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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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, 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!

A Room Full of Love

My article from the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California newsletter, The Sampler. To learn more about the CLCSC, visit the website.

The 53rd Fall Gala of the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California took place on October 11’s beautiful morning in La Canada- Flintridge’s Descanso Gardens. Librarians, educators, authors, illustrators, and book lovers met in the lovely environs for the annual Awards for Authors and Illustrators of Southern California.

CLCSC First Vice President, Dr. Marjorie Arnett, introduced keynote speaker Bryan Collier. Mr. Collier has won numerous awards, including the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration and the 2002 Caldecott Honor Award. Dr. Arnett described Mr. Collier’s interest in art—shapes, colors, textures—as having derived partly from his grandmother’s quilts.

Credit: CLCSC

Bryan Collier; Photo Credit: CLCSC

Mr. Collier explained how his love of books started at a young age with the influence of his mother, a Head Start teacher. Two books from his childhood stand out especially: Ezra Jack Keat’s The Snowy Day and Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon. Mr. Collier described that the character in Snowy Day “looked back at me. I had the same pajamas,” and how reading that particular book and seeing that character “said something to me beyond any other book. I couldn’t articulate what it was, but I felt it.” Harold prompted thoughts on pies and on journeying home.

In what can be characterized as an incredible demonstration of perseverance, Mr. Collier haunted the publishing houses of New York City once a week for seven years. In addressing whether he became discouraged during that lengthy job search period, Mr. Collier replied, “It’s always been bigger than about just a book. It’s about being connected.” As if to confirm this belief, a young girl told Mr. Collier, “You need purpose” when, during a school visit, he asked students what is needed in order to make a book. This young girl’s words resonated with Mr. Collier, as did the directive from Henry Holt Publishing, who hired him, to “tell me what you know.”

In that continual process of expanding what he knows, Mr. Collier believes that research helps find truths to bring to light. It is a process of “talking and looking at history up close” and is a part of the work ethic that goes into making a book. Mr. Collier explained that “history is a chain and it’s connected. Picture books are the perfect vehicles to celebrate history.”

As part of his research for the picture book Rosa, Mr. Collier met with Mrs. Johnnie Carr, a friend of Rosa Parks. She told him the stories behind the story, such as the threats leveled against Ms. Parks’ church members, friends, and family. For authenticity’s sake, Mr. Collier tried the process of getting on and off the bus from the back, to try to understand what that must have felt like.

For Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, Mr. Collier visited the plantation in South Carolina where David Drake, a slave, added short poems on the approximately 40,000 clay storage pots he made. This plantation was in Edgefield, Strom Thurmond’s hometown, where Mr. Collier described meeting some “good ol’ boys” who helped with his research and shared what they knew.

Research and connection with the books’ subjects have influenced Mr. Collier’s artistic style, helping him to add details in his art. The School Library Journal notes that “alert readers [of Dave the Potter] will find hidden messages in some of the collages, but what stands out in these pictures are Dave’s hands and eyes, and the strength of his body, reflected in the shape and size of his legendary jars and pots.” The Kirkus Review of Rosa states “the art complements and extends the text, with visual references to Emmett Till, the Edmund Pettus Bridge and Martin Luther King, Jr. The yellowish hue of the illustrations represents the Alabama heat, the light emanating from Rosa Parks’s face a shining beacon to all who would stand up for what’s right.”

Mr. Collier’s love of art and books is fully evident in his speech, and the audience was lucky to share in it with him. It was, as Mr. Collier noted, “a room full of love” that morning.

Andrew Smith was not present to accept the Peggy Miller Award for Young Adult Literature. He sent word that he is “deeply honored” by this recognition of Winger, especially as he had been told that “Winger wasn’t the right thing” for his career.

Holly Goldberg Sloan, a second-time honoree, stated just how very much being recognized by librarians and educators means to her. The Excellence in Juvenile Fiction awardee, Ms. Goldberg Sloan wrote Counting by 7s about a girl who likes math and science because she feels that girls are discouraged in pursuing these fields and wants that to change.

Most-Distinguished Juvenile Non-Fiction Book Award recipient, Kadir Nelson thanked the CLCSC for acknowledging his work Nelson Mandela, the namesake of which is one of Mr. Nelson’s heroes. Mr. Nelson went on to describe how distilling Nelson Mandela’s autobiography into a picture book was a difficult process. With it, he strived to amplify beauty and harmony, which is what Nelson Mandela worked toward.

Dan Santat; Photo Credit: CLCSC

Dan Santat; Photo Credit: CLCSC

Dan Santat was influenced by Smurfs cartoons and a librarian who surreptitiously gave him a copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way because she knew that although his parents wanted him to become a doctor, he loved art. Mr. Santat has passed it along to his children. When this Excellence in Picture Book Illustration winner gave a speech at his alma mater, UCSD, he spoke about doing what he loves as a career instead of what he was expected to do.

Winner of the Best Narrative Voice in a Picture Book Award, Drew Daywalt discussed his process of writing and publishing The Day the Crayons Quit. He acknowledged the team effort needed over an eleven-year period from writing the manuscript to getting the book on shelves. His humorously described revelation that the manuscript took six years to sell is a rallying cry for aspiring authors to persevere. The much-anticipated sequel, The Day the Crayons Came Home, is in the works.

Recipient of the Dorothy C. McKenzie Award, Dr. Claudette S. McLinn is an inspiration. This busy “retiree” described how “retirement is a continuation of your life’s passion” and that the “enticement of the literary world became even stronger” after her retirement. Currently the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature, Dr. McLinn has been a passionate advocate for multicultural children’s literature throughout her distinguished career.

There Is Good in This World

Today is remembered for terrible, awful, tragic events. It’s also a day that people everywhere felt the loss and sent out messages of hope, support, love, and sympathy.

To honor 9/11 and to remind ourselves, and especially children, that good is still the predominant force in this world, here is a book that focuses on good people.Good People Everywhere

Taken from my review at Good Reads with Ronna, where you can find reviews on great children’s literature.

Within reading three pages of Good People Everywhere, I’d fallen in love with it. Written by Lynea Gillen and illustrated by Kristine Swarner, this beautiful, touching book is inspiring and empowering. Its message is simple: there are good people doing good things everywhere, every day and in many ways. In a world where we too often hear of the destructive, unethical and terrible acts that people commit, Good People Everywhere offers a powerful juxtaposition to the idea that there are bad people everywhere. It presents the notion that people, including young children, can and do good in the world.

The prose is written in plain language and provides examples that children will find familiar. Numerous examples show children of various ages engaging in good deeds, the kinds that are readily managed by youngsters.

Teachers are teaching math, spelling and reading skills,/Today, people are planning seeds, picking fruits and vegetables, and driving them to grocery stores all around the world, so you can have a ripe, juicy orange in your lunch./Today, a first grade boy is helping a friend who has a skinned knee, and a big sister is holding her baby brother.

The illustrations are warm and engaging, and depict the text in a childlike fashion. They are a perfect complement to the heartfelt message. The bonus activities help children recognize and celebrate the good people around them.

As a mother, I have shared this book with my daughters and discussed how people we know do good things and how they, even at their young ages, can bring good into the world. As an educator, I plan on sharing this uplifting book with my students as our school continues with its theme for the year of giving back. Good People Everywhere provides examples, inspiration and comfort not only to young children

Woo-hoo, We Did It!

Thank you so much to everyone who helped raise money to help stem illiteracy in the US and around the world. World Education has been able to raise almost $22,000 to fight illiteracy through their #pages4progress campaign. Here’s the good news!

Reading Rocks!

Reading Rocks!

 That’s the good news, but the fight isn’t over! According to UNESCO EFA Global Monitoring Report Policy Paper, June 2014, 58 million children ages 6-11 won’t be returning to school. And, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,  in the US, over 30 million adults don’t have a high school diploma and 20% of US adults with a high school diploma have only beginning literacy skills. There’s more work to be done, but, importantly, it can be done.

Please join World Education and sign a public letter (via Change.org) to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations Global Education First Initiative Steering Committee calling for increased attention and resources worldwide to achieve universal access to primary education. 

On September 24, take to social media and create a thunderclap in honor of the second anniversary of Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s Global Education First Initiative.

Education is a huge part in erasing poverty, most especially for women and children in developing countries. To be able to read is to be able to start the path out of poverty. If you care, please share.