February 2009 Archives

whatheworldeats.jpgMy favorite part of traveling to new places is the food. I love finding out what the locals traditionally eat, and am always looking for unique foods that can only be found in that area. I am also inordinately fascinated by what and how people of different cultures eat. So it should be no surprise that I found What the World Eats by photographer Peter Menzel and author Faith D'Aluisio the most fascinating book I've seen in a long time.

Menzel and D'Aluisio profile the meals and eating habits of twenty-five families around the world. Each family is photographed in their home with all the food that they eat in one week, which is then painstakingly listed in detail by category. Also included is a written profile of the family, their daily routines, their thoughts about food, and their cooking. More photographs illuminating specialized farming or cooking for the area are included, as are boxes containing additional information about the countires. After every few families are a few pages that aggregate ancillary information into charts and graphs, like the number of McDonald's restaurants each country has, or the percentage of obese people in each country. This is a book simply packed to bursting with fascinating information.

Naturally, my favorite part is looking at the pictures of a week's worth of food. You can learn so much about a culture just by looking at what people eat. For example, the American families' pictures contain more food than people, while the family in Bhutan depicts $5.03 worth of food and thirteen people. The family from Australia eats a lot of meat, but the Guatemalan family is pictured with a table full of vegetables. The Japanese family has more fish in their picture than any other family, and look at all those bananas the family from Ecuador eats!

I could spend hours poring over these pictures of people and their food, and I could go on endlessly about the details you find when you take the time to look (the family from Turkey eats 32 loaves of bread a week, but there are only 30 in the picture because they ate two loaves while waiting for the photograph to be taken). But the text that accompanies each family's picture is equally, if not more, interesting. And who doesn't love charts and graphs?

Children of all ages will find something to interest them in this book. Older readers will be able to take this information and generate some interesting questions about wealth, health, and political-social implications of food availability. Younger children will love looking at the pictures and learning about how children in other countries eat. What the World Eats is a must-have.

What the World Eats
Photographs by Peter Menzel, Written by Faith D'Aluisio

Feb 28, 2009: Youshan Tang at the Sun Gallery in Hayward, CA

sungallery.gifEvery year, the wonderful little Sun Gallery in Hayward, CA puts on an exhibit of children's book illustration that lasts for several months. A few pieces from each book goes on display, and children from schools all over the Bay Area visit the gallery to see the original art.

This Saturday, they are hosting a special reception for the public to meet the artists. Here is the information from the Sun Gallery:

Please join us for this special event at the Sun Gallery, Saturday, Feb. 28, from 1-4 pm. We're happy to bring to you in person the talented children's book illustrators whose work is showing at the Sun Gallery:

Carl Angel, Felicia Hoshino, David Hoobler, Dan Sansouci, Youshan Tang, and Jane Wattenberg

Here's an opportunity to meet these talented artists and to purchase an autographed book for your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, the kid down the street, or maybe just yourself.

Also on this day, between 1 and 3 pm, we will have our studio open for a free Saturday Art for Families experience!

The Books:

Carl Angel:
Lakas and the Makibaka Hotel
Lakas and the Manilatown Fish

David Hoobler:
Zonk the Turtle
The Dreaming Tortoise

Felicia Hoshino:
A Place Where Sunflowers Grow

Youshan Tang:
Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderella
Anklet for a Princess: A Cinderella Tale from India

Dan Sansouci:
The Mighty Pigeon Club
As Luck Would Have It

Jane Wattenberg:
Never Cry Woof
Mrs. Mustard's Baby Faces

20th Annual Children's Book Illustrator Exhibit Reception
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Sun Gallery
1015 E Street, Hayward, CA

Exhibit Dates
January 21 - April 18, 2009

Afghan Dreams.jpgAfghan Dreams: Young Voices of Afghanistan by Tony O'Brien and Mike Sullivan is a gorgeous book. O'Brien's photographs of children from Kabul and the countryside of Afghanistan are breathtaking, while the text, in those children's own words, is heartbreaking.

Flip through the book and you see the many faces of eight- to sixteen-year olds of Afghanistan. They are strong, they are radiant, they are full of pain, they are full of hope. Most of the children photographed look older than their years, and all of them have sorrow in their pasts. These kids have had terrible, hard lives, and you can see it in their eyes. They images are beautiful and haunting.

The texts are passages written in the children's own words. They describe their lives and their hopes for the future. I have mixed feelings about the text. Although I don't believe that information about the conditions in Afghanistan should be sugarcoated, I felt like the unceasing descriptions of misery and suffering painted a somewhat hopeless picture--one that I'm not sure the authors intended. More than half of the profiles are truly heartbreaking; we know that given the children's circumstances, they probably will never have a chance to realize their hopes and dreams.

But that's me. What will young readers take away from this book? Perhaps they simply need to see that there are strong, young people in war-torn areas that have the most abject conditions behind them, yet still dare to hope. Perhaps they will form their own conclusions about the heartlessness of war and its collateral damage. Though I wouldn't exactly call this book inspiring (there is not enough of a cohesive message to truly inspire any particular thoughts or actions), it is certainly incredibly thought-provoking, one way or another.

Afghan Dreams is not a book for younger children. I would only recommend it for middle school and up, and it would probably be best if the reader already had at least a basic understanding of the history and/or current events in Afghanistan.

Afghan Dreams: Young Voices of Afghanistan
by Tony O'Brien and Mike Sullivan

Asian Reporter

The January 20, 2009 issue of The Asian Reporter has a nice, big review of The Day the Dragon Danced by Kay Haugaard, illustrated by Carolyn Reed Barritt. There's a picture of it featured on the front page of the paper, and a big interior shot and cover image included with the review. Nice!

"You can't get a whole lot more multicultural than this rollicking romp for Lunar New Year," the reviewer writes. "Kay Haugaard must have been a precocious girl herself, because her narrator sounds exactly like one. Carolyn Reed Barritt does more than justice to Sugar's vivacity; every one of her paintings is a knockout, from the surreal cover art to Sugar at her school desk, with the Great Wall of China and the twelve animals of Chinese astrology close at hand. Take a dragon for a dance this Lunar New Year."

I'm Twittering... Are You?

I finally took the plunge this weekend and started twittering. Who knew there was such a huge, vibrant book community on Twitter? I'm totally addicted already, and it's only been four days. If you're twittering too, come find me here. My username is ReneeAtShens.

Storytime Anytime... Over the Phone

What a great idea! A Minnesota-based service called Storyline offers free story readings over the phone. Just call the phone number, and you can hear a recording of a local actor reading a new story each week. Their website lists each month's themes and the stories read, and also offers more book suggestions for each theme. Grandfather's Story Cloth is on the Grandparents list. There are a lot of multicultural books on the lists, even though it's not an overtly multicultural service.

I just called the number, and this week's story is Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochisuki and illustrated by Dom Lee (published by Lee & Low Books), a story about a Japanese-American boy in an internment camp and his love of baseball.

Storyline: 952-352-1350
Free service, but long-distance rates apply.

It's almost spring!

As the cold days of winter draw to an end, I am eagerly looking forward to those first signs of spring. In my own backyard, it means anxiously anticipating the blooming of three Japanese flowering cherry trees we planted a few years ago. Their bright, pink blossoms dance in the air as the winds change direction from the north, northwest to south, south west. When The Falling Flowers first came out, I would sit under the trees with book in hand and read to my kids.

This year, I hope to visit Washington D.C. (we live just 2 hours away!) and take in all the beauty of the cherry trees in the city. I also plan on giving some books away for Easter presents (good idea huh?)  Another good idea- plant a cherry tree or two in your back yard, or at your school, church or place of business. Cherry trees are beautiful year round!

Selvakumar in Paperback!

Heads up: Selvakumar Knew Better is now available in paperback at $8.95. Yay!!


Selvakumar Knew Better
By Virginia Kroll
Illustrated by Xiaojun Li
New paperback edition $8.95
ISBN: 9781885008367
Buy it now

Call for Links

| | Comments (4)
Hey everyone. I know that the blogroll over to the right is pretty long, but I KNOW I've missed people and blogs that are worth a read. If anyone knows of multicultural authors' websites or blogs I've missed, or if you know of a great kid-lit blog or other multicultural resources, please let me know and I would love to add them to the list. Leave them in the comments or just email them to me at info at shens (dot com). Thanks!

Book Review: Silent Music by James Rumford

silentmusic.jpgSilent Music by James Rumford is an incredible, beautiful, inspiring picture book that pays homage to art, to language, and to Middle Eastern culture, while also giving a nod to the current war in Iraq and the hope for peace in the future. Run out and buy this book for your home or school library. It is amazing.

Ali is a boy who lives in Baghdad. While he loves playing soccer and listening to music and dancing, what he loves most is practicing Arabic calligraphy. Rumford's illustration in mixed media and collage in golden tones shows snippets of calligraphy and large Arabic words dancing across the pages, and when Ali describes his pen "stopping and starting, gliding and sweeping, leaping, dancing to the silent music in my head," we can really see the joy in the sweeps of the pen on every page.

Ali's secret hero is Yakut, a calligrapher from the thirteenth century. He tells a story of when the Mongols attacked Baghdad in 1258, and Yakut hid in a high tower where he shut out the war by writing "glistening letters of rhythm and grace." When the bombs fall on Baghdad in 2003, Ali does the same.To Ali, writing calligraphy is an escape, a peace within himself.

Two pages then show the Arabic words for "war" and "peace." The word peace, or salam, is harder to write than harb, or war. "..It resists me when I make the difficult waves and the slanted staff," he says. But it is salam that Ali chooses to practice, "until this word flows freely from my pen."

Rumford brings so much to so few words and his gorgeous illustrations.The text is so simple, but it gives rise to so many ideas and feelings about art, music, dancing, hard work, history, tradition, culture, war, peace, family, and beauty. It was a joy to read.

Silent Music by James Rumford

No Otter Award This Year

I just received word from the NCCBA that they have decided not to hold the Otter Dinner this year.


Never fear, this is not the end of the Otter Award or of the most amazing kidlit gala in California. The NCCBA is exploring ideas for a 2010 dinner with perhaps a new format. So stay tuned. I am sure there will be great, exciting, kidlit-ness to come.

The Conference Blues (No Longer)

I've been to many, many book and reading conferences over the past ten years, but it just occurred to me last weekend that though I was technically at these conferences, I didn't really attend them. Usually, I am there as a vendor, and I am there to WORK. I work setting up, I work all throughout the conference days, and then I pack up and move out. I look at all the happy attendees exclaiming about how much fun they're having, what great sessions they went to, and who they talked to. I feel like everyone's having a better time than me, and it never occurred to me before that it was because I was working in the exhibit hall and didn't get to experience any of it!

housejacks.jpgLast weekend, however, I actually attended a conference for my own personal edification-- the Los Angeles A Cappella Festival at UCLA. I had the most amazing time! I learned so much! I was inspired to make music and to listen to music! I learned from people who are the best at what they do (the picture on the left is the Q&A with The House Jacks-- I had only my cameraphone with me)! I was energized and recharged! Now I knew what it felt like to be one of those teachers or librarians that I see at the conferences we attend.

Not only did the conference inspire me musically, but it also inspired me professionally and personally. I decided that I wanted to do more, reach out more, and communicate more with the children's lit world. Put myself out in the blogsphere, the internet, the world, more, and participate more.

Plus, when I go to conferences to work now, I can remember what it was like to be in an amazing environment with likeminded colleagues, all revved up and inspired, and I can relate to everyone to stops at our table or booth, and show them with enthusiasm all these great books!

MultiCultural Review

The Winter 2008 edition of MultiCultural Review includes a nice review of Grandfather's Story Cloth. Reviewer Mary J. Lickteig emphasizes the book's celebration of "the power of story," and goes on to say,

"Two columns on each page, one Hmong, one English, give readers/listeners an opportunity to see another language. And, the story is filled with other cultural experiences: food, values, stories, as well as the story cloth. In addition to these cultural experiences, this story shows a family that is coping with -- and loving-- a relative who has Alzheimer's.

The afterwords-- one about Alzheimer's disease, one about the Hmong resettlement in the United States-- provide excellent background information. But the "truths" are revealed in the story. As the story unfolds, getting acquainted with this family builds understanding that mere facts cannot possibly relate. Illustrations complement the text perfectly and expand the story."
Grandfather's Story Cloth
by Linda Gerdner and Sarah Langford, illustrated by Stuart Loughridge

Asian Reporter

The January 20, 2009 issue of The Asian Reporter (just in time for Chinese New Year this year) included a review of The Wishing Tree by Roseanne Thong and illustrated by Connie McLennan. Reviewer Josephine Bridges says,

"Ming's varied wishes over the next few years have a way of coming true, that is, until Grandmother becomes ill. It is the rest of the narrative, and the accompanying illustrations, that make The Wishing Tree an extraordinary book... My wish is that a lot of people start the Lunar New Year off by reading The Wishing Tree and learning from Ming's example of a whole new perspective on wishing."

The Wishing Tree by Roseanne Thong, illustrated by Connie McLennan

The Falling Flowers Book Trailer


Feb 26, 2009 Malathi Michelle Iyengar at CABE Conference

Malathi Michelle Iyengar, author of Romina's Rangoli, will be speaking at the California Association for Bilingual Education annual conference on February 26, 2009. Her session will be entitled, "Rangoli!  Language, Content and Culture via a Traditional Indian Art." In the session, Malathi will be sharing ideas for using rangoli projects to promote first and second language develpment and to teach various CA state standards in the core curricular areas. She will be on hand to sign books afterward.

The California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE) is a non-profit organization incorporated in 1976 to promote bilingual education and quality educational experiences for all students in California. CABE has 5,000 members with over 60 chapters/affiliates, all working to promote equity and student achievement for students with diverse cultural, racial, and linguistic backgrounds. CABE recognizes and honors the fact that we live in a rich multicultural, global society and that respect for diversity makes us a stronger state and nation.

Rangoli!  Language, Content and Culture via a Traditional Indian Art
February 26, 2009 2:30-3:45
CABE 34th Annual Conference
Long Beach Convention Center
Long Beach, California

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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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