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I’ve always heard great things about the Rochester Children’s Book Festival, but never got invited. I tried to weasel an invitation a few years back (clever Cynthia DeFelice reference), but that went nowhere. Finally, at last, I wore ‘em down. Good thing, too, because I’m hoping to promote my SCARY TALES series as well as, you know, meet some kindred, book-loving spirits. So if you are near the area — a teacher, a librarian, or merely a stalker — please stop by and say hello.
Some of the many authors & illustrators who’ll be there: MJ & Herm Auch, Julie Berry, Michael Buckley, Peter Catalanotto, Bruce Coville, Cynthia DeFelice, Jeff Mack, Daniel Mahoney, Matt McElligott, Linda Sue Park, Matt Phelan, Robin Pulver, Jane Yolen, Paul O. Zelinsky, and more.
Holy crap! What a list of luminaries! My knees are sweating already. I better pack a clean shirt.
I’m looking forward to it, with thanks to my publisher, the kind folks at Macmillan, for putting me up with a family of Armenian immigrants at a nearby trailer park for the weekend. I just hope they remember to roll out the red carpet. Remember, I’ll only eat the blue M & M’s.
Happily, the event places me in close proximity to my oldest son, Nick, who attends Geneseo College. And by “attends” I mean, I certainly hope so!
Over Halloween, he and some friends decided to go as “Dads.” I functioned in an advisory capacity, the content of which he politely ignored. My big idea was to get a Darth Vader helmet and cape, then pull on one of those t-shirts that reads: “WORLD’S GREATEST DAD!”
Because, you know, irony!
Anyway, check it out. Nick is the one in shorts, pulled up white socks, bad mustache, and “Lucky Dad” hat. Hysterical, right?
Lastly, hey, if you happen to be in Elmira, NY, on November 6th, or Richmond, VA, on November 13, you can catch a lively, fast-paced musical based on my book, Jigsaw Jones #12: The Case of the Class Clown.
I did get to see it a few years ago, with a knot of dread in my stomach, and came away relieved and impressed. Everyone involved did a great job and, to be honest, the story is sweet, too.
Here’s the info on Richmond, VA (where, coincidentally, I’ll be visiting middle schools in early December, mostly giving my patented “Bystander/Anti-Bullying/Author ” presentation. Anyway, the info I promised:
Families, elementary schools and preschools are encouraged to make reservations soon for performances of a children’s show.
A 55-minute performance of “Jigsaw Jones and the Case of the Class Clown” will be performed at 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at Civic Hall Performing Arts Center in Richmond.
The show is based on a children’s mystery series written by James Preller. Theodore “Jigsaw” Jones and his friend, Mila, are investigating who’s playing practical jokes. It includes music and humor.
“Jigsaw Jones” is presented by Arts Power, a professional theater company touring the nation.
Admission is $2 per student because a grant from the Stamm Koechlein Family Foundation is helping offset the cost for Civic Hall’s Proudly Presenting Series educational programming.
Xander's Panda Party, by Linda Sue Park, is, as you might expect, a picture book about a panda named Xander who wants to throw a party. It's also about inclusiveness and about battling loneliness.
Xander wants to have a rip-roaring panda party. But this turns out to be a bit tricky, as he is the only panda in the zoo. So he expands his idea to invite all of the bears. But it turns out that Koala is actually a marsupial. He doesn't want to leave her out, so Xander has to expand the party to encompass all mammals. But then Rhinoceros wants to bring his bird, and so on, and so on, until everyone at the zoo is invited to the bash. Xander's generosity of spirit is rewarded at the end, when a very special new friend arrives at the zoo.
Park's text is poetic, using lots of rhyme without being sing-songy. Like this:
"But Xander was the only panda. Just one panda at the zoo.
Xander sat and chewed bamboo. He changed his plans and point of view."
Doesn't that just beg to be read aloud? And this:
"Xander's party preparations took great pains and perspiration.
"The menu needs some taste sensations, plus the proper vegetation!""
Delightful! This is a book that parents will be able to read over and over again, because the cadence is so enjoyable. There are also plenty of strong vocabulary words, like "congregating" and "fidgeted."
The message of inclusiveness, while certainly present, is surrounded by the gentle humor of the story, such that it doesn't feel overwhelming. I like that it's not always obvious to Xander that he should keep expanding his party. He really struggles with the decision each time. This having to work to decide to do the right thing will certainly make the book resonate more with young readers.
As rendered in ink and watercolor by Matt Phelan, Xander is adorable. His loneliness at the start of the book is palpable. His joy at the end will bring a smile to any reader's face. The other animals are sketched in, interesting though not quite realistic, but the focus remains on Xander. My favorite page is one filled with small vignettes, as Xander races about the zoo, inviting other creatures to his party, leaving a trail of colored envelopes behind.
It sounds a bit trite to say that a picture book is heart-warming. But what can I say? Xander's Panda Party is heart-warming, entertaining, and eminently read-aloudable. It is not to be missed.
Publisher: Clarion Books (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
FTC Required Disclosure:
This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).
story: Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE. So now I pick up where we left off.
The catalyst might also be situational; that is, a situation is presented
that grounds the reader in the story and reveals what the story is about.
Sometimes the author chooses to ground the reader in character and setting before getting into the action.
In A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park, the catalyst doesn’t come until the second chapter.
The main character is Tree-ear, a poor orphan boy who lives under a bridge with Crane-man. Park uses the first chapter to set up the story: the main characters, the setting, the time-period, the backstory.
But the reader doesn’t yet know what the story is about.
By Chapter Two, we have learned about Tree-ear’s fascination with potters, and, in particular, with Min, the most brilliant potter in the village.
When Tree-ear accidentally damages one of Min’s belongings on page 18, Tree-ear asks the potter, “Could I not work for you as payment?” Now the reader is beginning to figure out what the story is about.
On the next page, Min answers, “Yes, all right.”
We are finished with backstory; we are finished with the setup.
The action of the story is set in motion.
Whether your catalyst is a specific action (an inciting incident), a piece of information revealed, or a situation, it should come as early in the story as possible.
Repeat after me: The catalyst should come as early in the story as possible.
The best selling middle grade books in this list were gathered from the New York Times Best Sellers list, which reflects the sales of books from books sold nationwide, including independent and chain stores.
This information was gathered from the New York Times Best Sellers list, which reflects the sales of books from books sold nationwide, including independent and chain stores. It is correct at the time of publication and presented in random order. Visit: www.nytimes.com.
We are extra lucky today as not one but two experts have concocted a gourmet feast of their Top 10 favourite multicultural stories about food. It seems fitting that authors Grace Lin and Jama Rattigan should each select food as their theme, since they have both written stories revolving around tasty recipes – as you will discover by looking at each of their menus. In fact, each has put a book by the other on her menu, while unaware that the other was cooking up their own recipe, so it seems fitting that we should bring you the whole spread for you to gorge on at a single sitting – and it’s also interesting to see which books come up as double portions…
Jama Rattigan is the author of Dumpling Soup illustrated by Lilian Hsu-Flanders (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 1998); The Woman in the Moon: A Story from Hawai’i illustrated by Carla Golembe (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 1996); and Truman’s Aunt Farm illustrated by G. Brian Karas (Sandpiper, 1996). As well as her website (check out the recipe for Dumpling Soup), Jama also hosts the truly delectable Jama’s Alphabet Soup, a must-visit blog for anyone interested in children’s books, food, or both at the same time.
Grace Lin‘s latest book is Starry River of the Sky (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012), the much-awaited companion novel to Newbery Honor Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009). She has written and illustrated many books for a wide age-range of children, including The Ugly Vegetables (Charlesbridge Publishing, 1999) and Dim Sum for Everyone (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2001); and picture books she has illustrated include Where on Earth is my Bagel? by Frances and Ginger Park (Lee & Low Books, 2001). You can read our 2010 interview with Grace here, and view some of her beautiful artwork in our Gallery here and here. And do check out Grace’s website and blog, where she has a fantastic giveaway on offer in celebration of the launch of Starry River of the Sky.
Top 10 Favorite Multicultural Picture Books about Food by Jama Rattigan
Whether it’s a big platter of noodles, warm-from-the-oven flatbread, fried dumplings, or a steamy bowl of Ugly Vegetable Soup, there’s nothing tastier than a picture book about food. You eat with your eyes first, then step into the kitchens or sit at the tables of friends and family from faraway places, all of whom seem to agree that love is the best seasoning for any dish, and food tastes best when it is happily shared. These tasty tales always make me say, “More, please!”
~ Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto and Ed Martinez (Putnam, 1993)
My Top Ten Food-Themed Multicultual Books by Grace Lin
In my family instead of saying hello, we say, “Have you eaten yet?” Eating and food has always been a successful way to connect us to culture, familiar as well as exotic–perhaps because it’s so enjoyable! So these books about food can be an appetizer to another country, a comfort food of nostalgia or a delicious dessert of both. Hen hao chi!
~ Hiromi’s Hands by Lynne Barasch (Lee & Low, 2007)
~ Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes, illustrated by Sanjay Patel (Chronicle Books, 2012)
~ Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park,illustrated Ho Baek Lee (Clarion, 2005)
~ How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman, illustrated by Allan Say (Sandpiper, 1987)
~ Apple Pie Fourth of July by Janet Wong, illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine (Harcourt, 2002)
~ Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley, illustrated by Peter Thornton (Carolrhoda Books, 1992)
~ Yoko by Rosemary Wells (Hyperion, 1998)
~ Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic by Ginnie and Beth Lo (Lee & Low, 2012)
~ Peiling and the Chicken-Fried Christmas by Pauline Chen (Bloomsbury, 2007)
~ Dumpling Soup by Jama K. Rattigan, illustrated by Lillian Hsu Flanders (Little, Brown, 1998)
The latest in our series of SCBWI TEAM BLOG interviews with Annual Winter Conference faculty is courtesy of Jolie Stekly who blogs at Cuppa Jolie. She interviewed Newbery Award-winning author Linda Sue Park.
Here's a bit from the interview with Linda Sue, which Jolie likened to a short writer's therapy session:
I've had the immense pleasure of hearing Linda Sue Park speak at a couple of SCBWI conferences. Not only that, but I've also had the opportunity to sit and talk with her, and let me tell you, the words that come out of her mouth are so great, so helpful, so smart that you won't want to dare miss them when she's gives her keynote presentation at the upcoming SCBWI Winter Conference.
Linda Sue Park is the award-winning author of many books for children, including A SINGLE SHARD which won the Newbery Medal in 2002. The list of awards Linda Sue has won is as long as my arm, and sure to keep growing. Linda Sue also serves on the SCBWI Board of Advisors.
Last night, hanging out in the hotel bar, a group of us were sharing stories of the most horrifying food we'd ever eaten. The answers were all funny, and yuck-inducing, but when Linda Sue Park was telling her story - it was like magic descended on the table. We were whisked across the globe, into a restaurant in Korea, plunked at the table with her, handed a hammer and a rock, and watched - no, experienced her smashing it open with a hammer to reveal not a geode... but some sea creature's flesh. Honestly, we were spellbound! (And there's a lesson there - don't just stay in your room after the conference sessions, but hang out in the lobby, go to the hotel bar, mingle with your fellow writers and illustrators and who knows what great conversations you'll be part of?)
Back to the Keynote. Nobody tells a story like Linda Sue Park. The people who choose the Newbery Medal think so. Readers all over the world think so. And like a relay race with the swiftest runner last, SCBWI has handed her the conference baton and tasked her with taking us towards the finish line...
After writing eight picture books and nine novels, she still thinks every book she writes will be her last. And the problem gets worse with each book.
And hundreds of school visits and presentations... but she still gets nervous. What if I lose my place? What if they don't like me? Every single time.
She urges us all NOT to believe in ourselves. If we're like her, we have doubts. Instead, believe in the work.
She's doing a bit of what she does in her school visits - and we're imagining we're a room of (a thousand plus) ten year olds. And she's weaving a beautiful story of her childhood and the fortune game played on a Korean child's first birthday.
And she's explaining now that when she's doing the school presentation, she's not nervous - she's focused on telling the story.
Similarly when she's writing, she's able to do it because she's focused not on herself and her doubts, but on telling her story.
She's telling us about writing her latest book, "A Long Walk To Water." And how she didn't need to believe in herself to write it - she needed to focus on the story that she had to tell.
Linda Sue tries to focus on craft - trying to choose the best possible words and put them in the best possible order to serve her story.
And now, (drumroll...) Linda Sue Park's definition of "voice," and it's going to sound familiar:
The best words in the best order to serve the story.
word choice - for meaning and nuance word order - for structure and rhythm
and use those tools in service of the story.
And focusing on that task brings her work down to a manageable level. She sets a daily goal - work on that scene. make that list. Choose the best words in the best order to serve the story...
Linda Sue calls out to us all to believe in the power of story and the strength in focusing on our craft to change our own stories...
and she looks forward to the stories that will come in the years ahead from the more than one thousand writers and illustrators in this room!
Linda Sue is explaining how just like chocolate chip cookies, the way you know you like one or not is because you've eaten a LOT of them. Like 'em crisp, or chewy, or soft, or with nuts? Because you've eaten so many cookies, you have an internal scale against which you can judge any cookie. Even if you've baked them, you know when you eat one if it's something you like, if it's good.
There is only one way to get similar judgement of your own writing: read A LOT.
Build that mental scale.
Read a thousand picture books, like Brenda Bowen suggested. Read 500 novels. But more than that, consider how long it takes to become an expert in other professions - doctors, lawyers, plumbers... all those people need to TRAIN. For years.
Our training is READING!
When Linda Sue writes a mediocre sentence, she knows because she has a vast storehouse of wonderful sentences that she's read in her mind.
We can each build that mental scale for ourselves. And maybe the next book we should all read is Linda Sue Park's latest novel, "A Long Walk To Water."
Linda Sue Park is the author of the Newbery Medal book A Single Shard, many other novels, several picture books, and most recently a book of poetry: Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo (Poems). She lives in Rochester, New York, with her family, and is now a devoted fan of the New York Mets. For more infromation visit www.lspark.com.
About the book:
A Long Walk to Water is based on the true story of Salva, one of some 3,800 Sudanese “Lost Boys” airlifted to the United States beginning in the mid 1990s.
Before leaving Africa, Salva’s life is one of harrowing tragedy. Separated from his family by war and forced to travel on foot through hundreds of miles of hostile territory, he survives starvation, animal attacks, and disease, and ultimately leads a group of about 150 boys to safety in Kenya. Relocated to upstate New York, Salva resourcefully learns English and continues on to college. Eventually he returns to his home region in southern Sudan to establish a foundation that installs deep-water wells in remote villages in dire need of clean water. This poignant story of Salva’s life is told side-by-side with the story of Nya, a young girl who lives today in one of those villages.
Watch the trailer:
My take on the book:
Many books have been written about the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan yet I haven’t ever seen anything written for 9-12 year olds until A Long Walk To Water. I’m very familiar with the story of the Lost Boys as I worked for some time with a few of the Lost Boys who were resettled in Lansing, Michigan. Salva’s story is similar to many of the boys I met and spoke with, yet I never tire of hearing their incredibly inspirational stories. In fact, every time I read one of these stories I’m often moved to tears. Salva’s story, as told through the writing of Linda Sue Park, was no different.
I’m thrilled that Linda Sue Park wrote this for middle readers. If there’s ever a story about the harsh realities of life in some parts of the world, which could provide some much needed perspective to American 9-12 year olds it would be A Long Walk to Water. While many of our kids
In 2008, Feiwel & Friends published my first hardcover novel, Six Innings, a book that was eventually named AnALA Notable. The cover was fabulous, featuring the work of gifted illustrator Chris Sheban, whose style you might recognize from the covers of Because of Winn-Dixie, Brooklyn Bridge, Punished, The Tiger Rising, and more.
Six Innings sold reasonably okay, earned some kind reviews (and a Judy Blume comparison!), and nobody got rich; we were happy. When it was time for the book to go to paper, my publisher had to make a decision. Come up with a new cover, or simply reproduce the existing cover in a paperback format, which is what they did.
And the paperback edition did not sell. Understatement. It struck out, looking.
This could be for a variety reasons, but one line of thought was that we were dealing with two different markets. The hardcover, with awards and good reviews, sold well in the institutional market. Paperback was a different animal, targeted more directly to the reader. I want to say the less sophisticated consumer, but that’s not right. Children these days are plenty sophisticated, it’s just that their tastes are their own. To them, these days, the photographic approach seems to hold more immediacy. At least that’s the current thinking.
So check out the new look (the original is up top in the header):
While I’ve got you (as my dad used to say), Linda Sue Park’s Keeping Score was another baseball-themed book that came out at the same time. And I confess: I hated the cover. That poor book, I thought. It just struck me, a former 10-year-old boy, as all kinds of wrong.
Someone must have agreed. Take a gander at the paperback.
Quite a difference, huh? It doesn’t look remotely like the same book. Curiously, in this case, the publisher went from a photographic to an illustrative approach, but more significantly re-thought the cover content and updated the design. A successful change, I think, though a dog and a fire hydrant makes me think of only one thing. Was that the idea? Dog pee? Maybe dog pee figures into the book somehow (I have not read it). The ex-boy in me wouldn’t have picked up that cover, either.
It’s also possible that the book was rewritten, with the girl character replaced by a black lab.
Now we have a rallying cry. Bonus. Thanks to Maureen Johnson for the link.
Travis at 100 Scope Notes recently discovered the author video cache to beat all author video caches. As he puts it”I challenge you to a good ol’ fashioned game of ‘I Bet I Can Find a Video Interview of An Author You Like’.” Apparently Reading Rockets has done everything in its power to videotape many of the major power players out there. Your Selznicks. Your McKissacks. Your Yolens. There’s a Website and a YouTube channel so take your pick! Talk about a useful resource.
Of course, if you want to save yourself some time and trouble you can just watch this trailer for The Chronicles of Harris Burdick. But make sure you watch it until the end.
I could live a long and happy life in the belief that Chris Van Allsburg was some kind of a criminal mastermind. Yup.
Do all the classic children’s authors also know how to draw? I only ask because it keeps coming up. Tolkien drew. J.K. Rowling can draw. Now apparently Philip Pullman does too. Extraordinary.
A couple thoughts on this next one.
A: Check out those guns on Katie Davis! Wowza!
B: Yes, folks, we all know that Tuck Everlasting didn’t win a Newbery. It’s okay.
C: When I start a band I am totally calling it Weirdly Supple Crystal Ball.
Had a conversation with someone the other day about the next potential National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature. A position created in 2008 by its sponsors The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the Children’s Book Council (CBC) and Every Child a Reader, from 2008-2009 the job went to Jon Scieszka. In 2010, lasting until 2011, Katherine Paterson has the honor. And on the distant horizon you can see it now. In 2012 we shall have a new ambassador.
So give it to me straight, folks. Who’s it gonna be? The criteria for the job (and the illustrious selection committee) are visible here, but I have my own personal set of standards for this most desirable of jobs. See if you agree with me or not:
- The Ambassador must have grown children if they have any children at all. Why? Because when you’re the Ambassador you get to zip about the country willy-nilly. And frequent flyer miles, while all well and good, are not so hot when you’ve small fry desirous of your love and attention.
- The Ambassador must be personable. Kids should dig the Ambassador. Now you can be diggable (diggable?) any number of ways. Jon Scieszka actually sweats charisma. That’s his thing. And Katherine Paterson is a big bold name of celebrity-like status. So whoever comes next should either be infinitely likable on a stage in front of loads of schoolchildren, or you should see stars when you hear their name.
- The Ambassador should have a cause that he/she promotes that is not him/her own self. Causes are super. They allow The Ambassador to use his or her power for good instead of evil. Scieszka’s baby is getting boys to continue reading. Paterson’s (according to the slightly out-of-date Ambassador page) ties into the fact that she is “vice president of the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance , a nonprofit organization that informs, promotes, educates and inspires the American public to pursue literacy for young people and support libraries.” See? Easy peasy.
Now a couple names leap immediately to mind, but I’ve my own personal selection requirement in addition to those listed about. For 2012 the Ambassador shouldn’t be another white guy or gal. It’s the Ambassador for all kids, after all. Let’s shake things up a bit. With that in mind here are my two potential contenders:
Linda Sue Park – I’ve been hoping Linda would get this job for years, if I’m gonna be honest with you. Let’s see. Grown kids? I think so (if not then they’re pretty darn close). Cause? Well she did some spectacular work with the books Click and A Long Walk to Water. So yeah, I’d say she has a variety of causes she can promote. Dynamic speaker? And how! The only possible poin
THE THIRD GIFT, by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (Clarion 2011)(ages 6+). This elegant picture book tells the story of a boy learning his father's trade, of gathering an aromatic oleoresin called myrrh. On one outing, he harvests an particularly fine sample, which is then sold at market to three men from the east. They are, it seems, gathering gifts for a baby and already have gold and frankincense...
THE THIRD GIFT combines exceptional text and art to present a story of an ordinary boy's association with the third gift to the Christ child. An author's note provides additional context and background. A perfect Christmas gift and story for the ages.
A father and son walk a desert collecting tears of sap for market, not yet knowing that the largest of those pearls will become a gift for a baby named Jesus.
In this evocative, masterfully painted story, Newbery Medalist Linda Sue Park joins with renowned illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline to weave a captivating tale about myrrh, the third gift given by the wise men to the Christ child.
Imagining a father teaching his son how to gather the treasured resin, Park describes the two walking with a basket, water-gourd and an ax across a landscape almost entirely of sandy rock to a grove of stunted and spiny trees.
The boy's father kneels by one of the gnarled trees "to see inside." Gently, he feels the bark with his hands, and plucks off a leaf and sniffs, to determine whether its myrrh is ready to be harvested.
Finding a tree that is aged just right, he carefully selects a spot to wound, to cut a shallow X, so that the tree will weep. Then, making the cut, he watches as the sap bubbles up into a big tear.
After waiting for the tear's surface to dry into a shell, the father twists the resin off with his fingers and places it in their basket.
On this day, as the two are finishing their harvest, they see the biggest tear yet. It's the size of a hen's egg and the boy's father gives his son the honor of teasing it off.
This tear and the others will bring good money at the spice market. Some people will buy them for medicine or to flavor wine, but most will purchase them for embalming loved ones.
Two weeks pass and soon it's time for the spice market. As they arrive to sell their tears, they're ushered into a tent where three wise
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Continuing our theme of Water in Multicultural Children’s Books, new on the PaperTigers website is an interview with author Linda Sue Park, in which she talks to us about her novel A Long Walk to Water, awarded the 2011 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award in the Books for Older Children category. Here are a couple of snippets to whet your appetite:
But of course, hope alone is never enough. In my experience, smart choices and hard work are essential as well, and my stories reflect that. It’s up to young readers to decide whether those values become important to them too. Hope, smart choices, hard work—that’s a pretty good formula in my opinion.
The most common reaction from young readers is that they want to meet Salva. I’m always sorry to have to disappoint them—Salva is now living in South Sudan, and working so hard that he doesn’t have much time to visit the U.S. At the same time, I find this response from readers truly moving. So often the people they dream of meeting are movie stars or professional athletes or rock musicians, and it’s terrific that Salva is right up there on that list!
When Water for South Sudan puts in a well, the knock-on effect is staggering. [...] Most important of all, nearly every village that has received a well has started a school for the local children, who no longer have to spend their days fetching water. Clean water directly linked to education—that was a real eye-opener for me!
The Toronto Librarians are on strike. There is no need to panic… Ahhhhhhhh! Failing to reach a labour agreement over the weekend 2,400 librarians went on strike. All 98 library branches across Toronto are close as of Monday. The library is asking borrowers to hold on to all checked out books and materials. No overdue [...]
Over the past few months the PaperTigers’ website has been focusing on the theme of Water in Multicultural Children’s Books. If you haven’t visited the site lately do check it out and see what treasures we have compiled . Highlights include:
Dutch photographer Taco Anema who tells us all about his project that took him around the world photographing children and water and resulted in his beautiful book Tales of Water.
A stunning, encyclopaedic book put together by the children from the One Arm Point Remote Community School at Ardiyooloon in Western Australia, along with their School Culture Team, School Staff, and Community Elders, as well as others from the local community.
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.
Our summer holidays are nearly over and the Reading the World Challenge is nearly running away with me in terms of posting about the books we’ve read – so without further ado, here’s the latest installment, including the long overdue catch-up with our fellow readers…
Together we have read the delightful Lulie the Iceberg by Her Royal Highness Princess Takamado and illustrated by Warabe Aska (Kodansha America, 1998), which Sally wrote about a while ago – her post prompted us to get hold of it: and we did, indeed, love it. We read the actual story one evening and then spent several evenings after that reading the factual information at the end, while hunting again and again for the various creatures mentioned in the gorgeous illustrations. Read Sally’s post for a synopsis of the story…
Meanwhile, Older Brother has read Linda Sue Park’s A Single Shard (Clarion Books, 2001):
A Single Shard is about a young boy called Tree-ear in 12th Century Korea, who loves watching a potter called Min making vases grow from the wheel. Then Tree-ear starts working for Mon (but he’s not allowed to actually make things) and goes on a long journey to the emperor with some pottery to seek a commission – but he is tricked by robbers on the way…
It’s a very exciting story. It made me feel happy and sad at different times: and the ending was probably the saddest part of all, though it did eventually turn out to be for the best.
Little Brother has also read a book set in Antarctica – but I have to confess that I have mislaid the notebook in which he wrote his mini-review, which he will be quite unimpressed about. I will try and remedy the situation asap.
In the meantime, what of everyone else in all these weeks that have elapsed since my last update?
Corinne has read Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, of which she says, “It won Honorable Mention for Adult Fiction in the 2010 Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature. I loved Lisa’s previous book Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and this book did not disappoint either. Highly recommend it especially for all those “historical novel” lovers like me.”
Olduvai at Olduvai Reads has completed the Challenge – Hooray! You can find links to her reviews for all the books she read here…
I've been let out on good behavior for a few days having turned in my revised critical thesis. This basically means that I have time to take care of those fires that have been burning so evenly around my house. One is the Dr. Doolittle room, which goes straight to the heart of this blog: You might be a writer if...you try to make books come to life.
I don't mean the books you write because, of course, you try really hard to make those come to life.
I don't mean the books you read when you were a kid. Raise you hand (mentally) if you're one of those kids who tried to levitate rocks like Luke Skywalker or wondered if you really could tesser if you just thought about it hard enough.
No, I mean that you're still doing that today.
Guilty secret: I am.
Only, it isn't so secret anymore. You see, the summer residency at Vermont College assigned Linda Sue Park's Project Mulberry. Three other books were assigned with hers. We only had to read two. Being the good student I am, I only read two. But then, being the guilt student I am, after residency was over, I got the other two and read them (and I did not just write that in case any faculty members are reading my blog. Really).
Project Mulberry was assigned because of its format. Instead of Park remaining an unseen, unheard, unexperienced author, she steps in and has conversations with her main protagonist. The question posed was whether this got in the way of the actual story, if it pulled us readers out and whether that ultimately worked or was a hindrance.
Granted, all of that was interesting, but what really hooked me was the actual story. Two children raise silkworms, make thread and then embroider a project from the thread they've made to enter at the state fair.
In the words of ten year olds everywhere...Awesome!
So when my kids came home from their Montessori school needing a creative project for the year (they are in 4th and 6th grades in the same classroom), BANG! I had the perfect idea for them.
And they liked it. Yippee! Super Mom gets to secretly do good and make her favorite read come to life. Could life get any better?
It could get a whole lot more real, but I'm skipping ahead.
We ordered the worms. The girls quickly pointed out (after having read Project Mulberry, too) that the worms were more expensive in real life than in Park's story. I tried to explain that a few years had gone by, inflation, that kind of thing. I think they were still upset that reality did not exactly mirror fiction (as was my pocket book).
We pressed on, setting up shop in the garage since it's got the perfect incubating temperature at the moment, a balmy 85. Teh eggs arrive. We carefully placed them in the habitat, sprayed them with water...waited...sprayed...waited. In only six days, they began to hatch (faster than in Park's story, but no one complained this time).
Then the trouble started. We have a mulberry tree on our property, so food shouldn't have been a problem. We picked some leaves.
Small eggs so black and fine Unbend and crawl and dine But not on everything Even if it's green One treat alone will please Leaves! Mulberry leaves! Soft and fine and new But shake off all the dew A connoiseur can drown While chomping through and down We may die anyway If leaves are hard as hay And leave you wondering Why did I start this thing?
It's true. The silkworms are no more. We tried everything. I even steamed mulberry leaves - like steaming veggies for older people with wonky digestive systems. No go. They died. The silkworms, that is. Every last one. Fortunately, the company I ordered them from is sending us a fresh batch and artificial silkworm food. Hopefully this will work.
Oh, the things fiction doesn't tell you about real life! But we press on.
Despite our bad luck with silkworms, we adopted a new family member. We had two dogs for about ten years. Then, about two years ago, our beagle died. Just got old. After getting over missing him, we decided a new dog might be good for us and for our surviving, lonely dog. On Saturday, we finally found the perfect match. We tried the SPCA, but the dog we picked out didn't get along with our Mulligan. The one that did, wasn't terribly interested in us. So, we went to the city animal shelter. There, it is less a question of whether a person will find a dog to take home and more, can I limit myself to just one?
It was hard, mostly because they all wanted to come home with us, but we cannot adopt 65 dogs, as much as we would like to. Seriously.
After much deliberation, we decided on one.
She's pretty sweet and chill. The perfect writing partner. Lays on the carpet in front of my desk and keeps me company along the lonely path of writing. If only she could get the potty-training thing down...before the next batch of silkworms arrives.
If this were fiction, I would so make that happen!