Poetry Friday: Taco Anema and his Tales of Water: A Child’s View photographic project

Friday, March 30th, 2012



We have a new interview on the PaperTigers website, with Dutch photographer Taco Anema, the author of a superb book called Tales of Water: A Child’s View/Cuentos del agua: Una visión de un niño.  Taco travelled the world photographing children interacting with water; and he spoke to them about what water means to them – how they use it, their joys and their concerns.   Sponsored by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), Taco visited at least one country in each of continents.  In the interview, Taco has given us some fascinating insight into the project and I urge you to read it.  In the meantime, for this Poetry Friday post, I want to share with you an unexpected aspect of the project:

In the book, as well as quotations from children about water, there are some poems typed over some of the photos. Can you tell us about them?

A little while ago, I read somewhere that an emotion hits the brain a thousand times faster than a word or a line of text. Photography is nothing but emotion, but regularly I find it hard to relate to the people in the picture. Sometimes it’s just not enough to know what they look like and to understand the situation they are in. I would still very much like to know something personal about them. And this is typically where the text comes in.

As mentioned earlier, we were very keen on recording the language children use to put their ideas, feelings and thoughts into words. That reinforces the message. So we talked extensively with them about their own experiences in their daily lives. Nobody had at that point thought of poems and the like.

Many people, teachers, parents, mayors and so on, attended our conversations and most likely – I can’t remember exactly – one of them suggested adding a poem by a well known poet or the lyrics of a local song. A really great idea. So we did. Together with the children we picked the ones they liked the best. The poems were important to the children. They suggested putting them in the book. So we did.

Isn’t that wonderful?  I love that poetry spontaneously became an integral part of the project.

And Taco has kindly given me permission to share some of his stunning photographs with you.  I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I do, and then feel prompted to seek out the book, which has something in it for everyone, children and adults alike. And I should also point out that the text in the book is bilingual English-Spanish (and one of the reasons for that is mentioned in the interview…).

There is actually a pdf of the whole book on the IUCN website, here

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

Meet Your Friends From Japan! An Exhibit at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Meet Your Friends from Japan!

Ongoing until September 20, 2011

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art has a substantial collection of Japanese picture books donated by Japanese publishers, picture book art museums, illustrators, and friends of the museum. These books form the basis for the museum’s new exhibit Meet Your Friends from Japan! ともだちは日本にもいるよ! where guests are invited into the world of modern Japanese picture books that share similar graphic qualities or imaginative themes as those in Eric Carle’s works. Highlighted in the exhibition is the bilingual Japanese/English book  Where Are You Going? To See My Friend, a collaboration between two outstanding children’s book artists: Eric Carle and Kazuo Iwamura. For more information about the exhibit, click here.

Multilingual/ Multicultural…

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Head on over to Uma Krishnaswami’s Writing with a Broken Tusk to see a presentation from Tulika Books called “Multilingual Publishing – Walking the Tightrope” – it’s quite a long read but definitely worth it. Presenting different languages in children’s books is something I’ve been musing for a while – especially after reading Patsy Aldana’s interview with PaperTigers recently, in which she said:

I have always been opposed to the use of bilingual books, however given that Spanish-only books hardly sell at all, I have had to accept that books in Spanish can only reach Latinos if they are bilingual. This goes against everything I believe and know to be true about language instruction, the joy of reading in your mother tongue…

..and also having just read Nancy Bo Flood’s Warriors in the Crossfire, which raises dilemmas of language/writing in a colonial language (look out for our review in our June issue).

This is definitely a topic that needs to be pursued further…

Q&A with Patsy Aldana of Groundwood Books, publisher of "My Little Round House"

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Groundwood Books logoEstablished in 1978, Groundwood Books is a small children’s book publisher, associated with House of Anansi Press, that specializes in Canadian authored books (with a special interest in books by First Nations authors), bilingual books in English and Spanish, translations from around the world, and a non-fiction line aimed at young adults. Their catalog features a long list of award-winning titles that reflect individual experiences and are of universal interest.

Patricia (Patsy) Aldana, founder and publisher of Groundwood Books (and president of IBBY, the International Board on Book for Young Readers, since 1997), answered our questions about My Little Round Rouse, one of the seven titles selected for inclusion in our Spirit of PaperTigers Book Set Donation Project; her commitment to publishing books by First Nations authors; the multicultural titles on their Fall list, and more.

In our series of interviews with the publishers of the books selected for our Spirit of PaperTigers project, I normally start by asking how the book in question came about as a project for the publisher. Since we already know the answer to this question in relation to My Little Round House, both from our interview with author Bolormaa Baasansuren and from translator Helen Mixter’s article, My Little Round House: The Journey of a Picture Book from Mongolia to Canada, we’ll start by asking…

PT: What in particular attracted you to My Little Round House?

PA: I thought it was a really special book about people whose lives are very different from ours. I also thought it was a very unique look at a baby’s life, a life that despite being nomadic seemed wonderfully cosy and safe.

PT: The books you publish often tell the stories of people whose voices are underrepresented. What first motivated you to start on this path and how do you manage to stay true to your mission?

PA: Being a Guatemalan, I guess that seeing the world through the eyes of the marginal has always come naturally to me. There are so many books published from and for the mainstream that, for me, focusing on underrepresented authors and illustrators was one way to justify being a publisher. As a small Canadian house, this focus has also been a way for us to distinguish ourselves from the huge multi-nationals with whom we have to compete.

PT: How did the decision to stop selling rights to the American market and to start publishing your books in the US come about?

PA: As US publishing changed from the editor-driven houses that I first came to know (Margaret K McElderry, Dorothy Briley, Susan Hirschman, Phyllis Fogelman, etc.), it became harder and harder to sell rights to our books in the US. At the same time Canada began to cut funding to school libraries and as a result (more…)

Books at bedtime: two bilingual books from Mantra Lingua…

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Following our library’s recent refurbishment, I was excited to find several bilingual picture-books in the newly-revamped children’s section… I borrowed two and we will definitely be going back for more!

Yeh-Hsien: A Chinese Cinderella, retold by Dawn Casey, illustrated by Richard Holland (Mantra Lingua, 2006)Yeh-Hsien: A Chinese Cinderella, retold by Dawn Casey and illustrated by Richard Holland, with a French translation by Annie Arnold (Mantra Lingua, 2006) is familiar but different – there’s no fairy godmother, instead Yeh-Hsien befriends a fish: “she nourished her fish with food and with love, and soon he grew to enormous size.” However, the wicked stepmother kills the fish, cooks it and eats it (this detail gives the story the frisson of horror that is sometimes missing from modern fairy-tale retellings…). The magic fish bones that are left allow Yeh-Hsien to make wishes come true – soon she has enough to eat; and then she is able to conjure up beautiful clothes to go to the Spring Festival… It’s great to have a feisty Cinderella, who has to think and do for herself – and who runs away from the party because her nightmarish step-mother frightens her, not because she forgot the time…

Grandma's Saturday Soup by Sally Fraser, illustrated by Derek Brazell (Mantra Lingua, 2005)Grandma’s Saturday Soup by Sally Fraser and illustrated by Derek Brazell with a Cantonese translation by Sylvia Denham (Mantra Lingua, 2005) is a delightful book – Mimi takes young readers/listeners through her week during a British winter. Everything reminds her of some ingredient in the soup she will be having at Grandma’s house on Saturday (clouds like dumplings, shoots of new growth through the snow like spring onions); and everything also contrasts with the stories Grandma tells of life in Jamaica – (more…)

Around the Kidlitosphere…

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Here is a trio of great links from the past week around the Kidlitosphere:

7-Imp met up with Yuyi Morales over desayuno this week…

Cynsations has a guest post from author/illustrator Elizabeth O. Dulemba about Writing Bilingual Books

Uma Krishnaswami has a commentary on racial stereotyping over at Writing with a Broken Tusk, following up on an article by Binyavanga Wainaina, ‘a wonderfully funny satirical piece in Granta magazine called “How to Write About Africa”‘, from which she quotes, and a video of a presentation given by Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie earlier this year, entitled “The danger of a single story”: well worth watching…

Books at Bedtime: The Park Bench

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

A beautiful read at any time of day, but particularly ideal as a gentle bedtime read and exploration, The Park Bench by wife-and-husband team Fumiko Takeshita and illustrator Mamoru Suzuki (Kane/Miller, 1988) is a gem. Taking the simple focus of a park bench sitting silently under a tree, the finely honed narrative takes readers through the day from dark, early morning to dark, starry night. I have to say it sits silently because there is a magical expectation throughout that if the bench wanted to, it could actually speak. And the stories it could tell, of old people through to tiny babies, not to mention birds and animals! We are given a glimpse of some of them through the gorgeous illustrations, which expand on the simple words. For example,

Friends meet at the park.
The two mothers begin to chat.
They talk on and on.
Chitter-chatter, chitter-chatter, until its time to eat.

All the while the white bench listens quietly.

…While the mothers are busy chatting (and there’s a situation many young readers will empathise with!), their two toddler children are keeping themselves occupied, playing on the bench; the jolly park worker is mowing the grass backwards and forwards behind them; and a kitten arrives unnoticed and settles down under the bench. All these narrative threads can be followed in the cartoon sequence on the facing page, though there is no mention of them in the text. Two double-page illustrations of the park offer hundreds of details, as well as scope for comparison, both with each other and with the characters who surround the park bench more directly. The most important of these is the afore-mentioned park worker, who cares for the bench and talks to it – through him, young readers’ affinity with the actual bench is caught and held, as they explore, and perhaps speculate on, the myriad of different lives passing through the park.

The Park Bench is published as a bilingual book, in its original Japanese and English. I can’t (more…)

Books at Bedtime: Papa's House, Mama's House

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Narrated by a five-year-old child, Papa’s House, Mama’s House by Jean Lee C. Patindol and illustrated by Mark Salvatus (Adarna House, 2004) delves into the pros and cons of dividing the week between the homes of separated parents – and ensuring that, despite there being different rules and routines in each, both are also the happy, welcoming homes of the children.

The narrative is beautifully attuned to a child’s perspective and the striking red background to the highly dynamic illustrations increases the story’s impact, especially as the depictions of the narrator and her two sisters are endearingly pixie-like. Because the only clue to the narrator’s identity is through these abstract illustrations, in which she is in fact a girl, this story can feel relevant to both girls and boys. Having said that, though, looking at the publisher’s page about the book, it refers to the narrator as “he”… and, this being a bilingual book, it may be that this ambiguity is only in the English and not in the Filipino, which I don’t read…

When the inevitable question comes up: why can’t her parents live together in the same house, both Mama and Papa give imaginative and comprehensible answers – and at the end, they come together to share in their child’s sixth-birthday celebrations.

This is a beautifully reassuring book, both for children trying to make sense of their parents’ separation; and for children who may be trying to understand what is happening in their friends’ lives – and not forgetting parents who are striving to provide security in the aftermath of such a situation. In an end-note, author Jean Lee C. Patindol explains how the story came into being following some insensitive remarks from neigbours to her five-year-old-son after her own separation: and how she struggled “to find a way to explain to my children that, even with our unusual family setup, they are still very much loved.” Through this story she has certainly succeeded in doing so, not only for her own children but universally.

Papa’s House, Mama’s House was the 2004 Grand Winner of both the PBBY Salanga Prize (for writers) and the PBBY Alcala Prize (for illustrators). You can read a full review here, as part of our current focus on the Philippines. And I must just point you towards the latest post on Jean a.k.a. Jeanette’s blog, in which she relates a conversation with her nine-year-old daughter…

Congratulations, Children's Book Press!

Monday, September 21st, 2009

The San Francisco Foundation Community Leadership Awards annually recognize organizations and individuals who have made a significant impact in Bay Area communities. This year, one of the organizations being honored is Children’s Book Press, the first independednt, non-profit publisher of bilingual, multicultural literature for children, established in 1976. PaperTigers congratulates Children’s Book Press on this wonderful and well-deserved honor!

Here is the judges’ statement about the impact CBP has had in its community—and no doubt beyond it, too:

For the past 33 years Children’s Book Press has served as a vehicle for civil rights, human rights, and social justice, with a profound impact on the children, youth, and adults who better understand their own lives and histories as a result of its bilingual, multicultural books. Children’s Book Press builds the connection between literacy and success, preserves traditions, and helps build a stronger future for our children.

For those in the Bay Area, the award ceremony will take place tomorrow, Sep 22, at the San Francisco Herbst Theater. To attend the event, you can rsvp using this page.

Books at Bedtime: Poetry Friday – two poems to share for this time of year.

Friday, November 9th, 2007

Cloudscome at A Wrung Sponge is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday – and in her post she suggests putting poems out into the “face-to-face world” as well as through blogging… hmm, now there’s an idea…

Nights are drawing in here in the UK, as we move towards wintertime but in the southern hemisphere, the world is heading into summer: so here are two beautiful picture-books which each contain a poem – one for winter and one for summer. One thing is certain: reading time will feel warm, whichever one you read; and they are such a visual treat too, that really they have to be a face-to face encounter.

Tarde de Invierno Winter AfternoonThe first is Jorge Luján’s poem Tarde de Invierno, translated into English as Winter Afternoon by Elisa Amado and empathetically illustrated by Mandana Sadat. It’s a short poem about a child looking out into the winter’s evening, waiting for her mother to come home: and when she does, the hug fits perfectly into the “vidrio del portarretrato”/ “the frosty frame” – so that the focus suddenly swings round and the little girl, the observer, is now the observed. And what a beautiful picture it is too. My children like this poem because it’s full of love. I like it , yes, for that reason too: but also because it helps to assuage some of the inevitable guilt of being a working mother…

The other poem transports us to the heat of the Australian Outback. Annaliese Porter was only eight years old when she wrote the poem – so this would also be a great classroom resource for Outbackraising aspiration. Here’s a small taste:

On Uluru there are many shades
on the rocky eye –
browns and reds mingling
into a rich earthy dye.

Uluru is immediately recognisable in Bronwyn Bancroft‘s glorious depiction – and indeed her illustrations sizzle all the way through the book.