, which, with more than 275,000 members, is the largest and fastest growing network of educators serving kids in need. By making new, high-quality books and educational resources available on an ongoing basis, First Book is transforming the lives of children in need and elevating the quality of education. Eligible educators, librarians, program leaders, and others serving children in need can sign up at firstbook.org/register. For more information, please visit firstbook.org or follow the latest news on Facebook and Twitter. 

About NEA Foundation

The NEA Foundation envisions a great public education for every student. We support educators as they pioneer creative and innovative classroom approaches designed to prepare students for college, work, and life. The Foundation’s innovation work identifies new opportunities and pilot approaches in public education aimed towards preparing all students to learn and thrive in a rapidly changing world.

About Lee & Low Books

Established in 1991, Lee & Low Books is the largest children’s book publisher in the United States specializing in diversity. Under several imprints, the company provides a comprehensive range of notable diverse books for beginning readers through young adults. Lee & Low titles have received major awards and honors including the Coretta Scott King Award, the Pura Belpré Award, the Sibert Medal, the NAACP Image Award, and many more. Visit leeandlow.com to learn more.  

# # #

For press inquiries or questions, contact:
Hannah Ehrlich, Director of Marketing and Publicity
Lee & Low Books
hehrlich[at]leeandlow.com
212-779-4400 x. 29

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12. Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Brothers in Hope

Lee and Low 25th anniversaryLEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used across the country in classrooms and libraries today.

Today we are featuring one of our most poignant and moving titles: Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan.  This powerful story of young refugees fleeing war in Sudan was published in 2005 but remains extremely topical today, more than ten years later.

Featured title: Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan

Author: Mary Williams

Illustrator: R. Gregory Christie

About the book: Eight-year-old Garang is tending cattle far from hisBrothers in Hope family’s home in southern Sudan when war comes to his village. Frightened but unharmed, he returns to find everything has been destroyed.

Soon Garang meets other boys whose villages have been attacked. Before long they become a moving band of thousands, walking hundreds of miles seeking safety — first in Ethiopia and then in Kenya. The boys face numerous hardships and dangers along the way, but their faith and mutual support help keep the hope of finding a new home alive in their hearts.

Based on heartbreaking yet inspirational true events in the lives of the Lost Boys of Sudan, Brothers in Hope is a story of remarkable and enduring courage, and an amazing testament to the unyielding power of the human spirit.

Awards and Honors:

  • Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Honor, American Library Association
  • Notable Children’s Book, American Library Association
  • Best Children’s Books of the Year: Outstanding Merit, Bank Street College of Education
  • Notable Books for a Global Society, International Literacy Association
  • Children’s Book Award Notable, International Literacy Association
  • Children’s Picks List, Booksense

Mary WilliamsAuthor Mary Williams is the founder of the Lost Boys Foundation, whose mission is to assist Sudan’s Lost Boys in attaining a college education. Of the Lost Boys she has met, Williams writes, “They have been neglected and endured severe hardship. Some of them saw their family and friends killed in front of them. They could be the most angry, bitter people you ever saw. But they aren’t. They are so motivated and eager to get jobs and go to school. I just knew I had to help them.”


Resources for Teaching With Brothers in Hope:

Explore Other Books About War and Refugees:

When the Horses Ride By

When the Horses Ride By: Children in the Times of War
by Eloise Greenfield, illus. by Jan Spivey Gilchrist

A Song for Cambodia

A Song for Cambodia
by Michelle Lord, illus. by Shino Arihara

The Three Lucys

The Three Lucys 
by Hayan Charara, illus. by Sara Kahn

Calling the Water Drum

Calling the Water Drum
by LaTisha Redding, illus. by Aaron Boyd

Have you used Brothers in Hope? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection.

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13. Thrilled, Eager, and Only Slightly Apprehensive: The Path to Publication

new voices sealIt’s September! And with the opening of a new school year comes the closing of the New Voices Award submissions window. With the deadline just weeks away on September 30, participating writers are putting the finishing touches on their submissions. The ready-to-submit writer has read August’s post about the importance of revision, and revised their cover letter and manuscript correcting all grammatical errors as well as strengthening the voice and structure of their story. If you’re a ready-to-submit writer enthusiastic about sending off your submission, that’s fantastic! But what if you’re a ready-to-submit writer who doesn’t feel ready?

Submitting an original manuscript to a contest can cause conflicting emotions. You may be excited about the possibility of publication, but weary about having your work evaluated by professionals. You may ask yourself: What does it mean if I don’t win? What does that say about my story? These are questions that all writers (even New Voices Award winners) have asked themselves at some point. To ease your apprehension, we interviewed three Lee & Low Books authors whose stories were discovered through the New Voices Award contest but did not win the award.

That’s right. These writers submitted their manuscripts, didn’t win, but were still published. Authors Debbie Taylor (Sweet Music in Harlem), G. Neri (Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty), and LaTisha Redding (Calling the Water Drum) have shared their experiences on the path to publication as well as some inspiring words to help you seal and send that envelope with confidence!

  1. What inspired you to write your story, and what helped you decide to submit it to the New Voices Award?

Debbie Taylor: I was inspired by Art Kane’s famous photograph, Jazz Musicians 1958. My husband is an avid jazz fan and quite the expert. He was delighted when I bought him a black tee shirt featuring the famous photograph. He could name every musician, their instruments, jazz styles, and could relate details of their personal lives.  However, when I asked who the children sitting on the curb might be, he had no clue. I remember asking out loud, “I wonder what those children thought about having all those stars in their neighborhood?” I set out to write a story that incorporated the musicians featured in the photograph. The rich history of the photograph led to some exciting ideas.

I was familiar with many Lee & Low Books and had also read interviews written by two of the editors. I submitted the manuscript and another story to the New Voices Award in September of 2001. Like many folks, I was shocked and saddened by the tragedy of September 11. I remember feeling helpless and depressed, but I also realized that it was useless to wring my hands and weep. So I decided to submit the manuscript to the New Voices Award contest as an affirmation of life and hope.

G. Neri: Yummy came about from a week-long school visit in South Central Los Angeles. It was after the riots, during a gang war that consumed the area. The kids I was working with were so hardened by the events, nothing seemed to phase them. They had been so weighed down by tragedy, nobody was talking. But when we came across the real life story of a kid named Yummy Sandifer, his sad tale made everyone sit up and talk. The discussion of gangs and kids dying led to them opening up about their own hard lives. I was working with gangbangers and trying to rehab them. Me telling them to leave the gangs was meaningless but if I could find a way to show them Yummy’s story, it might scare them straight. I started writing and since the kids I was working with were 7-10 year old non-readers, I wrote it as a picture book. Shortly after that, I met Paula Yoo, who’d just won the New Voices Award. Since I was looking for a way to get this published, she encouraged me to submit.

LaTisha Redding: The memories of my childhood Haitian friends inspired me to write Calling the Water Drum. My friends were new to the United States, navigating a new language, culture and environment. When I wrote this story, I wanted to explore that journey from a child’s perspective. So often stories are told from the point of view of the adult. Adult sacrifices and adult struggles. Children sacrifice and struggle, too, and they don’t have the vocabulary to articulate that experience.

As for submitting my story to New Voices Award, initially, I wasn’t sure where to submit it. Although I knew of Lee & Low, the contest wasn’t on my radar. So after I wrote it, I put it away. Months later, while browsing another writer’s website, it mentioned the New Voices Award and that the deadline was two weeks away. That’s when I remembered my story. I revised it several times and submitted it.

  1. What was it like being contacted by a Lee & Low Books Editor about interest in your New Voices Award submission?


sweet music in harlem
from Sweet Music in Harlem

DT: It was simply thrilling. The e-mail arrived with the subject line “On A Harlem Morning” and “Back Door Sugar.” I was informed that neither of my submissions was selected as a New Voices Award winner or finalist, but there was interest in developing the manuscripts if I was willing to revise them. I felt like I had won the contest. Instead of being disappointed, I was excited at the opportunity to work with an editor, Jennifer Hunt. I was thrilled, eager, and only slightly apprehensive.

I realized it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I was pleased that someone recognized the value of the work. I immediately committed to doing whatever was necessary to get the manuscripts ready to resubmit. After months of revision, “Sweet Music in Harlem” was the result. (My other submission, “Back Door Sugar” was eventually published by Cricket Magazine.)

GN: Jennifer Fox contacted me to say that I didn’t win, BUT they’d loved the story. They just felt the format was too young and if I ever considered writing it for an older teen audience, they would definitely be interested. I said I had something and sent them the graphic novel script. Even though they had never done a graphic novel, they connected strongly to the story and a few weeks later, we were off and running.

LR: It was the most exquisite feeling! This picture book is the first story I have ever had published. Like most writers, I had dreamed of the day I would be published with no idea of when it would happen. I didn’t win the Award, so when I received the letter still expressing interest in the story, it surprised me. I read it over and over again, thinking I had misread it. Thankfully, I had read it correctly. I still get excited when I think about that moment. I am deeply grateful to my editor, Jessica, for her insight and guidance. She is a joy to work with and her edits deepened and enriched Calling the Water Drum beyond my expectations.

3. What is something surprising you learned while preparing your story for publication?

DT: I learned the value of story boarding and making multiple dummy books. Making the dummy book revealed the rhythm of the story and allowed me to balance the text. 

I was surprised at the level of investment from my editor. I had expected to revise the work and make changes throughout, but I had not really expected her thorough critiques and her guidance. It was evident that she wanted the book to be a masterpiece. It was like realizing your child’s track coach really wanted your child to achieve his/her personal best.

GN: A funny thing happened while I waited for a response from the competition. A friend was making a graphic novel and showed me the script for his project. Before illustrations, it looked just like a movie script. I had come out of movies and in fact, the first version of Yummy was written as a screenplay. When I saw that, I realized comics were even a better way to go and could reach older ages as well. The format was very cinematic and would appeal to non-readers. I quickly translated my script to a graphic novel and the rest is history.

LR: Two things, actually. First, it surprised me how much additional room was needed for the visual storytelling. When I wrote it, I didn’t think of it from a visual standpoint. For me, the words are the story. But, of course, there’s so much more. The illustrations tell the story just as much as the words and breathe real life into it.

Second, I discovered that with collaboration and publication, what I had considered “my story” was no longer mine, which is as it should be. It belongs to the readers. I knew that intellectually and the publication process has allowed me to experience it.

  1. What advice do you have for writers interested in submitting to the New Voices Award this year?

DT: Use fresh, evocative language to tell a compelling story. Take time to find the right word for each line. Review the manuscript as objectively as possible.

I would also suggest that writers make a simple dummy book, allow trusted friends or critique group members to review the manuscript and make certain to follow submission instructions. Accept that your story is an important one. Take full advantage of this opportunity to have your work seriously considered by Lee & Low.

 Once you have submitted the manuscript, congratulate yourself for taking that important step and start working on another manuscript.

GN: Go for it. Write something fresh and from today. Be innovative and tell stories no one else is telling. If you’re a new voice, let yourself be heard!

LR: Write the story in your heart. Write what moves you, the story that whispers to you in quiet, ‘in-between’ moments, and let it spill out on the page. Don’t be afraid that your story is too heavy or worry that children won’t understand it. Write it and revise it and submit it. You never know what may happen.

With those final words of encouragement and inspiration, we’d like to wish every writer participating in this year’s New Voices Award the best of luck! We look forward to reading your stories!

sweet music in harlem cover

Sweet Music in Harlem by Debbie Taylor is available now! Purchase the book here.

yummy cover

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by Greg Neri is available now! Purchase the book here.

calling the water drum cover

Calling the Water Drum by LaTisha Redding will be available soon! Purchase the book here.

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14. When Fashion Meets Diversity

Before my big move to the publishing industry, I worked in the corporate world of fashion and apparel (and a small stint in home furnishings). There were many times when I’d look forward to seeing what new styles would pop up on the runway during NYC Fashion Week. I’d even spend my lunch breaks gazing at every single design captured perfectly by photographers at the right moment. I knew in my head that most, if not all, those pieces I probably wouldn’t wear (and let’s be honest could never even afford), but anyone can dream.

When looking for the perfect piece to add to my wardrobe I’d mainly resort to stores that actually fit my price point including one of my favorites­––Uniqlo. From their simple, yet modern designs to their commitment to quality and longevity, I knew that Uniqlo was the perfect place for me to shop and satisfy my need for stylish and affordable clothing.

Recently, Uniqlo, in collaboration with UK fashion designer Hana Tajima, introduced an entire collection featuring kebayas, headwraps, and hijabs. The Uniqlo website says, “From casual pieces including long, flowing skirts, tapered ankle-length pants, and blouses to more traditional wear like kebaya and hijab, this collection fuses contemporary design and comfortable fabrics with traditional values.”

Rarely have I seen a collection from an apparel company of Uniqlo’s size that directly serves anyone other than the mainstream demographic. And what I appreciate the most is that this collection was done with grace and respect.

UNIQLO x Hana Tajima exclusive LifeWear collection

Over the years, I’ve seen designers co-opt traditional pieces from other cultures to incorporate into their lines. One can argue that many of these designers have and still continue to appropriate aspects of different cultures in order to look edgy and daring while reaping the benefits of accolades and praise for their “newly inventive” designs. But there’s a huge difference between taking from one’s culture in order to make oneself look edgy, daring, or “exotic,” and serving a community with respect, dignity, and keeping the customers’ needs and values in mind.

Other companies including Oakley and Warby Parker have featured collections that are also designed to serve a specific demographic. A few years ago, Oakley introduced the Asian Fit collection, which Jason Low wrote about here, and recently, my favorite eyewear company, Warby Parker, came out with a Low Bridge Fit collection for “those with low nose bridges (if the bridge of your nose sits level with or below the pupils), wide faces, and/or high cheekbones.” Even Warby Parker’s ad for this collection features only models of color, something that I rarely ever see in the fashion world.

Warby Parker's Low Bridge Fit collection Ad
Warby Parker’s Low Bridge Fit collection Ad

So what does this have to do with the publishing industry and Lee & Low Books?

In the publishing industry in particular, there seems to be this common thread that pops up from conversations regarding diversity and serving marginalized groups. We hear that books (and movies) with nonwhite protagonists “do not fit the mainstream” or “do not sell well.” This is unfortunately why we have such a huge diversity gap in children’s publishing. But what about the opportunities that are missed from ignoring entire demographics? Who’s to say that you can’t serve both? Marginalized readers deserve to see their experiences, their communities, their stories, properly represented in the books that they read and the media that they consume.

That’s why at Lee & Low Books we publish books about everyone, for everyone. Because everyone, no matter who they are, deserves to see themselves in books. Everyone deserves to know that their story matters. Everyone deserves to be properly represented––in books, in movies, in fashion, and in life.

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15. Plan your Month Roundup: New Resources for September

It’s finally September, which means back-to-school season has officially begun! Plan out your month with these book recommendations and resources to get you ready for the autumn season:

Richard Wright’s Birthday-September 4
Richard Wright and the Library Card

Labor Day-September 7
My Teacher Can Teach…Anyone! 
Sky Dancers
Amelia’s Road
First Day in Grapes
The Have a Good Day Café

September BooksInternational Literacy Day-September 8
Amelia’s Road
Armando and the Blue Tarp School
Babu’s Song
David’s Drawings
Destiny’s Gift
Drumbeat in Our Feet
Elizabeti’s School
Etched In Clay 
First Day in Grapes
Howard Thurman’s Great Hope
How We Are Smart
Ira’s Shakespeare Dream 
Love to Langston
My Teacher Can Teach…Anyone! 
Richard Wright and the Library Card
Seeds of Change
The Storyteller’s Candle
Su Dongpo: Chinese Genius
Tofu Quilt 
Up the Learning Tree
Yasmin’s Hammer
Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree

National Grandparent’s Day-September 13
Abuela’s Weave
Babu’s Song
Bird 
The Blue Roses
Bowman’s Store 
Chachaji’s Cup
DeShawn Days
Finding the Music
Going Home, Coming Home
Goldfish and Chrysanthemums
Grandfather Counts
Grandma and Me at the Flea
Grandma’s Purple Flowers
The Have a Good Day Café
Honoring Our Ancestors
Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-Ji
How Far Do You Love Me? 
The Hula Hoopin’ Queen
Janna and the Kings
Juna’s Jar
Keepers
Kiki’s Journey
Love to Mamá
Maya’s Blanket
No Mush Today 
Only One Year
Poems in the Attic
Rainbow Stew
Rattlesnake Mesa
Seaside Dream
Shanghai Messenger
Singing With Momma Lou
Summer of the Mariposas
Sunday Shopping
Tashi and the Tibetan Flower Cure
The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen
Two Mrs. Gibsons

Hispanic Heritage Month-September 15-October 15
A Movie in My Pillow
Abuela’s Weave
Alicia Afterimage
America: A Book of Opposites
Amelia’s Road
Angels Ride Bikes and Other Fall Poems
Animal Poems of the Igazu
Armando and the Blue Tarp School
Arrorro, mi nino
¡Béisbol! Latino Baseball Pioneers and Legends
Birthday in the Barrio
The Birthday Swap
Calling the Doves
Confetti Poems for Children
Capoeira: Game! Dance! Martial Art!
Drum Chavi, Drum!
Estela’s Swap
Family Pictures
Finding the Music
First Day in Grapes
Friends from the Other Side
From the Bellybutton of the Moon and Other Summer Poems
From North to South
Gracias · Thanks
Grandma and Me at the Flea
The Harvest Birds
I Had a Hippopotamus
Home at Last
Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems
In My Family
Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems
Let Me Help!
Love to Mamá
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match
Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash
Maya’s Blanket
My Diary from Here to There
My Very Own Room
My Papa Diego and Me
Nana’s Big Surprise
Ole! Flamenco
Parrots Over Puerto Rico
Poems to Dream Together
The Pot that Juan Built
Prietita and the Ghost Woman
Quinito Day and Night
Quinito’s Neighborhood
The Road to Sanitago
Say Hola to Spanish
Say Hola to Spanish, Otra Vez (Again)
Say Hola to Spanish at the Circus
The Storyteller’s Candle
The Upside Down Boy
Uncle Nacho’s Hat
Under the Lemon Moon
When This World Was New
Xochitl and the Flowers
¡Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Que Rico! America’s Sproutings

Ray Charles’ Birthday-September 23
Ray Charles

National Little League Month
Baseball Saved Us
¡Béisbol! Latino Baseball Pioneers and Legends
Catching the Moon
Keepers
Louis Sockalexis
Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy
Willie Wins

International Literacy Day:
5 Strategies to Help Parents Navigate Lexile
7 Strategies to Help Booksellers and Librarians Navigate Lexile
7 Tips to Help Make Reading With Your Child This Year Achievable
Diversity in Children’s Literature and the Legacy of Pura Belpré
Where Can I Find Great Diverse Children’s Books?
Checklist: 8 Steps to Creating a Diverse Book Collection
Choosing the World Our Students Read
Where to Find Culturally Diverse Literature to Pair with Your Required Curriculum
Diversifying Your Back-to-School Reading
Why Do We Need Diverse Books in Non-Diverse Schools?
8 Ideas for Educators to Get Students Excited About the Public Library This School Year
10 Myths About Teaching STEM Books and How You Can Teach STEM in Your Classroom Right Now
Growing Up Without Books: Discovering DeShawn

Grandparent’s Day:
Sunday Shopping Activity Sheet
Intergenerational Activities for Grandparents Day
Make a Grandma and Me Scrapbook
Read and Make an I Love You Book
Rainbow Stew Inspired Felt Food Tutorials

Hispanic Heritage Month:
5 Books for Hispanic Heritage Month
11 Educator Resources for Teaching Children About Latin American Immigration and Migration
11 Books on Latin American Immigration and Migration
5 Tips to Engage Latino Families and Students
Using Picture Books to Teach and Discuss Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera with Students
Using Dual Language and Bilingual Books in First and Second Grade
Using Dual Language and Bilingual Books in Third and Fourth Grade
Using Dual Language and Bilingual Books and Parent Volunteers to Foster Deep Thinking
Monica Brown on Dehumanizing Language and the Immigration Debate

National Little League Month:
Watch Kevin Costner and Jillian Estell Read Catching the Moon from the Screen Actors Guild Foundation and Storyline Online
Celebrate and Teach About Baseball with Toni Stone
Women in Professional Baseball: “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend”
Book and Activity Suggestions to Match Your Summer Adventure: Ballparks!

What are your favorite September reads? Let us know in the comments!

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16. Dive Into Reading with the Confetti Kids Activity Guide

Dive Into Reading! is LEE & LOW’s new line of early chapter books that focuses on supporting readers in each stage of their reading development. 

The Confetti Kids series follows a group of five children from diverse backgrounds living in a friendly city neighborhood, and each book follows a different character as they learn about friendship and how to navigate common childhood experiences.

Lily’s New Homemain_LILY_S_NEW_HOME_cvr_SMALL

Synopsis: Lily moves from a quiet suburb to an apartment on a busy street in the city. Lily worries that she’ll never fit in. As she and her parents explore their new, multicultural neighborhood, Lily discovers that sometimes change can be a good thing!

 

 

Want to Play?main_WANT_TO_PLAY_small

Synopsis: It’s a warm, sunny day, and the gang heads to the neighborhood playground to play. What should they play? Pablo comes up with a great idea: to play pretend. It’s a game that everyone can do easily. They can pretend to be archaeologists, astronauts, and explorers. There’s no limit to what they imagine they can be!

 

 

 

Explore these books and more with the FREE Confetti Kids Activity Guide and Lesson Plans available NOW on our website

 Emergent Content Themes and Strategies Covered:

  • community/communities
  • families
  • problem solving
  • reading and following dialogue
  • sequencing events
  • connecting personal experiences
  • summarizing and main idea
  • high-frequency words
  • characterization
  • compare and contrast

Here’s a preview of the types of engaging projects and activities you can find in the Confetti Kids Activity Guide:

confetti guide page 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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confetti guide page 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

confetti guide page 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can purchase a copy of Lily’s New Home or Want to Play on our website here.

veronicabioVeronica has a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.

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17. Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path

Lee_Low_25th_Anniversary_Poster_2_LEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today as well, as hear from the authors and illustrators.

Today, we are celebrating Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path, an inspirational story for children of all backgrounds. A biography of the legendary Native American Jim Thorpe (1888–1953), voted the Greatest Football Player and Greatest Athlete of the Half-Century by two AP polls, focusing on his early childhood and how school and sports shaped his future.

Featured title: Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path

Author: Joseph Bruchac

Illustrator: S.D. Nelson

Synopsis: The biographymain_large of the legendary Native American, Jim Thorpe (1888–1953), focusing on his early childhood and how school and sports shaped his future.

From the day he was born, Jim Thorpe’s parents knew he was special. As the light shone on the road to the family’s cabin, his mother gave Jim another name — Wa-tho-huck — “Bright Path.”

Jim’s athletic skills were evident early on, as he played outdoors and hunted with his father and twin brother. When the boys were sent to Indian boarding school, Jim struggled in academics but excelled in sports. Jim moved from school to school over the years, overcoming family tragedies, until his athletic genius was recognized by Coach Pop Warner at the Carlisle Indian School.

Awards and Honors:

  • Carter G. Woodson Book Award Honor, National Council for Social Studies
  • Choices, Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)
  • Teachers’ Choices, International Reading Association (IRA)
  • Best of the Best List, Chicago Public Library, Children & YA Services
  • Storytelling World Resource Award, Storytelling World magazine

Check out this interview with author, Joseph Bruchac, about Native American literature.

Resources for teaching with Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path:

jim thorpe image blog

 

 

 

 

 

Discover other books like Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path with the Joseph Bruchac Collection!

Book Activities:

  1. Draw attention to the use of similes in the book. For example: Jim took to it all like a catfish takes to a creek. It made him (Jim) feel like a fox caught in an iron trap. Epidemics of influenza swept through like prairie fires. Have students try to write their own similes for other events or actions in the story.
  2. Ask students to explore the National Track & Field Hall of Fame (www.usatf.org ) or the Pro Football Hall of Fame (www.profootballhof.com ) and plan an imaginary trip there or enjoy a visual visit on the Web.

Have you used Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection

veronicabioVeronica has a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.

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18. 10 Reasons to Celebrate Bilingual Books

Last year, we gave our 10 favorite reasons to read diversely. One reason being that we live in a diverse world, so why not the books that we read? Books help us see the world through someone else’s eyes, and in the case of bilingual books, through another language.

Here are our ten favorite reasons to read bilingual books!

Bilingual books…

  1. Teach us how to read in two languages.
  2. Celebrate the 22% of students who speak a language other than English at home.
  3. Develop strong critical thinking skills
  4. Keep our brains young, healthy, and sharp.
  5. Expose us to new ways of communicating.
  6. Make reading an inclusive activity for all students.
  7. Highlight the achievement of knowing more than one language.
  8. Encourage interest in other cultures and languages.
  9. Expand our vocabulary and lexicon.
  10. Bring readers together.

Lee and Low Bilingual Books Poster

Tell us why you read bilingual books!

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19. 25 Books from 25 Years: DESHAWN DAYS

Lee_Low_25th_Anniversary_Poster_2_LEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today!

Today we’re featuring DeShawn Days by Tony Medina and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, released in 2003 by LEE & LOW BOOKS:

deshawn daysAbout the Book: DeShawn Days introduces us to ten-year-old DeShawn’s world, where we meet his family, friends, and learn about his hopes and dreams. Author Tony Medina draws from his own experiences growing up in the projects to create this dynamic character. From neighborhood barbecues to building snowmen in the winter to experiencing the loss of DeShawn’s grandmother, readers from all backgrounds will be charmed by this upbeat, compassionate, and creative young boy.

Awards and Honors:

  • Starred reviewSchool Library Journal
  • Children’s Literature Choice List, Children’s Literature
  • Choices, Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)
  • Parents’ Guide to Children’s Media Award, Parents’ Choice Foundation
  • Paterson Prize for Books for Young People, The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College

Resources for Teaching With DeShawn Days:

  • Our extensive Teacher’s Guide offers a wide range of teaching ideas.
  • Watch author Tony Medina read to a third grade class in Dorchester, MA.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Teacher Tip:
Tell students that poets often use what is called “poetic license.” Poets may write in dialect or nonstandard English to achieve a certain effect as Medina does in poems such as “My Cousin Tiffany.” Sometimes poets do not use capital letters or standard punctuation. Point out that Medina’s poems are not punctuated, except for the occasional exclamation point.

Other Books by Tony Medina: 

Purchase DeShawn Days here.

Other Recommended Picture Books That Celebrate Community:

bein with you this way

Bein’ With You This Way by W. Nikola-Lisa, illus. by Michael Bryant

quinito's neighborhood

Quinito’s Neighborhood/El vecindario de Quinito by Ina Cumpiano, illus. by José Ramírez

saturday at the new you

Saturday at the New You by Barbara E. Barber, illus. by Anna Rich

Have you used DeShawn Days? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection.

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20. Marisol Celebration: Lee & Low Staff Share Their Fears

Marisol McDonald and the Monster coverIn the latest installment of the Marisol McDonald series, Marisol McDonald and the Monster/Marisol McDonald y el monstruo, Marisol McDonald is confronted with her greatest fear: monsters! In celebration of Marisol McDonald and the Monster/Marisol McDonald y el monstruo, released last month, Lee & Low Staff share the scary things that keep them up at night.

Louise May, Editorial Director

“Having to sing in public. I don’t have a great voice and I can’t carry a tune.”

Kandace Coston, Editorial Assistant

“I’m arachnophobic.”

Pia Ceres, Marketing & Publicity Intern

“Not having the courage to speak up when it counts. Also, since I was a kid, I’ve had this fear that someone living in the mirror would reach through the threshold and grab me while I’m brushing my teeth, which is a very vulnerable position if you think about it.”

Randy Eng, Operations Coordinator

“Stage fright.”

 Keilin Huang, Marketing & Publicity Associate

“I have a huge fear of clowns. I think it’s because I watched Stephen King’s “It” when I was young with my cousins and it scarred me for life.”

Marisol McDonald and the Monster spread
from Marisol McDonald and the Monster

Jalissa Corrie, Marketing & Publicity Assistant

“I have a fear of ghosts. I think there is one (or more) that lives in my parent’s house in the Hudson Valley. They tend to make themselves known when I’m home by myself.”

 Hannah Ehrlich, Director of Marketing & Publicity

“I actually had a very strange phobia when I was growing up: I was afraid of buttons. I would not let my parents dress me in any clothes with buttons, did not like to touch buttons myself, hated sitting on chairs with buttons, and even avoided hugging people who were wearing button-down shirts. For most of my childhood, I thought it was just a weird thing that only I had. But thanks to the Internet, I’ve actually learned that there is a name for this phobia: Koumpounophobia. It’s pretty rare, but it’s estimated that nearly one in every 75,000 people experiences it. Most famously, Steve Jobs admitted that he has koumpounophobia and some speculate that his fear of buttons may have led to the invention of the iPhone and other buttonless devices. My phobia is fairly mild now but I still hate wearing button-down shirts, avoid button-up duvet covers, and prefer not to touch buttons (especially the small plastic ones) if I don’t have to!”

Hsu Hnin, Operations Assistant

“My greatest fear is the darkness; especially when I have to sleep in a place where there’s absolutely no light.”

John Man, Director of Operations

“My biggest fear is running out of poke balls during a hunt.”

You can purchase a copy of Marisol McDonald and the Monster/Marisol McDonald y el monstruo here.

Don’t miss the first two books in the Marisol McDonald series:

Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match / Marisol McDonald no combina

Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash

Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash / Marisol McDonald y la fiesta sin igual

Share with us in the comments! What’s your biggest fear? You can win a chance to win signed copies of our Marisol McDonald series!

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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21. The Heart of Writing: The Revision Process

New Voices Award sealIt’s August and with the New Voices Award deadline approaching in just seven weeks, participating writers may be starting to feel the heat. No sweat! The New Voices Award blog post series has got you covered from the summer sun of stress.

At this stage, you’ve probably got your cover letter and story written down. You’ve also read July’s post on the importance of voice in a story and made your narrative even more engaging to readers. Congrats! That’s two essential checks on the New Voices To-do list –but don’t seal the envelope just yet! Now that your story is down it’s time to begin the revision process.

Revision is an important part of the writing experience. It’s about revisiting what you’ve written, identifying what needs to be strengthened, and rewriting to improve your story. Every writer’s revision process is different so to provide some guidance we interviewed two New Voices Award Winners, Linda Boyden (The Blue Roses) and Jennifer Torres (Finding the Music/ En pos de la musica), about how their revision processes helped them prepare their stories for the New Voices Award.

What inspired you to write your story? Did you write it specifically for the New Voices Award, or was it something you were working on already?

 Linda Boyden: In 1978 my maternal grandfather, Edward Dargis, passed away. I was about to have my last baby and couldn’t attend his funeral 3,000 miles away. Until I went to college, we had lived in the same neighborhood and were very close. He worked at a factory but was happiest in his garden. A few nights after he passed, he came to me in a dream. He stood in a beautiful flower garden, and like Rosalie’s Papa his face was “smooth, not wrinkled.” In the dream he told me to stop grieving because he was happy. From that point on I knew I needed to write this story as a gentle way to broach a tough topic.

from The Blue Roses
from The Blue Roses

Many years later when my husband’s company moved us to Maui, I left teaching and decided to follow my dream of becoming a writer. I enrolled in a community college writing course. The instructor assigned us the task of writing 1,000 words a week so the first draft of The Blue Roses was actually homework! When he returned it he commented, “I wanted to like Rosalie more, but I couldn’t.” That hurt so I put the manuscript away. Months later I rethought and revisited. By the time I learned of Lee & Low’s New Voices Award, the manuscript had been through a few revisions. After winning, it went through a few more with my careful editors, Laura Atkins and Louise May.

Jennifer Torres: Finding the Music was inspired by my own childhood—growing up in a noisy family, being close to my grandparents and their stories, hearing mariachi music playing in the background of weddings, birthday parties and other special celebrations. It was also inspired by stories I covered as a newspaper reporter: one, an obituary for a farm worker who gave free mariachi lessons to neighborhood kids on his time off, and another about the sense of community that grew around the mariachi program at Cesar Chavez High School in Stockton, California. I started working on the book long before I learned about the New Voices Award. After researching publishers, I knew I wanted to submit my manuscript to Lee & Low. I went to the website to learn more about the company and to review submission guidelines—that’s when I discovered the award.

What does your revision process look like? At what point in your writing process do you begin making changes?

LB: I write at a certain time every day. When working on a picture book, I rough it out on paper and revisit the next morning. I revise the previous work then create new. Next day, repeat. When it’s almost “good” I print it, read it aloud, and revise more. I love the process: revision is the heart of writing.

JT: I always catch myself wanting to revise as I go, making changes today on what I wrote yesterday. But I try to resist! It’s too easy for me to get hung up on small details that way. I think I do much better work when I’m revising a finished draft. I can step back with a sense of the story’s full scope. The problems stand out more clearly, and, often, so do the solutions.

How often do you share your works-in-progress with other people? Are you part of a critique group or is there someone specific you rely on for feedback?

from Finding the Music
from Finding the Music

LB: I’ve been part of many critique groups over the years. Now, I share with trusted individuals only and generally online. I read most rough drafts aloud to my husband who hears the mistakes. I also share all my picture book manuscripts with one young granddaughter who also has remarkable insights.

JT: I’m not part of a critique group-I think it could be good though! I do have a few friends who I ask to read drafts after I’ve finished a couple of rounds of revision on my own. They’re talented writers—whose styles and voices are nothing like mine—and they give thoughtful and honest feedback. It’s super helpful to me to see my work from someone else’s perspective, especially when the story has been all alone in my head until then.

What is something surprising you learned while preparing your story for publication?

LB: The most surprising part was discovering that authors and illustrators seldom meet, or even have contact. My Lee & Low editors had no problem with illustrator, Amy Cordova, and me communicating. Not only did this collaboration strengthen our book, Amy and I have remained friends.

JT: During the publication process, my editor let me know that Finding the Music would be bilingual (It was initially English-only). This meant some extra editing and paring down, but I was really excited about the decision! What was surprising to me, though, was how adding the Spanish text added so much dimension to the book as a whole. I can’t imagine it any other way now, and it’s a good reminder of how the collaborative nature of the process can do so much to enrich storytelling.

How has winning New Voices Award changed the way you write or revise stories?

LB: Winning the first New Voices Award gave me something I lacked as a writer: self-confidence. Though I understood picture books, I had no training in becoming a writer other than the one community college course mentioned above. Winning also gave me the opportunity to learn from the wonderful editorial staff at Lee & Low Books.

 JT: Coming from a newspaper background, I already had big appreciation for editing and revising as part of the writing process. But at a newspaper, it happens so fast. Winning the New Voices Award and preparing Finding the Music for publication helped me realize how valuable it can be to step back from a project, and approach it again weeks (or even months) later with fresh eyes and perspective.

The Blue Roses by Linda Boyden is available now!

The Blue Roses cover image

Finding the Music/ En pos de la musica by Jennifer Torres is available now!

Finding the Music cover image

For more details about submitting to the New Voices Award please visit the New Voices Award page.

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22. 25 Books from 25 Years: First Day in Grapes

25th anniversary posterLEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year! To recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today and hear from the authors and illustrators.

Today, we are celebrating First Day in Grapes, an inspirational story for children of all backgrounds. Chico’s story of personal triumph and bravery in the face of bullying is a testament to the inner strength in us all.

Featured title: First Day in Grapes

Author: L. King Perez

Illustrator: Robert Casilla

First Day in Grapes cover imageSynopsis: All year long Chico and his family move up and down the state of California picking fruits and vegetables. Every September they pick grapes and Chico starts at a new school again. Often other children pick on him — maybe because he is always new or maybe because he speaks Spanish sometimes.

Chico’s first day in third grade turns out to be different. His teacher likes him right away, and she and his classmates are quick to recognize his excellent math skills. He may even get to go to the math fair! When the fourth-grade bullies confront Chico in the lunchroom, he responds wisely with strengths of his own.

Awards and Honors:

  • Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Honor, ALSC/REFORMA
  • Notable Children’s Book, Smithsonian
  • Choices, Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)

From the Illustrator:

“Stories that help kids become familiar with kids of other cultures or others in different situations are books that I like to illustrate. I appreciate the way the author put the main character in situations that kids deal with daily in real life and how the boy used his wits to get out of tough situations.

I related to the kid in this story in a wacky way when it came to avoiding bullies. When I was about nine years old there was a boy who picked on me daily, until one day I came up with an idea. I thought that if I walked by him making a face that he wouldn’t recognize me and leave me alone. The plan worked, but now that I think of it, I doubt it was because he didn’t recognize me.”

Purchase a copy of First Day in Grapes here.

Other Editions: Did you know that First Day in Grapes also comes in a Spanish edition?

Primer día en las uvas

First Day in Grapes Spanish edition cover

Resources for teaching with First Day in Grapes: First Day in Grapes Teacher’s Guide

For more titles about different experiences with bullying and peer pressure, check out our Bullying/Anti-Bullying Collection here.

Have you used First Day in Grapes? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection.

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23. MAMÁ THE ALIEN/Mamá la extraterrestre Blog Tour with René Colato Laínez

To celebrate the release of Mamá the Alien/Mamá la extraterrestreauthor René Colato Laínez will be stopping by the following blogs from August 15th to the 24th! Follow along as René Colato Laínez discusses his writing process, his thoughts on diversity in kidlit, and the recent debate over the term “illegal alien.”Below is the schedule of the Mamá the Alien/Mamá la extraterrestre Blog Tour:René Colato Laínez BLOG TOUR

August 15: The Latina Book Club

August 17: Mommy Maestra

August 19: Latinaish

August 22: Pragmatic Mom

August 23: Reading Authors

August 24: The Logonauts

And in case you missed it, here’s René Colato Laínez’s post about his experience being called an “illegal alien” when he was young.

To find out more about René Colato Laínez and Mamá the Alien/Mamá la extraterrestre, check out his blog and follow him on Twitter. And if you are a blogger interested in being included on this or future blog tours, please reach out to us at publicity [at] leeandlow [dot] com.

1 Comments on MAMÁ THE ALIEN/Mamá la extraterrestre Blog Tour with René Colato Laínez, last added: 8/25/2016
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24. Marketing 101: How Conferences Taught Me to Plan a Wedding

I’m getting married in a little under two weeks, and a few nights ago I had my first anxiety dream about my upcoming wedding. It went like this: my wedding and the American Library Association Annual Conference (ALA) had been scheduled for the same time. I was arranging books at our exhibit booth in my wedding dress, and when I tried to leave to head to the altar, an author appeared for her signing. She demanded that I stay and fix the lighting, which she said was not flattering. I woke up in a cold sweat.

It doesn’t take Freud to figure out where this dream came from. As any marketing person can tell you, conferences take an immense amount of work, planning, and mental energy. As it turns out, weddings do too. The good news is that I’ve learned a lot in my eight years of planning and attending conferences that helped me stay sane throughout the wedding planning process—and there’s a lot that wedding planning can teach about conferences, too. Here are a few tips that I’ve found to be true for both events:

Always be prepared. Long-term planning is essential, but I’ve found that in order for events to go off without a hitch, a lot of time needs to be dedicated to thinking through the minute details because seemingly small things can throw a wrench in even the best-laid plans. Are any of your dinner guests gluten-free? Do you need a reminder to change your watch when you get to a new time zone? In MARKETING 101 Weddingwhich part of the convention center is the exhibit hall located? How many pens have you brought for your signing? What will you do if your powerpoint was not uploaded as promised?

If you are an author attending a conference, think through all the items you will need and make a list, so you remember to bring them all with you or make sure your publisher has them. If you have an itinerary, look over it carefully and get any questions you have answered early, before the conference starts. The more time you set aside ahead of time to think through the details, the less likely you are to be caught by surprise on the day of your event.

You can’t make everyone happy. In wedding-land, it’s notoriously hard to satisfy everyone and make decisions without some feelings getting hurt. You’d think that conferences would be less emotionally wrought, but I am hear to tell you that’s not always the case. Your book is your baby, and it’s natural to feel disappointed when it doesn’t draw the attention or sales that you hoped it would. Not all signings go well, and not all panels pull a standing-room-only crowd. Not every author gets his or her own publisher-sponsored cocktail party. When it comes to conferences, everyone is working with limited time, attention, and resources. Try to go in with managed expectations, and remember that you’ve created a beautiful piece of art. Even if it doesn’t attract all the attention you hoped it would, it is still something to celebrate and be proud of. And if you connect with just a few new readers who are excited, you never know where that might lead.

Use Institutional Knowledge. When I started planning my wedding, nothing helped me more than speaking with friends who had gone through it before. They pointed me in the right direction, kept me sane, and even shared their spreadsheets with me. If you are an author going to a conference for the first time, don’t reinvent the wheel: use your publisher and peers to help you plan. If you have never done a signing on a conference floor before, ask for some recommendations of ways to break the ice with people walking by (we have some great recommendations from authors here, here, and here). If you are going to a dinner or another event for the first time, ask fellow authors or publishing staff what they use to start conversation or keep it going. What kind of materials are helpful to bring along? If you ask questions you’ll find that people are happy to share their knowledge and experience with you, so you don’t have to start from scratch.

me with one of our fabulous authors, Monica Brown, at the ALA conference this year
Me with one of our fabulous authors, Monica Brown, at the ALA conference this year

Don’t lose sight of the big picture. In conferences and weddings, it’s easy to get bogged down in the small details. But at the end of the day, what’s your goal? If it’s a wedding, your goal is probably (hopefully!) to get married. If it’s a conference, your goal may not be quite as clear, but it’s worth thinking through. Do you want to introduce your book to new people? To connect in person with key contacts? To meet your editor for the first time? To sell copies at your book signing? To drum up new school visits? If you can figure out which goal or goals are most important to you, it’s easier to plan your conference experience around that. Decide where you want to allocate your time, energy, and resources. Let your publisher know what you hope to accomplish, so you’re all on the same page. Your goal can help you navigate the conference craziness and come out sane on the other side.

Whatever you do, don’t let the stress of event planning take away from the joy of the event, whether that means getting married or sharing your book with the world (next time ALA is based in Las Vegas, you could do both at once!). Keep calm, keep your eye on the prize, and you’ll get through just fine.

 

1 Comments on Marketing 101: How Conferences Taught Me to Plan a Wedding, last added: 8/18/2016
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25. Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Babu’s Song

LEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today as well, as hear from the authors and illustrators.

Featured title: Babu’s Song

Author: Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen

Illustrator: Aaron Boyd

Synopsis: Babu’s Song is the story of a young Tanzanian boy who learns a lesson about family love after selling the special music box his grandfather made for him. Set in contemporary Tanzania, this story is a tender testament to the love between grandchild and grandparent.

Awards and honors:

  • Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education
  • “Choices,” Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)
  • 40 Books About Sports, Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)
  • Parents’ Choice Recommended, Parents’ Choice Foundation
  • South Carolina Children’s Book Award Nominee, South Carolina Association of School Librarians
  • Storytelling World Resource Award, Storytelling World magazine
  • Children’s Africana Book Award, African Studies Association
  • Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award Master List, Pennsylvania School Librarians Association
  • West Virginia Children’s Book Award Master List, West Virginia Children’s Book Award Program

The story behind the story: 

“To this day Babu’s Song is still one of my favorite books and though I’ll illustrated over 20 books since then, I still go back to it when I’m speaking with kids and other artists. Babu’s Song is such a beautiful story and it is still one of my most requested books when I talk to people.

Working on Babu’s Song continues to touch my life as an artist as much today as it did when I began illustrating it. Not only because it’s one of my most recognized and colorful books I’ve illustrated, but also because it helped set the trajectory of my artistic and social conscious. Growing up where books (and movies) too often didn’t contain subjects or people that I saw in my own life I knew that when I began illustrating books my priority would be to capture people and places that we don’t often see or know on a map.

In Babu’s Song I got to show a boy and his father in Tanzania dealing with poverty and loss that while not uncommon in the world are often unseen by most of us, even when next door. And while this story does deal very honestly with the boy’s struggles, it always keeps its heart and shows us that there is a way to persevere. So a story about a little boy and his grandfather on the other side of the globe becomes someone we can begin to see (empathize with) thus bringing us all a little closer. “

Aaron Boyd, illustrator of Babu’s Song and new title Calling the Water Drum

Resources for teaching with Babu’s Song:

babu's songBook activity: Ask students to write a letter to their grandparent or grandparent-figure in their life. Review the structure and tone of a friendly letter. Students should describe what they admire about this person and include questions to learn more about them.

How have you used Babu’s Song? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection.

0 Comments on Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Babu’s Song as of 8/22/2016 8:36:00 AM
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