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1. Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Reflection with Matthew Gollub

Lee_Low_25th_Anniversary_Poster_2_Guest BloggerLast week we wrote about the enduring impact of Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa and today we bring you reflections from the award-winning author Matthew Gollub

“Looking back on this book’s remarkable journey, I remember my frustration with publishers early on. My previous publisher had declared as “lovely” the poems that the artist Kazuko Stone and I had presented. But, they believed, haiku were too abstract for most American children to grasp. This made us all the more grateful to Lee & Low, and the editor Liz Szabla, for sharing our intuition that the translated poems would in fact resonate, especially when interspersed in a story about the poet’s life.

Now, having spoken at over 1,000 schools, I’ve been greeted with countless wall displays and “welcome” folders of haiku. It is an honor to have worked on a book that has inspired such an outpouring of original children’s poetry and drawings.

Last summer, while traveling in Japan, I had the further honor of meeting the noted translator Akiko Waki. She had translated, then lobbied her publisher Iwanami Shoten, to issue a Japanese edition of “Cool Melons.” Ms. Waki and her husband graciously invited my college-age son and me to their home. The Japanese version also had been well-received and widely collected by libraries, so it felt even more celebratory to meet the translator in person. Over dinner, she described how daunting it would have been for a Japanese writer to translate centuries old haiku. That, she pointed out, was a job better suited to a Japanese speaking foreigner less encumbered by the weight of Japan’s literary tradition. Better suited also to an innovative publisher like Lee & Low!”–Matthew Gollub

About Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa:

This award-winning book is an introduction to haiku poetry and the life of Issa (b. 1763), Japan’s premier haiku poet, told through narrative, art, and translation of Issa’s most beloved poems for children.

Author Matthew Gollub’s poignant rendering of Issa’s life and over thirty of his best-loved poems, along with illustrator Kazuko Stone’s sensitive and humorous watercolor paintings, make Cool Melons—Turn to Frogs! a classic introduction to Issa’s work for readers of all ages. With authentic Japanese calligraphy, a detailed Afterword, and exhaustive research by both author and illustrator, this is also an inspirational book about haiku, writing, nature, and life.

cool melonsFor further reading:


Matthew Gollub is an award-winning children’s author who combines dynamic storytelling, interactive drumming, and valuable reading and writing tips. What’s more, he does this while speaking four languages: English, Spanish, Japanese and jazz! He helps families re-discover the joy of reading to children aloud for FUN. Find him online at matthewgollub.com.

 

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2. Wings of Fire Would You Rather

Wings of Fire Escaping PerilFive dragon eggs are stolen away and hatched in secret, raised to one day fulfill an ancient prophecy and end the war. The Wings of Fire series follows these dragons as teenagers. It’s not just full of fighting and fantasy and fate (although there’s plenty of that!) but also dragon bullies, lovable nerds, crushes, and funny personalities.

Whether you’ve been a fan forever or are just getting interested, test your fate with the Wings of Fire Would You Rather.

Would You Rather . . .

1. Breathe fire like a Nightwing OR deadly, freezing air like a Skywing?

2. Be attacked by an enchanted statue OR locked in an underwater prison?

3. Dream about food like Clay OR read minds like Moonwatcher?

4. Have your mouth bound shut so you can’t spit out your poisonous venom OR have your touch be made of fire?

5. Be raised as a killer (like Peril) OR be raised with the pressure of fulfilling a prophecy to save the world?

6. Live in an underwater kingdom OR rainforest kingdom?

7. Baby dragons OR baby dinosaurs?

Hatch your answers in the Comments below, and let us know if you love the Wings of Fire series too!

-Ratha

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3. Bridging Stories and Communities: The Harlem Book Fair

summer internPia Ceres is LEE & LOW’s summer intern. She is a recipient of the We Need Diverse Books Internship Program grant. She’s a rising 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 talks about her first book fair with LEE & LOW BOOKS.

By morning, a sticky summer swelter had set in, but the anticipation was unmistakable, electric in the air. They would be coming soon. Across two blocks, along 135th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard, booksellers, authors, and representatives from nonprofits fussed with tents and paraphernalia. Somewhere I couldn’t see, a live jazz band began to practice; its strident trumpet blared the beginning of a celebration. In moments, the hot asphalt would be teeming with families and lovers of literature from around the country gathering for the Harlem Book Fair.

The Harlem Book Fair is the largest African-American book fair in the country. With the aim of celebrating literacy within the Black community, the fair, held annually, offers a full day of presentations and rows of exhibition booths. Although it kicked off its 18th successful year last Saturday, this was my very first time participating in a book fair. Helping Keilin and Jalissa represent LEE & LOW and sell some of our books, I was open to every possibility.

The challenge came early on: Someone asked me to find a book for her niece, then added, “She hates reading.” Yikes. Sounds like a tall order, but not surprising. Most of the educators and families who stopped by our booth were concerned that their kids didn’t see themselves in the books assigned at school. It reminded me of when I was a kid and had to read about primarily white boys and the wilderness or dogs or something. For this woman, I suggested The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen. Maybe, I hoped, this would be the book that would start to change things.

At a book fair, one sees firsthand that books, particularly children’s books, are a meaningful part of relationships – an aunt wishing her niece a story that reflects her. I spoke with a dad who wanted an exciting bedtime story; a soon-to-be teacher, eager to fill her first classroom with books as diverse as her students; a mom who wanted to share her native language, and her young daughter who wanted to read it. As I listened to people’s requests, the book fair revealed a striking truth: For a lot of folks, books are expressions of love.harlem book fair

Of course, the day ended with a sudden and cinematic downpour, with jabs of wind that caused our white tent to take to the air like a storm-battered sail and had Keilin, Jalissa, and I drenched, scrambling to protect the books! Because if any day reminded us that books are precious, it was this one.

If books bridge worlds, then book fairs are a space for bridging those connections. The Harlem Book Fair allows diverse stories to come into people’s hands and helps create a world-full of readers – reflected, interconnected, loving and loved.

 

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4. Hiking and Camping Name Generator

Pack Up! Hiking and Camping Name Generator

People who hike the Appalachian Trail come up with fake names for themselves so they don’t reveal their real names to strangers they meet on the Trail. Wish you had your own outdoorsy, fake name? You can make one with our HIKING AND CAMPING NAME GENERATOR!

Find the first letter of your first name in the left column below, and the word next to it is your new first name. Then find the first letter of your last name in the right column below, and the word next to it is your new last name. So if your name is, say . . . Abercrombie Fitch, your new hiking name is Bear-Poop Mosquito.

Ready to become that cool, outdoorsy hiking and camping person? Go!

First Letter of First Name First Letter of Last Name
A Bear-Poop Tent A
B Starry Night Headlamp B
C Campfire Lake C
D Swamp Canoe D
E Thunderstorm Mountaineer E
F Marshmallow Mosquito F
G Firewood Boots G
H Deer Squirrel H
I Mountain Camper I
J Heat Wave Backpacker J
K Backcountry Navigator K
L Snake Bug Bite L
M Bear Crickets M
N Waterproof Compass N
O Forest Flashlight O
P Frog Stream P
Q Trail Mix Ranger Q
R Blaze Hiker R
S Captain Map S
T Sunscreen Canteen T
U Whitewater Trail U
V Bald Eagle Sunrise V
W Sleeping Bag Moon W
X Wiggly Worm Water Bottle X
Y Woodpecker Canyon Y
Z First Aid Kit Chipmunk Z

What’s your Hiking and Camping Name? Tell us in the Comments below!

-Ratha (a.k.a Blaze Crickets)

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5. Barbara J. King on whale grief

9780226155203From National Geographic:

More than six species of the marine mammals have been seen clinging to the body of a dead compatriot, probably a podmate or relative, scientists say in a new study.

The most likely explanation for the animals’ refusal to let go of the corpses: grief.

“They are mourning,” says study co-author Melissa Reggente, a biologist at the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy. “They are in pain and stressed. They know something is wrong.”

Scientists have found a growing number of species, from giraffes to chimps, that behave as if stricken with grief. Elephants, for example, return again and again to the body of a dead companion.

Such findings add to the debate about whether animals feel emotion—and, if they do, how such emotions should influence human treatment of other creatures. (See “Do Crows Hold Funerals for Their Dead?”)

Animal grief can be defined as emotional distress coupled with a disruption of usual behavior, according to Barbara King, emeritus professor of anthropology at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and author of the book How Animals Grieve.
Barbara J. King has long positioned her scholarship at the forefront of our study of animal emotions—in works like How Animals Grieve and in her criticism, which regularly appears in the TLS, King pushes us to understand the complex inner lives of animals, neither wholly similar nor dissimilar to the realm of human affects. The National Geographic piece makes a compelling case for the importance of King’s work on animal grief, which she refuses to anthropomorphize, while at the same time, grounding her findings in observations of marine animal life. Warning though: it will make you feel your own feelings.
To read more about How Animals Grieve, click here.
To read the National Geographic piece in full, click here.

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6. Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Under the Lemon Moon

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.

Featured title: Under the Lemon MoonUnder Lemon

Author: Edith Hope Fine

Illustrator: René King Moreno

Synopsis: One night, Rosalinda is awakened by a noise in the garden. When she and her pet hen, Blanca, investigate, they see a man leaving with a large sack-full of fruit from Rosalinda’s beloved lemon tree.

After consulting with family and neighbors about how to save her sick tree, Rosalinda sets out in search of La Anciana, the Old One, the only person who might have a solution to Rosalinda’s predicament. When she finally meets La Anciana, the old woman offers an inventive way for Rosalinda to help her tree–and the Night Man who was driven to steal her lemons.

Awards and Honors:

  • Honor Book Award, Society of School Librarians International
  • Notable Children’s Book, Smithsonian Magazine
  • Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, National Council for the Social Studies/ Children’s Book Council
  • The 50 Best Children’s Books, Parents Magazine
  • Parent’s Choice Silver Award, Parent’s Choice Foundation
  • Children’s Books Mean Business, Children’s Book Council (CBP)

From the author:

“I can’t help grinning when I look back on my years of Under the Lemon Moon school visits. This book came about from a San Diego news story about a lemon grove that had been vandalized—lemons were taken, trees damaged—a little lemon seed of an idea.

Young readers gasp when I tell them I worked and reworked 42 versions before sending out the manuscript. They brawk like Blanca the chicken, make butterflies with their hands, and echo “Gracias” on cue. They hear, then say, the key opening line, “Deep in the night Rosalinda heard noises,” moving their hands to catch the rhythm of the words. They get their first taste of magical realism as La Anciana helps Rosalinda heal her damaged lemon tree and gain a sense of empathy when learning more about the Night Man.

I’ve now written eighteen books (including Armando and the Blue Tarp School and Snapshots! with Lee & Low) but Lemon Moon, with René King Moreno’s warm illustrations, was my first picture book and has garnered numerous awards. Thanks to my critique group’s patient support, plus Lee & Low’s Spanish translation and attention to back list, Lemon Moon still sells well today. With its subtle theme of sharing and forgiveness, this book still holds a special place in my heart.” –Edith Hope Fine

Resources for teaching with Under the Lemon Moon:

Book activities:

Olfactory FactoryUNDER_THE_LEMON_MOON_spread_3
Lemons have a special scent. Scents can trigger memories from long ago. Choose objects with distinct smells, such as a lemon drop, a flower, a crayon, a Band-aid, a piece of pine, cinnamon, peanut butter on a cracker, etc. Put each object into a separate plastic bag. Choose one bag, without peeking. Now open the bag and waft the scent toward your nose with your hand. (That’s the safe way to pick up scents in the air-you’ll do that in science in high school.) That scent may bring back a strong memory. Write about what you remember.

Bake Lemon Moon Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tablespoons shortening
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons “zest” (grated lemon peel; add more if you love the lemony zing)
  • 1 capful lemon extract

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Cream shortening and sugar.
Add milk, egg, baking powder, salt, and flour. Mix well.
Add lemon juice and zest. Mix well.
Drop by teaspoonful onto greased cookie sheet, two inches apart.
Bake 10-15 minutes until the cookies are just turning golden.

Under the Lemon Moon is also available in Spanish: Bajo la luna de limón

Have you used Under the Lemon Moon? 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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7. Fish Create a Caption

Create a caption for this glorious goldfish!

FishLeah from the Scholastic Kids Council sent this wonderful picture of her pet goldfish in all its glorious goldishness!

What do you think this fish is trying to say?

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8. Blowin’ Up at Pop Matters

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From a recent review of Jooyoung Lee’s Blowin’ Up: Rap Dreams in South Central, at Pop Matters:

One of the many powers of hip-hop, of course, is the intimacy it offers. Spend enough time listening to a certain rapper, and you begin to feel like you know that person as well as you do your own friends. Chuck D’s famous pronouncement that hip-hop is “CNN for black people”, pointed though it is, seems to miss part of the story. Hip-hop is CNN for white people, too, if you acknowledge the media’s systematic neglect of America’s black population. Through hip-hop, rappers are telling the stories that many journalists, and their publications, couldn’t be bothered to cover.

As a white hip-hop fan, there’s a seductive tendency to congratulate one’s self for gaining cultural competencies in African American culture, as if memorizing Tupac lyrics and attending Wu-Tang concerts confers a master’s degree in black studies. But the truth is that even in its rawest, most detailed form, hip-hop gives only what is at best a keyhole-sized view of the African American experience.

Jooyoung Lee’s Blowin’ Up: Rap Dreams in South Central represents a jump through the keyhole into the world of hip-hop as it is lived by some of the art form’s most dedicated practitioners.

To read more about Blowin’ Up, click here.

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9. Star Wars Kid Review

star wars the force awakensStar Wars (rated PG and PG-13): it’s the best movie series in the galaxy. The Star Wars story line is amazing. It is jam-packed with action and it has been one of my favorite movie series ever since Darth Vader said, “Luke . . . ”

One of my favorites out of the whole series is Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (rated PG). It has a lot of interesting characters since it is based a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. There are characters like Luke and Leia who are human, but there are characters like Chewbacca and the Ewoks who make the movie a lot more interesting than just humans fighting with lightsabers and blasters.

Chewbacca and Han Solo

courtesy of LucasFilms

These characters have very interesting personalities and they can be very funny. Chewbacca is a Wookie, basically half human, half Bigfoot. I like to think of Ewoks as fluffy teddy bears that can be vicious if you try to take over their territory. It has a lot of action. From lightsaber fights to lightspeed X-Wing battles, Star Wars will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat. If you haven’t seen the movie, I tell you, “This is the movie you are looking for.”

Another amazing thing about Star Wars is the music. John Williams wrote the best music ever for these movies. The music makes you feel like you are in an X-Wing or fighting off Stormtroopers.

I think that Star Wars is one of the best movie series ever created. I would recommend these movies to anyone. If you haven’t seen them, you definitely HAVE to see these movies.

Alex, Scholastic Kids Council

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10. Part 2–Having Students Analyze Our Classroom Library To See How Diverse It Is

Guest BloggerEarlier this month, we highlighted the impressive work happening in the classroom of Jessica Lifshitz, veteran educator in Northbrook, Illinois. Following her popular essay on how Jessica empowered her fifth grade students to analyze their classroom library for its culturally responsiveness and relevancy, she shares in this interview with LEE & LOW BOOKS why she wanted to take on this project with her students, where families and administrators fit into this process, and her hopes for her students.

LEE & LOW: What inspired you to have your students analyze your classroom library?

After the events surrounding the shooting and death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, I felt compelled to find a way to bring more discussions on race into my classroom. I teach in a suburb of Chicago, where the vast majority of my students are white. There were little or no conversations about race at all taking place. I knew that if things were going to ever have a hope of getting better in this country, my mostly white students HAD to be a part of the solution. They had to recognize the bias that exists in this country and then find a way to fight against it. But that is really hard to do when the concept of race is not one that my students have had much, if any, experience dealing with. So, like with most problems, the first place that I looked to try and find a solution was with the very books that make up a huge part of the work that my students and I do together.

We began by doing a small experiment (explained here) where we looked only at the images on the covers of picture books and made predictions on what those books would be about. Based on our results, we realized that we made MANY predictions because of the race and gender of the people shown on the covers of those books. After a powerful discussion with my students, they crafted the following inquiry question: Where do the biases and stereotypes we carry around related to gender, race, family structure, religion, etc. come from?

We then set out to try and answer that question. This eventually led us to think about the picture books in our classroom and that led us to the work of analyzing our books to look at how they represented or misrepresented different groups of people.

So the short answer really is that this work was inspired by students and the conditions of the world that they are living in.

LEE & LOW: Why do this at all? This project is not a part of the curriculum or scope & sequence for fifth grade—why did you think this was important enough to use instructional time?

As teachers, we have an incredible opportunity to truly make the world a better place. Not to sit and wait for others to fix the problems, but to ask our students to join us in the powerful work of actually starting to make the world a better.

I think that a lot of times we waste this amazing opportunity because we feel limited by standards and objectives and curriculum. But what I have found is that if I begin with what work I want my students to be engaged in and then work backwards to connect that work to the standards, I am then able to do the work that I feel is most important AND meet the standards and objectives that I am asked to teach.

For example, the work that we did here was a part of our unit on synthesizing. We looked at how we could pull pieces of information together in order to gain a better, more complete understanding. So we took the issue of stereotypes and biases and that is what we worked to understand. We looked at advertisements, fairy tales, modern day picture books and novels. We pulled all of these pieces of information together to grow our understanding of how biases form. This allowed us to cover many standards and learning targets.

But more importantly, the kids were learning about their world. They were studying the problems that surround them and thinking of ways to begin to solve those problems. That is learning that will last. That is learning that will make a difference. So if I am able to help them to do that kind of work AND I am able to cover the skills I need to teach in the process, then everyone wins and the world gets better.

BiasesLEE & LOW: What foundation, classroom work, or background context do you think was imperative before leading your students through this project?

I think that one of the most important pieces of work that allowed this project to happen was that, from day one, we had worked to create a culture of trust in our classroom. We practiced making ourselves vulnerable and we practiced listening to the ideas of others without passing judgments on people. These things were absolutely necessary for our work to take place because part of our work involved sharing things about our own thinking that we weren’t necessarily proud of. No one likes to admit that they carry biases, and yet we all do. Ignoring that doesn’t help anything. Confronting that and working to dismantle those biases is what leads to real change. But that takes a lot of trust. So from the start of the school year we talked about big issues.

We began with during our unit on memoirs and on making connections to the texts that we read. These units became a chance to study the power of a person’s story. We learned the power of sharing our own stories and the power of learning from the stories of others. This work allowed my students to open up to each other about their own lives and also allowed us to practicing listening to people whose lives are very different than our own in order to learn more about them and build empathy. These were skills we needed for this project as well.

When we started to look at biases and stereotypes, we began first with gender before tackling race. We began by looking at catalogues like Pottery Barn to notice the differences in what was marketed towards girls and what was marketed towards boys. We did work that helped us to distinguish the actual things we observed from the more hidden messages that this sent. We started with gender because I think it is easier for kids to grapple with. It is more concrete. While my students had almost no experience discussing issues of race, they did have some experience discussing issues of gender. So we started with where they were and then moved on from there. That was really important because I think that if I had just thrown them in to the discussions of how races were misrepresented in the books in our classroom library, they would not have been ready. The work we did with issues of gender helped us to better understand the work we later did with issues of race.

LEE & LOW: For teachers interested in leading their students through similar thinking and analysis, what would you recommend they prepare either for themselves or their students?

I hope that others want to take on similar work and I know that so many already have. The beauty of this kind of work is that is uses materials that are already present in your classroom. We have books and we can all look more closely at those books.

One thing that I would recommend is a whole lot of communication before beginning. I had several conversations with my principal about the work we were taking on. It was never to ask permission to do the work, but instead to just let him know and make sure I had his support in case of any push back from parents. Issues of race often spark fears and concerns with parents and having administrator support makes all of that much easier. On that note, keeping parents informed of the work was also really important for me. I wanted to make sure that parents knew what we were doing so that the conversations we were having could be continued at home. I also made sure to let parents know how our work was connected to our curriculum and our standards and learning targets. Therefore, when questions were asked, I was able to refer back to the information that I had already shared. This was extremely helpful.

Other than communication, I would also just encourage teachers to not say too much. Instead, allow the students observations to drive the conversation. We began by looking at the infographic and then jumped pretty quickly into the data collection in our own classroom library. I have a terrible habit of telling my students all of the things that I want them to discover on their own. I have really had to work to stop myself from doing that because taking away that power from my students takes the learning right out of their hands. So I wouldn’t recommend preparing too much and allowing the students to really guide this work.

LEE & LOW: Is this only valuable for classrooms with a majority of students of color? What can classrooms of various demographic configurations take away from this project?

As I mentioned before, my students are mostly white. Because of that, this work is especially important for them. So often, our white students do not ever think about race. That is part of the privilege they are living with. But that makes it really easy for them to ignore what others have to deal with precisely because of their race. I believe that my students MUST be a part of a solution to the many problems connected to race in this country. But they cannot be a part of that solution if they are not even able to recognize that the problems exist.

For Further Reading:


IMG_1316

Jessica Lifshitz is a fifth grade teacher in Northbrook, Illinois and has been teaching for 13 years.  She believes in teaching her students that reading and writing can make the world a better place and is honored to learn from her students and to be inspired by them every day.  She writes about teaching and learning at crawlingoutoftheclassroom.wordpress.com.

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11. Sara Goldrick-Rab and the United States of Debt

9780226404349

Sara Goldrick-Rab’s game-changing book Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream publishes this September. To understand part of the urgency behind its central claim—that college is far too costly, and the confusing mix of federal, state, institutional, and private financial aid leaves countless students without the resources they need to pay for it—tune in to the most recent United States of Debt podcast from the folks at Slate.

Tackling the student loan crisis, Slate asks: “Just how many of us are really burdened by the cost of pursuing a higher education, and is there a way out? Are student loans more common now, and why? Why are student loans such a mess in the United States, compared to other countries? And what do for-profit schools have to do with all of this?” Listen in for more about Goldrick-Rab and the stakes of living with suffocating student debt—and what we might do about it.

To read more about Paying the Price, click here.

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12. 10 Things Diary of a Wimpy Kid Fans Understand

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double DownHave you read all 10 Diary of a Wimpy Kid books? Are you eagerly awaiting the release of Book #11 Double Down coming out November 1, 2016? If so, we’ve got just the thing to get you through. Check out our Top 10 list of…

10 Things Only Wimpy Kid Fans Understand

10. You will never eat a slice of deli cheese again.

9. When your mom asks you to change your baby sister/brother’s diaper you start singing the “Exploded Diaper” song.

8. Other people’s parents try to talk to them while on the toilet, too?

7. Why taking a “shower” at camp with baby wipes… is actually a pretty good solution.

6. Why wearing your older brother or sister’s hand-me-down underwear is a problem.

5. Silas Scratch.

4. The difference between a purse and an embroidered book bag.

3. That scary moment when you have to stop going to the kiddie dentist … and start the adult dentist.

2. When you take a picture of somebody’s bent inside-of-the-elbow, but your photography teacher thinks it is somebody’s butt (and of course you get in trouble).

1. “I’ll be famous one day, but for now I’m stuck in middle school with a bunch of morons.”

Are you a huge Diary of a Wimpy Kid fan? Let us know in the Comments below!

-Ratha

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13. In memoriam: William H. McNeill (1917–2016)

636039854906495066-AP-OBIT-WILLIAM-H-MCNEILL-83304902

William H. McNeill (1917–2016)—historian, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago (where he began teaching in 1947), and prolific scholar—died July 8, 2016, at age 98. One of his most notable works, The Rise of the West: A History of Human Community, was the first University of Chicago Press title to win a National Book Award, and is often considered a major force in resituating “western” civilization in a more global context.

From the New York Times:

Professor McNeill’s opus, The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community (1963), took 10 years to write. It became a bestseller, won the National Book Award for history and biography and was lauded in the New York Times Book Review by the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper. “This is not only the most learned and the most intelligent,” he wrote, “it is also the most stimulating and fascinating book that has ever set out to recount and explain the whole history of mankind.”

McNeill went on to write several books for the University of Chicago Press, including Venice: The Hinge of Europe, 1081–1797The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force, and Society since A.D. 1000; The Islamic World (coedited with Marilyn Robinson Waldman); Hutchins’ University: A Memoir of the University of Chicago, 1929–1950History of Western Civilization: A Handbook; and Europe’s Steppe Frontier: 1500–1800His honors included a National Humanities Medal for his work as a teacher, scholar, and author.

From the University of Chicago:

In a 1987 interview at the time of his retirement, McNeill said it was important for historians not to be too narrow in their outlook. “History has to look at the whole world,” he said. “And that means you have to know how the rest of the world is, how it got to be the way it is.”

McNeill was critical in launching the field of world history at a time when the discipline was narrowly focused on the history of Europe and its past and present colonies. In his work, he emphasized the connections and exchanges between civilizations rather than placing them in a vacuum.

“Bill McNeill was a scholar of extraordinary boldness, range and high creativity,” said John W. Boyer, the Martin A. Ryerson Professor in History and dean of the College. “He was able to see patterns and relationships among highly complex and disparate historical phenomena on a global level in ways that enabled him to write magnificent and courageous books of large intellectual compass.”

The NYT’s obit concludes with an prescient excerpt from McNeill’s 1992 review of Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man:

“I do not believe that human nature is uniform and unchanging. Rather, whatever penchants and capabilities we inherit with our genes are so malleable that their expression takes infinitely diverse forms.”

“When Asian models of social and economic efficiency seem to be gaining ground every day, and when millions of Muslims are at pains to sustain the differences, great and small, that distinguish them from Americans,” he continued, “it is hard to believe that all the world is destined to imitate us.”

To read more about McNeill’s work, click here.

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14. Meet the Newest Cute Animal of 2016!

Red pandas? Done. Quokkas? Yawn. Pikas? Boooring. Here are six reasons why you need to know about the olinguito.

olinguito1
Smithsonian / Via insider.si.edu

1. The discovery of the olinguito was only just announced in 2013, meaning this cutie is ready to take over the internet!

olinguito2
Smithsonian / Via insider.si.edu

2. It looks like a cross between a cat and a teddy bear. ‘Nuff said.

olinguito3
CNN / Via cnn.com

3. It is an adept jumper that can leap from tree to tree in the forest canopy. Skillzzz!

olinguito4
Smithsonian Magazine / Via smithsonianmag.com

4. Scientists hope that the olinguito might serve as a charismatic ambassador for the conservation of dwindling Andean cloud forest habitats. How can anyone say no to that face?

olinguito5
Apex Expeditions / Via apex-expeditions.com

5. As Kristofer Helgen, curator of mammals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, says, “The discovery of the olinguito shows us that the world is not yet completely explored, its most basic secrets not yet revealed. If new carnivores can still be found, what other surprises await us? So many of the world’s species are not yet known to science. Documenting them is the first step toward understanding the full richness and diversity of life on Earth.”

olinguito cover image
LEE & LOW BOOKS, illus. by Lulu Delacre / Via leeandlow.com

6. Learn even more about the olinguito and its habitat in ¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! Descubriendo el bosque nublado /Olinguito, from A to Z! Unveiling the Cloud Forest, a new bilingual alphabet book from LEE & LOW BOOKS.

Award-winning author and illustrator Lulu Delacre uses lyrical text in both Spanish and English to take readers to the magical world of a cloud forest in the Andes of Ecuador. Discover the bounty of plants, animals, and other organisms that live there, and of course help a zoologist look for the elusive olinguito!

Purchase a copy of the book here.

You can also see this post on Buzzfeed.

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15. Which Twisted Fairy Tale Character Are You?

Whatever After booksIf you love classic fairy tales with Prince Charmings, princesses, and happily ever afters, then this fairy tale quiz is NOT for you. The fairy tale characters listed here are not your typical heroes and heroines. Instead, these characters are a little bit different, a little bit interesting, and a little bit… twisted.

If you’re interested in learning more about these twisted fairy tales, check out the book list here. If you’re interested in finding out which twisted fate you hold, take the quiz below. In each question, you will find an answer followed by a point system. For every one of your answers, write down the points on a separate sheet of paper. At the end of the quiz, add your points to find your poison.

Good luck, my twisted fairy tale creatures!

1. Your best personality trait is… a) being able to solve mysteries.-1 b) being mischievous.-3 c) having a big heart.-4 d) being creative.-2

2. When you grow older, what do you want to be? a) An artist because I’m creative.-2 b) A detective because no little detail escapes me.-1 c) A hero from any movie or book because why not?-3 d) A doctor because I want to save lives.-4

3. What makes you feel afraid? a) Angry people.-4 b) Losing my friends.-3 c) Getting lost.-2 d) Nothing, I am fearless.-1

4. If you were a superhero, what power would you have? a) Teleportation.-3 b) Strength.-1 c) Flying.-2 d) Invisibility.-4

5. Pick your favorite color. a) Green.-4 b) Yellow.-2 c) Purple.-3 d) Red.-1

6. What is your dream vacation? a) Camping in the wild forest.-1 b) Anywhere in a hotel with soft pillows.-4 c) Somewhere in Europe with big castles.-3 d) Anywhere as long as I’m not at home.-2

7. Which of these sports are you good at or would like to be good at? a) Running track.-1 b) Tennis.-3 c) Soccer.-2 d) None, I don’t like sports.-4

8. If you could adopt an animal, which would you choose? a) A frog because maybe it will turn into Prince Charming if I kiss it.-3 b) A wolf because they’re wild and loyal.-1 c) A baby bear because they’re so adorable and cuddly!-4 d) A horse so it can take me to cool places.-2

9. What is your favorite topping on desserts? a) Fudge.-3 b) Whipped cream.-2 c) Sprinkles.-4 d) To be honest, I don’t have a sweet tooth.-1

10. What is the perfect hangout with your friends? a) Have a sleepover where we paint our nails and comb our hair.-2 b) It doesn’t matter as long as I have many of them and they all like me.-4 c) Sit in and watch mystery movies.-1 d) Start a book club where we read books about fairy tales and adventures.-3

Count up your points and read onto find out your results.

If you scored 10-18, you are Wolfgang, a.k.a. “The Big Bad Wolf” from Big Bad Detective Agency.
Like The Big Bad Wolf, you are seriously misunderstood. No, like, seriously. Everyone always thinks you did it, but it’s not your fault that you always happen to be there when bad things happen. In fact, you’re actually a really nice person who just likes to stay in, binge watch TV shows, and occasionally cook up a nice steak. *Evil smiles*

If you scored 19-25, you are Rapunzel from Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel.
Sure, your life may look perfect from the outside. I mean, who doesn’t want good looks, a rad tower for a home, and really nice, gorgeous hair right? At least… that’s what Mom said. You may seem docile and “by the books,” but you’re actually a headstrong person who breaks rules and loves adventure. In fact, you have so many awesome adventures that you appeared twice in our Twisted Fairy Tales book list.

If you scored 26-32, you are Abby from Whatever After: Beauty Queen where she gets sucked into a mirror and lands into the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast. You have this mischievous way about you that always lands you in sticky situations. But never fear! You’re smart; you’re confident, and you always have a sidekick to help you in the direst situations. No matter what happens, you always find a way to make things right, if not perfect.

If you scored 33-40, you are Goldilocks from Grimmtastic Girls #6: Goldilocks Break In.
They say if you can’t beat them, then you should join them right?… Wrong! You should always do the right thing even though doing the wrong thing seems so tempting. That is what you live by despite what it seems because you have a pure heart… Well except for that one time you accidentally trespassed over these bears’ property, and they were, like, really nice and all, but for some reason, they were very angry that day so you couldn’t stay.

So what did you get? Drop a Comment below and let me know!

-Sandy

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16. Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa

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.

 

Featured title: Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa

Author: Matthew Gollub

Illustrator: Kazuko G. Stone

Synopsis: This award-winning book is an introduction to haiku poetry and the life of Issa (b. 1763), Japan’s premier haiku poet, told through narrative, art, and translation of Issa’s most beloved poems for children.

Author Matthew Gollub’s poignant rendering of Issa’s life and over thirty of his best-loved poems, along with illustrator Kazuko Stone’s sensitive and humorous watercolor paintings, make Cool Melons—Turn to Frogs! a classic introduction to Issa’s work for readers of all ages. With authentic Japanese calligraphy, a detailed Afterword, and exhaustive research by both author and illustrator, this is also an inspirational book about haiku, writing, nature, and life.

Awards and honors:

  • Notable Books for a Global Society, International Literacy Association (ILA)
  • Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts, National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
  • Notable Children’s Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies, Children’s Book Council (CBC) and National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
  • Children’s Books Mean Business, Children’s Book Council (CBC)
  • Not Just for Children Anymore selection, Children’s Book Council (CBC)
  • Outstanding Merit, Children’s Book of the Year, Bank Street College of Education
  • Best Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education
  • Books to Read Aloud with Children of All Ages, Bank Street College of Education
  • “Editor’s Choice,” San Francisco Chronicle
  • Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award finalist
  • Children’s and Young Adult Honorable Mention for Illustration, Asian Pacific American Award for Literature (APAAL)
  • “Choices,” Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)
  • ALA Notable Children’s Book, American Library Association (ALA)
  • A Horn Book Fanfare Best Book of the Year, The Horn Book Magazine
  • California Collections, California Readers
  • Utah Children’s Book Award Masterlist
  • Children’s Book of Distinction, Poetry Finalist, Riverbank Review
  • Read-Alouds Too Good to Miss, Indiana Department of Education
  • Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
  • Starred Review, The Horn Book Magazine

From the author: “A haiku, because of its brevity, resembles a quick line sketch. It’s up to the reader to imagine the details and to make the picture complete. In a sense, we can think of a haiku as a telegraph; for example: “Should arrive Tuesday, supper time.” From this short message, we can infer that, weather permitting, the sender will arrive early on Tuesday evening, and that after the long, tiresome journey she would appreciate a good meal.

Often, haiku describe two events side by side, such as: “Plum tree in bloom—/ a cat’s silhouette/ upon the paper screen.” Does the silhouette of the plum tree also appear on the paper screen? Does the plum tree in bloom suggest the warmth of a spring day? Again, it’s up to the reader to imagine how or if the two things are related.

Haiku tend to be simple and understated, so there’s never one “correct” way to interpret them. The idea is to ponder each poem’s imagery and to discover and enjoy how the poem makes you feel.”

–Matthew Gollub, from “What is a Haiku?

Resources for teaching with Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa:

Book activity:

Expand students’ experience with haiku by having them read and discuss works by other seventeenth century and eighteenth century poets such as Basho, Jöso, Ryota, Buson, or Sanpu. Students may also enjoy reading more contemporary haiku and comparing the contemporary poetry with the more traditional.

cool melonsHow have you used Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa? Let us know!

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

0 Comments on Celebrating 25 Books Over 25 Years: Cool Melons–Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa as of 7/18/2016 8:17:00 AM
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17. Find the Eel Picture Puzzle

Find the Eel!

You know those pictures where everything looks the same, but you have to find the thing that is different? Last time, I drew one with a squid. Well, I drew a new one for you!

Look at this big bunch of elephants and see if you can find the eel hiding in there.

Find the eel

Click on the image for a larger view.

Did you find it? Tell us in the Comments what you think of my latest picture puzzle!

En-Szu

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18. Finding Dory Would You Rather

Finding DoryDisney’s sequel to Finding Nemo (rated G) a.k.a. Finding Dory (rated PG) recently hit theaters to start off the summer movie season. In the movie, Dory, who suffers from short term memory-loss every 10 seconds or so, remembers she has parents and that she got separated from them as a child. With Nemo and Marlin’s help she sets off to find them.

Their adventures take them to The Marine Life Institute, where she gets captured, escapes, gets captured, escapes – you get the picture! Nemo and Marlin and some new friends join the adventure, including Hank the cranky red octopus.

So if you’re looking for some deep-sea adventure, dive into our Finding Dory Would You Rather, and let us know

Would You Rather . . .

1. Be a clownfish like Nemo OR blue tang fish like Dory?

2. If you were a fish … Get stuck in a six-pack drink holder (like Dory did) OR have a smaller right fin (like Nemo)?

3. Wash up in Australia OR wash up in California?

4. Swim through drainpipe tunnels OR the eye of a hurricane?

5. A giant octopus pick you up with his tentacles OR get swallowed by a whale?

6. Be a fish trapped in a plastic baggie OR a fish without water?

7. Not be able to remember things OR not be able to forget things?

8. Have an adorable sandpiper OR cute otter?

Did you like Finding Nemo or Finding Dory better? Let us know your answers in the Comments below. And like the story says, when things get tough, “Just keep swimming!”

-Ratha

Image courtesy Disney Pixar

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19. The Road Less Traveled Writing Prompt

There is a famous poem by Robert Frost called “The Road Not Taken.” Here is a quote:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,”

2 paths diverged in the woodsMany people interpret the poem to mean that if you see 2 paths, you should take the less common path because it might lead you to new adventures that you would not experience if you just follow the same road as everyone else. You know, be original and follow your own dreams, not someone else’s.

William has a different idea, though. He just wants to take the shortest road. Maybe there is some pizza waiting at the end of his road, or something.

What about you? What road will YOU take? Write your ending to this sentence :

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I . . . 

Leave your answers in the Comments!

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20. 25 Books from 25 Years: Richard Wright and the Library Card

Lee & Low 25th AnniversaryLEE & 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 Richard Wright and the Library Card, an inspirational story for children of all backgrounds. This book shares a poignant turning point in the life of a young man who became one of this country’s most brilliant writers, the author of Native Son and Black Boy.

Featured title: Richard Wright and the Library Card

Richard Wright and the Library Card cover imageAuthor: William Miller

Illustrator: Gregory Christie

Synopsis: The true story of the renowned African American author Richard Wright and his determination to borrow books from the public library that turned him away because of the color of his skin.

Awards and Honors:

  • Notable Children’s Book, Smithsonian
  • Honor Book, Society of School Librarians International

Other Editions: Did you know that Richard Wright and the Library Card also comes in a Spanish edition?

Richard Wright y el carné de biblioteca

Richard Wright y el carné de biblioteca

Purchase a copy of Richard Wright and the Library Card here.

Resources for teaching with Richard Wright and the Library Card:

Richard Wright and the Library Card Teacher’s Guide

Learn more about Richard Wright:

Additional LEE & LOW titles by William Miller:

Have you used Richard Wright and the Library Card? Let us know!

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

 

1 Comments on 25 Books from 25 Years: Richard Wright and the Library Card, last added: 7/14/2016
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21. 10 Problems Only Introverts Understand

Rainbow PenIf you are sometimes shy, enjoy quiet time to just think, and like to be by yourself a lot, you may be an introvert. Almost one half of the population is introverted but when you’re an introvert, it can feel like the whole world is a giant, non-stop noise box. Your strength is in listening and being sensitive to other people, but because you don’t blab about how great you are, people don’t always recognize your quiet awesomeness. (Personally, I think we ALL have a little bit of introvert in us!) Take a look and see if you can relate to:

10 Problems Only Introverts Understand

An oral presentation or even just answering a question in class is sometimes scary.

You would rather eat lunch in the library or in a classroom with a small group of friends than in the loud lunchroom.

You prefer writing or drawing to talking sometimes.

After spending a few hours in a noisy group of friends or family, you need to be quiet by yourself for a little while.

You practice conversations in your head, so the real ones aren’t so terrifying.

You want to do homework or read during your after-school play date – but your friend wants to talk and talk and talk. And talk.

Having conversations with grownups. It’s bad.

People keep asking you, “Are you ok?” or “Why are you so quiet?”

You wish you had noise-cancelling headphones when riding the school bus.

You are the best listener you know but people don’t always listen to you.

If you can relate to these problems, then you might be an introvert. Leave a Comment to let us know what’s going on inside your mind!

-Ratha

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22. Time Travel Book Wars

Book warsThe Time Patrol (for ages 12 and up) by Poul Anderson. The Time Machine (for ages 12 and up) by H. G. Wells. One is a collection of stories. The other is a short novel. Both are science fiction about time travel, but that is just about the only thing these books have in common.

Both are extremely good reads, though neither is suitable for a very young audience. The Time Machine is dense and takes a while to build up to the action. The Time Patrol deals a lot with time travel-related paradoxes, which can get confusing, and has some violence and some adult language.

The Time Machine is about a man in the late nineteenth century who builds a time machine. He travels to the year Eight Hundred and Two Thousand Seven Hundred and One A.D. (802,701). The book tells the story of his adventures with the people there, who are a greatly evolved version of the human race.

The Time Patrol is about Manse Everard, a man from the mid-twentieth century, who is recruited into the Time Patrol, an organization created to prevent anyone from changing history. The book has tales of his different missions.

If I had to pick which one I liked better, I probably would go with The Time Patrol, but I don’t want to rank them. They’re too different to pick a favorite. Both have excitement, but The Time Patrol has more. It also exercised my logic skills with time travel confusion. The Time Machine is more philosophical.

The Time Patrol and The Time Machine have a bit more in common than I said at first–they are both definitely worth reading.

Julie, Scholastic Kids Council

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23. Frankie’s Magic Soccer Ball

Frankie's Magic Soccer BallIt’s July, which means the 2016 Summer Olympics is only A MONTH away! From diving to gymnastics and everything in-between, the Olympics will be a month-long celebration of sports and the country’s best athletes.

One of the competitions in the Summer Olympics is soccer, a game that’s played all over the world. We’re celebrating Olympic soccer with Frankie’s Magic Soccer Ball, a magical series about a time-traveling group of soccer fans written by Frank Lampard, an English soccer star playing in Major League Soccer for New York City FC!

Frankie and his friends love playing soccer, and they’ll play the game no matter the place or time period! Join Frankie, Louise, and Charlie as they take on pirates, cowboys, and Medieval knights in Frankie’s Magic Soccer Ball!

Start reading Frankie’s newest adventure in Frankie’s Magic Soccer Ball here.

 

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24. Shaping Voice and Tackling Heavy Themes in Children’s Stories

New Voices Award sealSummer is settling in and this month marks the halfway point of the submissions window for our New Voices Award, an annual writing contest for unpublished authors of color. If you’re an aspiring writer working to submit a children’s book manuscript, you’ve probably got the basic elements of your story (characters, setting, and plot) figured out already. You may even have most of the story written down. If so, kudos! But a story is more than words on a page. It’s the voice behind the words that drives the narrative and keeps the reader engaged.

Unsure of how to tackle this essential yet elusive story element? Fear not!

Last month we interviewed New Voices Award winner Sylvia Liu about her path to publication. In this next blog post, New Voices Award Winner Patricia Smith and New Voices Award Honor Hayan Charara share their experiences with shaping voice while tackling the difficult themes in their award-winning titles Janna and the Kings and The Three Lucys.

  1. What kind of writing did you do before entering the New Voices Award and how did that experience influence your story writing?

Patricia Smith: I’d been a professional journalist, but my primary mode of writing at the time was poetry. I think I became a poet after taking on some of my father’s storytelling skills. When he came up from Arkansas to Chicago during the Great Migration, he brought with him something I like to call “the tradition of the back porch.” Every day ended with a story from him that opened up new worlds, stretched the boundaries of my imagination and taught me that language was so much more than what I was learning, or not learning, in school.

But I don’t think my father’s stories inspired Janna as much as my father himself did. I was that little girl sitting in the barbershop, fascinated at all the magic found there, but it was my father–not my grandfather–who let me tag along with him every Saturday. I was an adult when my father died–and Janna was a way to explore that sense of loss, of the world not being the same. Also, although I’m a diehard sentimental, I never really knew my grandfather. So I wanted to explore that warmth that I imagined between a grandfather and grandchild.

Hayan Charara: I published my first poem when I was nineteen, so it’s been almost twenty-five years since I began writing poetry. Some of my poems tell stories, and all of them use a good deal of imagery to get across both meaning and feeling. Without storytelling and imagery, The Three Lucys simply couldn’t exist.

  1. What inspired you to write your story as a book for children?

    janna and the kings
    from Janna and the Kings

PS: I’m the dictionary definition of a daddy’s girl, so a few things were in play. I needed to express the singular and enduring type of love I felt for him. Although he was gone by the time the book was published, I was writing it for him–he died before he could see that I’d become a writer, which is something I promised him when I was very young. And I really wanted to capture that special time in a special place, the barbershop–a place that has been so pivotal, and so nurturing, in so many black communities.

HC: I first wrote about the events that take place in The Three Lucys a few years earlier in a poem originally titled, “Lucy”. I changed the poem’s title to “Animals,” and it appears in my new poetry book, Something Sinister. Generally speaking, I write poems, in part, to figure something out, either about myself, the people I know, or the world I live in. While I don’t always find an answer, I find that I have a better sense of these things than I did beforehand.

Despite the poem, I still had questions about the war, and most of them had to do with my little brother who lived through its events. Like Luli, he was six years old when the war broke out. I hadn’t yet thought very deeply about how he and other children might have experienced war and its aftermath.

I might not have tackled these questions with a children’s book if not for Naomi Shihab Nye, the poet and children’s book author. For years, Naomi had been urging me to write a children’s book, and for almost all of that time I didn’t feel ready to do so. Then, at a café in San Antonio, she handed me an announcement for the New Voices Award and said, simply, “You need to write a story for children.” This time, I felt ready.

  1. Did the voice for your story come naturally, or did you experiment with different points of view while writing?

 PS: Because I envisioned myself as Janna, and because my father’s voice is so clear in my head, the writing came easily. Actually, I had held on to the New Voices call for some time, moving the notice around and around on my desk. I work best when there’s an anvil swinging over my head, so I didn’t begin writing until I had no choice–a day or so before the deadline. I didn’t panic, because I knew the story so well.

HC: Before The Three Lucys, I had no practice writing children’s stories, and it had been years since I last read one. I went into writing the story very clumsily, not really knowing what I was doing or how it would turn out. Depending on who is asked, that’s either the most natural or unnatural way to write a story.

Though I wrote the story in one sitting, it took several revisions before I started to think of it as finished. All along, the voice remained relatively unchanged; the same goes for the points of view. What did change through each revision were the details and descriptions, the sort that would bring to life the experiences of the people in the story, as well as their deeper emotions.

For example, none of the early drafts brought out in a powerful and memorable way the moment that Luli realizes he will never again see one of the three Lucys. At best, the scene was nothing more than a description. I hadn’t gotten at how Luli felt.

I took months to arrive at an image that expressed the kind of sadness that comes with the loss of a loved one. Luli tells us, “My heart feels as heavy as an apple falling from a tree.” Sometimes, we get lucky and an image like that comes quick. Sometimes, it takes a long time, but I still feel lucky when it happens.

  1. Both Janna and the Kings and The Three Lucys discuss heavy themes. What challenges did you face when creating the right tone/ voice for your main character as they experience tragedy and cope with its effects? How did you overcome these challenges?
the three lucys
from The Three Lucys

PS: It didn’t feel like a challenge. I feel like I’m forever processing the loss of my father, and a lot of what I hoped the world will be without him is much like what the world turns out to be for Janna. I wanted to acknowledge his loss, but to have my life be full of him. I was writing from the perspective of a child, but the feelings were very much my own–an adult woman still suffering the loss of her best friend.

HC: The hardest part of writing this story was separating myself from it. I had all sorts of feelings, thoughts, and responses to the war itself, to war in general, and to the loss of a loved one. My mother died when I was a young man, for example, and that experience altered me forever.

I knew that I would be coming at this story with a lot of ideas and emotions already in place. On the one hand, this is a good thing because it meant that I was prepared to write the story. On the other hand, it was clear to me that I had to come at this story from a perspective very different from my own. After all, the story is about a child’s experience, not an adult’s, a fact I had to remind myself about often and be reminded about just as often by those who read drafts of the story.

  1. Finally, what advice would you give to new writers interested in tackling heavy themes in their stories for children?

PS: We constantly underestimate children. The world they live in is sporting sharper edges; and each day they adjust, their perspectives deepen, and they grow thicker skin. Children suspect these heavy stories even if we’re not ready to tell them. I think the key is remembering to revel in the myriad possibilities of language, to never downplay the role of imagination, and to always, always look for an unexpected entry point into the story. I don’t mean to sugarcoat–just write the story in a way you’ve never heard it. Your readers will be so enthralled by the way the story unfolds that its content becomes something more than just “that difficult topic.”

HC: When I wrote The Three Lucys, my wife and I didn’t have any children, only cats and dogs. You don’t have to explain anything to a cat or dog—you can, of course, and I think it’s a good thing if we talk to our animals. With cats and dogs, no matter what you say, they always listen. There’s practically no pressure at all to get it right. It’s really hard to screw up.

We’re parents now, to a four-year-old and a five-year-old. And I’ve realized that I am talking to them all the time about heavy themes, mainly because they bring them up. Every so often, one of them will ask me something like, “Will you die before me?” or “Can I live with you forever?” Or, even harder to answer, “What is the universe?”

When my boys ask me these kinds of questions, I feel like every one of them is an opportunity for me to say exactly the wrong thing. Obviously, these are also opportunities for growth and knowledge (for them as much as for me). When I talk to them about anything, not just heavy stuff, I try to do so honestly and in a way that doesn’t terrify or confuse them. I’ve also realized that, no matter how much I try to protect them, difficult and at times ugly realities will still make their way into their lives. This happens to all children, all the time. When it comes to helping children understand and get through difficulties, parents and teachers are usually the first-responders. And writers are often right there with them. We can be, at least. As a parent, I know that I often rely on writers—on children’s books—to help me out, not only with the heavy stuff, but the simple stuff, too. So I hope that more writers will tackle the big issues. It’ll make all our lives a little better.

Janna and the Kings by Patricia Smith is available now!

janna and the kings

The Three Lucys by Hayan Charara will be available September 2016!

the three lucys

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

 

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25. Natasha Kumar Warikoo on affirmative action

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Natasha Kumar Warikoo’s The Diversity Bargain and Other Dilemmas of Race, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities, which publishes this fall, examines how both white students and students of color understand race and privilege at three top-tier universities—Harvard, Yale, and Oxford. Culminating in what Warikoo calls “the diversity bargain”—white students agree with affirmative action abstractly as long as it benefits them personally—the book argues that the slippery notions that sustain social inequalities on college campuses are hugely impacted not only by the student body, but also by the practices of universities themselves.

In a recent piece for the Boston Globe, Warikoo expanded on her findings:

However, in my research with undergraduates at Ivy League universities, I have found that this narrow justification shapes students’ conceptions of fairness and equity in admissions. Many white students at elite colleges agree with affirmative action only because they understand it benefits them through interaction with their minority peers. As a result, some are upset when they see tables of black peers in the cafeteria, when their black peers join the Black Students Association, or when Latino peers spend their time at Centers for Students of Color. What they don’t understand is that those organizations can be lifelines for students unfamiliar with the culture of elite, predominantly white universities, and who share experiences with racial injustice.

The sole emphasis on benefits to themselves also leads many white students to fear that affirmative action may in the future limit their opportunities. Affirmative action becomes an easy scapegoat when they fail in competitive processes like graduate school admission, summer internships, and jobs. One student at Harvard shared his worries about what some call reverse discrimination: “If I hadn’t gotten into Harvard I would have felt that I’d been discriminated against. If someone else that I knew and was equally qualified who was an ethnic minority had gotten in above me.” Affirmative action is an easy target when its only justification is the benefit of whites.

The diversity-of-voices lens misses the point. Affirmative action is about expanding opportunity and recalibrating our imprecise measures of merit so that they take our nation’s legacy of systemic and institutional racism into consideration. And we adults feed white students’ anxiety when we do not say so.

To read Warikoo’s piece at the Boston Globe in full, click here.

To read more about The Diversity Bargain, click here.

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