Archive for the ‘Young Adult Books’ Category

Exciting news from award winning author Mitali Perkins! Open Mic: Ten Authors Riff About Growing Up Between Cultures releases in September 2013.

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Mitali Perkins was born in Kolkata, India and emigrated to the United States with her family when she was seven years old. She writes fiction for younger teens and chats about books and life between cultures on the Fire Escape. You can read PaperTigers’ two interviews with Mitali here and here. She is the author of six award winning books, including Bamboo PeopleRickshaw Girl  and Secret Keeper. Her newest book , an anthology of fiction, poetry, and memoir edited by Mitali will release from Candlewick in September 2013. This is definitely a book to put on your “must read” list and Mitali is giving you a chance to win an advanced reader copy by leaving a comment on her blog. Here are the details:

OPEN MIC in 25 Days! Reviews, ARC Giveaway, and More …

Our anthology releases September 10th from Candlewick, and the reviews are beginning to come in.

From The Horn Book, where it was the reviewof the week:

“…Naomi Shihab Nye offers an eloquent poem about her Arab American dad, whose open friendliness made him ‘Facebook before it existed.’ David Yoo, Debbie Rigaud, Varian Johnson, and Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich also contribute stories to this noteworthy anthology, which robustly proves Perkins’ assertion that ‘funny is powerful.’”

From ALA Booklist:

“…David Yoo’s excellent ‘Becoming Henry Lee’ is the one that will probably elicit the most laughs. But all invite sometimes rueful smiles or chuckles of recognition. And all demonstrate that in the specific we find the universal, and that borders are meant to be breached.”

From Publisher’s Weekly:

“…will leave readers thinking about the ways that humor can be a survival tool in a world that tends to put people in boxes.”

The book is a Junior Library Guild selection. Yippee!

Also, The Horn Book asked me five questions about the anthology, and the esteemed organization Children’s Book Council showed their support.

Here’s the audio version from Brilliance. Watch for a series of blog posts featuring the contributors to the anthology, pictured below:

Top Row: Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Greg Neri, Debbie Rigaud, Gene Yang, Naomi Shihab Nye
Bottom Row: Me, Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, Varian Johnson, Francisco X. Store, David Yoo

Exciting times, friends. In case you’re curious, here are my three “ground rules” when it comes to the intersection of race and comedy, explored further in the introduction to the anthology:

1. Poke fun at the powerful, not the weak. 

2. Build affection for the “other” instead of alienating us from somebody different. 

3. Be self-deprecatory.

We would love it if you “liked” our Facebook page.


Week-end Book Review: What Happened This Summer by Paul Yee

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Paul Yee,
What Happened This Summer
Tradewind Books, 2006.

Ages 12-18

Reviewed July 2007 by PaperTigers Editor Marjorie Coughlan, For more reviews by the PaperTigers team, click here.

Paul Yee, recipient of numerous awards, including the Governor General’s Literary Award for his novel Ghost Train, focuses on the modern-day lives and concerns of Chinese-Canadians in this, his latest novel for young adults.  So what did happen this summer? A general response would be that each teen-age protagonist came of age, grew up – and we, the reader, are privy to that process, because each experience is related in the first person and so we read what is going on in their heads as well as the unfolding events.

Yee keeps the reader on their toes: there is no warning that the narrator is going to change from chapter to chapter and since we are not introduced formally, we even have to work out whether the “I” is male or female.  I was half-expecting the narrators to return in cycles – instead, we catch odd glimpses of them as they happen to pass through someone else’s story. Indeed, each story could stand alone as a short story, a vignette of the challenges and concerns faced by each character: parental expectations and pressure, school, homosexuality, racial stereotypes, sex, death – in other words the full gamut of the issues considered relevant by the majority of teenagers today.  Yee’s focus on the Chinese-Canadian experience adds an extra facet to these subjects.

So, again, what happened this summer?  While each person’s story could stand alone, Yee is actually setting up the strings of his narrative to be pulled together in the final chapter.   This watershed time in all their lives reaches its peak at that point and it is as powerful as it is unexpected.  However, life does go on and, as is so often the case, it will only be with hindsight that each narrator will come to realise the significance of that period in their lives: something beyond the book’s telling that is up to readers to interpret for themselves.

A thought-provoking book that will appeal to young adults who are themselves on the brink of making life-affecting decisions about their own futures.

paw_sm_MC Do read our 2003 interview with Paul Yee here and our most recent interview with him in 2011 here.

New Interview with Award-Winning Author Na’ima B. Robert on PaperTigers Site

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Na'ima B. RobertNew on the PaperTigers site is an interview with Na’ima B. Robert, in which I asked her lots of questions about her latest YA novel Black Sheep (Janetta Otter-Barry Books, Frances Lincoln, 2013).

Black Sheep by Na'ima B. Robert (Janetta Otter-Barry Books, Frances Lincoln, 2013)Set in London, Black Sheep follows the Romeo-and-Juliet-like relationship of teens Misha, a privately-educated “posh” girl, and Dwayne, a gang member living on a housing estate in Brixton.  Na’ima is perceptive in portraying the deep-down vulnerability of teenagers, no matter how much bravado they show in  facing day-to-day challenges – and no matter how much that bravado itself precipitates consequences that risk spiralling out of control.  Black Sheep is a real page-turner and should come with a warning that once started, it’s almost impossible to get anything else done!

When I asked Na’ima about her recent school visits in the UK, it was great to hear the impact Black Sheep has had:

I visited a Catholic school in North London and, apparently, the class that had been assigned the book was so into it, that they told the other classes, who begged to be assigned it as well. They totally identified with the characters and there was a sense of amazement that this life – urban, Black British life – had been portrayed in a book. We had some great re-enactments and readings together and they created portfolios that included illustrations, trailers, letters and character profiles. It was a wonderful experience and it was duplicated in the classes in a different school that read Far from Home.

So do head on over to the PaperTigers site to read the full interview and find out more about Na’ima’s books and her writing, and then visit her website

Week-end Book Review: A Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

A Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master (Albert Whitman, 2012)Reviewed by Charlotte Richardson:

Irfan Master,
A Beautiful Lie
Albert Whitman, 2012.

Ages: 11+

Irfan Master sets his ambitious debut novel, A Beautiful Lie, in India just before the 1947 Partition. Gathering tension on the national scene is seen through the eyes of Bilal and his three friends, who live in a thriving market town. Bilal’s father is dying, and the boy determines to protect him from the ugly truth of India’s division. Already half an orphan since his mother’s death, his only sibling is an unreliable older brother, so politically involved that his infrequent visits bring danger–and potentially the taboo truth–to the fragile little world Bilal has created for his father in their humble two-room home…

Read the full review

Week-end Book Review: This Thing Called the Future by J.L. Powers

Sunday, November 18th, 2012


J.L. Powers,
This Thing Called the Future
Cinco Puntos Press, 2011.

Ages: 12+

Fourteen-year old Khosi lives with her grandmother, Gogo, and five-year-old sister, Zi, in the township of Imbali, a settlement created during apartheid when blacks were not allowed to live in the nearby city of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.  Her parents fought in the struggle to end apartheid and, while they have no regrets, they want better opportunities and education for their children who face an uncertain future. Apartheid is over, but poverty is still rampant, and so many young people are dying from “the disease of these days,” a euphemism for AIDS.

Khosi’s mother commutes each week to Greytown where she works as a schoolteacher.  Her father, who cannot afford to pay the lobolo, or bride price, to marry her mother, lives with his own mother in Durban, an hour away. Khosi loves and respects all her elders and tries her best to honor them, but that is not always possible.  Her mother “believes in the things of white men, science and God only,” while Gogo, a Christian also, still believes in the old ways of the Zulu.  This is just one of the tensions with which Khosi grapples.  She is no longer a child, but not yet an adult, which means facing new responsibilities and making choices of her own.

Khosi realizes that men have begun to notice her in a way that is both exciting and dangerous.  Her best friend, Thandi, plays up her sexuality and dates older men, a fact that worries Khosi who understands how AIDS is spread.  Khosi’s own romantic interest is Little Man, a school friend she believes she can trust, but she’s not sure how to proceed with this relationship.  She would like to discuss it with her mother, but she has been staying in Greytown even over the weekends lately and has lost a worrying amount of weight.

Meanwhile, the next door neighbor claims Khosi’s mother robbed her of her late husband’s insurance settlement.  The neighbor has joined forces with the witch Gogo has been warning Khosi to avoid ever since she could remember.  When Khosi and Gogo consult the sangoma, a traditional Zulu faith healer, Khosi feels herself drawn to the old ways though she knows her mother would disapprove. As Khosi works through the ordinary trials of adolescence while trying to balance the expectations of her elders, it becomes clear that her mother’s illness is far more serious than she had first admitted.

J.L. Powers is also known for her 2007 novel, The Confessional, which deals with racial tension and immigration on the U.S./Mexico border.  With This Thing Called the Future she has created a memorable character with whom readers will easily identify, and has thrown into relief the complexity of issues facing the young people of South Africa today.

Abigail Sawyer
November, 2012

PaperTigers 10th Anniversary: Two Top-Ten picks of Chinese-themed Australian books by Chris Cheng

Monday, November 12th, 2012

In this final post in our 10th Anniversary Top-10 series, we present not one but two book lists from Australian author Chris Cheng, both with a Chinese theme.  The first focuses on picture books and the second on middle-grade/YA fiction.

Chris is the author of more than forty books for children of all ages, including two books in Scholastic’s My Australia series, The Melting Pot and New Gold Mountain, which explores racially-based conflicts on the New South Wales goldfields during the 1860s. Before becoming a full-time writer, Chris was a primary school teacher and then spent almost eight years teaching in the Education Centre of Taronga Zoo in Sydney, where he established Australia’s first Zoomobile.  He has written many non-fiction titles about animals and the environment, and do read this Personal View he wrote for us a few years ago, Drawing from eco-riches: Australia’s environment in children’s books.

Chris is just coming to the end of his stint as an ambassador for Australia’s National Year of Reading.  He is currently co-chair of the International Advisory Board for SCBWI and is Co-Regional Advisor for Australia and New Zealand.  As well as his website and author blog, do check out Chris’ New Kidz Books In Oz blog; and he reports on Asian, Australian and New Zealand books for Cynsations, where you can also read an interview.


(Current) Top-10 Australian Books with a Chinese theme X 2 by Chris Cheng

Far out… you want to limit this list to 10… that is night on soooooo difficult. We are a multicultural country with immigrants from many other places around the world coming to Australia and being integral to the foundation stones on which modern Australia is constructed.

So these are my ‘current’ top 10 favs of a multicultural nature – all by Australians and all have a Chinese theme … biased I know … and they don’t include my books!

Picture Books:

~ The Arrival by Shaun Tan (Lothian, 2006)

~ Big Dog by Libby Gleeson, illustrated by Armin Greder (Scholastic Australia, 2004)

~ The Boss by Allan Baillie, illustrated by Fiona O’Beirne (Scholastic, 1992)

~ Fang Fang’s Chinese New Year by Sally Rippin (Omnibus Books, 1996)

~ The Kinder Hat by Morag Loh, illustrated by Donna Rawlins (Ashton Scholastic, 1985)

~ Moon Bear Rescue by Kim Dale (Lothian, 2006)

~ The Peasant Prince by Li Cunxin, illustrated by Anne Spudvilas (Viking/Penguin Australia, 2007)

~ The Race for the Chinese Zodiac by Gabrielle Wang, illustrated by Sally Rippin (Walker Books Australia, 2010)

~ Rebel by Allan Baillie, illustrated by Di Wu (Phoenix Education, 2011)

~ The River by Libby Hathorn, illustrated by Stanley Wong (Asian Education Foundation/Curriculum Corporation (Australia), 2001)


~ The China Coin by Allan Baillie (Penguin Group Australia, 1992)

~ Dragonkeeper by Carole Wilkinson (Macmillan, 2003)

~ Foreign Devil by Christine Harris (Random House Australia, 1999)

~ The Garden of Empress Cassia by Gabrielle Wang (Puffin Australia, 2002/Kane Miller, 2011)

~ Garden of the Purple Dragon by Carole Wilkinson (Macmillan, 2005)

~ A Ghost in my Suitcase by Gabrielle Wang (Puffin Australia, 2009)

~ Hungry Ghosts by Sally Heinrich (Hachette Australia, 2007)

~ Just One Wish by Sally Rippin (Penguin Group Australia, 2009)

~ The Secret Life of Maeve Lee Kwong by Kirsty Murray (Paw Prints, 2008)

~ Year of the Tiger by Alison Lloyd (Penguin Group Australia, 2008)

PaperTigers 10th Anniversary: Top 10 YA/Crossover Books with a Religious Theme, by Rukhsana Khan

Friday, November 2nd, 2012


Rukhsana Khan’s award-winning novel Wanting Mor (Groundwood Books, 2009) was one of the books on Corinne’s YA Top 10 posted last week (and it would be on mine too!).  One of the themes that runs through the book is the main character Jameela’s faith, and Rukhsana evokes great depth of feeling and understanding about Jameela’s culture growing up in post-Taliban Afghanistan.  Her other YA novel Dahling, If You Luv Me, Would You Please, Please Smile (Stoddart Kids, 1999) focuses on a Muslim Canadian teen Zainab’s journey towards self-acceptance in the face of peer pressure.  Rukhsana has also written  several acclaimed picture books, including Big Red Lollipop (illustrated by Sophie Blackall; Viking Children’s Books, 2010) and The Roses in My Carpets (illustrated by Ronald Himler).

You can find out more about Rukhsana’s books on her website and keep up-to-date with her news on her Khanversations blog; and do also read our interview with her.


Top 10 YA/Crossover Books with a Religious Theme, by Rukhsana Khan

1.   The Autobiography of Malcolm X — This book absolutely moved me as a teen! It’s about a man who succumbs to a sort of personality cult (Nation of Islam)—but emerges as a truly noble man! I wanted to be like Malcolm X!

2.   Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson — A real classic! Absolutely adored this book! It’s full of quotations from the Bible and there’s a really mean and sanctimonious grandmother!

3.   A Single Light by Maia Wojcieschowska — Read this as a girl and found it haunting!

4.   Mansfield Park by Jane Austen — Fanny Price is no Elizabeth Bennet! I loved that Edward chooses Fanny for her faith and good moral character.

5.   Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare — A story about tolerance but also about differences in faith. I’d never heard of the Quaker religion before this!

6.   Does My Head Look Big in This? Randa Abdel Fattah — The first book I ever read that made you root for the girl to keep wearing her hijab.

7.   Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte — Read this book as a kid and it actually confirmed my belief in Islam—Mr. Rochester and Jane would have had no problem marrying if they were Muslim!

8.   The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain — Loved how Mark Twain explored the ways in which the status quo—slave ownership—was justified by the establishment. And I wrestled alongside Huck as he struggled to do the *right* thing!

9.   The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson — A lyrical beautiful book about a woman who falls in love with Egypt and the Muslim faith.

10.  The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham — I only recently read this book and realized how way ahead of its time it was! It’s about a guy who goes and finds himself, and particularly about him exploring his faith.

I know a lot of the books aren’t exactly kids’ books. I couldn’t help it. I do really like all these books! Although Randa Abdel Fattah’s book annoys me a little because it’s about a girl you’re rooting for, who has the courage to wear hijab, and yet she, as an author, no longer wears hijab; and there’s a spot in that book when they go to the cinema during Ramadan while they’re fasting and there’s no mention of prayer!!! *grrr*

PaperTigers 10th Anniversary ~ Top 10 “Books that Open Windows” selected by Deborah Ellis

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Today we bring you the first in a series of “Top-10” posts as part of our 10th Anniversary celebrations.  First up is a selection of “Books that Open Windows” by award-winning writer Deborah Ellis.

Deborah’s latest novel came out last month: My Name Is Parvana (Groundwood Books, 2012) is the long-awaited sequel to her acclaimed The Breadwinner Trilogy.  As well as fiction, Deborah has written non-fiction highlighting global social issues from children’s perspectives, such as war, AIDS and bullying, and giving affected children a voice.  You can read PaperTigers’ interviews with Deborah here and here.


Top 10: Books that Open Windows by Deborah Ellis

Jean Little is a wonderful Canadian author of books for young people. She has a special place in my heart because when I was a child, my parents were friends with a friend of Jean’s – Jane Glaves – and I would get Ms. Little’s books for Christmas. One of my favorite Jean Little books is Look Through My Window, where one character talks about looking through someone’s window into who they are and what their lives are like.

The following books are ten I would recommend to anyone interested in seeing what’s inside someone else’s window.

1.   From Anna, by Jean Little ~ Novel for young people about a German family who comes to Canada just before the start of World War 2. The youngest, Anna, has struggles with her eyesight, her awkwardness and figuring out where her place is in her family and in this new world.

2.   All of a Kind Family, by Sydney Taylor ~ First in a series of books for young readers about a Jewish family in turn of the century Brooklyn. As the girls go about the adventures of their lives – such as earning money to pay for a lost library book – the family celebrates the calendar of holidays. As a Protestant-raised small-town girl, this was my first window into a different religion, and set off a respect and fascination for Judaism that continues to this day.

3.   Obasan, by Joy Kogawa ~ Moving telling of a young girl’s experience in a Japanese internment camp in Canada during World War 2.

4.   Nobody’s Family is Going to Change, by Louise Fitzhugh ~ Novel for young people about a girl in New York who can’t make her father see her for who she is. She grows to learn about other kids in other families and their struggles.

5.   A Dog on Barkham Street and The Bully of Barkham Street,  by Mary Stoltz – Look at the same story from two points of view. They taught me how to look for more than one side of the story.

6.   Mighty Be Our Powers, by Leymah Gbowee ~ A powerful memoir of a woman who survived the Liberian civil war and won the Nobel Prize for her work to rebuild the country.

7.   Amazing Grace, by Jonathan Kozol ~ About homelessness and poverty in America and the power of the education system to hurt or help the children in its care.

8.   Shannen and the Dream for a School, by Janet Wilson – part of the Kids’ Power Book series for young activists, this is a profile of Shannen Koostachin and her First Nations community of Attawapiskat as they try to get a safe school built.

9.   Bury Me Standing, by Isabel Fonseca ~ A moving, detailed history of the Roma people.

10.   Grey is the Color of Hope, by Irina Ratushinskaya ~ Prison diaries of the Soviet poet who spent seven years in the Gulags. One of the few records we have about what that time and place was like for women.

Week-end Book Review: My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

Debby Dahl Edwardson,
My Name Is Not Easy
Marshall Cavendish, 2011.

Ages: 12+

What’s in a name? For many people, it stands for something that directly correlates to that person’s sense of identity. In My Name Is Not Easy, author Debby Dahl Edwardson has taken this idea of identity (whether it’s through a name, an action, or relationships with others) to show how it shapes her characters. There’s Luke Aaluk, whose Inupiaq name has been changed because it’s “too hard” to pronounce, and his two younger brothers, Bunna and Isaac. There’s Chickie, a “white Eskimo” who doesn’t fit into either world. Donna and Junior, both quiet and observant, are on the sidelines, but yearning to finally break out and make a name for themselves. Finally, there’s Amiq and Sonny, the “alpha males” of the respective Indian and Eskimo cliques who are constantly butting heads for control.

The story follows these young children for a span of four years (1960-1964) and begins with the Aaluk family discovering that their boys, Luke, Bunna, and Isaac are being shipped off hundreds of miles away to a boarding school called Sacred Heart School to become “good Christians.” As the story unfolds, the reader learns of the characters’ histories that have made them who they are today (alcoholic parents, abandonment). Edwardson steers clear of any romanticized image of Eskimos and Indians and touches on the hardships that many of them have faced through poverty and ethnocentrism.

The book not only addresses native culture, but also some of the major events that occurred in Alaska during the 1960s, such as Project Chariot.  This was a real proposal made by the US Atomic Energy Commission as a way to demonstrate the peaceful use of atomic energy, and the military really did conduct experiments on native villages using iodine-131. Edwardson doesn’t go into much detail regarding these events, but rather, she uses them as a way of conveying even more ominous things to come. All of the characters are unsure of how or why these events are occurring, but they know it can’t be good for them, their families, or their communities.

My Name Is Not Easy is a moving story and while some of the topics can be difficult to read about, Edwardson has ultimately created something invaluable, a tale to keep history alive and educate people now as well as future generations to come.

Keilin Huang
August 2012

Week-end Book Review: Kamakwie by Kathleen Martin

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Kathleen Martin (author-photographer),
Kamakwie: Finding Peace, Love, and Injustice in Sierra Leone
Red Deer Press, 2011.

Ages: 12+

Kamakwie, Canadian writer Kathleen Martin’s moving memoir in photo essay format, reports on a three-week trip to Sierra Leone that opened her eyes and heart to the suffering of the people there during and since their devastating 1991-2002 civil war. Martin accompanied a four-person volunteer medical team; the project was commissioned by the Canadian International Development Agency and World Hope Canada.  Kamakwie is the name of one of the villages the team served.

Martin’s present-tense account takes us chronologically through her experience.  A young mother herself, she empathizes deeply with mothers whose children have died of starvation or other horrors of war.  A man who lost his arm tells her that anger won’t bring back his limb; she is shocked to learn that the woman who betrayed him still lives in the same village. Martin struggles with how to respond to a deserving kid’s request for school fees, later to find the amount is only $5. She organizes English writing workshops for kids to tell their stories and to write to Canadian children, then quotes liberally from their reports and politely desperate pleas for help. She watches a child dying of starvation, learns about the superstitions that have kept her father from seeking treatment, writes frankly of her own incredulousness when she realizes how little she or even the medical team can actually do to help… and yet, they all do offer both concrete help and precious hope for the future. Martin’s candid photographs add immensely to her powerful stories about these beautiful, remarkably forgiving people.

Early on in her 200-page book, readers may find Martin’s naive reactions a bit exasperating. She veers close to stressing her own responses more than the accounts of individual survivors that bring alive their terrible history. But the double purpose of her book gradually becomes clear: Martin wants her young readers to understand both the desperate circumstances of the Sierra Leone people and also the process by which she has honestly faced painful truths about human behavior and consequently aspires to be of greater help. Her touching and revealing openness offers privileged western young people the opportunity to learn how compassion grows by experiencing it for themselves. Back matter includes an author interview and a link to the book’s website.

Charlotte Richardson
August 2012