Calling all diverse kidlit professionals in the Greater Boston Area

The reason I’ve been super busy this last month is that in addition to writing and mommying two small children, I’ve been working with the New England branch of the SCBWI to put together a networking event at the Boston Public Library. This is the first time I’m helping to put something like this together so we’ll see how it goes :)

More information:

NESCBWI Networking event for Diverse Children’s Literature Professionals

Thursday, May 14th, 5:30-7:30 pm
Boston Public Library, Central branch, Children’s Library
700 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116
Cost: FREE

Network with authors and illustrators: Nandini Bajpai, Janet Costa Bates, Sarah Brannen, Paula Lee, Francisco X. Stork, Nicole Tadgell, Holly Thompson, Padma Venkatraman, and more.

Who is invited: Children’s literature professionals, including teachers, librarians, booksellers, writers, illustrators, agents, and editors. College and graduate students are welcome. We would like to specifically encourage people from groups that have thus far been underrepresented children’s literature to join us.

Books will be available to purchase from Porter Square Books.

RSVP on my boskidlit facebook page (not required but suggested so we can get an idea of numbers)

Contact me if you have questions about this or want to join the volunteer mailing list!

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You’re invited to the Material Girls release party!

Elaine Dimopoulos is having a launch party at the Boston Public Library for her brand new book Material GirlsHere are the details from her website:

Material Girls Release Party!
Tuesday, May 5, 7 p.m.
Abbey Room, Boston Public Library

I’ll be there so if you’re a follower of the blog or my kid lit calendar on Facebook, please come and say hi! Otherwise, Elaine has a calendar on her website where she lists her other appearances, so be sure to check those out and pre-order your book now from Amazon or your local independent bookseller.

Here’s a tip for events at bookstores: if you pre-order a copy ahead of time, you can be sure they have a copy left for you at the event for your favorite author to sign.

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The Crossing (Daughters of the Sea Book 4): Q&A with Author Kathryn Lasky, Book Excerpt, and Giveaway

This week on the blog, I’m very lucky to have the award winning author Kathryn Lasky. Her latest book, The Crossing, is the final book in her Daughters of the Sea series, and it comes out on April 28th. This blog post is full of goodies related to the series. Not only did Kathryn Lasky answer some of my questions about the books, she also provided a small excerpt, AND she is offering to send signed copies of the three previous books to one lucky winner. (See the bottom of this post of more information about the giveaway.)

Question 1: You write a lot of series, and in a recent blogpost, you talk a little bit about why. When you started this series, did you know how long it would be?

Kathryn Lasky: Hannah, May and Lucy—three sisters—triplets actually so that although they look identical they are not. But the one thing they share in common is a longing to belong and to be loved. It might seem that a three book series would do it. But their lives become complicated when they fall in love with three very different young men, Hannah falls for one of America’s most distinguished portrait painters. May falls in love with a Harvard educated astronomer and Lucy with a young Maine ship designer. I knew it would take not three but at least four books for each girl had to resolve whether they would become creatures of the sea or creatures of the land—and that could not happen until the fourth book. Because of their entanglements of love, leaving land forever was a daunting idea. The clock is ticking on how long they could remain inhabitants of two worlds.

Q2: You have written many books, and one of your series was even turned into a movie. Do you ever feel pressure to live up to your own success?

KL: No. I mean the movie was such a freak episode in my writing life. This happens in very few authors’ experiences. And a movie in my mind by no means determines success. There are so many books that I would love see turned into movies but Hollywood ignores them. And as for pressure to live up to success—well, the only pressure I feel is to keep doing books that I really care about and not respond to trends or fads, or—and my publishers would hate me saying this—but even sales figures. It is such a privilege to do what you want to do with passion. I have said it before: I get to get up each morning and re-invent the world.

Q3: The Daughters of the Sea series ties together mermaids with the history of New England. What was the most fascinating piece of history you uncovered while doing research for these novels?

KL: That there are people who actually believe mermaids exist!!!! There is a whole little contingent out there ready to believe it and trying to prove it through pseudo science, sort of like people who don’t believe in evolution or think dinosaurs and human beings existed at the same time. In 2012 Animal Planet aired a ‘documentary’ claiming to show evidence that mermaids were real. Turns out they had actors were playing the parts of “scientists”. I am really fascinated by pseudo scientists in general. I mean I guess that’s why we have climate change deniers. But rest assured I did not use any of the “findings” from Animal Planet in my book. My fantasy was way better than theirs!

Q4: This series has 3 main characters—mermaid sisters Hannah, Lucy, and May. Did you have a strategy for finding unique voices for each of them?

KL: There was no intended strategy. All three came from very different backgounds. So finding distinct voices was not hard at all. Lucy is the most uppercrust of the girls and she comes from New York. Hannah is a scullery maid in a very wealthy Boston family and May lived in a lighthouse on an isolated island off the coast of Maine. So the voices with their accents, cadences and language came very easily to me.

Thank you Kathryn Lasky for your wonderful answers to my questions! For more information about the author, please check out her newly redesigned website.

Now, here is an excerpt from Daughters of the Sea: The Crossing by Kathryn Lasky:

It was a shock that night when she first slid into the water. It took her legs forever to fuse into the long, powerful tail. She had to pull with her arms as she never had before. Her two legs seemed to flail until finally she stopped trying to use them for fear she would splash too much and attract attention from shore. So she dived, but found she could no longer hold her breath as easily under the water. She had barely made it out of the channel before she had to come up for air. There was, of course, the slime and refuse of a busy city harbor. Then she turned right, dived deep, and swam straight out into the harbor as her legs finally fused. She was careful to avoid the sweep of the Boston Harbor Light. That first night she did not have the strength to swim very far. But by the second night she felt much stronger and took a course south by southeast to the Stellwagen Banks. She had avoided a pod of dolphins.

Normally, she would have swum with them for a few miles. They loved to play with her, especially when they had new pups. She often helped with pups, herding them along so as to keep them close to their mothers if a shark was in the vicinity, or often just tumbling with them through the currents. But she was not feeling particularly sociable tonight. She would often have qualms when Stannish went away, such as now on his trip to New York concerning a new commission. She knew that it was a glittering world that he entered, filled with glamorous women and extravagant parties. It was nothing like Boston. He would come back with reports of the grande dames of the city and the latest fashion. But he would always return and fold her in his arms and say that not one could come close to her beauty. Those moments of his return were wonderful. She tucked them away like precious jewels, stringing them together like pearls on a necklace that proved their love.

By the time she had swum back it was close to dawn and a slight drizzle had begun to fall. The Old Custom House Tower rose like a flinty schoolmaster over the old port city. The hands on the clock of its east-facing side pointed at five.

Exciting, right? To find out what happens next, you’ll have to read the rest of the book!

As promised, here is the the giveaway.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

General Giveaway Rules: No Purchase Necessary. This giveaway is only open to residents of the United States who are 18 years of age or older, so kids please ask an adult to enter for you. The winner will be randomly chosen using Rafflecopter and contacted via email for their mailing address. The winner will have 72 hours to respond to my email. I will then forward your mailing address to the author, and she will arrange for the books to be sent to your address.

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YA Book Review: Material Girls by Elaine Dimopoulos

Material Girls by Elaine Dimopoulos

Project Runway meets Nashville meets intelligent YA dystopia in this brand new book by my writing buddy Elaine. Told from two points of view, Material Girls tells the story of Marla Klein and Ivy Wilde, two girls living in a society where fashion and fame are everything and teens call all the shots. But when Marla is fired from her cushy job as a fashion judge and pop star Ivy Wilde begins to teeter in the charts, their lives unravel slowly and intertwine in unexpected ways. They rise together to fight the status quo and end up learning who’s really in charge of their whole world—and it isn’t who they thought.

Elaine’s world building is lush and realistic, and I am in awe of her fashion descriptions. Kirkus reviews called it “Sly, subversive fun,” and I think that’s a spot on description as the novel really raises questions about the value of art in our own society and about, yes, who’s really calling the shots.

Congratulations on a wonderful book, Elaine! The book comes out next month, so be sure to pre-order your copy now. I will admit to having pre-ordered several of them. :)

Disclaimer: This review is based on a free copy of the ARC I received from the author.

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Get to Know Asian American Children’s Authors: I.W. Gregorio, Author of None of the Above

headshotIWG

The very first author in my Asian American Children’s Author series this year is I.W. Gregorio. Dr. Gregorio is a surgeon, a writer, and a founding member of the phenomenal We Need Diverse Books team, and I am super excited to have her on my blog this week.

Her debut YA novel, None of the Above comes out next week(!), so be sure to pre-order your copy from Amazon or your local independent bookstore.

Here are her responses to my questions:

1) Which of your characters do you most identify with and why?NoneoftheAbove_Cover-2

I.W. Gregorio: It’s funny, but I actually don’t identify with my main character Kristin at all. At the beginning of the book, Kristin is popular and dating the big man on campus – neither of which remotely described me in high school! I probably most identify with the character of Darren, who is kind of nerdy might seem socially awkward at first, but who is actually pretty funny and loyal to a fault.

2) If you could give your Asian American kid readers one piece of advice, what would it be?

IWG: Read widely. If you usually read fantasy, try some contemporary, and vice versa. If you don’t find mirrors, let each book be a window that helps you see the world, and that lets you find a deeper empathy. Don’t be afraid to read books that make your brain hurt, and if you like a book and it makes you think, talk about it (or Tweet about it). Because the best part of reading is the “booktalk,” where you can share what you’ve learned and make a solitary, personal activity into a communal one.

3) Who is your favorite Asian American children’s author or illustrator right now (other than yourself)?

IWG: Grace Lin is an obvious choice, because she went to my high school and I’m loving reading her books to my daughter right now. But I also really love a couple of up-and-coming Asian American authors: Stacey Lee, whose Under a Painted Sky is pitched as Thelma and Louise in the Wild West, and Kelly Loy Gilbert, whose heartbreaking contemporary YA Conviction is about a boy whose conservative talk show father faces a trial for murder. Both received starred reviews from Kirkus!

4)Were you a reader growing up? Why or why not?

IWG: I was a huge reader. I read in the car, at the dinner table, under the sheets of my bed. I lived a pretty isolated childhood, growing up with my grandparents as one of only two Asians in my high school. Books were my soul mates and absolutely shaped me as a person. When I was sad and lonely, I reached for a book. And when I had free time and was happy, I dove into books as well.

About the Author: I.W. Gregorio is a practicing surgeon by day, masked avenging YA writer by night. After getting her MD, she did her residency at Stanford, where she met the intersex patient who inspired her debut novel, None of the Above (Balzer & Bray / HarperCollins, April 7, 2015). She is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books™ and serves as its VP of Development. A recovering ice hockey player, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children. Find her online at www.iwgregorio.com, and on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram at @iwgregorio.

 

 

 

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2015 Asian American Children’s Authors Blog Series

I’m starting to line up some more authors for my blog series. If anyone has recommendations for authors they’d like to see on the series, send them my way and when I get a chance, I’ll shoot them an email to see if they’re interested in participating.

This year, I’m aiming to do one a month, though it may end up more sporadic depending on the other projects I’m working on.

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Mommy Read it Again: FRIENDS FOR FREEDOM followup

So last week on the blog, I reviewed Friends for Freedom, but unlike with my other picture book reviews, you may have noticed that I didn’t include a reaction from my kids.

This was because I hadn’t read it to them.

I thought they were too young, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to talk about slavery, women’s rights, etc. with my 5 year old. I didn’t know if Pre-K Monkey could handle it, and I wasn’t sure I wanted her to know how unfair people in this world can be. Despite all of this though, I was really curious what her reaction would be, so later last week after I’d posted my review, I decided to give it try anyway since the text is so straightforward and concise.

While I was reading it out loud, I could tell it was going over their heads. While reading, I explained a little bit about what slavery was and why men and women weren’t usually friends (as the book mentions). Obviously, Toddler Monkey really didn’t get it, and I hadn’t expected her to. Pre-K Monkey was following along a lot better, and had her “I’m processing this” look on her face, but she didn’t say much. I decided maybe she really was too young after all and left it at that.

Then last night, pre-K monkey surprised me. She found the book on the floor and really, really wanted to read it again. She asked tons of questions. Wanted to know why Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass became friends, why it was unusual they had become friends, and why people didn’t like that they were friends. I ended up reading the book twice to her (actually she wanted me to read it again, but it was late so I said no). With the lights out, we had a small discussion about treating people equally and not letting people tell you what you can and can’t do. “Like how pink is a color for girls AND boys!” she said, making a connection with a different conversation we’d had before. She had so much to say about this and so many more questions, in the end her questions really just exceeded my expectations.

I can’t believe I’d underestimated her!

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Picture Book: Friends for Freedom by Suzanne Slade, Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell

Friends for Freedom by Suzanne Slade, Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell

(For those of you budding artists out there: last week on the blog, the illustrator shared some of her early sketches for this book, so be sure to check out that post.)

Friends for Freedom is non-fiction picture book about the little known friendship between Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. The text is simple and clear, with issues like human rights and slavery explained in accessible, but still engaging language. Soft, inviting watercolor illustrations elegantly capture fiery expressions as these two civil rights leaders passionately discuss their respective causes. (And side note–I just really love Tadgell’s illustrations of Douglass’s kids. They are so sweet and exude innocence and personality.)

The recommended age group for this book is 6-9 according to the publisher’s website, and that feels about right.  As a grown up reader (and writer), I especially appreciated the author and illustrator notes at the back explaining the research that went into this, and some may find the bibliography useful as well.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a free copy I received from the illustrator.

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Guest Post: Nicole Tadgell, Illustrator of FRIENDS FOR FREEDOM

Friends for Freedom: The Story of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass

by Suzanne Slade, Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell

This week on the blog, I am excited to have my very first illustrator guest post from the award-winning and prolific illustrator Nicole Tadgell. Her latest book is Friends for Freedom,  a non-fiction picture book which centers on the friendship between civil rights activists Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass (my review to be posted soon).

As part of the guest post, Nicole sent me a few early sketches as well as some of her final artwork. Enjoy!

 

inProg_SF_Portraits

 

Illustrating famous historical figures for children’s books is a big project! Fortunately, I enjoy the research, I love pretending I’m in different times. Sometimes I worry that kids might not find the lives of famous historical figures to be interesting, but I am constantly reassured when I visit schools, libraries and book fairs and see kids looking at and reading my books with great interest.

SF_RP_Scene4_v1SF_FCp16Friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The artwork for Friends for Freedom is done in watercolor, with gold and purple as key colors. I love the way those colors go together. I found a photo in my research that showed Miss Anthony in a plaid dress with purple and brown colors, which she described in detail in a letter to her mother.

SF_RP_Scene3v3SF_FCp14-15Tea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Friendship is a universal bond, and kids today can certainly appreciate the value of friendship. This book gives readers more insight into the lives of Frederick Dougalss and Susan B. Anthony, making them more relatable just because of their friendship.

 

SF_FCp12-13WelcomeSF_FCp20-21Danger
Suzanne Slade’s research uncovered a major fight between the two, which was recorded because it was a live debate reported in newspapers at the time. All friendships go through rough spots – most not as public as this argument. Yet like all true friendships, they did not let their disagreement overcome their bond.

 

SF_FCp32-33End

On a personal note, I have been lucky enough to also have a lifelong friend. Lara and I met in first grade (see Communion photo below). We’ve been like sisters for many years, yet lost close touch for the last 10. Working on the art for Friends for Freedom really made me want to reconnect with my lifelong friend. Just this past weekend we saw each other in person, and it’s like no time has passed at all!

LaraandMe_CommunionLaraandMe_Grownups

 

Thanks for sharing all these wonderful images, Nicole! 

 

About the Illustrator:

SuzanneNicoleF4F

Suzanne Slade (left) and Nicole Tadgell (right)

Nicole Tadgell is the award-winning illustrator of In the Garden with Dr. Carver and First Peas to the Table. She enjoys bringing life to historical books with her loose pencil and watercolor illustrations.

Website: http://www.nicoletadgell.blogspot.com

Blog: http://www.nicoletadgell.tumblr.com

Twitter: @nicoletadgell

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3 Questions for Donna Gephart, Sydney Taylor Honor Winner for DEATH BY TOILET PAPER

Death by Toilet Paper

Death by Toilet Paper by Donna Gephart

This week on the blog, I am honored to take part in the 2015 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour. As part of this blog tour, I had the opportunity to interview Donna Gephart, Sydney Taylor Silver Medal winner in the Older Readers category for her novel, Death by Toilet Paper.

(BTW–I LOVE this cover! The author also emailed me the super cute cover for the German version of her book, and I included it below. Adorable, right?)

More about the Sydney Taylor Book Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries website: “The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience. Presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries since 1968, the award encourages the publication and widespread use of quality Judaic literature. Gold medals are presented in three categories: Younger Readers, Older Readers, and Teen Readers. Honor Books are awarded silver medals, and Notable Books are named in each category.”

Here are my 3 questions for Donna Gephart:

Death by Toilet Paper German Cover1) In the book, your main character, Benjamin Epstein, enters a contest to come up with a slogan for his favorite brand of toilet paper.  Why toilet paper?

Donna Gephart: In this book, and sometimes in life, toilet paper represents money or a lack there of.  For example, Benjamin Epstein knew things were getting tough financially when his mom had to switch to the cheap, scratchy, recycled toilet paper, so unlike the “good” toilet paper they used to be able to afford.  Toilet paper has other, ahem, creative uses in the book, too, like being the material used for a zombie’s bridal gown.  Look, when a book starts out with a kid’s letter to a toilet paper company, you know it’s going to be a little, um, unusual . . . in a fun way.

2) Are you Jewish? If so, was there ever a time in your life when you wished you weren’t Jewish? If you are not Jewish, was there ever a time in your life where you wished you were?

DG: I am Jewish.  I grew up just like Benjamin did in the book.  And I never had experiences which made me wish I weren’t Jewish, unlike my parents.  When my mom was a kid, other kids threw stones at her after school and called her, “Dirty Jew.”  And when my parents were on their honeymoon, they found discrimination when trying to book a hotel room.  I’m glad, though, that my mom worked at a Jewish library when I was a kid because she brought home a lot of books about the Holocaust, and I learned early about prejudice and man’s inhumanity to man and the power and importance of kindness and empathy to counteract such insidious beliefs.

3) Your bio on Amazon says that you entered every contest you could find as a kid. What was the weirdest contest you ever entered?

DG: On a MUCH lighter note, since we grew up without much money, my sister, Ellen, and I sought out contests and sweepstakes to enter.  She won things like concert tickets, and I won a trip to Great Adventure Amusement Park when I was a kid, but the oddest thing I won was a check for $1.98 from a Gong-Show type contest on the radio.  I played the theme song from “All in the Family” on my toy organ and during the performance, the phone fell and crashed onto the keys, making a horrible bellowing sound — hence the silly amount of the check.  Since then, I’ve won a couple amazing trips through skilled contest entries.  But my sister, Ellen, to whom Death by Toilet Paper is dedicated, is the Queen of Contests and the Sultan of Sweepstakes.  Her most recent win?  A new car from The Price is Right game show.  Yeah, she’s amazing like that, my sister.

Donna Gephart 3

Donna Gephart’s new novel, Death by Toilet Paper, combines humor, heartbreak and more toilet paper facts than you can shake a plunger at.  Her other titles include:  Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen, How to Survive Middle School and As If Being 12-3/4 Isn’t Bad Enough, My Mother Is Running for President!, which won the Sid Fleischman Humor Award.  She lives in Florida with her family and speaks at schools, book festivals and libraries across the country.  For free reading/activity guides, writing resources and more, visit www.donnagephart.com.

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