The Children’s Literature Council of Southern California’s 2016 Fall Gala

In September, 2016, I was honored once again to be asked to write the feature article for the CLCSC’s annual gala. It was, as always, a wonderful event, a literature lover’s heaven. Below is my article. The article with event photographs can be found on  CLCSC’s homepage.

October 8, 2016

The 2016 Fall Gala: Connect, Support, and Celebrate
by Rita Zobayan

Something about being in a room packed full of book lovers speaks to my heart. Maybe it’s the like-mindedness, the understanding that books are important not only in education but also in life. Perhaps it’s the knowledge that whether your favorite genre is picture books, middle grade, or young adult, your appreciation of children’s literature provides a common ground. So it was with a happy heart that I attended the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California’s 2016 Fall Gala held in the Luminarias Restaurant.

screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-12-24-51-pm

President Laurie Reese welcomed the attendees–librarians, educators, authors, illustrators, book reviewers, and literature lovers. She recognized the Board and presented the organization’s mantra of “Connect, Support, and Celebrate.”

Katherine Loeser, Co-First Vice President, then introduced the keynote speaker, the venerable Sharon M. Draper, explaining how Out of My Mind “changed me as a person. These are real people. Thank you for introducing me to histories and stories I didn’t know.” Ms. Draper, an author with a multitude of honors to her credit, began by describing her appreciation for the connection between books and learning. She spoke about the power of a story, the power of words and how words “make us whole. We have the privilege of reading, writing, and sharing them. If you know how to tell a good story, you can do anything.” Ms. Draper’s exposure to the power of words began at age three, when her mother took her to a library. The gleaming floors, sunlight dancing through windows, smell of books, and the card catalogues written in perfect cursive mesmerized Ms. Draper, and she knew she’d found a place for herself. By age ten, she’d read all the books for elementary students, and was given a card for the adult section. Ms. Draper explained, “I learned a lot at the library.” She never noticed as a child that there were no books with children that looked like her. No one questioned it because that was the world they knew. At age 12, Ms. Draper read Forbidden City, which was her first venture into a culture outside of the USA. She recalls that the book “stayed with me,” and she later became the State Department’s Literary Ambassador to the children in China. She read chapter one of her book, Out of My Mind, and explained, “I knew I had to give voice to someone who was voiceless. The books come to me.” A very touching story was Ms. Draper’s recollection of her father’s request to write a story about his mother, who had to quit school at age 10 to work. She kept journals and would write on her porch, and one of the journals was passed down to Ms. Draper. Stella by Starlight is the product. Ms. Drapers’ grandmother’s words aren’t in the book, but the premise of Stella writing a journal on the porch is.  Ms. Draper concluded her speech with “There is a book for a child. Just one book can make an impact.”

screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-12-25-07-pm

Maxine Lucas then presented the award for Outstanding Work of Fiction, which was awarded to Pam Munoz Ryan for Echo. Ms. Munoz Ryan was on tour and sent her thanks for the honor.

The Outstanding Picture Book Award was presented by Meredith Kent McGowan to Antoinette Portis for Wait. Ms. Portis recalled her journey to becoming an author/illustrator from writing and drawing in sixth grade to working in advertising and for Disney to taking classes at UCLA Extension and the Art Center.

Katherine Adams presented the winner for the Excellence in Illustration Award, Vincent X. Kirsch for Gingerbread for Liberty. Mr. Kirsch recounted his work as a designer of gingerbread cookies for Dean and DeLuca. He stated, “I had so much fun with this book. It was a game for me. I am in the business of ‘wild imaginings’ and they can turn into anything. Pursue your wildest imaginings because you never know…they could become a book one day.”

The Peggy Miller Award for Young Adult Literature was presented by Rachel Lizotte to Noelle Stevenson for Nimona. Ms. Stevens was unable to attend but sent her thanks.

Laurie Reese took the stage once more to present the Dorothy C. McKenzie Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Field of Children’s Literature to Marjorie Arnett. Ms. Arnett is a former educator and one of the three individuals who helped found the annual Charlotte S. Huck Children’s Literature Festival. A major influence on Ms. Arnett was her parents’ examples of hard work and community service. Her father read a lot of Little Golden Books to her, and by age four, Ms. Arnett was reading to her younger siblings. Her parents advised her to “follow whatever path made you happy,” and that lead to education. Her siblings and she were the grandchildren of sharecroppers, and all of them went to college. Ms. Arnett’s mission has been to bring children and books together through “mirrors and windows”: having children see themselves portrayed in literature.  Whatever she has been involved in, she has pursued with the lesson she learned from her family: “to attack life with a passion.”

The event ended with the joy of feeling connected, supported, and celebrated.

We Need Diverse Books: The Children’s Literature Council of Southern California Spring Workshop

The Children’s Literature Council of Southern California  hosted a workshop titled “We Need Diverse Books.” Authors and Illustrators, as well as CLCSC members and guests, discussed the state of the children’s publishing industry and their own experiences with diverse books and the lack thereof. The event was emceed by Stacey Lee and included Lisa Yee, Nicola Yoon, Brandy Colbert, Stephanie Diaz, Lissa Price, Rodolfo Montalvo, Joe Cepeda, and Dan Santat. I had the honor of writing the official newsletter article, “We Need Diverse Books,” The CLC Spring Workshop: A Thought-Provoking Afternoon.” You can find the article in its entirety here.

 

 

The Glendale News-Press Featured Our Project!

I’m very excited that the Glendale News-Press has deemed our Kickstarter project worthy of coverage. You can find the article here. I hope you read it and if you’re inspired, please donate to our fund. We are really hoping to make a difference with this show. Thank you.

Reillyslifelogo.jpg_srz_p_256_256_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srz

Fun and Fruit

My review for Good Reads with Ronna, where you can find the latest and greatest in children’s literature.

Fun and Fruit by Maria Teresa Barahona

FUN AND FRUIT
Written by Maria Teresa Barahona
Illustrated by Edie Pijpers
Translated by Jon Brokenbrow

Fun & Fruit CoverFun and Fruit is a tale about sisters Charlotte and Claire who live surrounded by magical trees which grew wonderful fruits with thousands of different colors and aromas. They devise a game in which over the course of a week, they pick a color a day, think of fruits with that color, create stories based on the fruits, and eat the fruits as snacks. On Friday the color was green, and Charlotte told her sister why pears were her favorite fruit. “When I eat them, I close my eyes and feel little sparkling stars in my mouth that make me dream.” Claire thought about grapes. “They’re little, they’re always cuddled up close together, and they remind me of the friends I always want to be with,” she said. Charlotte and Claire include their friends in their game, and all have a good time eating the healthy snacks.

Fun-and-Fruit-int.jpg

The artwork by Edie Pijpers is just darling and the bright, bold colors really capture the essence of the story. The page with the children making a fruit-infused milk shake had me practically salivating: the colors are so lush and the food looks scrumptious. The illustrations of the magical fruit trees and the birds with music notes are delightful, and the moon as a banana shining over a landscape of fruit put a smile on my face. The simplicity of the children’s features, which adds to the innocence of the storyline, also drew me in.

Fun-and-Fruit-Int2.jpg

I must mention that I feel there were lost opportunities here. With the push for diverse books and multicultural inclusion within the United States’ children’s book industry, I really wish that the characters’ Spanish names had been kept. When I’m reading a story about Spanish children living in Spain, I want to see CarlotaClaraEmilia, and Josue, not CharlotteClaireEmily, or Josh. Keeping the original names would have added to the authenticity. Also, I think it would have been ideal to include Spanish words and phrases, as many parents and teachers look for opportunities to incorporate another language into children’s education. For example, when mentioning apples, it would have been opportune to say manzanas, for oranges, naranjas, for red, rojo, and so on. However, Fun and Fruit is a story that emphasizes creativity, as well as healthy eating, and is worth reading.

Cyparissus-Cvr.jpg

Watch the book trailer by clicking here.

On a related note, another of Cuento De Luz’s titles,
Cyparissus, features incredible, whimsical artwork
by Sonja Wimmer that is worth a look.

Food Trucks!

My review for Good Reads with Ronna, where you can find the latest and greatest in children’s literature.

Food Trucks! written and illustrated by Mark Todd

Food-Trucks!-cvr.jpg

The food truck phenomenon has its roots in Los Angeles, and local writer-illustrator Mark Todd pays homage to food on wheels in Food Trucks! The thirty pages feature a variety of edibles highlighted in the fourteen trucks. Short rhymes mixed with food facts provide an amusing and informative read.

Amigo (Taco Truck)

What’s up?/Surf’s up!/Hang ten and then/Head on over to the taco truck!

Carne asada and empanadas/With rice and beans/Seem to really hit the spot!

Holy moly, guacamole!/How about a hot tamale?/Bean burrito or quesadilla?/We’ve got the whole enchilada.

Dare to add the habanero/If you like it REALLY hot!

Better Burger Builder Bus (Hamburger Truck)

The world’s largest burger weighed 2,014 pounds and was ten feet in diameter. Before it was topped with sixty pounds of bacon and forty pounds of cheese, it took a crane to flip the patty! Americans eat an average of three hamburgers a week, which amounts to nearly fifty billion burgers per year!

Each food truck has a distinct personality. Bubba Q, the barbecue truck, sports long horns and a nose ring. The grilled cheese truck, Cheddar Chuck, has a grater ornament atop the roof and side mirrors in the shape of cheese wedges. Curry in a Hurry, the Indian food truck, is adorned with tassels, beads, and brightly colored lights. These extra touches on the details, such as the broccoli hood ornament on Mr. Cobb the salad truck and Sprinkles the cupcake truck’s license plate, SWTOOTH, make for entertaining viewing.

Whether your child is a foodie or a picky eater, s/he will find something to enjoy in this tribute to movable culinary delights.

Reilly’s Life on Kickstarter

Please join our Kickstarter campaign!

Reilly’s Life is an animated series aimed at children who have autism. The show will provide a forum that demonstrates to autistic children, their families, caregivers, practitioners and general audiences that they are not alone in this world and society values and appreciates their experience as autistic individuals. It is a tool in the acceptance and awareness of autistic behaviors that we hope will help society embrace autism as a rich and diverse way of living in this world. It shows some of the challenges faced by children with autism and possible solutions that may help, or at least facilitate a basic understanding of the challenges faced by Reilly.

Reillyslifelogo.jpg_srz_p_256_256_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srz

Reilly’s Life is created by Sinead Clancy. She is mother to a ten-year-old son with autism. After the initial diagnosis she followed the usual path of blame, anger, fear and looked for the elusive “cure.” But quickly she realized that autism was as much a part of her son as breathing and she now embraces his autistic way of being. Finding a path for him where he could co-exist in a world where autism and autistic identity is not embraced or fully understood sowed the seeds for Reilly’s Life.

Each episode will be 10 minutes of 2D animation followed by a live action bumper that shows children or adults experiencing the unique strengths and challenges of autism in the context of the episode. The show highlights the breadth and depth of autistic life while dealing with some of the common challenges and barriers children with autism face.

 The name is pulled from Sinead’s Irish roots. Someone who is enjoying life to the fullest with no worries is said to have “the life of Reilly.”

Reilly’s life, an animated show for children with autism

Today is Autism Awareness Day and April is Autism Awareness Month. My friend Sinéad Clancy has been working hard to put together a project close to her heart. Reilly’s life is an animated show for children who have autism. As the show’s script writer, I believe this project can help create awareness and acceptance for children on the spectrum. Please check out www.reillyslife.com and please share.

Reilly's life

Reilly’s life

Thank you, everyone!