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.

 

 

Advertisements

Happy Holidays!

Whether you’re spinning a dreidel, decorating a tree, filling a cornucopia, or putting up a Festivus pole…

happy holidays to you and yours.

Wishing you a season of peace and goodwill.

May 2015 bring you joy and prosperity.

Help End Illiteracy

Do you love to read? Of course, you do! After all, you’re checking out my site.

IMG_5158.JPG

Well, put your summer reading to even better use. Help World Education fight illiteracy. Join their #pages4progress campaign, and for every page that you read and log, World Education will receive $1 to fight illiteracy.

According to WorldEd, children in the US who can’t read at grade level by the fourth grade are 400% more likely to drop out of high school. By the end of fifth grade, disadvantaged youth in the US are nearly three grade equivalents behind their more affluent peers in reading.

Around the world, two-thirds of illiterate adults are women.
775 million adults cannot read this sentence.

You love to read. Help others learn. Go to pages4progress to get started.

Thank you.

Churchill’s Tale of Tails

20140416-073458.jpg

Taken from my review at http://www.goodreadswithronna.com, where you can find the latest and greatest in children’s books and educational products.

Churchill’s Tale of Tails by Anca Sandu is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

In Churchill’s Tale of Tails, a new picture book by Anca Sandu (Peachtree Publishers, 2014; $16.95; ages 4-8) readers meet Churchill, a rather sophisticated pig. He likes to take tea, paint self portraits (lots of them,) and play classical music. He is also quite a proud pig, especially of his tail. It wasn’t a big tail. It wasn’t a fancy tail. It wasn’t even a very practical tail. But it was his tail, and it made him feel great.

So when Churchill loses his tail, he isn’t happy. His friends, Billy and Gruff, try to help by finding other tails for Churchill to try. There are so many tails—zebra, peacock, fish, and more—and they make him feel so different and wonderful that Churchill no longer has time for his friends. A tail from the fish made Churchill feel fantastic! He could do things he’d never done before. “Churchill never talks to us anymore. It’s all these fancy tails.”

Will Churchill realize he’s being a bad friend? Will he find his own tail? Does he even want it back? This delightful tale will engage readers for the creativity of the story, the humorous artwork, and the moral. Does trying to be different mean that you forget your true friends? Anca Sandu answers this question in a realistic and sweet manner that young children will enjoy and understand.

A Dance Like Starlight

20140328-065923.jpg

From my review on http://www.goodreadswithronna.com, where you can find the latest and greatest in children’s books and educational products. Check it out!

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream (Philomel Books, 2014; $16.99 Ages 5-8), by Kristy Dempsey and illustrated by Floyd Cooper, is reviewed today by Rita Zobayan.

Inspired by the story of Janet Collins, the first African-American ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream is a story of high hopes and grand dreams. Told from the point of view of a young African-American girl in 1950s Harlem, the story encompasses her wish to become a ballerina set against the realities of racial prejudice and poverty. Even though our young heroine has practically grown up at the ballet school and has accomplished the movements, she is concerned that she will be held back by societal barriers. Could a colored girl like me ever become a prima ballerina? Mama says hoping is hard work. Mama unpins the extra wash she’s taken on to make ends meet…If there’s one thing Mama knows, it’s hard work. Mama works all day long every day, and most times on into the night, for the ballet school.

Hopes are raised when Janet Collins’ performance is featured in the newspaper. The young girl and her mother go to the opera and watch as Ms. Collins takes the stage, and suddenly the girl’s heart jumps up from where I’m sitting, soaring, dancing, opening wide with the swell of music. In my heart I’m the one leaping across that stage, raising myself high on those shoulders. When she and her mother head home, the girl knows that there is no need to waste my wishes. I’ve got dreams coming true.

The art work is a perfect match for the story, seeming almost ethereal, as if the viewer is watching from beyond, back in time. The muted colors give a feel for the setting, with the factories spilling out pillars of smoke.

To be completely honest, this book brought tears to my eyes. It is a wonderful tale of courage, perseverance, and determination. Children, regardless of ethnicity, will be able to identify with having a dream, the fear that it might not come true, and the inspiration to see it through. My girls certainly did.

When English Isn’t

headshotsmallIn my former role as a high school English Language Arts instructor, I would teach the students a (brief) lesson on the history of the English language. After all, students ought to know the origins of the language they use and change and edit and manipulate on a daily basis. Some of the students found the origins of the language from native Britons to the introduction of Latin via the Romans to the influence of the conquering Germanic tribes to French in the court of William the Conqueror worth their while. Almost all of the heads on the desk (of which there weren’t many; I ran a tight classroom) paid attention, however, when they realized that words they commonly used weren’t English or even European in origin.

The lesson usually went something like this:

Me: “Hey Johnny, do you like pancakes? Yes. Alright, what do you pour on them?”

Johnny: “Syrup.”

Me: “Where’d you think the word syrup comes from?”

Johnny: “I dunno. Canada?”

Me: “It’s from the Arabic word, sharab, which was then adapted by the French and possibly the Italians to sirop.”

Class, somewhat disbelieving: “Really?”

Me: “Yep. I’m not making this up. And what about ketchup? Where’d you think that word comes from?”

Class, thinking hard: “Here?”

Me: “Nope. It comes from a Chinese or possibly a Malay word that sounds like catsup.”

Class: “Whhaaa?”

I’d then proceed to list off other words that the students were very familiar with but had never given much thought: magazine (Arabic, again), shampoo (Hindi), zombie (West African and then the Caribbean) and dollar (German). This was news to them. Of course, they knew that words such as taco or pizza weren’t English in origin, but had entered the English language due to common use. Magazine has an origin that was often more difficult to follow: Arabic to Italian to French to English.  The students associated Seventeen or People with the word, so the idea that magazine isn’t of modern American origin was hard to grasp.

This enlightening lesson ran a close second in interest level to the “discovery” that Shakespearean English isn’t Old English, but is, in fact, considered the onset of Modern English. I’d play a recording of Beowulf, which is Old English, and the Canterbury Tales, which is Middle English. Then I’d watch as their minds were blown: “That doesn’t even sound like English!”

I’d like to think that these lessons opened the minds of the students to the notion that English really contains a mix of many words of different origins. It is an ever-changing, adaptable language, one that they adapt and change themselves. Selfie, anyone?

Now, go read the dictionary. It’s a good book.