September 2008 Archives

Lately I've been thinking about the different kinds of multi-cultural stories out there, and the immigrant story is perhaps one of the most popular, perhaps because the clash of cultures is most central to the immigrant's core conflict.


Grandfather's Story Cloth by Linda Gerdner and Sarah Langford, illustrated by Stuart Loughridge, is reviewed in the September 2008 issue of Booklist!

"Chersheng, a third-grader, observes his grandfather's growing
confusion as his memory loss becomes more profound. Grandfather
gathers sticks for a cooking fire, though Mother cooks on a gas stove.
More disturbing, he calls Chersheng "Fong," the name of his younger
brother who died when their family fled from soldiers in Laos. Looking
at a traditional Hmong story cloth that he made years before,
Grandfather relates his family's history to Chersheng, who makes a
collage showing his grandfather's life in America. Written in a
straightforward manner, the text smoothly weaves Grandfather's history
into the contemporary tale, which shows how Alzheimer's disease
affects the whole family. Watercolor paintings sensitively depict this
intergenerational story. The dual-language text appears side by side,
English on a white background and Hmong on light blue, green, or tan.
Reminiscent of Hmong geometric needlework, patterned squares decorate
the end panels of this well-designed book. Notes on Alzheimer's
disease and on the Hmong and their story cloths are appended."

Holly Thomson Interview at Here and There Japan

There is a very sweet interview with Holly Thompson on Annie Donwerth Chikamatsu's blog, Here and There Japan. In it, Holly talks mostly about life in Japan rather than writing, and I love learning about all of life's little details that we here in the U.S. would never expect. For example, Holly says that she has trouble finding shoes big enough for her in Japan, so she always buys shoes when she's back in the U.S.!

October 4-5, 2008: NCIBA Trade Show

Booksellers! Coming to the NCIBA trade show in Oakland? I'll be there at my usual table. Come say hello!

This year, the NCIBA is also started something new called the Independent Publisher's Row. I won't have a table there, since we'll be on the main floor, but we will be displaying a few books at the Row and making a book available for the raffle. Please stop by and support our local independent and small publishers!

September 27, 2008: SCBWI Illustrator Day in San Francisco

I will be a guest publisher at the SCBWI Illustrator Day in San Francisco on September 27, 2008. This is the second annual Illustrator Day, after a very successful event last year. I will be doing one-on-one critiquing with artists, as well as participating on the panel with other highly esteemed publisher guests, for the anonymous portfolio display. Most exciting is the guest of honor, E.B. Lewis, whose artwork I absolutely love.

Here's the official info:

The San Francisco South region of SCBWI is happy to announce our second annual Illustrator Day! To register, click here, fill out form and mail in!  Illustrators from all three areas of SCBWI NORCA and beyond are invited to join us at beautiful Ft. Mason to get inspired, learn more about the industry, and meet and mingle with local publishers.
Morning Speaker - E.B. Lewis*

We are so lucky to have Caldecott and Coretta Scott King award winning illustrator E.B. Lewis speak to us about "Passion and Process vs. Product."

Mr. Lewis' vast experience, talent and success have given him a priceless knowledge of children's book illustration that he will share with us. He has illustrated over 30 picture books with all the large publishing houses, including "Talkin' About Bessie" by Nikki Grimes, winner of the 2003 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award and "Comin' on Home Soon" by Jacqueline Woodson, winner of the 2005 Caldecott Honor Award.

Afternoon - "First Look"

We are fortunate to have four guests from our wonderful local children's book publishers.

Abigail Samoun. Editor at Tricycle Press
Kristine Brogno, Art Director at Chronicle Books
Dana Goldberg, Executive Editor at Children's Book Press
Renee Ting, Publisher of Shen's Books

Each will introduce her house: what they are looking for, what kind of art they use - everything we should know about them.

Then, as a panel of experts, they will give their "First Look" reactions to our illustrations. This exercise was done at the Bologna conference with New York art directors and was a great success.

Illustrators who are attending our Illustrator Day are invited to submit JPEGS of up to three images ahead of time.** These will be put into a PowerPoint presentation as anonymous images. We will go through the images one by one and each of our panel will give her first impression of the image - what works, what doesn't and what might improve it. Just a brief comment, so we can get through all of them. If time permits, we will end with a question and answer session with all our speakers.

** It is optional for attendees to submit images. Whoever chooses not to share their work in this way will still benefit greatly from the comments about the illustrations of those who do participate. Also, in Bologna some people had better illustrations in their portfolios than they had in the "First Look." We should submit our best work.

Portfolio Reviews

Our speakers have all offered to conduct one-on-one portfolio reviews. These will be limited in number and will cost an additional $50. These will be held throughout the day and during lunch. They will be on a first-come first-served basis. This is a wonderful opportunity to get feedback from experienced pros in our field.

Portfolio Display

Illustrators are invited to bring portfolios for display. They should be 11" x 17" or smaller and limited to 15 pieces. Do not include original art or slides. Dummies may be displayed as well. We are not responsible for lost or damaged items. You may set out business cards or postcards with your portfolio. Our faculty of publishers, editors and art directors will have an opportunity to view our portfolio display throughout the day, with a half hour dedicated to a private viewing. There may be restrictions in the amount of display space for each illustrator, depending on how many of you participate. Please be prepared to work within these limits.

Lunch - There are several delightful places to buy lunch at Ft. Mason and in the surrounding neighborhood , or you can bring your own lunch and sit by the Bay while you eat.

To Register:Please fill out the registration form ( and mail it to Lea.

*Watercolor Workshop - On Sunday, September 28, we are thrilled to offer an SCBWI hands-on watercolor painting workshop taught by Mr. Lewis. This is a separate event, and will be limited to 10 people. The cost is $135 for the four-hour workshop and is filling up quickly. It will also be at Fort Mason from Noon to 4:00. Email Lea Lyon if interested in attending.

For more information contact Lea Lyon at or 510-232-9428.

School Library Journal

Grandfather's Story Cloth, by Linda Gerdner and Sarah Langford, illustrated by Stuart Loughridge, is reviewed in the September 2008 issue of School Library Journal:

"A Hmong boy learns about his grandfather's life in Laos and his escape to the United States as they share memories illustrated on the elderly man's story cloth. Grandfather has Alzheimer's disease and is beginning to forget common things. Chersheng's fear and exasperation are evident, as are the family's great respect and consideration for their aging relative. The English and Hmong texts face paintings that express the many moods of the characters. Endpapers and the back cover feature numerous geometric patterns that are common in Hmong handicrafts. A full spread shows the story cloth for easy reference and closer examination for details. Background information on Alzheimer's disease and the Hmong refugees and their story cloths will be appreciated by adults preparing to read the story or older children seeking information on both of these topics. A strong family story about difficult social issues relevant to today's society."

How Do You Like It?

You may have noticed that our website has been completely redesigned. I can't believe it's finally done! Please feel free to poke around and contact us if you find any problems. Heck, contact us if you don't find any problems!

One major change is that our online shopping is now partnered with So if you place your order online, you will use your Amazon account and everything will be shipped and billed through Amazon. Orders placed by mail, fax, or phone will still go through Shen's Books. Let us know if you have any questions.

Oh, and don't forget to sign up for our e-mail newsletter. We'll be starting that up in the next month or so.

Journal of Gerontological Nursing

The September 2008 issue of the Journal of Gerontological Nursing has a nice review of Grandfather's Story Cloth from a point of view we normally don't get in the the children's book business.

"Support of families who are providing care for an older adult with dementia is increasingly being recognized as one of the major interventions nurses and other health care professionals can provide to manage the difficult, progressive disease. This is even more important in families for whom institutional care is not an option because of cultural values of parent care and lank of culturally appropriate facilities, as is true for many Hmong families and those from other Asian and Latino backgrounds.

For care providers, this book is an important source of insight about the Hmong culture and the struggles they face in caring for an elder with dementia; for the Hmong families themselves, the book is a resource they can share with their 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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