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I’ve been blessed to be a part of the PaperTigers’ team since December 2006 when I took on the role of Eventful World Coordinator just prior to the launch of the PaperTigers blog. As the years passed and PaperTigers continued to grow, evolve and expand (most noticeably with the launch of our Spirit of PaperTigers Book Sets and Outreach Program) my role within the organization changed too. In 2010 I was offered the job of Associate Editor and since then have worked closely alongside our wonderful and very talented editor Marjorie Coughlan to produce PaperTigers’ three components: the website, the blog and the Outreach site .
I consider myself so lucky to be doing a job that I love in a field that I love! Children’s literature has always been my passion and during my years with PaperTigers I’ve not been the only one in my family to benefit from the pile of books that just have to be read for work. (Insert a big smiley face here because really…how wonderful is it to have to read books!) When I started working at PaperTigers my children were in elementary school so naturally we focused a lot of our reading time at home on children’s and junior books. However as PaperTigers and my kids grew I found myself developing more and more interest in Young Adult books. Now I have to say that although children’s picture books will always hold a very special place in my heart , Young Adult books tug strongly at my heart too! So when it came time to do a Top 10 list for PaperTigers’ anniversary celebration, it only made sense for me to select my favorite Young Adult books. Drum roll please….in random order I present:
When her unemployed father leaves India to look for work in America, Asha, her mother and sister move in with family in Calcutta. When news comes that her father is accidentally killed in America and her family’s financial difficulties intensify, Asha makes a heartwrenching, secret decision that solves many problems and creates others.
When Sami catches his father in a lie, he gets suspicious as does the FBI who descend on his home, and Sami’s family (the only Muslims in the neighbourhood) becomes the center of an international terrorist investigation.
12-year-old Leela’s husband unexpectedly dies and custom requires her confinement at home for a year, “keeping corner.” Prohibited from ever remarrying, Leela faces a barren future: however, her brother has the courage to buck tradition and hire a tutor to educate her. This powerful and enchanting novel juxtaposes Leela’s journey to self-determination with the parallel struggle of her family and community to follow Gandhi on the road to independence from British rule.
12-year-old Diego is deep in the Bolivian jungle, working as a virtual slave in an illegal cocaine operation. As his situation becomes more and more dangerous, he knows he must take a terrible risk if he ever wants to see his family again. As well as being a great read, I am a Taxi packs in a store of information about Bolivia and the exploitation of children in the drug-trade, and raises polemics about the growth of the coca plant.
During the Vietnam War Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.
On October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi is gunned down by two Sikh bodyguards. The murder sparks riots in Delhi and for three days Sikh families are targeted and killed in retribution for the Prime Minister’s death. It is into this chaos that fifteen-year-old Maya and her Sikh father, Amar, arrive from their home in Canada. India’s political instability is the backdrop and catalyst for Maya’s awakening to the world. Karma is the story of how a young woman, straddling two cultures and enduring personal loss, learns forgiveness, acceptance and love.
After a bullied classmate commits suicide, Kana Goldberg – a half-Japanese, half-Jewish American- is sent to her family’s home in Japan for the summer. Kana wasn’t the bully, not exactly, but she didn’t do anything to stop what happened, either. As Kana begins to process the pain and guilt she feels, news from home sends her world spinning out of orbit all over again.
Andi hasn’t seen her brother for eight years and when he steps off the plane from the Philippines, she cannot believe her eyes. He’s tall. EIGHT FOOT TALL. But Bernardo is not what he seems. Bernardo is a hero, Bernardo works miracles, and Bernardo has an amazing story to tell. In a novel packed with quirkiness and humor, Gourlay explores a touching sibling relationship and the clash of two very different cultures.
As the oldest of eight siblings, Lupita is used to taking the lead—and staying busy behind the scenes to help keep everyone together. But when she discovers Mami has been diagnosed with cancer, Lupita is terrified by the possibility of losing her mother, the anchor of her close-knit Mexican American family. Suddenly Lupita must face a whole new set of challenges, with new roles to play, and no one is handing her the script.
Set in war-torn Afghanistan, post-Taliban and just after the American invasion in 2001, Wanting Mor brings a ravaged landscape to life and portrays the effects of war on civilians caught up in conflict, especially on children. Based on a true story about a girl who ended up in one of the orphanages Rukhsana sponsors in Afghanistan through the royalties of her book The Roses in My Carpets.
Celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi today with Saffron Tree, who highlights two “lovely stories” wrapped in one book – The Story Lady by Shruthi Rao and Blanket of Stars by Rachna Chhabria.
The Sambat Trust has recently launched its seventh library in the Philippines – many congratulations. There are some photos of very happy children…
Author Mitali Perkins has announced the winner of her 10th Teens Between Cultures Prose competition; and in case you missed it, here’s the link to the Poetry Competition winner too – definitely take the time to read these winning entries.
Cynsations has an interview with Debbie Ridpath Ohi (whom we welcomed to the PaperTigers Gallery in August) – and there’s also a giveaway of Debbie’s just-released I’m Bored with a hand-drawn doodle… Quick! There are only four days left…!
And I learned something new from The Book Chook – I, who love elephants so, how come I never knew 22 September is Elephant Appreciation Day?! – phew – thank you, Book Chook. She has lots of elephant activities on her post. So what’s your favorite elephant book?
In July I read THE SHALLOWS: WHAT THE INTERNET IS DOING TO OUR BRAINS. It was a month of travel, where my Internet time was drastically reduced. It was liberating not to be tied to messages that demanded response, whether truly urgent or not. I didn't miss the constant assault of opinions and noise on my Facebook page (I do like you, friends, but sometimes it's all pretty overwhelming). I had a chance to reflect, regroup, and breathe.
I don't think the Internet is evil, but I do know I don't always like the way it pulls me in. In an attempt to be intentional with my time on the Internet, I stepped back from Facebook for the month of August. I'm not over there often, but just this small departure from the norm has reminded me how easy it is to be idle, to wile away precious time. If you've ever felt something similar to what I've shared above, I encourage you to read the links below and come back tomorrow to read some quotes I found especially provocative in THE SHALLOWS.
Some years back as we settled into our bicultural family life with young children here in Japan, although we were surrounded by books in Japanese and took full advantage of Japan’s healthy picture book and middle-grade market, we discovered that finding English-language reading material to support our bilingual children was no easy task. Because our children attended Japanese schools, English education happened in our home, and we needed a steady supply of English-language books. But libraries in Japan stock few English-language books, and bookstores here carry very few and at hefty mark-ups, so whenever friends or family visited from the U.S. they brought books to us. Returning from a trip back to the States, our luggage was always heavy with books. We book-swapped with families in Japan, we ordered from Scholastic with our English-after school group, and we pounced on book sale tables at international school fairs. At last, Amazon Japan with free and quick delivery of affordable overseas books came to the rescue.
Always on the lookout for books relating to our lives while raising our bilingual children, we soon became aware of a lack of English-language children’s books that reflect Japan. English-language picture books set in Japan were rare, and those that existed, we discovered, tended toward folktales and nonfiction. Where were the day-to-day stories that reflected the landscapes and people and value systems surrounding us? Where was Japan?
We read and reread the bilingual Grandpa’s Town by Takaaki Nomura. We enjoyed folktale retellings like The Seven Gods of Luck by David Kudler and Yoshi’s Feastby Kimiko Kajikawa.and biographical works like Cool Melons—Turn to Frogsby Matthew Gollub. All excellent, but we were discouraged that such English-language titles set in Japan were few and far between.
Searching for other Asian cultures in English-language picture books yielded similar results—folktales, nonfiction and concept books, but few fictional stories set in Asia.
I cannot contain my excitement. After all these years, I finally get to meet Mitali Perkins (in person). She’s driving from Boston today and coming to my school to speak to grades 5 and 6 about her wonderful work. Stay tuned for clips from her visit.
Last summer I began to forge a theory about the what-next in young adult books. In time the 2011 National Book Award finalists were named, the 2011 Best Of lists were put forward, and the 2011 Printz and Newbery slates were unveiled. Throughout it all, the theory held. Today I am grateful to Shelf Awareness for sharing my thoughts in a story that begins like this:
For reasons both maddeningly obvious and impossibly elusive, young adult literature is particularly prone to categorization and trends--fenced in by labels, discriminated for or against, sold according to headline. Teeth sink. Wings ascend. Murderous games hold court. Landscapes are annihilated, and then annihilated again. It's a package deal.
Please read the whole here. I'm interested in your thoughts, of course. Where do you think the future lies?
Submissions for the 2012 contest are now being accepted.
Do you love to weave words together?
Were you and/or one or both of your birth parents born in another country?
Do you live in the United States or Canada now?
Are you 13-19 years old?
If you answered yes to ALL of the questions above, YOU qualify to enter the Fire Escape Writing Contests! Submit an original, unpublished poem or piece of prose (fiction or non-fiction) that reflects some of the joys and struggles of growing up between two cultures in America. Mitali’s Fire Escape will only consider one poem and one piece of short fiction per person, so send your best work.
Though I am eager to start my third day in Chautauqua, I wonder how Monday can match Sunday’s experience. Not only is Send in the Clowns stuck in my head (and I can’t stop singing the song), for last night’s supper, we were treated to the best barbecued chicken I have ever eaten. And then, there were those chocolate frosted brownies next to an invisible sign with my name on it that said, “These special writer’s brownies are meant to be eaten in multiple portions. Do not eat just one!” I think everyone had an invisible sign with his or her name, because I was not the only one going for seconds—and thirds, and then, halfway to the bus, I turned around, yelling to Nanci. “I can’t help it. Save me a seat. Do you want another brownie?”
Prior to being served dinner, we were encouraged to walk the lovely grounds at Westfield and to pick our own blueberries to eat—one of my favorite fruits. I was so smitten with photographing the blueberries that I realized–too late–that I had nothing to collect the blueberries in. I did the next best thing: I ate one after another, until a gentleman offered me his full cup of blueberries. (I savored them for days.) Thank you, kind sir!
My belly full of blueberries, I listened to the birds sing, studied insects on leaves, and then discovered The Land of Dinosaurs Versus Trucks, which is where I was when the call of “Chicken being served,” resounded through the fields.
After everyone had eaten, we settled in our seats, where we quickly fell under Joy Cowley’s spell. If I had attended the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop in 2010, I would have missed Joy. And I can’t imagine missing the opportunity to connect with her. Joy returned this year after a three-year absence, and she is an absolute joy!
Joy speaks from the heart and from years of experience, and with such love for others, you feel as if you are a child, alone in a room with her, listening to stories. I would have sat there all night if I could. She stresse
The Red Umbrella follows a 14-year-old Cuban girl and her brother sent by their parents to live in the United States during the tumultuous period of 1960s Cuba. Christina says the story was ” loosely based on the experiences of my parents, mother-in-law and many of the other 14,000 children who participated in Operation Pedro Pan.”
Talking about why she wrote the book, Christina says:
“Obviously, this is a personal story and part of my family history. In fact, it’s an important part of American history and yet there wasn’t much written about it, especially from the point of view of the children who experienced it. The book showcases how the U.S. has always been a haven for those seeking refuge from injustice and oppression and how average Americans have stepped up to help those in need, even if they were foreigners in our country. I also wanted to show the pride immigrants (in this case Cubans) have for their homeland, but how, in the end, family is what matters most… home is not a physical place. It’s where you feel you belong, where you are surrounded by people who love and accept you.”
The Red Umbrella has been appearing on many YA book lists since being published in May 2010, including ALA/YALSA’s 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults. You can read an interview with Christina here, and there is also an amazing book trailer made by Christina’s brother-in-law:
The judges for The Battle of the Kids' Books have been announced, and I actually know one. And I don't mean I actually know her in the sense that we have commented on each other's blogs or Facebook walls. No, I mean I've actually been in the same room with her. And I don't mean I've actually been in the same room with her the way I've actually been in the same room with Richard Peck, who is also a judge this year. No, I mean we were actually in the same room, and we actually spoke to each other. I was in the same room with Richard Peck, but he did all the speaking from the stage.
PaperTigers is excited to announce that we are now on Twitter. You can find us there under the name PaperTigersOrg (http://twitter.com/PaperTigersOrg) and will have some icons up shortly on our website and blog to take you directly there.
We look forward to exploring this type of social media and being able to connect with our readers in real-time, as well as follow the tweets of those involved in multicultural children’s and young adult literature around the world. Special shout-outs to Mitali Perkins who became our first follower and to all those who tweeted that PaperTigers had arrived on the scene. We can see how information spreads quickly with Twitter and look forward to jumping in with a big roar!
2011 promises to be a year full of exciting events as regards children’s and young adult literature, and we are thrilled to announce that we will be attending the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore this coming May. Obviously being able to tweet while attending such events will be wonderful and we look forward to being able to share our experiences in real-time on Twitter.
Yes, that’s my giant gob projected on a viewing screen. The picture was taken during a recent Skype visit. Quick, here’s a couple of other shots:
I’m still in the early stages of figuring out this Skype business. I’m not even sure how I feel about it yet, or whether I can (or should) fit them into my schedule. That said: It is undeniably cool to connect with kids from far-away places, schools I’d never visit if not for this amazing technology. So I’m leaning yes.
And it is amazing, as tired and cliched as that word sounds. Suddenly we’re looking at each other, waving, laughing, talking, snorting. It’s craziness and I think students really do feel a thrill.
The photos are from my first-ever Skype visit. Since I didn’t know what I was doing, just fumbling around, I didn’t charge a fee. And I still don’t. Though that might change down the road if I decide to pursue this in any kind of organized fashion. The visit was a result of an enterprising teacher, Tyler Samler, who reached out to me after reading Bystander with his class. We decided on a 20-minute Q and A session. I enjoyed it, despite having to comb my hair. However, I found it difficult to read the audience. In person I’m pretty good at glancing around the room, know when to sit down and when to start flapping my arms, recognizing when I’ve got their full attention or when, perhaps, it’s slipping away. With Skype, I was less certain. Hopefully I’ll get better at that with practice.
Tyler wrote to me after the session:
The Skype session was awesome! You’ve acquired some life long fans here at Hyde Park Elementary School. After the session we went around and had each student give imput and share their opinions. It was a really good response. They enjoyed your sense of humor and your kindness. I think they were greatly enriched to have this opportunity. You’re a wonderful storyteller!
February has arrived and with it Black History Month in Canada and African American History Month in the USA. To see some of the celebrations planned in the USA click here and in Canada click here. In honor of the month, many websites and bloggers are highlighting the richness of children’s literature that focuses on Africa, African Americans, African Canadians and the African diaspora. Here’s a small sample of what’s being offered:
The Brown Bookshelf has launched 28 Days Later, a month-long showcase of the best in picture books, middle grade and young adult novels written and illustrated by African Americans.
Margo Tenenbaum’s blog The Fourth Musketeer specializes in historical fiction for children and teens, and throughout the month of February will focus on reviewing African American titles.
Reading Rockets.Org has just updated it’s Black History Month section where you’ll discover great online resources for the classroom and for family discussions. I’ve just spent the morning watching the video interviews with award-winning writers and illustrators.
Having just finished reading Bamboo People, I was excited to see this email in my inbox today from Primary Source, a non-profit organization that promotes history and humanities education by connecting educators to people and cultures throughout the world:
Global Read of Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins
You are invited to join us for a discussion of the young adult novel, Bamboo People, by Mitali Perkins — a compelling coming-of-age story about child soldiers in modern Burma. The online discussion forum will begin tomorrow – Wednesday, January 12th. Then join the author for a live chat on January 19th.
Online discussion forum: January 12th-19th, 2011 Live chat session with the author: Wednesday, January 19, 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. EST
Register online here (registration is free but participants are responsible for obtaining their own copy of the book). All are welcome – teachers, students, parents, and anyone interested in global issues!
I’m off to register now and hope that some of our PaperTigers readers will join me!
Saturday at Midwinter was a happy day for Maud Hart Lovelace fangirls like me…HarperPerennial hosted a booksigning, giving away tote bags and copies of Carney and Emily to a crowd of happy conference-goers. Mitali Perkins and I signed our forewords in the gorgeous reissues, and I loved getting to meet so many fellow Betsy Ray devotees, including several lovely women I know from the Maud-L discussion list.
With Maud-L listren Nancy Downing and Kathleen Waldron, a happy meeting!
The lovely Mitali Perkins
Me, HarperPerennial’s Jennifer Hart, and Mitali Perkins
Delightful lunch company. All of us are card-carrying members of the Betsy Tacy Society. (Well, I guess baby Lucy isn’t carrying a card…yet.)
Shortly we will be moving on to a new update on the main PaperTigers website – but, of course, there’s still time to explore Children’s Literature from India and the Indian diaspora, if you haven’t already, and the features will remain readily available via the permalink to the October/November homepage.
And just to remind you of the wealth of resources and sheer joyful reading out there, here’s a glimpse at some recent blog posts from that rich and varied Indian diaspora, as well as India itself:
Congrads Tricia! Email me your address at firstname.lastname@example.org. June prizes will not be shipped until the end of the month) Mitali Perkins, author of Bamboo People, on Twitter Book Parties and Book Promotion
Hi Mitali, thanks for stopping by today with a copy of your book. Tell us about yourself and your books.
I was born in Kolkata, India and immigrated at age seven to the States with my family. My books for young readers include Monsoon Summer, Rickshaw Girl, Secret Keeper, and the First Daughter books, and I speak frequently about the transforming power of stories as well as about growing up between cultures. I live in Newton, Massachusetts with my husband, sons, and Labrador retrievers.
Chikoisn’t a fighter by nature. He’s a book-loving Burmese boy whose father, a doctor, is in prison for resisting the government. Tu Reh, on the other hand, wants to fight for freedom after watching Burmese soldiers destroy his Karenni family's home and bamboo fields. This coming-of-age novel takes place against the political and military backdrop of modern-day Burma. Narrated by two fifteen-year-old boys on opposing sides of the conflict between the Burmese government and the Karenni, one of the many ethnic minorities in Burma, Bamboo People
Our current issue of PaperTigers focuses on Refugee Children and one of the highlights in the issue is an interview with author Mitali Perkins about her latest novel, Bamboo People. The novel is about children caught up in conflict in modern-day Burma and, once again, as she has done in her previous novels, Mitali illustrates the tension of characters caught between cultures, but in Bamboo People the backdrop is war, and the stakes are higher than ever. This is Mitali’s first novel to feature male characters and has been receiving rave reviews since it was released on July 1st. Here’s an excerpt from our review of the book:
This fascinating story shines a light on the desperate situation of those affected by current Burmese policies and will help educate young readers about that situation in particular and the vagaries and confusion surrounding conflict in general. The characters, Perkins’s first male protagonists, are very thoughtful, easy to engage with, and surprisingly similar. In fact, as a reader, it felt as if Tu Reh and Chiko could have been the same person had circumstances not shaped their lives so differently. This juxtaposition is absolutely brilliant and illustrates the point that war makes enemies out of people who, in a different context, would become the best of friends.
On Aug 19, from 7 – 8:30 pm, Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA, USA will be hosting a book launch party for Bamboo People and Mitali will be in attendance. Everyone is welcome to attend and light Burmese refreshments will be served. For more details click here. Also be sure to check out Mitali’s blog Fire Escape and her Facebook page as she will be writing about the launch and posting some pictures too, I’m sure!
Last night I had the pleasure of attending the book launch party for Mitali Perkins' latest YA novel, Bamboo People. It was held at the Porter Square Bookstore in Cambridge, MA, which is quite the comfy indie and easily accessible for suburbanites like myself, (despite my GPS' devious scheme to send me via the most circuitous route possible.) I have met Mitali a few times before at tweet-ups (and
Arrived to find this gorgeous bamboo plant sent from Portland, Maine by Curious City’s Kirsten Cappy, Jamie Hogan (who illustrated my book Rickshaw Girl), Annie Sibley O’ Brien (After Gandhi), and King middle school librarian Kelley McDaniel. Thank you so much, ladies, for your love and support!
I loved watching people mingle and meet.
My buddy Deb Sloan is one of the best book cheerleaders on the planet.
Authors who write for adults don’t get love like this.
Mitali Perkins (mitaliperkins.com) was born in India and immigrated to the States with her parents and two sisters when she was seven. Bengali-style, their names rhyme: Sonali means “gold,” Rupali means “silver,” and “Mitali” means “friendly.” Mitali had to live up to her name because her family moved so much — she’s lived in India, Ghana, Cameroon, England, New York, Mexico, California, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Massachusetts.
Mitali studied political science at Stanford University and Public Policy at U.C. Berkeley before deciding to try and change the world by writing stories for young readers. Now she’s settled in Newton, a town just outside of Boston, where she writes full-time.
About the book:
Chiko isn’t a fighter by nature. He’s a book-loving Burmese boy whose father, a doctor, is in prison for resisting the government. Tu Reh, on the other hand, wants to fight for freedom after watching Burmese soldiers destroy his Karenni family’s home and bamboo fields. Timidity becomes courage and anger becomes compassion as each boy is changed by unlikely friendships formed under extreme circumstances.
This coming-of-age novel takes place against the political and military backdrop of modern-day Burma. Narrated by two fifteen-year-old boys on opposing sides of the conflict between the Burmese government and the Karenni, one of the many ethnic minorities in Burma, Bamboo People explores the nature of violence, power, and prejudice.
My take on the book:
In reading Bamboo People, this was my introduction to the works of Mitali Perkins. I was interested in reviewing this book due to my own personal experience several years ago teaching independent living skills to Burmese refugee youth. Almost all of the youth I met were either former child soldiers or had been orphaned due to the conflict in their country.
With that in mind, I found Ms. Perkins’ book to be a fascinating opportunity for readers to enter a world, occupied by youth similar in age to themselves, but characterized by horrible conflict and fear. The two main characters (Chiko and Tu Reh) are youth from opposing sides of the Burmese conflict. Chiko’s father was imprisoned as an “enemy of the state” for reading books. Chiko’s family is desperate for money so he answers a newspaper ad requesting teachers. The ad is a ruse however and he gets captured and conscripted into the army. Tu Reh is a Karenni refugee who lost his home and village to Burmese soldiers. He is understandably driven to enter the conflict by revenge but the words of his wise father keep him guessing his own intentions. Both main characters have their own internal conflicts, some typical of adolescent youth the world over, which will make them quite relatable for young readers.
Both characters eventually meet up under extraordinary circumstances. As the story comes to its c