March 2009 Archives

Book Review: Erika-San by Allen Say

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erikasan.jpgErika is an American girl who finds herself irresistibly drawn to a print of a Japanese house in at her Grandmother's when she is little. This print sparks her lifelong love of Japan and her dream of one day living in a house just like the one in the picture. When she finally reaches Japan after graduating from college, she struggles with the discrepancy between the reality of Tokyo and other cities and the idyllic picture of old Japan she carries in her mind. However, after a few tries, she does indeed find what she is looking for.

Allen Say's quiet storytelling is simple and understated, but it beautifully conveys the longing in Erika's journey, her disappointment in the first few days, and her joy in finding the right place for herself. His illustrations, though, are what make this book an incredible journey for the reader. The crowded train platform in Tokyo, the festival in the traditional town, the group of little children all amazed to see a foreigner in their schoolyard-- Say captures these snapshots of Japanese life and culture so vividly that you hardly need read the text at all.

In the end, Erika-San is an immigrant story, which is a nice change from the usual coming-to-America immigrant story. And it is a love story between Erika and another teacher named Akira. It is also interesting how Akira worries that Erika may not like him because he is not Japanese enough-- he prefers coffee to tea and does not know anything about the Japanese tea ceremony. These details are wonderful and thoughtful, and like everything else in the book, subtle.

I'm not sure if this book will hold the attention of young readers. They may be interested in the journey and in the pictures, but the romance and the quiet longing may be lost on them. However, it is a finely told stories with even finer illustrations, so Erika-San is sure to resonate with many.

Erika-San
by Allen Say

Poetry Friday: Silence

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This poem is from the Tao Te Ching, as translated by Demi in her book The Legend of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching. In its original form, it's really less of a poem than a lesson, but it is in verse, and I think it works well as a poem.

Silence

Those who know don't speak.
Those who speak don't know.
Close your mouth,
dull your senses,
smooth whatt's sharp,
untie all tangles,
shut out all glare,
wipe away all dust.
This is your real Self.
Be on Heaven's Way
without desires or dislikes,
benefit or harm,
honor or disbrace. This is
being Heaven's highest,
for one under Heaven.

laotzu.gifOh Demi, how much do I love you? Let me count the ways:

  • Your simple yet informative writing teaches readers about the most amazing things. Your biographies especially introduce great figures in a way that everyone can understand and appreciate, in language that is always fitting for the subject.
  • Your illustrations, also so simple yet filled with depth, create harmony with the text, with the book design, and with the reader. Your colors are so brilliant, their range from translucent to golden, shimmer with life.
  • Your biography subjects are the most interesting figures in history, yet relatively unknown in the west. You make them accessible to all of us who have hearts and minds open to learn.
  • You are not afraid to tackle the big ideas, despite writing for children.

The Legend of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching
is just one more incredible book to add to Demi's portfolio. I was skeptical at first, thinking that Lao Tzu was perhaps a subject too difficult for kids. However, I was captivated by every page of the book, and I'm sure kids who like to be challenged will be too.

Though the story of Lao Tzu's life is told as a legend ("...Lao Tzu,who may or may not have been born; who may or may not have founded Taoism... and who may or may not have written one of the greatest books of wisdom in the world"), Demi includes twenty verses of the Tao Te Ching, which is a very real book. I thought the Tao Te Ching would be too deep, or boring, but it was not! In fact, readers could spend hours pondering these verses alone, and find something interested every time. This is the power and beauty of the Tao Te Ching, and Demi's version succeeded in capturing my interest fully.

It also needs not be mentioned that the illustrations that accompany this books are breathtakingly beautiful. It never fails to astonish me how Demi creates the illusion of translucence on opaque paper. And I especially love her tiny figures that you must get up close to, in order to truly appreciate their detail and charm.

While The Legend of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching won't do too well as a group read-aloud, it will captivate and intrigue those who take the time and pore over its many delights.

The Legend of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching by Demi
tapdancingonroof.jpgTap Dancing on the Roof is a collection of fun poems by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Istvan Banyai. And while the topics of the poems themselves are not related to Korean culture, the form of the poems are. They are sijo, a type of Korean poem that has a fixed number of stressed syllables, usually divided into three or six lines. Yes, it's sort of like haiku, with two major differences: the syllable count is fourteen-sixteen per line (in English), and the third line must contain a some kind of twist-- either humorous or ironic.

First off, the poems are charming, and the twist at the end of each one makes them great fun to read. Of course, Istvan Banyai's illustrations are always wonderful in that quirky way, and their simplicity fits the style of the poems perfectly. Here's one of my favorites:

Pockets

What's in your pockets right now? I hope they're not empty:
Empty pockets, unread books, lunches left on the bus-- all a waste.
In mine: One horse chestnut. One gum wrapper. One dime. One hamster.


This is a great little volume introducing another type of poem that is fun for kids to read and try to write themselves. I'm glad there is an alternative to the haiku, especially one that is a traditional form from another Asian culture. There is a helpful author's note at the back of the book giving some more details about the syllabic count and stresses, historical background, and further reading.

Tap Dancing on the Roof
sijo by Linda Sue Park
illustrated by Istvan Banyai

NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book 2009

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ncss_logo.jpgCongratulations! The Wakame Gatherers by Holly Thompson and illustrated by Kazumi Wilds has also been selected by the National Council for the Social Studies in association with the Children's Book Council as a Notable Social Studies Trade Book of 2009!

wakame.jpgThis bibliography features K-12 annotated titles published in the previous calendar year, selected by a book review committee appointed by the NCSS. Titles are grouped by subject, including: Biography; Contemporary Concerns; Environment and Ecology; Folktales; Geography, Peoples, and Places; History, Life, and Culture in the Americas; Reference; Social Interaction and Relationships; World History and Culture; and Economics. Each annotation contains bibliographic data and a brief description.


I'm not sure if the list is available yet for 2009, but copies of the annotated list are available for $5 per copy (includes S&H).
Please send a check to:
The Children's Book Council, Inc.
attn: Social Studies
12 West 37th Street, 2nd floor
New York, NY 10018


NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book 2009

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ncss_logo.jpgYes, it was a big week for awards. Grandfather's Story Cloth has also been selected by the National Council for the Social Studies in association with the Children's Book Council as a Notable Social Studies Trade Book of 2009!

grandfathersstorycloth.jpgThis bibliography features K-12 annotated titles published in the previous calendar year, selected by a book review committee appointed by the NCSS. Titles are grouped by subject, including: Biography; Contemporary Concerns; Environment and Ecology; Folktales; Geography, Peoples, and Places; History, Life, and Culture in the Americas; Reference; Social Interaction and Relationships; World History and Culture; and Economics. Each annotation contains bibliographic data and a brief description.


I'm not sure if the list is available yet for 2009, but copies of the annotated list are available for $5 per copy (includes S&H).
Please send a check to:
The Children's Book Council, Inc.
attn: Social Studies
12 West 37th Street, 2nd floor
New York, NY 10018


CCBC Choices 2009

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ccbc.jpgOh, I also got a letter the other day from Megan Schliesman of the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They put out a publication each year of their top children's book choices, and Grandfather's Story Cloth has been chosen to be part of this prestigious list as well. How about that?

The 2009 edition of CCBC Choices will feature annotated entries for 247 books for children and young adults published in 2008 and recommended by the CCBC staff. CCBC Choices 2009 will include author/title and subject indexes and a commentary on the 2008 publishing year. It should be available in mid-March.

To request a copy be sent by U.S.mail:

Wisconsin residents: send $3.00 (to cover postage and handling) OR a self-addressed manilla envelope with $2.75 postage to:
CCBC Choices
600 N. Park Street, Room 4290
Madison, WI 53706

Outside Wisconsin: Send $10 to:
CCBC Choices
Friends of the CCBC, Inc.
P.O. Box 5189
Madison, WI 53705

ForeWord Magazine 2008 Book of the Year Finalist

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ForeWord Magazine announced its list of 2008 Book of the Year Finalists today, and Grandfather's Story Cloth is on the list! Congratulations! Here's the official press release:

BOTYA-Finalist-seal.jpgForeWord is pleased to announce the finalists in the 2008 Book of the Year Awards. More than 1,400 books were entered in 61 categories. These were narrowed to 668 finalists from 376 publishers. These books represent some of the best work coming from today's independent press community.

The winners will be determined by a panel of librarians and booksellers, selected from our readership. Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners, as well as Editor's Choice Prizes for Fiction and Nonfiction will be announced at a special program at BookExpo America at the Javits Center in New York City on May 29. The winners of the two Editor's Choice Prizes will be awarded $1,500 each. The ceremony is open to all BEA attendees.

ForeWord's Book of the Year Awards program was designed to discover distinctive books across a number of genres. Past winners have included Rashi's Daughters, Book 1: Joheved by Maggie Anton and Peace Like a River by Leif Enger.

The list of finalists is searchable by category, publisher, title, and author.
I'm not usually very sensitive about being in the minority, but one thing I noticed immediately when my mom and I set up for the Asilomar Regional Reading Conference last Saturday was that our assigned table was next to a company selling a book called Raggedy Chan. It was a raised-eyebrow moment (turns out this positioning was pure coincidence), but then I got to work.

Raggedy Chan was written by a young biracial woman who was manning her table with her mother, also a Chinese woman around my mom's age. We chatted; they were both very friendly. This was their first conference.

Throughout the day, however, I couldn't help but notice that we were pretty much the only Asian people at the conference. And worse, attendees would walk up and assume that our two tables were part of the same company. One woman stood at the Raggedy Chan table and went on for some time about all the different Cinderella books she had bought in the past, while the other two Asian women were too polite to interrupt. Finally, she asked a question about the Cinderella books and they told her she was at the wrong table. Another woman listened to their spiel first, and then walked right by our table, thinking we were together. I asked her if she was familiar with Shen's Books, and she pointed at the other ladies and replied, "Oh, yes, they just told me all about it."

Is this human nature, or is this willful ignorance? Did our exhibits look like they were together, or did people see a blanket "Asian Area" of the exhibit hall and combine it in their minds? I will never know, but it isn't often that I have the occasion to wonder.
March 7, 2009: Linda Gerdner, author of Grandfather's Story Cloth, will speak at the University of Wisconsin at Madison as an invited presenter. She will be talking about the translation of research findings into a Hmong-American children's book to promote understand of persons with Alzheimer's Disease.

readingtheworld.gifMalathi Michelle Iyengar, author of Romina's Rangoli, will be a presenter at one of my favorite conferences, Reading the World, in San Francisco on the weekend of March 28-29, 2009. Her presentation is entitled, "Tan to Tamarind: Brown is Beautiful!" She will be talking about her new book, Tan to Tamarind: Poems About The Color Brown.  She will share a bit about her motivation and process for writing the poems, and then talk about ways for teachers to use these poems in their classrooms.

The Reading the World conference is open to the public, and is an exceptional conference for multicultural literature. There is always such a huge density of amazing authors and illustrators walking around and speaking, and the venue is so intimate, that you feel like you really get to know all the speakers as well as the other attendees. I love the palpable love of books that permeates the hallways like electricity.

The mission of the Reading the World conferences is:

"To create a forum welcoming scholars, students, authors, illustrators, librarians, teachers, editors, book sellers and anyone interested in the field of literature for children and young adults. The main topic for this forum is the presentation, study, analysis and celebration of books of literary and artistic merit created for children adn young adults that present the human experience with respect for its multiplicity and diversity and that specifically promote un-learning biases and prejudice, counteracting racism and exclusion, fostering solidarityand respect for all human beings and protection of all living beings; books that question and address problems, that do not propose merely happy endings but responsible solutions, that in short, invite children and young adults to see themselves as protagonists of their own human experience and unite them to embrace it with trust, love and hope to contribute to the creation of a world of equality, justice and peace."

"Tan to Tamarind: Brown is Beautiful!"
Reading the World Conference
March 28-29, 2009
University of San Francisco School of Education
2350 Turk Blvd.
San Francisco, California
Registration Form



Mar 7, 2009: Asilomar Regional Reading Conference

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As usual, we'll be attending the Asilomar Regional Reading Conference on March 7, 2009. Come say hello at our table, take a look at all of our great multicultural books, and pick up a free Dragon Lover poster.

About the conference:
The Asilomar Regional Reading Conference is an annual conference devoted to the areas of reading and language arts, providing in-service sessions of interest to educators from pre-school to middle school level. Sessions include theory, practice, administration, make-and-take, literacy, literature, etc. Authors are invited each year to present author talks as well as to autograph books for attendees. In addition to conference sessions, Asilomar tours and evening entertainment are provided. The beautiful setting enhances the educational theme of the weekend. The conference is sponsored by the Monterey and Santa Cruz County Reading Associations and the San Benito Reading Council.

Asilomar Regional Reading Conference

March 6-8, 2009
Asilomar Conference Grounds
Pacific Grove, CA





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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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