Lee & Low Books, an independent children’s book publisher focused on diversity, has announced the winner of the New Voices Award Honor for 2008 - Hayan Charara of Houston, Texas- for his poignant story, The Three Lucys.
The Three Lucys explores the realities of war from the perspective of Luli, a young Lebanese boy whose most beloved possessions are his three cats, all named Lucy. Returning home with his parents after a visit with his aunt and uncle, Luli discovers that conflicts between people can change some things forever. But in the end, Luli also learns to hope for a future in which change is possible as differences are put aside. Mr. Charara’s writing is honest and lyrical and captures a strong sense of place. The Three Lucys is based on the experiences of the author’s younger brother during the month-long war in Lebanon in the summer of 2006.
A first-generation Arab American born in Michigan, Mr. Charara is a poet, editor, and teacher. While this is his first foray into writing for children, Mr. Charara’s work for adults has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies.
Lee & Low Books established the New Voices Award in 2000 to encourage writers of color to submit their work to a publisher that takes pride in nurturing new talent. The award reflects the company’s mission of meeting the need for stories that children of color can identify with and that all children can enjoy. “When we started the company, there was a lot of interest in books focused on diversity,” says co-founder Tom Low, “but most of the titles were folktales about exotic people from distant lands. We felt strongly that it was important to have books with a contemporary setting that reflect how we live today.”
Lee & Low has published over 200 books since 1991. A number of their titles have won major awards and honors, including the Coretta Scott King Award, the Pura Belpré Honor Award, and The Jane Addams Peace Award.
Tonight I read Shin-chi’s Canoe by Nicola Campbell, illustrated by Kim LaFave to my daughter. The story is a follow-up to Campbell’s earlier book Shi-shi-etko which narrates the story of a young aboriginal girl, Shi-shi-etko, as she is separated from her family at the age of six to attend a residential school. In Shin-chi’s Canoe, Campbell returns to the same family but now it is time for Shi-shi-etko’s brother, Shin-chi to go to the same school with his sister. Shin-chi is given a little carved canoe as a parting gift from his father and the boat will serve as a reminder during the cold cruel months ahead of a request Shin-chi has made of his father: namely, to build a dugout canoe for him when he returns home at the beginning of summer.
When this book arrived at our house, my daughter was immediately taken by it. She and her classmates were all building boats to be launched at a nearby creek. Can I show this book to my teacher? She asked right away. But we haven’t read it yet, I said. We’ll read it tonight, I promise. At bedtime we curled up into bed and read Shin-Chi’s Canoe. My daughter remained silent through the reading and at the end, she made a comment that struck me. While I concentrated mostly on the social injustice of the aboriginal residential school experience, my daughter remembered instead the request Shin-chi made of his father, namely, the promise that he would have his own canoe by the end of that first year away at school. See, his Daddy’s making the canoe just like Shin-chi asked, my daughter said. Quite frankly, caught up as I was with the bigger social issue presented by the book, I had forgotten that simple request. I was amazed and humbled by my daughter’s observation. Truly, children have their own unique perspective. That is why reading to them at bedtime can be so hugely rewarding.
Incidentally, November is National American Indian Heritage Month in the United States. The story of Shin-chi and Shi-shi-etko is a great way to start educating young people about the history of aboriginal childrens lives in North America.
Although the Tiger’s Choice, the PaperTigers’ online reading group, selects books that are written for children but can be enjoyed by adults as well, National Reading Group Month has brought to mind those books written for adults that younger readers might adopt as their own favorites, and that could launch impassioned discussions between parents and children, teachers and students, or older and younger siblings.
The books on this week’s list are books recommended for teenagers, with content that may be beyond the emotional grasp of pre-adolescents. All of them are available in paperback and in libraries.
1) Ricochet River by Robin Cody (Stuck in a small Oregon town, two teenagers find their world becomes larger and more complex when they become friends with Jesse, a Native American high school sports star.)
2) The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle (Alice is twelve, growing up on a modern-day Wyoming ranch with a mother who rarely leaves her bed, a father who is haunted by the memory of Alice’s rebellious and gifted older sister who ran off with a rodeo rider, and an overly active imagination.)
3) Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen (The author of Hatchet tells the true story of how he raced a team of huskies across more than 1000 miles of Arctic Alaska in what Alaskans call The Last Great Race.)
4) Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (This autobiography of a young girl growing up in revolutionary Iran and told in the form of a graphic novel is rich, original, and unforgettable.)
5) From the Land of Green Ghosts by Pascal Khoo Thwe (An amazing odyssey of a boy from the jungles of Burma who became a political exile and a Cambridge scholar, this Kiriyama Prize winner is a novelistic account of a life filled with adventures and extraordinary accomplishments.)
6) In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez (The Mirabal sisters were beautiful, gifted, and valiant women who were murdered by the Dominican Republic government that they were committed to overthrow. Their true story is given gripping and moving life by their compatriot, Julia Alvarez.)
As the weather becomes colder and the days grow shorter, find your favorite teenager, choose a book, and plunge into the grand adventure of reading and sharing!
The Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards are given annually to children’s books published in the preceding year that effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races, as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence. On October 17th, winners of the 55th Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards received their awards, gave their acceptance speeches, and signed copies of their books at the United Nations Plaza in New York City.
WINNER - Books for Younger Children Category
The Escape of Oney Judge: Martha Washington’s Slave Finds Freedom, written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
WINNER - Books For Older Children Category
We are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin, written by Larry Dane Brimner
HONORS - Books for Younger Children Category
One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II, written and illustrated by Lita Judge
HONORS - Books for Older Children Category
Rickshaw Girl, written by Mitali Perkins with illustrations by Jamie Hogan
Honors - Books for Older Children Category
Elijah of Buxton, written by Christopher Paul Curtis
Honors - Books for Older Children Category
Birmingham, 1963, written by Carole Boston Weatherford
You can read Mitali’s acceptance speech and see photos of the event on her blog. Check out Larry Brimner’s Write. Write. Written! — A Writer’s Journal and Lita Judge’s blog as well!
In November our PaperTigers website will focus on the theme of “war and peace in children’s books,” featuring original essays by Lita Judge (One Thousand Tracings) and Jo Montie, former member of the Jane Addams Award committee.