August 2006 Archives

It Makes a Difference, Really, It Does!

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Over at Bloomabilities, children's book editor Alvina has been musing about subconscious racism, and wondering if we don't all suffer from just a little bit of it.

Today, she continues with a thoughtful post about Malcolm Gladwell's book, Blink, in which he devotes a section to the discussion of racism and snap judgements based on ethnicity. Gladwell cites a test devised by some Harvard psychologists to test people's implicit associations with images of different races. To make a long story short, it turns out that 80% of people taking the test had pro-white associations, even non-whites. But it also turned out that one of the students who took the test daily showed a sudden change in his score to be pro-black after watching a morning of Olympic coverage. Yes, simply seeing positive images of different races changes the way our subconscious minds work.

Bringing it back to books, Alvina concludes:

So, to have this confirmation that seeing positive, diverse images in children's books can make a psychological difference, a subconscious difference, to lessen the bias against people of color, well, this was so affirming for me. It is important. It does make a difference.

An Interview with Allen Say

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Papertigers.org's monthy interview for July features Allen Say. He talks about the turning points in his career, his past, his books, and how he produces his work. At one point, he remembers immigrating to the U.S. from Japan at the age of sixteen:
"My mother had been born in California and my father was a Korean orphan who had grown up in Shanghai, and I was always aware of being different from other children. This sort of personal history doesn't seem too out of the ordinary today, but it was when I was a child. I was born an alien. And my sense of being an alien intensified in America. In Japan I could blend in with the crowd and disappear, but in America I was too conspicuous. Some years ago I noticed that there are a lot of doors and windows in my illustrations, which of course are the devices through which the outsider views the world."

An Interview with Linda Sue Park

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I had the pleasure of meeting Linda Sue Park earlier this year at the Reading the World conference in San Francisco. What a nice, down-to-earth woman she is! (Actually, not to belittle these traits, but I think all the children's book authors I have met have been very nice and down-to-earth. It's what makes this business so great.) Anyway, the August issue of children's literature monthly The Edge of the Forest features an interview with the award-winning author. You'll learn all about what Linda Sue Park is working on now, and her thoughts on being one of the few representatives of Korea in children's literature. I also learned that she has a blog

A Look Around Planet Esme

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Esme Raji Codell's blog today features a number of books about countries around the world, including It's Back to School We Go and My Librarian is a Camel, two of our bestselling Aournd-the-World titles. Thanks, Esme, for reminding everyone about these fascinating looks at other cultures! 

Because children in some countries are different

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NPR's Morning Edition reports that:

the Miami-Dade school board seeks to ban a book on Cuba, saying its portrait of life there is overly positive. A federal judge has ordered Vamos a Cuba [Visit to Cuba] back on school library shelves while the district fights a lawsuit aimed at keeping the book available.
According to the segment, the particular offending passage in the 32-page children's book is the claim that children in Cuba "eat, work, and go to school like you do." If the school board wins their appeal, maybe we should begin clearing all our books off the shelves. Pretty much every one of them claims, in some way, that children from other countries are just like you.

Weedflower Nominated for Mock Newbury

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Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata has been added to the shortlist for the December 10 Mock Newbery election at Nina's Newbery.

Our Hero, Ruby Lu

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There's a wonderful review of Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything by Lenore Look over on Fuse #8.

"But what really sets this book apart from others written in the early chapter category is how honest affection between characters is portrayed in a unique and funny way. When you read something along the lines of, "He loved his sister. He loved everything she made. And he drooled heavily over everything he loved", that right there is dead on good writing. It's conservative in its words, but manages a kind of all-ages-wit just the same. Most importantly, you feel the love between the characters. When Ruby sees her mother and just whispers, "I love you, Mom", and gives her a kiss, that's a real little moment. One that makes the book stronger for its inclusion."

Welcome to Shen's Blog

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What's the big news in multicultural children's books today? The inauguration of Shen's Blog! Join us here for Shen's Books updates, news, and thoughts... now sharing the world with, well, the world. Thanks for joining us, and stayed tuned for all things multicultural and bookish.

Flying Through the Ethernet at the Speed of Light

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It's done! I have just sent the files for the Fall Supplement off to the printer. Imagine, all those little bits and bytes of Shen's chocolatey goodness flying through the wires that will, in three weeks time, become the catalog we know, love, and wait breathlessly for at the mailbox.

Stay tuned! Oh, you can click here to add your name to the mailing list. It's not too late...

Behind the Scenes at American Born Chinese

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Over on the First Second blog, guest blogger Gene Yang is describing the genesis of his upcoming book, American Born Chinese

The Alternate Cultural Mythos

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In last week's New York Times Book review, the children's book review highlighted three new books about the minority experience... only it's not the experience that we have come to expect in children's literature.

"In the elementary classroom, at least, multiculturalism has succeeded. Schoolchildren now learn about the American journey as the coming-together of diverse cultures, with not just Pilgrims but Native Americans and Africans and, more recently, Latinos and Asians walking along the national trail. Even in this updated version, ours is a triumphalist travelogue: from slavery to freedom; from poverty to riches; e pluribus, unum. Sure, the new children's literature suggests, we have our problems, but eventually we gather everyone with us into the future.

Three new children's books radically challenge this myth, with alternative narratives and alternative dreams. In each, the journey of escape leads not into a bright American future, but out of an American nightmare... Unlike the multicultural mythos of America, these brilliant books are not feel-good, not melting-pot optimistic. They are as difficult as the real histories they tell, and they insist not only on diversity but on difference. They force parents and teachers to confront just how harsh a truth we can teach our children."





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Blog Contributors

Renee Ting is the President and Publisher of Shen's Books. She is the author of The Prince's Diary and the blog, Renee's Book of the Day.

Emily Jiang is a writer of children's and YA literature. She also blogs at TLeaf Readings.

Shen’s Books is a publisher of multicultural children’s literature that emphasizes cultural diversity and tolerance, with a focus on introducing children to the cultures of Asia.

Through books, we can share a world a stories, building greater understanding and tolerance within our increasingly diverse communities as well as throughout our continuously shrinking globe.

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