Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Take Action for Diverse Children's Books

Here's a great report by Charlesbridge Editorial Director Yolanda Scott on the May 14 event, "A Place at the Table."

Yolanda Scott (center) listens to Francisco Stork (right)

Hosted by CBC Diversity, co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons and the Horn Book, and presented in partnership with Children’s Books Boston, the gathering featured six authors (including me) speed-dating by briefly introducing our work at each of six tables, followed by discussion questions with participants about promoting diversity in children's groups. The "diversity" being considered was broad, including race, culture, language, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and physical and mental ability.

The event
"...brought together participants from a wide variety of fields: we had teachers, principals, librarians, authors, illustrators, publishers, agents, academics, reviewers, bloggers—all united in our desire to promote and develop books that more adequately reflect the demographics and realities of the world in which we live."
The report concludes with the action items generated by participants, concrete steps that can be taken to support diverse children's literature in homes, classrooms, libraries, editorial offices, bookstores, writers groups, blogs and websites, book reviews, awards committees, book clubs, summer reading lists, and more. See if there's an idea or two you can use.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Diverse Kids in Peril

Some of the discussion on what's missing in diverse books has focused on the absence of diverse characters in stories that young readers can't wait to pick up.

I've just read three thrillers starring young people who happen to be of color - one Indian American, one Mexican, and one African American (the last two are biracial with one white parent):

Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi

Twins Holly and Corey and their best friend/girlfriend Savitri are free-runners whose urban playground is Chicago until a shocking, random act of violence changes their lives forever. Part of the story unfolds in graphic novel format. Savitri's Indian heritage is significant to the plot as her friend Holly gets lost in  the Shadowlands, a world based on the Ramayana myth, and Savitri has to find a way to bring her back.

The Living by Matt de la Pena

"Shy" Espinoza gets hired to work crew on a cruise line for the summer before his senior year of high school. He's on the ship when all hell breaks loose. The over-the-top plot in this page-turner, the first volume of a series, includes an off-the-scale earthquake, tsunamis, a shipwreck, days at sea in a lifeboat, sharks, conspiracies, a pandemic, quite a pile-up of bodies and lots of corrupt bad guys.





The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

Savitri has to save her friend, Shy may need to save his family, his community or even the entire west coast of the U.S., but Gratuity Tucci has to save the entire world - from an alien invasion. With the help of an alien companion, and a cat. The book, which is to be released as a Dreamworks movie later this year, is written in 12-year-old Gratuity's voice, as a series of essays about her experiences. Suspenseful and highly comical, this story also includes some illustrations and passages in graphic novel format.
Get these books into the hands of young readers who love non-stop action.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tweet, Tweet

I've just changed my username on Twitter, from @AfterGandhiBks, focusing on a single title,  After Gandhi, to @ DiverseKdzBook,reflecting my wider passion for books in which all our children can see themselves.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Librarians Make the Most of a School Visit

As we leave Children's Book Week, here's an appreciation of children's librarians, the world over.

One of my March school visits was particularly memorable because of extraordinary efforts of librarians to engage their students in my work before I arrived.

Brent Subic Library staff (left to right): Riza Bamba (elementary library assistant), Angelo Fernandez (middle school librarian), me, Debbie Kienzle (Brent International School head librarian), Rose Austria (lower school librarian).

At Brent International School Subic in the Philippines, Rose and Angelo put my books on display, put up welcoming banners, and read my work to their students.

 

Riza, who'd never been part of an author visit before, worked with the 4th and 5th graders to create the most amazing display of creative projects in response to my work that I've ever seen. She first went online to research what kinds of projects other schools had produced. She googled "author visits," looked at Pinterest, and gathered examples to give students ideas of what was possible.

The students, in small teams of 3-5 students, used 2 library periods per week for more than a month, plus free time - a total of 10-15 hours on each project. They did online research about me and my books, then used their imaginations to craft incredibly original and delightful projects demonstrating their knowledge, including...

a Lift-the-Flap poster ;


a Facebook page;

   
a gameboard;



















a hanging poster;






































  a house;


























and a pizza box!

























The result of this extraordinary investment of time, energy and creativity was palpable in the students' response to meeting me. When the 4th-5th graders came into the auditorium for their workshop, they were bursting with excitement. It felt as if there was already a deep bond between us, as if I was theirs. What an honor and a delight to spend time with them!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Philippines!

Catching up on my spring: back in March, my second Southeast Asia stop was the Philippines, where I visited the three campuses of Brent International School. It was fascinating to experience the differences between the schools, from Subic's 200 students (80% Korean) in a building on a former U.S. military base, to Baguio's hillside cluster of buildings with 300 students (60% Korean), to Manila's student body of more-than-1000 diverse students from all over the world.

And I got to travel and experience wonders of the Philippines, from Subic Bay on the western coast...

with breakfast by the bay,
















and fruit bats in one protected area;
then across the central plain and up twisting roads to mountain-top Baguio,

where I was the first-ever international author to visit,






and students were very excited by autographing.

Baguio had some of the most amazing jeepneys I saw.

Then back down the mountain and across the plain, driving through Manila and to the southern suburbs...

Another  hotel breakfast with a very different view!

  to the main campus of Brent Manila.




Throughout, I was accompanied by librarian extraordinaire Debbie Kienzle, and welcomed so warmly and graciously by her library staff, the schools' personnel and students, and the Filipinos I met everywhere we traveled.



Friday, May 16, 2014

Diverse Books for New Babies

When our grandson Taemin was born in April, just like every baby born in a Maine hospital he was given a cloth bag full of books from Raising Readers, funded by the Libra Foundation.
raising readers was established in 2000 to give all of Maine's children at least a dozen beautiful new books to call their very own. The first books are shipped directly to hospitals, so that along with their newborn, every parent takes home a set of books. Then, at each well child doctor's visit, parents get another specially selected book to add to their home library. No signup is required, and there is no cost to either families or healthcare providers to participate.
When he was not yet two weeks old, I tried reading him one of the books from the Baby's First Black and White Book set. He looked directly at the book, riveted on the images. When my daughter Yunhee suggested moving the book to see if it was really what he was focusing on, Taemin's eyes tracked the book. A reader is born!



When he was five weeks old, we invited his local extended family to a book shower. Now Taemin already has a wonderful library. 

Here are some delightful titles from his collection, all depicting diverse babies:


Baby's Very First Black and White Book - Babies (one of four in the set) 


















Faces of Tomorrow by Mary Gordon
(can be ordered from Roots of Empathy through the link)




Global Babies by the Global Fund for Children

Leo Loves Baby Time by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Ruth Hearson




Little You by Richard Van Camp























Ten Little Fingers by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
















Snug by Carol Thompson (Raising Readers)


















Welcome Song for Baby by Richard Van Camp












And a final note - what a joy to sign a copy of Welcoming Babies by Margy Burns Knight, which I illustrated, for my very own grandson!



 What are your favorite books to give to new babies?

UPDATE: Here's a fabulous list of board books from Teaching for Change, including most of these and many more.

Especially if you don't have a local independent bookstore to support, buy books from Teaching for Change and support their fabulous work.



Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cross-Group Books

In, "How Cross-Racial Scenes in Picture Books Build Acceptance," the piece Krista Aronson and I co-authored for the online version of School Library Journal's Diversity issue, we presented an overview of research demonstrating that children's books depicting positive cross-racial interactions could reduce prejudicial attitudes.

Here is the list of books we identified that portray friendship and fun between characters of different races. (The first racial group listed is that of the point-of-view and/or interaction-initiating character.)

Bein' Friends by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by Joy Allen (White/Black)











Bein’ With You This Way by W. Nikola-Lisa, illustrated by Michael Bryant  (Black/Multiracial)










Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco (White/Black)













Come On, Rain by Karen Hesse, illustrated by Jon J. Muth -  (Black/Asian/White)









How Do You Wokka-Wokka? by Elizabeth Blumele, illustrated by Randy Cecil (Black/Multiracial)











Jamaica is Thankful by Juanita Havill, illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien (Black/White) 
[All seven Jamaica titles portray cross-race relationships, but this title best fulfills the cross-group criteria.]










Lottie Paris and the Best Place by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Scott M. Fischer (Black/White)










My Friend Jamal by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Ben Frey (White non-Muslim/Somali Muslim); see also My Friend Mei Jing.













Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka (Black/White)











The ideal cross-group book emphasizes the fun diverse children are having together, the activities they do together and the things they have in common. Any other titles to suggest?