Friday, November 16, 2018

I AM FARMER Book Tour Update - Spring 2019

I AM FARMER Book Tour Update - Spring 2019



It's hard to believe the time is almost here for the release of this book! But before that happens,

TANTOH needs your urgent help.


On November 15, 2018, Tantoh Nforba Dieudonne went to the U.S. Embassy in Yaoundé, Cameroon to get his travel visa for the tour. The interviewer, without even looking at a single page of the book or his invitation letter, quickly denied his application, without a refund of any fees paid. Without getting much into details, there is much suspicion that the decision (made by a single officer) is largely due to political situations and prejudices within Cameroon that have nothing to do with the book or Tantoh's fulfillment of the requirements.

The GOOD news is that we can all do something to help. In fact, there are many things we can do. This isn't the first time someone in our industry has been held up by our immigration or border patrol (remember when something similar happened to Mem Fox?), but there is much hope that ordinary citizens can get this overturned in Tantoh's case. Please consider taking a few minutes to do one or more of the items on this list. We can turn a negative story into a positive one, so that Tantoh can still travel to the U.S. and inspire tens of thousands of elementary-aged students that, "No matter where you come from, you are never too small or insignificant to contribute to the long-term sustainability of our planet.”


We can't wait to see those smiling faces when Tantoh walks into gyms across America this spring!

Action items:



  • Tweet or post on social media your support for Farmer Tantoh, along with the hashtags #IAmFarmer and #GrantHisVisa
  • Share this video about Farmer Tantoh with friends and followers, so they may see the great work he is doing to bring clean drinking water to kids and beautiful gardens to the landscape
  • Call, email, or write a letter to the U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon, Peter Henry Barlerin (scroll down for contact info and a letter template)
  • Call, email, or write a letter to Cameroonian Ambassador, Mr. Henri Étoundi Essomba ((scroll down for contact info and a letter template)
  • Call, email, or write a letter to your U.S. Senators and/or Congresspeople (scroll down for contact info and a letter template)
  • Contact your local media to cover the story—especially if you live in WI, PA, VA, MD, CT, NY, WV where Tantoh will be speaking at schools in Spring 2019 for the tour
  • Reach out to any of your contacts who might be able to help (e.g. immigration lawyers, government leaders, non-profit organization heads, influencers, celebrities)
  • Request an advance NetGalley copy of the book I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon and leave a review on NetGalley and/or Goodreads to show support
  • Donate to Save Your Future Association (SYFA)
  • Pre-order a copy of the book (although we hope to overturn the decision, we are concerned that if Tantoh isn't able to travel, it could mean a loss of book sales—a percentage of which is slated to support his charity—so your pre-orders mean more now than ever)
  • Contact Miranda Paul and Baptiste Paul if you have other ideas to for how to help

Letter Templates and Addresses

(Please feel free to customize or personalize each letter to maximize your impact!)

Sample Letter Template to Ambassadors (click to download MS Word file)

Mr. Henri Étoundi Essomba, Ambassador
Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon 
3007 Tilden Street NW, Suite 5M 
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: (202) 265-8790

Ambassador Peter Henry Barlerin
U.S. Embassy Yaoundé
Avenue Rosa Parks / PO Box 817
Yaounde, Cameroon
Phone: (+237) 22220-1500

Sample Letter Template to Senators/Congresspeople (click to download MS Word file)

To find out who your local representatives are, check out this website.

For more about the book, visit this page.

For news about the current political situation in Northwest Cameroon, here is one overview.

Let's turn this story into a positive one.Thank you for your support! Merci beaucoup!


Sincerely,





Thursday, July 12, 2018

Recap of 2017-2018 School Year: Busy With Books!

The 2017-2018 school year was so incredible, it's taken me months to settle down and write about it! Here we go...

In 2017, I had three hilarious fiction picture books published:

Blobfish Throws a Party (illus. Maggie Caton)


Blobfish went on to win several schools' Battle of the Books competitions, and even caught the attention of Scholastic, who ran a Blobfish giveaway! Happy to report it's selling in the US, Canada, and Australia. Available here.

The Great Pasta Escape
(illus. Javier Joaquin)


The Great Pasta Escape
 won a nomination from the Washington State Childrens' Choice Awards, so it's on the list there. Happy reading! If you're a Washington state teacher or educator and you'd like me to do a Skype author visit with your students, I'd love to (They're FREE!). I'd also be willing to come out there in person—Washington is one state I've not been to yet.

Are We Pears Yet?
(illus. Carin Berger)

In September, Are We Pears Yet? released and it's been really fun to watch some young classrooms act it out. Did you know that my teacher resource page (at mirandapaul.com) has dozens of lessons, activities, and worksheets related to the books? Thanks to the help of Carrie Charley Brown, I was able to get even more resources for educators up on my website over the past year. Enjoy immersing your students in these wonderful extension activities.

UPDATE: Recently, I got the news that Are We Pears Yet? won the Award of Excellence from the Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries! I posted about it online at my Facebook page.


As usual, I visited many schools and libraries around the country—and world—over the past year. I even got to go as far as the England, Italy, and United Arab Emirates for the Sharjah Children's Reading Festival. Via Skype, I got to visited students from Canada to Hawaii to Tokyo! (So happy to learn that Water is Water is up for a Sakura Medal in Japan, too. Wow!)

This spring, our family also became a two-author household as my husband's debut picture book released into the world to great acclaim. Check out THE FIELD, by Baptiste Paul and illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara.



Later in the spring, my debut co-authored book came out. It's called Adventures to School, and I wrote it with Baptiste. So within the span of a few months, he's got TWO books out. We are certainly busy in this household, but we love making books for kids.


With so much excitement, our family is making plans to take a real camping vacation and a couple of day-trips in July and August. It will be nice to take a little R&R time before we head back out to visit schools in the fall, when my new book releases!

Check out MIA MOVES OUT, a sweet and silly story about a girl finding her place (literally and figuratively) at home. Illustrations by Paige Kaiser. Release date: October 16, 2018.



Looking ahead to next year, I'm already excited. I've got FOUR new picture books coming out.

I AM FARMER - Feb. 1, 2019

NINE MONTHS - April 23, 2019

LITTLE LIBRARIES, BIG HEROES - Fall 2019

THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE - Fall 2019

You can visit my website to learn about them. All four are incredible projects that have been in the making for years and each holds a special place in my heart. I think that teachers, science lovers, and librarians will find them especially relevant for their students as well.

Thanks again for all the support. I probably won't be blogging again this summer. But I do send out a newsletter if you are on my list. If you're not getting my newsletter, please consider it. I post that once per month, as compared to this sorely neglected blog. It's the best way to get news, updates, writing tips, and teacher resources. Here's the link to sign up. 

Happy summer, everyone! See you next school year!

The Paul Family touches hands together in Congo Square (New Orleans).



Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Old Boys' English Canon (And How to Change That) by Miranda Paul #KidlitWomen


The Old Boys’ English Canon
By Miranda Paul

Starting March 1st, we’re celebrating Women’s History month with 31 days of posts focused on improving the climate for social and gender equality in the children’s and teens’ industry. Join in the conversation here or Twitter #kidlitwomen and access all the #KidlitWomen posts this month on our FaceBook page https://www.facebook.com/kidlitwomen/

I’m a former English teacher. 

On and off for nearly a decade, I had the extraordinary pleasure of digging through school library closets for class sets of titles deemed relevant to a state curriculum for teenage students. Sometimes I got a choice. Here are as many of the “choices” I can remember from the three schools I taught at between 2003-2013.

(I want to note that this is not a commentary on the merits or talent of the authors or titles mentioned.) 

Night by Elie Wiesel
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
1984 by George Orwell
Animal Farm by George Orwell
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare 
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Othello by William Shakespeare
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Oedipus Rex by Sophocles
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard
Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Master Harold and the Boys by Athol Fugard
The Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer
The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

One does not need pie charts to recognize that this list is dominated by male authors. But if you haven’t read the titles on this list, you might not recognize how many of these:
  1. Have an all-male (or nearly all-male) cast of characters
  2. Have an all-white (or nearly all-white) cast of characters (and are by white authors)
  3. Have an all-cis (or arguably all-cis) cast of characters
  4. Are historically-set—in politicians’ or royals’ residences, boarding schools, battlefields, or labor camps
  5. Include female characters who are non-important side characters, the love-interest, hysterical, sisters/mothers tied to their gender role, societal outcasts, or symbols of evil
  6. Were published long, long ago
  7. Are lauded as the “best of the best” or “classics” and have won awards, favorable reviews, and literary prizes.
When teaching in between larger novel or drama units, you can imagine how much material I tried to incorporate in my lessons—possibly a futile attempt to balance such numbers. Poems, short stories, nonfiction essays, etc. were the genres I had more choice in selecting, and whenever I had the chance to add in a short story or poem by or about a female or a person of color, I did. But do these short pieces stick with students? Do they carry the same weight as spending weeks discussing a novel or play?

Back when I was a high school student, I went through my high school career without having to read a single female-authored novel or play for class. (Sadly, I couldn’t even imagine reading a book at school with an ENTIRE cast of females, or a book by or about a non-binary person or LGBQTIA content.) Even in middle school, the only female-authored book we read as a class was Lois Lowry’s The Giver—which features a male protagonist. We spent a lot of time on Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, which left me hungry and it’s probably why I spent all of my babysitting money on Lurlene McDaniel and Diane Hoh series books, and read a tattered copy of The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan twice before graduating high school.

Now that I have two middle graders, things are better, right? Here are the class reads they’ve come home with so far:

Holes by Louis Sachar
Tangerine by Edward Bloor
Petey by Ben Mikaelsen

While I’m relieved they still do individual choice reading in middle school, I don’t have to do the math for you on the all-class reads. And although they read a wide array of contemporary novels by and about women (especially women of color) at home, the fact is that what gets presented to them in school is (consciously or unconsciously) interpreted as notable by society as a whole. More academic. More literary. Better. Important. And these titles get thought about, discussed, studied, written about, and absorbed by our students—who then grow up to become our society and form its culture and rules, both written and unwritten. What does this imbalance tell our girls? Or, perhaps of more consequence, what does it tell our boys?

What really baffles me is that I’ve only ever had one male English teacher throughout middle and high school. Truly, it’s females telling their students that these all-male (mostly white cis male) books comprise the literary canon worth a lot of our time and study.

Are you an English Language Arts teacher? What can you do about this?

  1. Do the math. Take a look through your Department’s cupboard. Statistics are power.
  2. Speak up. If your collection is lacking in representation for women, especially women of color. Whether that’s speaking up to your administration or your students, ask them what they think? Maybe this can become a topic for the next 5-paragraph essay you assign.
  3. Make a case for new books. Choose contemporary. Choose diversity. Read the other KidLitWomen posts for an awesome array of titles you might want to plead for. (And, if budgetary restraints are an issue, don’t forget that the We Need Diverse Books Scholastic Flyer offers low-cost paperback versions of many diverse books. There’s also crowdfunding, and children’s authors are some of the most generous contributors to teachers’ Kickstarter and GoFundMe campaigns.)
  4. Supplement, supplement, supplement. If you’re locked into a set curriculum of novels or longer works, but have choices for smaller pieces of literature or mini-units in between, choose works by women (especially women of color), or transgender and intersex authors.

Although smaller works don’t always get as much time or attention, the right poem at the right time could have a big impact on the right kid. Just like Marcie Hans’s “Fueled” opened my 14-year-old eyes with its words that completely related to a girl with almost no friends but a big love of nature.

Fueled

Fueled
by a million
man-made
wings of fire-
the rocket tore a tunnel
through the sky-
and everybody cheered.
Fueled
only by a thought from God-
the seedling
urged its way
through thicknesses of black-
and as it pierced
the heavy ceiling of the soil-
and lauched itself
up into outer space -
no
one
even
clapped.

--Marcie Hans

Now that I’m the author of several environmentally-themed and poetic books for children, it’s astonishing to look back on small moments like this. If you’re a #KidLitWoman, you already know how tiny moments of inspiration were all we girls had to grab on to. 

Let’s change that.




(Action item: Please comment below, sharing a title of an MG/YA novel by and/or featuring female protagonists that would make a good all-class read for kids in grades 7-12.)

Friday, June 10, 2016

On Stories, Sugar, and Being Disinvited

I rarely blog these days, but there is a story I've kept in my head for too long.

For years, I told myself I'd tell this story in public. One day. When I had the time. Or opportunity. Or courage. I don't know why I've held onto it for so long, but this morning, when Isatou Ceesay messaged me a series of photos, I knew it was time to share.

This week's news from Phil Bildner and Kate Messner, plus this past post by Meg Medina, and the photos mentioned above have cumulatively unlocked it. Thank you, Phil, Kate, and Meg, for helping me find courage and make the time. Here goes.

Nearly a decade ago, before I'd even sold my first book, I was working as an advocate for fair trade groups. Isatou Ceesay, the founder of a women's recycling cooperative in Njau, Gambia, was making a trip to the United States. I was tasked with finding her venues where she could share her amazing humanitarian, environmental, and women's empowerment projects, and perhaps solicit a few donations. (Anyone who has worked in the nonprofit or development sectors know how important securing funding can be.)

With the help of friends, I lined up a YWCA women's luncheon talk, as well as a youth group chat at my church and then a similar talk at another church. She arrived to the US, and the first two speaking engagements went well. When I got to the third church, a place I'd never been, things changed. Upon arrival, the Pastor told me she "needed a word" and led me up a narrow staircase to an office inside what I can only describe as a dimly-lit attic.

The Pastor closed the door. I swallowed. She pulled up my blog page on her computer screen, turned to me and said, "What is THIS?"

I blinked. I felt like a fifth-grader who'd been staring out the window and suddenly finds herself being called on by the teacher. What was what?

My confusion must have been obvious, because the Pastor pressed on. She scrolled up and down the page, reading it out loud. It was a post in which I had shared an event link from a local interfaith group. It had the details for an Eid celebration in a nearby city, inviting local people to attend the feast. My stomach began to knot up as I feared where this conversation was going.

"What is this Islamist stuff you promote? Are you Islamist? I just don't know if I can have your presentation in my church today." My chest tightened as she spoke. I felt trapped, unsafe. I feared for Isatou, who was waiting downstairs, alone.

The Pastor faced me directly. "I need to know that you have Jesus Christ in your heart," she said. "Or we can't continue. And I can't ask my congregation to donate anything."

I had a flashback to elementary school—when we learned about how our school, Holy Martyrs of Gorcum, got its name. I wondered what that last moment felt like for those martyrs, being questioned by an angry stranger who lacked the capacity to accept those who were different. I considered standing up and walking out, or giving her a piece of my mind. But downstairs was the leader of a charity I'd become passionate about, which needed the money this church had pledged to donate. I was also in charge of keeping Isatou, a Muslim, safe during her stay in my city. I was young, and wholly intimidated.

I fumbled through responding to the Pastor. I let her know that I was Catholic, and that our presentation contained no religion—Isatou's or mine—and that it was simply a recap of the efforts she was spearheading, especially recycling, helping young mothers, and sending local children to school. I told her that my blog would continue to showcase all kinds of multicultural events in our area, that I didn't help others because they were Christian, and how peace, justice, and acceptance of many cultures and religions were important to me.

I don't remember how many minutes passed, but finally she opened the door. I breathed out. We went downstairs. Isatou gave her presentation (without knowing any of this), and I listened to that Pastor deliver the angriest homily I've ever heard (she even threw VHS video tapes on the ground). After the service, we were given pastries and everyone mingled politely. I came to realize that a majority of those who attended this "newly founded" church were people who were vulnerable or impressionable in some way. Some had mental or physical disabilities, while others had experienced trauma or illness or were living in poverty. Some were either very young or very old. Many shared stories of how they wanted to belong. I began to boil inside at the feeling that this pastor was manipulating them down a path of hatred—both self-hatred and hatred of others.

I took the check, cashed it for Isatou's charity (which ended up sponsoring a few school children), and never looked back. I don't know why I kept this story mostly to myself for so long. Embarrassment, perhaps? This woman, and the kind of church she runs, aren't all that rare where I live. Heck, I'm related to people with similar fears and beliefs. I'm so tired from always being the activist, that sometimes I find ignoring things to be my way of self-care. It's not excusable. It's privilege. I know and acknowledge that.

Although I was only questioned, and not actually disinvited like Kate or Phil or Meg, this story matters because it's communities like mine whose children need to hear the messages of unity, empathy, and universality. Whose children need windows, not only mirrors. Whose children (and adults) need diverse stories and speakers to come and share their work at our libraries.

This morning, Isatou Ceesay messaged me photos. They were of burlap sacks of sugar, and dozens of smiling faces distributing it. She sent captions with a thank you, because I share royalties from One Plastic Bag with the women of Njau. Because of the book's recent successes, families across the village who rarely can afford to buy sugar now have enough for the entire month of Ramadan.

Sugar.
Think about it.

With this round of money, they bought sugar. Something I have four pounds of sitting in my cupboard at any given time. After 18 years of doing important and amazing work for our earth, they're still using their income to buy basic necessities. Every time a school, church, library, or store sells One Plastic Bag, there is a direct benefit for the women.

But there's more—the kids and grown-ups who read it gain something, too. I have witnessed a spark in students who want to help organize clean-ups. There have been individuals who are inspired to make a difference in their own communities, some even starting petitions or seeking new legislation. The fears that hearing an inspiring story about a Muslim woman will brainwash or convert people or that funding her charity might be linked to terrorism are all completely ridiculous. There is so much positivity and progress that comes out of stories like One Plastic Bag—and through books like George, The Seventh Wish, and Yacqui Delgado.

Growing up, I hid the alcoholism that plagued our family. I felt ashamed by it, othered by it, and that it was inappropriate for a family like mine to be in a story—even though I know that there are many, many families in my area who deal with similar situations. As a child, I was never handed a book in which a character or their family dealt with addiction or alcoholism, and still to this day I find myself wanting to erase parts of my childhood, and I'm often unable or unwilling to talk about it.

Even writing this blog post and hitting 'publish' was hard. Will a school disinvite me because of it? I hope not, but it is a concern I share with many authors who increasingly don't get to enjoy a separation of personal life and business that employees in other industries do.

Administrators, teachers, and librarians have a lot of choices to make. I am not here to tell anyone how to do their job. But as my 10-year-old daughter put it yesterday, "It should be up to us, and maybe our parents, to decide what we read. We can handle it. We're not stupid. Reading about tough stuff helps us figure out what to do when we're faced with those things. Or it shows us we're not alone."

Oh, how I love that girl. And how I love children's authors. I wonder if parents, teachers, and administrators understand how much time, thought, and heartstrings are poured into the kinds of books that are winning awards in children's literature today. I hope this post helps people understand how their silence and censorship directly impacts society at large, especially the youngest of our citizens.

Most importantly, I hope this post might show readers how their voice and support can uplift others and lead us all in a more loving, inclusive direction.

Speak up.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

One Plastic Bag named a 2016 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young Readers


Growing up, I didn't really like social studies (other than geography, thanks to my fifth grade teacher). I considered history boring and full of dates and wars and people I couldn't relate to. 

Today's educational materials, especially books, are changing how history is presented, and who is included. Thank goodness.

It is surprising to reflect on how I felt about social studies growing up, and realizing that now I have two books with Lerner Publishing Group shelved in the social studies section (Whose Hands Are These? and One Plastic Bag).



So today's news—that One Plastic Bag was named a 2016 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People—is surely a surprise, but also an honor. 

Teachers, please introduce yourself to the wonderful books and authors on this list — they will engage your most reluctant readers or history-haters (like me) and bring nonfiction to life.

http://www.cbcbooks.org/2015-notable-social-studies-trade-books-for-young-people/

Also, please check out the Library of Congress's archived video of Isatou's and my presentation at the Young Reader's Center in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Thanks for a Great Debut Year!

2015 has been a great one, thanks to all of you.

I didn't find much time to blog, but I wanted to make sure everyone who is putting books into kids' hands (my books or ANY books!) deserves a holiday toast. Cheers!

Here's my end-of-year newsletter with some special notes. See you all in 2016.

Click text below for newsletter

Click HERE to access my holiday newsletter

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My new website is up!

Hi everyone!

In case you hadn't popped over to MirandaPaul.com lately, I wanted to let you know that my new "official" author site has gotten a makeover. Kristy and Bryce from Two Nerds, One Dream are the amazing team who put it together.

I'll post something here every now and again, but most of my event updates, news, links, and guides for writers and teachers are over there. There's also a contact page so you can send me an email or invite me to visit your school or workshop. Come have a look-see.


Click to visit MirandaPaul.com - full official author website for Miranda Paul.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cover Reveal!

The cover for Water is Water is done—and it's awesome.



Kudos to the amazing Jason Chin!

I actually got a little sentimental when I posted to my Facebook friends about the book. I said this:


and shared this:


And now I'm off to re-do my website so that a book this beautiful gets the beautiful display and attention it deserves. Watch for my new site in about a month!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Calling all teachers & librarians! #Kidlit Panel in Green Bay, Wisconsin

Hope to see many of you on September 13th in Green Bay!





Crossroads in Kids’ Books: A Conversation with Educators, Parents, Librarians & Authors
Don’t miss this discussion, panel and social event for people involved in getting books 
into kids’ and teenagers’ hands.

panel of teachers, librarians, parents and authors will discuss children’s books today and answer your questions. Following the panel, there will be an informal meet-and-greet session in which librarians, educators, parents, and children's authors and illustrators can network, exchange ideas, and join forces toward initiatives aimed at getting kids and teens excited about reading. Author appearances and signings, too!

If you’re raising kids, teaching kids, or working in literacy or publishing, come network with others in the field on Sep. 13 in Green Bay, WI.

Date: Saturday, Sep. 13, 2014

Time: 9:30 a.m. doors open, 10 a.m. panel11 a.m. social   featuring refreshments, author appearances and signings!

Location: Brown County Central Library, 515 Pine St., Green Bay
FYI: Approach from Madison St. due to construction on Monroe Ave

Cost: FREE

Registration is not required, but appreciated. Email mirandapaulbooks@gmail.com or call 920-471-4168 to RSVP.

Panelists include:
Peter Angilello, Library Media Specialist for the Green Bay Public Schools
Sandy Kallunki, Children's Services Supervisor for Brown County Central Library
Jamie A. Swenson, Janesville librarian and author of Boom, Boom, Boom, Big Rig, If I Were a Dog (to be released Sep. 30)
Patricia Brennan Demuth, Author of nonfiction books for early and middle-grade readers such as Who is Bill Gates?, What Was Ellis Island?, and Snakes.
JoAnna Kloster, Elementary educator with 20+ years’ classroom experience
Miranda Paul, Parent,
former teacher, and children’s author

Author appearances/signings by: 

Julie Mata
Jamie A. Swenson
Patricia Brennan Demuth
Andrea Skyberg
Michael Greer
Stephenie Hovland
Elizabeth Jaeger 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Cover Reveal!

Being an author certainly has its ups and downs, but seeing your cover for the first time— and loving it— is definitely an UP!

I wasn't prepared for how emotional seeing the book cover for the first time could be. When I opened the email from my editor a few weeks ago (yes, I had to wait to share this with you!), the memories of interviewing the women of Gambia about their hardships and successes, coupled with the years of challenges in writing and publishing this book, flooded me.

Elizabeth Zunon has masterfully combined many artistic techniques to bring not only the setting and culture to life, but the women's spirit of piecing together what they could find to create something beautiful.

There is so much I could write about this book, and this cover, but I'm currently traveling (when am I not traveling, right?) So...here it is! The front cover for One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia!

Front Cover: One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia
(Lerner/Millbrook, Feb. 1, 2015)

Although not shown here, the back cover is also something to behold. The team at Millbrook Press (Lerner Publishing) really came up with some stunning designs and the quote on the back (from the real Isatou Ceesay) sums up the power of the story:

"People thought I was too young and that women couldn’t be leaders. I took these things as challenges; they gave me more power. I didn’t call out the problems—I called out solutions." —Isatou Ceesay

Wow, right?

And one more slice of good news—the picture book will be released a little sooner than originally scheduled. It will launch on February 1, 2015. That will give the book plenty of time to work its way into homes, stores, and classrooms before Earth Day. I'll update you when pre-orders are available.

Thanks again to everyone who has been a part of this book's long journey!

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 (first posed by Rudine Sims Bishop in 1990) 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 Bishop's “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. A few agents at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and Full Circle Literary mention a desire to see multicultural submissions on their websites.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.

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