Friday, June 20, 2014

Looking for diverse picture books this summer? Try these.

Happy summer!

Here are a few great picture book reads recommended by #WeNeedDiverseBooks team members, supporters, and partners. Each graphic features a well-known book, and a complementary book written by a diverse author or featuring a diverse main character. If you've been looking for great diverse books that have universal appeal, here's a start.

The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign team is posting new graphics EVERY DAY, ALL SUMMER LONG! Don't forget to drop by the tumblr site to see all of the recommendations for diverse YA/young adult, diverse MG / middle grade, and Diverse PB / picture book titles. (And contact the WNDB team or leave a comment below if you have suggestions of your own, too!)


If you liked the classic Ugly Duckling story, try reading The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin, because both show that something that seems unattractive can transform into something stunning.


If you liked Little Chicken's Big Day by Katie Davis (ill. Jerry Davis), you should read A Beach Tail by Karen Lynn Williams, because both books involve an outing in which an explorative youngster is separated from a parent, and returns to safety (with the aid of a repeating refrain).


If you liked Stan and Jan Berenstain's The Berenstain Bears Get in a Fight, you should read Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan (ill. Sophie Blackall) because both books deal skillfully with sibling rivalry, and how siblings who love each other can still fight and upset one another sometimes.



If you liked Beatrix Potter's classic, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, try Chukfi Rabbit's Big, Bad Bellyache by Greg Rodgers (ill. Leslie Widener) because both are about rabbits with appetites that get them into trouble.



If you liked Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers's The Day the Crayons Quit, try reading A Day with No Crayons by Elizabeth Rusch (ill. Chad Cameron), which is also about an artistic character who has to make do without crayons for awhile.


If you liked Mercer Mayer's Just Me and My Puppy, try Kamik: An Inuit Puppy Story by Donald Uluadluak (ill. Qin Leng) because both feature the fun and fury of training a puppy.


Just in time for the World Cup 2014! If you liked Mia Hamm's Winners Never Quit, you'll like Soccer Star by Mina Javaherbin (ill. Renato Alarcao), because both books for young readers involve sporty characters who face setbacks, but learn how to shoot for a worthy goal. (Miranda's note: My kids and I really, really, really loved this book—it's so much more than it seems from the cover!)


If you liked Arnold Lobel's classic Frog and Toad books, you'll love Grace Lin's Ling and Ting books, because these early chapter books feature two similar-looking characters with distinct personalities. The books help children learn through simple, humorous stories of everyday friendship and adventure.


If you liked Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, you'll enjoy The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi, because both of these picture books have characters with beautiful, unique names—but the main characters are still figuring that out!


If you liked Maurice Sendak's classic Where the Wild Things Are, you'll love Tiger in My Soup by Kashmira Sheth (ill. Jeffrey Ebbeler), in which the main character also embraces the ferociousness of his own imagination int he absence of his parents.


If you liked Joanna Cole's I'm a Big Sister, try Pecan Pie Baby by Jacqueline Woodson (ill. Sophie Blackall), because both books discuss the seismic changes that come with new siblings, and reassure kids that they're still special in their parents' eyes.


Please remember to: Check these (and other) diverse books out from your local library, request them if they're not there, and let your local booksellers know how much you loved them by purchasing and/or talking about these books and their authors/illustrators. Be the change!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

On Writing "Multicultural" Literature


Note: This article was first published in 2013 as part of the "Writerly Wisdom" series at Donna Martin's blog entitled, On The Write Track. I made a few adjustments to a few links that were updated, and an occasional word swap. Click here to see the original post.

On Writing "Multicultural" Literature

By Miranda Paul


For those of you who don’t already know, I’ll put it out there: I’m white.

It probably shouldn’t matter, and at the same time, it should and does. Here’s why:

Not every story is mine to tell.

I know that, and I respect that.

That doesn’t mean I only write stories that originate my Midwest hometown, about characters who look like me, grew up like me, talk like me, etc. In fact, those of you who know what I write is far more diverse. But what I write is also based upon experience, research, passion, and personal connection.

Let’s consider this current #kidlit dilemma:

Even though people have been advocating for more “multicultural” literature for decades, we still need more stories about all kinds of people who come from all sorts of backgrounds and live and talk in diverse ways.

Oh, and we need these stories written by authors who are just as diverse.

Back in 1970, award-winning poet Lucille Clifton published two children’s books—The Black BC’s and Some of the Days of Everett Anderson. This certainly wasn’t the beginning of multicultural #kidlit, of course. But I begin with Lucille because she was my first professor of children’s literature, and because she championed the idea that children needed both “mirrors and windows. Mirrors in which they can see themselves, windows in which they can see the world.”

I was blessed to be initiated into the craft of writing for children by such a kind, strong, and gifted woman. Her books offered positive, contemporary portraits of African Americans without racial stereotyping. Her books are wrapped in authenticity, humanity, and universal truth.

Lucille’s example of consciously giving children access to “windows and mirrors” stuck with me as I headed off to teach in West Africa later that year. There, my students had a significant lack of books that accurately depicted individual, contemporary African settings and characters, and I’ve been working over the last few years to build libraries with relevant books. I also married interracially and when we had children, this idea became very personal. Most picture books were “window stories” for my children. Far fewer were “mirrors”, with characters who looked like or had families like our own. Thus, I’m always on the lookout for great “multicultural” books (although most times, the separation and separate-shelving of that label irks me) that depict biracial families, children with grandparents living abroad, immigrant parents, a second language in the home, West African and Caribbean cultures, etc.

Let me now get back to an earlier point, about not every story being mine to tell.

Although I’ve written several stories that are classified as “multicultural”, they’ve mostly been stories I have a personal connection to and resulted from experience, research, and collaboration with people within the culture.

There are a lot of underrepresented cultures or lifestyles that interest me, and I see a need for stories about them in the publishing market. But ultimately, at the end of the day, each story should be about a character, in a specific place, at a specific time. That means DETAILS. I am not always the best person for writing those details, especially if the culture is one I’ve not experienced firsthand.

The thing is, not only do children deserve stories that contain “mirrors,” but the author bio or photo needs to reflect diversity as well. Growing up, I never got the chance to actually meet anyone who wrote for a living, and the lack of a model seriously affected my confidence that writing for a career was even possible.

So when I got invited to a school with other authors, I noticed immediately all four of us were white women with blond hair and blue eyes. I had to question what unintentional message this was sending to the kids. Perhaps our lack of diversity meant nothing on a conscious level. Maybe the kids didn’t notice. But what if there was some sort of subconscious message at work? Don’t they deserve to see authors who look like them, in order to ignite a sense of possibility that they, too, can be authors?

I think it’s extremely important for authors who are not of color to remain encouraging and supportive of the organizations who are consciously making an effort to address the call for diversity in children’s books. I am thrilled that publishers such as Lee and Low are hosting a New Voices contest for authors of color and it’s still open to entries until September 30. The Coretta Scott King award and Pura Belpré multicultural children’s book awards are critical in realizing visions where all children can find both windows and mirrors in books.

Whatever your race or ethnicity (or diverse experience!), don’t feel as though multicultural literature means only writing about your own heritage. And it's not about making the culture or setting more important than the story or character. At the same time, don’t feel as though a marketing need or lack of books on a subject qualifies you to write that particular book. If you feel like an outsider, your narration will seem distanced and inauthentic, and your reader won’t have access to a true window or mirror.

Writing multicultural literature is a daunting task, but there are individuals and organizations out there to help you. Mira Reisberg at Hummingbird Literary has made it a point to seek out multicultural stories, and a few agents at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and Full Circle Literary mention a desire to see multicultural submissions on their websites. (Addendum: Foreword Literary has also directly tweeted me stating they are committed to a diverse range of authors and stories.) The Highlights Foundation (hey, I’m there right now!) can help you find out which stories might be yours to tell, and how to present authentic and diverse characters and settings. In fact, they have an upcoming workshop called Writing Across Boundaries (update: I don't see an upcoming workshop specifically on diversity / writing across boundaries retreat this year, like there was at the time I posted this last year.)

Remember, if you have the passion to write a multicultural story, honestly address your bias or fear of writing across boundaries and why you're writing it (hopefully not just because you think a diverse book will sell or you wanted to try something new). Keep in mind the child who deserves that window to another world or a mirror of her own. And don't forget to go way beyond Internet research. Go immerse yourself in that world.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Come Visit Me in My Studio!

Come on in to my office!

Artist Andrea Skyberg hosted me on her Studio Tours Blog recently. I loved being able to share my space. My husband built the studio/office for me, and I'm eternally grateful to him for being so thoughtful and handy. I use this space every day.

Here's the link to the tour:

http://andreaskyberg.com/miranda-pauls-studio-tour/


Friday, May 2, 2014

List of Diverse Picture Books - #WeNeedDiverseBooks

While there's still a severe need for more books by and about many underrepresented people, one focus of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is to make readers, book buyers, librarians, teachers, and the general public aware of some of the great diverse books already on the shelves.

This "just-getting-started" list of picture books includes books that are by or about diverse people/characters. They range from board books for babies to longer books for upper elementary readers. They are quite varied, but all come recommended from various voices within this campaign.

Please add your favorite title to this list, so we can make it even longer! 

YOU are part of this campaign, too! 

(Comments Section Below). 

And don’t forget to buy these books or check them out from your local library.

(P.S. I'm planning to break these down into subgroups to give you more information about each one, since they've all made this list for varied reasons and are for different young age groups. Will re-post after everyone shares their titles and make one really comprehensive list of diverse picture books!)

  • All the World - Liz Garton Scanlon, Marla Frazee
  • A Beach Tail - Karen Lynn Williams, Floyd Cooper
  • Grace for President - Kelly DiPucchio, LeUyen Pham
  • Lottie Paris and the Best Place - Angela Johnson, Scott M. Fischer
  • Tiger in My Soup - Kashmira Sheth, Jeffrey Ebbeler
  • The Other Side - Jacqueline Woodson, E.B. Lewis
  • The Runaway Wok - Ying Chang Compestine, Sebastia Serra
  • Lola's Fandango - Anna Witte, Micha Archer, the Amador Family
  • Maria Had a Little Llama / Maria Tenia una Llamita - Angela Dominguez
  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind - William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer, Elizabeth Zunon
  • Redwoods - Jason Chin
  • Mississippi Morning - Ruth Vander Zee, Floyd Cooper
  • Ghandi: A March to the Sea, Alice B. McGinty, Thomas Gonzalez
  • A Day with No Crayons - Elizabeth Rusch, Chad Cameron
  • GOAL! - Mina Javaherbin, A.G. Ford
  • A Picture Book of Cesar Chavez - David A. Adler, Michael S. Adler, Marie Olofsdotter
  • The Mangrove Tree - Susan L. Roth & Cindy Trumbore
  • Teammates - Peter Golenbock, Paul Bacon
  • Sosu's Call - Meshack Asare
  • Mary Walker Wears the Pants - Cheryl Harness, Carlo Molinari
  • Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match - Monica Brown, Sara Palacios
  • Words with Wings - Nikki Grimes
  • More, More, More, Said the Baby - Vera B. Williams
  • Seven Spools of Thread - Angela Shelf Medaris
  • Seaside Dream - Janet Costa Bates, Lambert Davis
  • Lama Salama - Patricia MacLachlan, Elizabeth Zunon
  • The Ugly Vegetables - Grace Lin
  • The Magic Brush - Kat Yeh, Huy Voun Lee
  • It Jes' Happened - Don Tate, R. Gregory Christie
  • 14 Cows For America - Carmen Agra Deedy, Thomas Gonzalez
  • Mama Miti - Kadir Nelson
  • The Metal Man - Aaron Reynolds, Paul Hoppe
  • Four Feet, Two Sandals - Karen Lynn Williams, Khadra Mohammed, Doug Chayka
  • Parrots Over Puerto Rico - Susan Roth, Cindy Trumbore
  • Allah to Z: An Islamic Alphabet Book - Sam'n Iqbal, Lina Safar
  • The Snowy Day - Ezra Jack Keats
  • Three Wishes - Lucille Clifton, Michael Hays
  • Gravity - Jason Chin
  • Ruth and the Green Book - Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Gwen Strauss, Floyd Cooper

  • CLAP HANDS, TICKLE TICKLE, ALL FALL DOWN, and SAY GOODNIGHT by Helen Oxenbury
  • TEN LITTLE FINGERS AND TEN LITTLE TOES - by MemFox/illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
  • MOMMY, MAMA, and ME by Leslea Newman/illustrated by Carol Thompson
  • GLOBAL BABIES by the Global Fund for Children
  • BUNNY DAYS  by Tao Nyeu
  • THE KEEPING QUILT by Patricia Polacco
  • 10000 DRESSES by Marcus Ewert
  • HE GRANDDAUGHTER NECKLACE by Sharon Dennis Wyeth and Bagram Ibatoulline
  • THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER by Allen Say
  • THIS IS THE ROPE- Jacqueline Woodson
  • LITTLE NIGHT by Yuyi Morales
  • Arthur Levine and Julian Hector's MONDAY IS ONE DAY
  • RAINBOW STEW by Cathryn Falwell
  • KING FOR A DAY by Rukhsana Khan, illus. by Christiane Kromer
  • I KNOW THE RIVER LOVES ME/ YO SÉ QUE EL RIO ME AMA by Maya Christina Gonzalez
  • BABY BORN by Anastasia Suen
  • SUMMONING THE PHOENIX by Emily Jiang, illus. by April Chu
  • HOW FAR DO YOU LOVE ME? by Lulu Delacre
  • BABY RATTLESNAKE by Te Ata and Lynn Moroney, illus. by Mira Reisberg
  • IN DADDY'S ARMS I AM TALL: African Americans Celebrating Fathers by various poets, illus. by Javaka Steptoe
  • MARISOL MCDONALD AND THE CLASH BASH by Monica Brown, illus. by Sara Palacios
  • GRACIAS~ THANKS by Pat Mora, illus. by John Parra

  • Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash - Monica Brown, Sara Palacios
  • Niño Wrestles the World - Yuyi Morales
  • Off to the Sweet Shores of Africa - Uzo Unobagha, Julia Cairns
  • The Sandwich Swap - Queen Rania AlAbdullah, Kelly DiPucchio, Tricia Tusa
  • Bread is for Eating - David and Phillis Gershator, Emma Shaw-Smith
  • Freedom Summer - Deborah Wiles, Jerome Lagarrigue
  • Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant's Tale
  • Grandfather's Journey - Allan Say
  • Blackout - John Rocco
  • One Green Apple - Eve Bunting, Ted Lewin
  • No, Baby, No! - Grace Nichols, Eleanor Taylor
  • Seeds of Change - Sonia Lynn Sadler, Jen Cullerton Johnson
  • Monsoon Afternoon - Kashmira Sheth, Yoshiko Jaeggi
  • Flower Garden - Eve Bunting, Kathryn Hewitt
  • Whose Toes are Those? - Jabari Asim, LeUyen Pham
  • Corduroy - Don Freeman
  • Amazing Grace - Mary Hoffman, Caroline Birch
  • Ellington Was Not a Street - Ntozake Shange, Kadir Nelson
  • Whoever You Are - Mem Fox, Leslie Staub
  • The Very Inappropriate Word - Jim Tobin, Dave Coverly
Again - please join in the conversation by leaving a comment below with a title that isn't on this list so I can make it more comprehensive. And take action by buying diverse books tomorrow. Take a photo of the books you've bought and post on Twitter.

We're all in this together.


USER ADDED UPDATES: Added 5/2/14 - 3:35 PM CDT (Keep 'em coming, guys!)

Arturo and the Navidad Birds - Anne Broyles (English and Spanish)
Makeup Mess -Robert Munsch 
Zoom -Robert Munsch 
Smelly Socks - Robert Munsch 
Something Good -Robert Munsch
Class Clown - Robert Munsch 
Up, Up, Down - Robert Munsch 
Max Found Two Sticks - Brian Pinkney
10, 9, 8 - Molly BangLing and Ting: Not Exactly the Same - Grace Lin
In Our Mothers' House - Patricia Polacco
Frida by Jonah Winter
Diego by Jonah Winter
Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto
Cora Cooks Pancit - Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore, Kristi Valiant
The Legend of the BlueBonnet by Tommie di Paola

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

#WeNeedDiverseBooks - Campaign May 1-May 3


Please don't ask us
(with surprised eyes)
where on Earth and how we met,
as though we are a phenomenon.
We are not the only family
that looks like this.
P.S. My 5-year-old would love it
if strangers stopped touching
his hair.
There's been a big conversation going on about diversity in publishing lately.

Regardless of what you look like, which religion you practice (or don't practice), or the country you live in or come from, this is not just an issue for 'people of color' or 'minority' authors.

This is an EVERYONE issue.

Diversity builds understanding and empathy. 

Our world could use more understanding and empathy.


What my daughter
is reading right now
I hope I've got your interest. I'm sure you know that this issue has had me interested for awhile (heck, I'm part of the group that got the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks started - and you can meet all the great people here).

There are a lot of readers, writers, teens, parents, kids, and teachers on board who really see the genuine need for books to have both "windows and mirrors."

The question is: What do we do about the lack of diversity in children's books? Or, how do we help boost the visibility of some already great books out there on the market - ones that aren't getting the promotion they deserve?





Well, first, let's make some noise.



I hope you'll participate in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks discussion. It's already begun unofficially (Trending on Twitter! Veronica Roth, Laurie Halse Anderson, and John Green have tweeted in!), but we have official events going on May 1 - May 3, 2014.

Here's the site where you can learn a whole lot more:


P.S. I promise a longer post on my thoughts on diversity and #kidlit when I get a chance to slow down and write them out.

Thank you to authors, agents, and publishers
who are putting books like these on the shelves.




Friday, March 21, 2014

If It's Snowy and You Know It by Kim Norman - Perfect Picture Book Friday

It's March 21 and there's still lots of snow outside. (Ugh.) But signs of spring are beginning to show themselves.

Last night was one example. I had an OWL MOON moment. You know, "Sometimes there's an owl, and sometimes there isn't," Jane Yolen writes.

But last night...there are two.

I'm a little red-eyed today because of the Whoo-whoo--whoo-whoo-whoo mating calls that went on for over an hour. But it was exciting—as exciting as a book I just discovered!

It also stars some snowy animals, and although it's not technically a fractured fairy tale (this week's PPBF theme), it is a remake of an old classic song.

What's remarkable about it is that the rhyme and meter are FLAWLESS.

Although I'm pretty sick of winter already, this book is so fantastic I'm willing to post another winter book on my blog.

Librarians and teachers will love this one.

IF IT'S SNOWY AND YOU KNOW IT, CLAP YOUR PAWS!


Author: Kim Norman
Illustrator: Liza Woodruff
Publisher: Sterling, 2013
Genre/Category: Picture book, rhyme
Ages: 3-8
Topics: Winter, snow, arctic, skiing, polar regions, animals, song, rhyme, remake/adaptation
Synopsis: A bunch of arctic animals have fun winter adventures in each verse of this "Happy and You Know it" remake.

Why I chose it: Did I mention that the rhyme is PERFECT? Wow, makes a librarian's, teachers, or parent's job fun and easy. My kids love it. It's just a really well-done book from text to illustrations.

Resources:

You can buy a version of the book with an audio CD here.

Here's the video where the author explains where she got the original idea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAJfPCdanpI

Here are some photos from National Geographic Kids about Arctic Animals (this book features everything from Moose to Belugas!):
http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/photos/arctic-animals/

Here are some worksheets and printouts all about arctic animals:
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/coloring/arcticanimals.shtml

If you want a list of other fairy tale remakes, check out Susanna Hill's PPBF list!

Now...

If it's melting and you know it...shout "Hooray!"
("Hooray!")

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Picture Books about Grief, Loss, Death, or Dying - A Quick List

Awhile back, I was working on a grief/loss picture book. I learned through my research that there are quite a number of these types of books on the market. I also critique a number of manuscripts from aspiring writers in which a grandparent or parent or pet has died or is already dead at the beginning of the manuscript. What I often notice is how many of these manuscripts overlap stories that are already on the market.

Since I've learned from editors that "grief books are a tough sell," I encourage anyone who is writing a picture book for children about death or loss of a loved one to study up some of the titles that have been published already.

Here's a quick list of picture books about death, grief, loss, or even terminal illness:

STILL MY GRANDMA by Veronique Van den Abeele

THE BIG LITTLE BOOK OF HAPPY SADNESS by Colin Thompson 


THE DAY TIGER ROSE SAID GOODBYE by Jane Yolen

ONE MORE WEDNESDAY by Malika Doray


THE GRANDAD TREE by Trish Cooke


THE PURPLE BALLOON by Chris Raschka


THE SCAR by Charlotte Moundlic


AND WHAT COMES AFTER A THOUSAND by Annette Bley 


GRANDMA’S PURPLE FLOWERS by Adjoa J. Burrows

THE NEXT PLACE by Warren Hanson

THE TENTH GOOD THING ABOUT BARNEY by Judith Viorst (older) 


SAYING GOODBYE TO LULU by Corrine Demas

Arlene Sardine by Chris Raschka

Goodbye Mousie by Robie H. Harris

Grandma’s Gloves by Cecil Castellucci

Wishes for One More Day by Melanie Joy Pastor

Ghost Wings by Barbara Joosse


Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs by Tomie dePaola 

Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley

Thank You, Grandpa by Lynn Plourde

Is Grandpa Wearing a Suit? By Amelie Fried

The Girl Who Wanted to Dance by Amy Erlich Samantha 

Jane’s Missing Smile by Julie Kaplow

Aunt Mary’s Rose by Douglas Wood 


This is certainly not a comprehensive list. Feel free to add titles of grief/loss picture books in the comments below.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


I just saw the press release for my Monday speaking engagement with the awesome editor/writer Sharon Verbeten. I'm humbled! It's pretty awesome in that it refers to the two of us as a "Dynamic Duo."

Although writing and publishing have their fair share of challenges, this author-thing is proving to have some really fun perks.

Here's the press release. Hope to see all you aspiring local writers on Monday, February 17th!


NEWS RELEASE: For Immediate Release

CONTACT:
Sue Lagerman
Communications and Library Program Manager

Write, Refine, Revise, Repeat. 
Dynamic Duo Discuss Dos & Don’ts of Getting Published


The Brown County Library hosts two local writing experts on Monday, February 17, 2014 at the Central Library, 515 Pine Street, downtown Green Bay beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the lower level Meeting Rooms.

Guest speakers, Sharon Verbeten and Miranda Paul, present on getting published in today’s tough writing market.  Attendees will learn how to find a writing niche; revise and refine one’s work; query agents, editors and publishers; write compelling query letters; and navigate the worlds of self and traditional publishing.  The dos and don’ts of being a successful writer will also be discussed.

Miranda Paul has written for newspapers, magazines and app/game companies and is an agented author with three soon-to-be-released children’s books from traditional publishing houses.  She is an instructor at The Children’s Book Academy, the Northeast Area rep for the Society of Children’s Book writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and founder of RateYourStory.org.

Sharon Verbeten is a career journalist with more than 20 years’ experience as a writer and editor for newspapers and trade magazines. She worked for more than 10 years as editorial director at Krause Publications, overseeing three trade publications and authoring two books.  She currently owns her own freelance writing/editing firm, All Write Creative Services, and works as a children’s librarian at the Brown County Library.
This lecture is free and open to the public.  Free parking downtown after 6:00 p.m.
Program information is posted on the library’s web site:www.browncountylibrary.org

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Metal Man by Aaron Reynolds

It's Perfect Picture Book Friday!

And my latest book deal was announced in Publisher's Marketplace this week! So here you have it. Long-awaited details of my next book:


(I actually missed the announcement because I was too busy working on another book project. How diligent of me!)


Moving on to Perfect Picture Book Fridays (you can learn more about this awesome list at Susanna Hill's blog), I've chosen a book that my son really loves because it involves power tools and creating things from junk, two of his favorites.

He discovered the book on the Reading Rainbow App—one I'd recommend, because of the quality of the titles, the ease of use (my son is four years old), and the extension or "field trip" videos with LeVar Burton.

And the picture book is. . .

Metal Man
by Aaron Reynolds


Title: Metal Man

Author: Aaron Reynolds

Illustrator: Paul Hoppe

Publisher: Charlesbridge, 2008

Category: Picture Book

Ages: 4-8

Genre: Fiction

Topics: Art, Sculpture, Creativity, Welding, Tools, Urban, Multicultural

Synopsis: With the help of the Metal Man, can Devon weld a sculpture of his own, or will the scrap metal amount to a pile of junk as his Mom suspects? 

First Page:


Why I Chose this Book: 
Actually, my son chose it But my husband worked in a quarry once, which involved some welding and creative metalwork, and since I love poetry, it's a natural fit for our whole family. My son is a lot like the boy in the book, always watching his Daddy working on something, then trying his own hand at invention. My son was also really into the pictures, and on the Reading Rainbow App, there are interactive elements that make the illustrations "move."

I think it's both a quiet book and a powerful one in that it's a poetic text about where we find inspiration and the courage or confidence to do something with those ideas.

Resource Activities:
KinderArt has a number of sculpture and collage art activities for children to do. Since this book is all about creating something of your own, this is a perfect start.

Have a great weekend!


Friday, January 10, 2014

Great Joy!

It's 10 a.m. on the 10th day of a New Year, and I'm just getting to my first post of 2014. This week has been a little crazy—need I say more than Polar Vortex?


Yes, it's been cold here. And we've been thinking a lot about the homeless in our city (shelters have been filling up).

As it happens, Santa Claus brought the kids a very timely book this winter called GREAT JOY by Kate DiCamillo. It's not only timely because of the current climate, time of year, and subject matter of the book (which features a homeless man), but also because Ms. DiCamillo was recently named the Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Our family couldn't be more thrilled with this selection!

Today, the weather is finally above freezing and school is back in session. Thank goodness, because next week we're welcoming two girls from Peru into our home who have never seen snow. One of them emailed me to say her favorite books are Pride and Prejudice and Divergent—I can tell we're going to get along swimmingly. If that's not an invitation for joy, what is?

Recently, we also learned that our family in St. Lucia is all OK after the Christmas Eve flooding rains that caused mudslides and widespread damage. All in all, we have a lot of GREAT JOY to celebrate.

Before I get to today's perfect picture book, I do want to share one more piece of SUPER AWESOME AMAZING EXCITING GREAT JOY. To be honest, it's not more joyful to me than that previous piece of good news I shared about our family being OK in St. Lucia. But it is worth large, highlighted font.

I SOLD MY THIRD BOOK!!!

The contract arrived yesterday, and I am thrilled to be blessed with another forthcoming book! Since it's slated for 2016, there's lots of time for me to post more about it, and I'll spare the details thus far. (Warning: the suspense may kill you.)

I'll also spare the huge long "thank you list" of everyone I know who has helped me to realize my writing and publishing goals—for now, anyway. But know that you are appreciated far more than I might ever express on this blog, in a thank you card, or in person.

It is on that note of almost-make-you-sick bubbly gladness that I review GREAT JOY by Kate DiCamillo, today's Perfect Picture Book. (And I promise to return to my more usual, less-squeaky tone and witty sarcasm in future posts.)


Title: Great Joy

Author: Kate DiCamillo

Illustrator: Bagram Ibatoulline

Publisher: Candlewick, 2007

Genre: Fiction / Historical Fiction

Category: Picture Book

Ages: 4-8

Topic/Subject: Christmas, New York, Homelessness

Opening Line: "The week before Christmas, a monkey appeared on the corner of Fifth and Vine." (Isn't that a great first line?!)

Why I chose this book: See above. Plus it has GOLD endpapers. This book looks like it's a hundred-year-old classic of great worth and importance and reads like a story anyone in any time period will appreciate. It's text is spare and contemporary, yet poetic in sense and detail. It's a great conversation starter for children and a reminder to parents not to let our busy-ness or fears get in the way of the love for all people. You know, that uncomplicated and amazing innocence, empathy and affinity for inclusion we had as a child? Trust me, we all still have it, and this book reminds us to embrace it.

Resources: 

Kate DiCamillo's Website: http://www.katedicamillo.com/books/great.html

PBS Kids has ways that kids can take action to help the hungry and homeless here: http://pbskids.org/zoom/activities/action/way02.html

Thank you for visiting. If you want to read about more Perfect Picture Books, head on over to Susanna Leonard Hill's blog. And if you missed my last Perfect Picture Book review on Seven Spools of Thread over the holidays, here it is.

I promise to reveal more about my new forthcoming book soon!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story

Yesterday, families across the country began Kwanzaa celebrations. My son, who is in preschool now, had the opportunity to make Kwanzaa candles this year. Although we aren't celebrating the full holiday here at home this year (we have another short trip planned), my husband and I have taken plenty of opportunities throughout the year to introduce our children to the principles of Kwanzaa.  

We are also keen on introducing other parts of our lives that are rooted in our culture and traditions—which, at this time of year, tend to be both exciting and exhausting. 

This year, we took another trip to visit Grandma, Grandpa, cousins, and family abroad in the Caribbean.


We visited the rainforest and had a waterfall to ourselves for an entire afternoon. 


Our son and daughter also spent countless hours playing hide and seek with nieces and nephews (I think I have 34 on that side of the family—so there were always companions willing and ready to play!)

For the kids, swimming in Uncle's rooftop pool highlighted the trip. 
(The high winds up there made Mom a little nervous.)


(Addendum: there were flooding rains in St. Lucia on Christmas Eve; please pray for everyone and all St. Lucians!)

We braved a nearly 100-degree temperature drop as we headed back to the Upper Midwest for Christmas. We also made the children dress up, try all kinds of foods, and patiently wait for hours before giving and opening gifts at family gatherings. To their credit, our childrens' behavior was impressive through all the holiday hustle and bustle this year. See how angelic they look?


But I digress. 

I'll now get back to the tradition of Kwanzaa, which is a beautiful holiday for a number of reasons. Regardless of whether your family celebrates it or not, there's a book I'd like to share with you. It's not a new book, but it is one I've been recommending for nearly a decade since I first read it and shared it with students. So, today's Perfect Picture Book is...

SEVEN SPOOLS OF THREAD by Angela Shelf Medearis



Title: Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story
Author: Angela Shelf Medearis
Illustrator: Daniel Minter
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company, 2000
Category: Picture Book
Ages: 5-10
Genre: Folk Tale
Topics: Kwanzaa, Holiday, Values, Working Together, Ghana, Africa, Siblings, Kente Cloth, Grief/Loss, Multicultural
Summary: In an Ghanian village, seven brothers make life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual will: by sundown, the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of thread or they will become beggars.

Why I chose this book: The colors and art in the book are stunning—Minter uses a very unique woodblock technique that isn't used often in children's books today. I'm also huge fan of folk tales and of studying values that affect our lives and communities. Most importantly, though, is that I've read it to groups of children again and again—and they get into it. (I think most of them relate easily to quarreling with siblings!) One group of children once turned the book into a short skit for their classmates, which was fun to see.

Resources: This book comes with an activity and resources at the end. I'll admit, the activity isn't the easiest for young children (or inept mothers!). But this year's hottest Christmas present in our family was the Rainbow Loom, which would make a perfect companion to this book if you're looking for a craft activity. 

This book, and celebrating Kwanzaa in general, is also a way to begin introducing some of the many new and amazing nonfiction picture books that narrate American history and African American heroes and previously "under-told" stories. 

And here are some more sites about Ghana, Kwanzaa, and kente cloth:


About Kwanzaa (with tons of activity ideas): http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/kwanzaa

About kente cloth (from an actual Ghanaian weaver): http://www.asantemankente.com/native.shtml

Paper kente cloth activity (easier than the activity in the book): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QL6QTVvDTgc

Thanks for visiting, and I hope you've had (or are having) a joyous season, however you and your family are celebrating this year. Oh, and if you'd like to see more Perfect Picture Books, head on over to Susanna Hill's blog!

SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!!!!
(I still love saying that.)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Yoo-Hoo, Ladybug! by Mem Fox - PPBF

Later today I'll be sitting on a #kidlit panel on Ethics in literature at The Reader's Loft Bookstore. As part of the Ethics Day events, I was asked to compile a list of books for kids that deal with moral/ethical issues and share with parents.

Of course, as I was compiling the list, something struck me. While there are so many amazing and great books out there that get kids thinking about ethics and goodness and values and all, there are also so many other functions of books.

Like......fun? 
Enjoyment? 
Entertainment?

And books for kids should be for kids, right?
(Pondering this reminds me a recent Rate Your Story post, where Joan Donaldson writes about shoving the parents aside in your own story to make it child-centric.)

Tonight, as I share my selections at the kidlit panel, I will be sure to highlight many books that children will find enjoyable and engaging, showing the parents how books with good values don't have to be outright "about" ethics or overly didactic or written with an imperative tone. And I'll be sure to remind them that if we don't give our kids some strictly "fun" books in addition to "learning moment" books, we risk turning them off to reading. And that's an ethical dilemma in and of itself.

So today's Perfect Picture Book is one that is super enjoyable. It's not on my Ethics Day list, but it is one that reminds me of the importance to share all kinds of books with all kinds of kids. My own children beg to read this one again and again, just for fun. It is...

YOO-HOO, LADYBUG!


Title: Yoo-Hoo, Ladybug!
Author: Mem Fox
Illustrator: Laura Ljungkvist
Publisher: Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster), 2013
Genre/Category: Fiction, picture book
Age: 2-6
Synopsis (taken from jacketflap): Ladybug loves to hide. Can you find her?

First page: Ladybug loves to hide.

Why I chose this book: It's just pure fun! The rhyme is splendid! The colors are bright and hold kids' attention!

Resources: I don't want to be a spoil-sport, but sometimes I think we should just read a book with our kids and not extend it with all kinds of other learning activities. Just read it again. Maybe sing it! Memorize it! Write their own verses/pages. Or, read another book. JUST. FOR. FUN.

(P.S. See Susanna Leonard Hill's blog if you're not familiar with Perfect Picture Book Fridays.)


If you live in Wisconsin and want to attend tonight's storytime and Ethics Day panel session (11/15) at the Reader's Loft, it's at 6:30 p.m. Visit www.readersloft.com for directions. And don't forget, local SCBWI-Wisconsin writers, tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. at The Reader's Loft is our fall meet-up with three guest speakers!

Have a great weekend (reading just for fun)!


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