September 2006 Archives

It's even more beautiful than I expected!

Just got our advance copies of The Day the Dragon Danced from the printer in Hong Kong. It's so bright and beautiful, even better than I had expected The large format of the book really brings out the exhuberance in Carolyn Reed Barritt's paintings. The artwork in the banner, by the way, is by Carolyn Reed Barritt and comes from one of the images from this book.

The September issue of the online children's literature monthly At the Edge of the Forest is up! And I am pleased as punch and pie that editor Kelly Herold has chosen the Shen's Books publication, Selvakumar Knew Better (by Virginia Kroll and illustrated by Xiaojun Li) as one of its non-fiction stand outs for the month.

I particularly enjoy this line of Herold's: " Virginia Kroll conspires to break my heart with the last page of this eloquent, touching picture book."

And oh, oh, I also like this part: " Xiojun Li's illustrations are soft, lush, and vibrant at the same time. He focuses on the eyes of Selvakumar and Dinakaran throughout showing the characters knowledge of and sadness at the events of the day."

Read the entire review here.

WIN Guide Reception Saturday

The Northern California Children's Bookseller's Association (NCCBA) sponsors a program called the Writers & Illustrators Network (WIN) Guide. It is a booklet that lists writers and illustrators of children's literature who live in the area and give presentations to groups of children. The guide is for school, church, or other youth facility representatives to aid in inviting a presenter, paying for the event, and making sure books are available for purchase. It's a great local resource for creating memorable events for kids.

Every year, the NCCBA holds a WIN Guide Reception to give the authors, illustrators, and event coordinators to meet. Coordinators listen to short presentations given by the authors, and can look over their materials and speak to them in person.

This year, I have volunteered to be the "day of event coordinator" for the reception, which is on Saturday, so I will get to meet a number of great authors and illustrators, many of whom have worked on the multicultural books we carry at Shen's. Cynthia Chin-Lee, the author of A is for Asia, will be there. So will Ying Chang Compestine, who has written a number of stories that take place in China, including The Runaway Rice Cake. Tim Myers should make an appearance. He is the author and illustrator of Basho and the Fox, as well as a number of other Japanese folktales. And Robert San Souci, prolific author of several multicultural Cinderella tales in our catalog, will be presenting as well. Who knew there were so many authors of multicultural books right here in the Bay Area? All in all, there will be over thirty authors and illustrators at the reception on Saturday. I'm looking forward to meeting them. WIN GUIDE RECEPTION Kennedy Elementary School, 35430 Blackburn Drive, Newark, CA Saturday, September 30, 2006 1:00-4:00 p.m. Admission: $10 (includes copy of the WIN Guide)

Book Review: Across the Alley

I have a soft spot for books about people who forge unlikely friendships, and when looking for multicultural books, I really like seeing children of different ethnicities in these roles. I think children are so used to putting things and people into categories that it makes more of an impact when storybooks remind us that things or people don't always need to stay within their own boundaries.

I also have a weakness for books about music and musicians (especially violinists or singers, since I can relate).

Across the Alley by Richard Michelson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis quietly charmed its way into my heart; it has all these great things, and more. Abe and Willie are two boys that live in neighboring apartment buildings. Their bedroom windows happen to face each other, so they become best friends-- but only at night.

Abe is Jewish, and Willie is black. They don't play together during the day. But after bedtime, Willie tells Abe about his baseball games and Abe tells Willie about his violin lessons. Soon, they are swapping gloves and violins through the window across the alley. The friends find common interests, and discover that even their families have things in common: Abe's grandfather was imprisoned in a concentration camp during the war, and Willie's great-grandfather was a slave in the South.

One night, they are caught when Abe's Grandpa walks in to see Abe winding up a pitch and Willie across in the other building, holding Abe's violin. Abe is frozen with fear and guilt, but Grandpa surprises them both, and even recruits Willie's dad into a scheme to bring out the best talents of both boys.

This book reminded me very much of Henry and the Kite Dragon by Bruce Edward Hall and William Low. Across the Alley is more low-key in the storytelling style and the size of the conflict, but both very effectively show without preaching how friendships and talents can transcend our physical differences.

Across the Alley by Richard Michelson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

The Things You Find on the Internet...

Who knew? The US Department of Education's Office of English Language Acquisition has a blog!

A Real Honest-to-Goodness Book from Another Country

Over at Fuse#8, yesterday's review of the day was for a graphic novel called Kampung Boy by Lat, published by First Second Books.

Fuse#8 points out that despite our country's efforts to promote multicultural issues, images, and books to children, most of the materials we have are published here in the US or Canada, Great Britain, and Australia. Where, she asks, are the books actually written by people from all the other countries that we are so proud to represent?

"I've put a fair amount of energy into trying to read every little tiny children's book from another continent, no matter how small. Lately, however, I've been falling down on the job. I don't know if it's ennui or the fact that I've been reading a lot of books solely from the U.S. lately, but when "Kampung Boy" flew out of left field and ker-whalloped me upside the head, I never saw it coming. Sweet child of mine, this isn't just a graphic novel (with far more emphasis on the "novel" part than usual). It's a graphic novel originally set and published in Malaysia. And the year it was originally published in Malaysia? 1979. Now the book, all thanks to First Second Books, has come here to the U.S. o' A. and I couldn't be happier. Let's practice a little of what we preach, okay? You believe in multiculturalism? Then give this book to a kid right now."

Chinese Food and Children's Books

Shen's Books was happy to host the Northern California Children's Booksellers Association (NCCBA) montly meeting last night. We brought in way too much Chinese food from the restaurant across the street and not only had a good time, but got a lot of business accomplished as well.

Fittingly, our guest presenters this month were Janet DelMundo and Lori Low from Children's Books Press, one of the premier multicultural publishers in the country. They introduced their two Fall titles, Kiki's Journey and A Place Where Sunflowers Grow. They also gave each of us a goodie bag complete with flowerpot and sunflower seeds, and a CD of a song inspired by Kiki's Journey, performed by The Mankillers. The author of the book, Kristy Orona-Ramirez, is a member of this reknowned all-female drum troupe.

Other business included the upcoming WIN Guide Reception, slated for September 30th. This is an event where local authors and illustrators showcase their books and their presentations to educators who are looking to host author events at their school. We also discussed the annual NCCBA Otter Dinner ("kids otter read") set for February 24th, 2007, and the excellent speakers that we may be able to host. Last year, Kate DiCamillo, Gennifer Choldenko, and Nikki Grimes were our guest speakers, and this year's lineup will be just as exciting.

American Indian Library Association Announces Winners

Shen's Books does not have much expertise in Native American books for children, but it is always nice to see more and more awareness generated for any books related to less familiar cultures. Is is especially heartening to see organizations like the American Indian Library Association (AILA) becoming more active in the children's book universe.

The AILA announced the first recipients of its first American Indian Youth Literature Award yesterday. The winners are:

Picture Book: Beaver Steals Fire: A Salish Coyote Story by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, illustrated by Sam Sandoval

Middle-School Book: The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

Young Adult: Hidden Roots by Joseph Bruchac

This new literary award was created as a way to identify and honor the very best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians. Books selected to receive the award present Native Americans in the fullness of their humanity in the present and past contexts.

Which reminds me (pardon my digression), the first Joint Conference for Librarians of Color is taking place in October, a gathering of five minority affiliates of the American Library Association (ALA): The American Indian Library Association (AILA); the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA); the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA); the Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA), and REFORMA, the National Association to Provide Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking.

Grace Lin Sews

Grace Lin's little quilt square is so precious, we don't care if she doesn't know how to quilt.

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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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