PaperTigers 10th Anniversary Extra! Top 10 Multi-Cultural Picture Books by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Just when we thought the party was over, hooray, thanks to a computer glitch (and with sincere apologies to Cynthia that her wonderful list got caught up in a computer saga too long to go into here), we are more than delighted to bring you a Top Ten of Favorite multicultural picture books from acclaimed author and blogger extraordinaire Cynthia Leitich Smith – and we know you’ll love it too.

Cynthia’s most recent YA book is Diabolical (Candlewick Press, 2012), the fourth novel in her best-selling “Tantalize” gothic fantasy series that also includes the graphic novel Tantalize: Kieren’s Story illustrated by Ming Doyle (Candlewick Press, 2011).  Cynthia’s first YA novel was Rain is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001), and her picture books include Jingle Dancer (HarperCollins, 2000) and  Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002), which like PaperTigers celebrates its 10th Anniversary this year. She has also co-authored the hilarious Santa Knows with her husband Greg Leitich Smith (illustrated by Steve Bjorkman; Dutton, 2006).

Cynthia has a vibrant website where you can find out all about her own writing and also explore invaluable resources about children’s and YA literature, including  a comprehensive celebration of diversity – and this is complimented by her sensational Cynsations blog, jam-pack full of kidlit news, author interviews, giveaways and more.

So on this day of Thanksgiving in the US, let’s say a big thank you to all those who enrich the lives of young people and the young at heart through their books; and a special thank you to Cynthia, alongside my apologies, for enabling us to continue our 10th Anniversary celebrations a little longer…

10 Favorite Multi-Cultural Picture Books by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship by Tim Tingle, illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridges (Cinco Puntos Press, 2006)

Dona Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Big Heart by Pat Mora, illustrated by Raul Colon (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2005)

~ Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan, illustrated by Lillian Hsu-Flanders (Little, Brown, 1998)

~ Los Gatos Black on Halloween by Marisa Montes, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Henry Holt, 2006)

~ Mama’s Saris by Pooja Makhijani, illustrated by Elena Gomez (Little, Brown, 2007)

~ Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Jamel Akib (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2003)

~ Muskrat Will Be Swimming by Cheryl Savageau, illustrated by Robert Hynes, featuring Joseph Bruchac (Rising Moon, 1996)

~ The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis (Putnam, 2001)

~ Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden, illustrated by Don Tate (Dutton, 2009)

~ Yo? Yes! by Chris Raschka (Scholastic, 2007)

PaperTigers 10th Anniversary: Uma Krishnaswami’s Top 10 AND a Quick Chat

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

One of the books in our recently announced 2012 Spirit of PaperTigers Book Set is the gorgeous Out of the Way! Out of the Way! by the almost-same-named Uma Krishnaswami (author) and Uma Krishnaswamy (illustrator).   I interviewed Author-Uma last year about her hugely entertaining The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, so I caught up with her this last month to ask her a couple of questions about Out of the Way! Out of the Way!, originally published in India by Tulika Books and published this year by Groundwood Books.  (You can read about Illustrator-Uma’s experience creating the book in the Q&A for our Gallery feature of her work.)

Welcome back to the PaperTigers blog, Uma.  What does Out of the Way! Out of the Way! mean to you?

I never understand what a book means to me until quite some time after it’s been published.  I can’t seem to think of it in that way until I’ve gained some distance from the project. On the surface, Out of the Way! Out of the Way! is a simple story, and I am often drawn to simple stories, especially those in which a single action has far-reaching consequences. At another level I suppose it represents my Pollyanna attempt to make things right in this world. In the reality we all inhabit, let’s face it, most of the time, when development demands a road, trees generally lose out. I started out by thinking of the face-off we see so often between human sprawl and green, growing things. The story grew and changed over many revisions and especially over the editorial process at Tulika Books. In the end it became a response to that conflict, questioning it and offering another view.

If you could send it anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?

Well, I’d want to send it to communities on the edges of cities, places where green habitats are rapidly being eaten up by concrete blocks and uncontrolled roads. Places where children and the adults who care for them might feel inspired to look at their environment and begin asking questions about whether and how it’s being sustained. I’m very grateful to Groundwood Books for bringing this book to North America, and to PaperTigers for selecting this title and making it possible for such conversations to take place.

Also, because it was first published in India by the wonderful Tulika Books in English and in eight Indian languages, I’d really like to see sets of regional language editions of the book sent to schools and NGOs in India, in communities where children learn to read in languages other than English.

Thank you, Uma.  You can keep up to date with Uma at her wonderful blog Writing With a Broken Tusk, as well as her website, which currently highlights Out of the Way! Out of the Way! on its landing page.  But don’t go away just yet – the good news is that Uma also has a list of ten favorite  books to share with us for our 10th Anniversary Top 10 series.

A Top 10 of Multicultural favourites by Uma Krishnaswami

I had to think about this. It was difficult to stop at ten!  This list is in no particular order, and includes books across the age range.

Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Amadi’s Snowman by Katia Novet Saint-Lot

Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke

Nabeel’s New Pants by Fawzia Gilani-Williams illustrated by Proiti Roy (originally published by Tulika Books, India as Ismat’s Eid)

The Wild Book by Margarita Engle

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Tiger on a Tree by Anuskha Ravishankar, illustrated by Pulak Biswas

Waiting for Mama by Tae-Joon Lee, illustrated by Dong-Sung Kim


I’ve spotted some of my own favorites in Uma’s list too… What about you?  And if you would like to send us a Top 10 of your favorite multicultural books from any genre or theme (we’ll also accept a Reader’s Ten – see Janet Wong’s selection for an explanation), just email me your list to marjoreATpapertigersDOTorg.

Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Special Guest Post With Holly Thompson

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Take some time today and head on over to author Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog Cynsations to read her Guest Post with author Holly Thompson entitled “Holly Thompson on the Perfect Setting & Orchards“.

Orchards is Thompson’s debut novel for young adults and is written in verse. It tells the story of Kana Goldberg, a half-Jewish, half-Japanese American teenager who, after a classmate’s unexpected death, is sent to her family’s farm in Japan to reflect on her participation in the events that led up to the classmate’s suicide.

Orchards has been receiving rave reviews since its release this past Spring (read PaperTigers’ review here) and is included on the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)  Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominations list.

Holly has been keeping extremely busy this year (click here to visit her blog) and has just returned from the Manila International Literary Festival where she presented three panel discussions:

“Writing for Young Adults” with author Perpi Alipon-Tiongson and publisher RayVi Sunico;

“The Many Forms of the Novel”, in which she spoke about writing in verse and read an excerpt from Orchards; and

“The Stranger Experience” on writing away from home, cross-cultural experiences, and the multi-faceted immigration experience, with Gemma Nemenzo and Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz. The immigrant’s experience plays a vital role in Junot’s work and I have to share this amazing quote from him that I found on Tarie Sabido’s blog Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind:

“You guys know about vampires? … You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist? And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.” — Junot Diaz

April is Poetry Month! Celebrate by visiting Sylvia Vardell’s blog Poetry for Children!

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

National Poetry Month is held every April in Canada and the USA to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American and Canadian culture. Schools, literary organizations, communities, businesses and more celebrate National Poetry Month with a plethora of events including poetry readings, festivals, book displays, and workshops. The kidlitosphere is sure to be active with bloggers celebrating the month – and one blog that you definitely don’t want to miss out reading is Sylvia Vardell’s Poetry for Children!

Sylvia is a professor of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University, author of Poetry Aloud Here! Sharing Poetry with Children in the Library (ALA Editions, 2006), Poetry People: A Practical Guide to Children’s Poets (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), and Children’s Literature in Action: A Librarian’s Guide (Libraries Unlimited, 2008). She is co-editor of Bookbird, the journal of international children’s literature, co-editor of the annual review guide Librarians Choices and is also the poetry columnist for the American Library Association’s Book Links magazine.

Our April 2008 PaperTigers’ Poetry issue featured a reprint of Sylvia’s article Pairing Poems Across Cultures (which offered insights on the similarities and differences in poetry from parallel cultures) as well as a reprint of an interview that Cynthia Leitich Smith did with Sylvia in 2007. In 2010 we were thrilled to meet up with Sylvia at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and had a great chat with her.

Last April, to celebrate National Poetry Month, Sylvia played a game of Poetry Tag on her blog. Poets shared original poems, tagged another poet who shared a poem connected with the previous poem, and on and on. It was such a success that it led her and author Janet S. Wong to compile an anthology of 30 e-poems by 30 e-poets called PoetryTagTime.  This first ever electronic-only poetry anthology for children has new poems by many top poets writing for young people, and can be purchased for 99 cents here.

For this year’s National Poetry Month celebrations Sylvia says :

I’m sticking with my “tag” theme this year, too, as we pause to promote poetry far and wide. However, this time, I’m featuring reviews of poetry books out this year (2011), connected in that same “tag” fashion, from one to another. Plus, I’ve involved my students enrolled in my graduate course in poetry for children as guest reviewers. Some of them even tried creating digital trailers for their selected books. So, here we go: one review a day for the next 30 days, your mini intro to the latest poetry for young people.

So head on over to Poetry for Children and join in the celebrations!

Guest Post: Nancy Bo Flood – Wanted: Books written by or about contemporary Native Americans

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

We welcome Nancy Bo Flood to PaperTigers for this, her second Guest Post for PaperTigers (you can read her first one here):

Wanted: Books written by or about contemporary Native Americans.

Needed: Books that include contemporary Native American children presented without stereotypes or clichés.

Secret of the Dance by Alfred Scow and Andrea Spalding (Orca, 2006)Every child needs to see their own people and their own experiences in the books they read: yet in the United States less that 5% of children’s books published are written by or about Native Americans.

All young people need books that describe contemporary children who are Native American, not just historical accounts as though Indian children lived “past tense”, only a long time ago. The following books have “real” characters and engaging stories that include traditional celebrations continued in contemporary ways – with food, family, dance.

Whale Snow by Debby Dahl Edwardson (Charlesbridge, 2003)Picture books:

Secret of the Dance by Alfred Scow and Andrea Spalding (Orca, 2006);
Whale Snow by Debby Dahl Edwardson, illustrated by Annie Patterson (Charlesbridge, 2003);
Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (HarperCollins, 2000);
The Butterfly Dance by Gerald Dawavendewa (Abbeville, 2001);
Powwow’s Coming by Linda Boyden (University of New Mexico Jingle Dancer</strong></em> by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu  (HarperCollins, 2000)Press, 2007);
Little Coyote Runs Away by Craig Kee Strete (Putnam, 1997);
When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger with Susan Katz, illustrated by David Kanietakeron (Tricycle Press, 2007).

With each of these books, if one asks, “Is this how an American Indian child would want to be perceived?” I think the answer is, “Yes.”

For Older Readers:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie,The Butterfly Dance by Gerald Dawavendewa (Abbeville, 2001) illustrated by Ellen Forney (Little Brown, 2007);
Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith (HarperCollins, 2001);
Bowman’s Store: A Journey to Myself by Joseph Bruchac (Lee & Low, 1997);
Eagle Song by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Dan Andreasen (Puffin Books, 1997);
Rattlesnake Mesa: Stories from a Native American Childhood by EdNah New Rider Weber, photographs by Richela Renkun (Lee & Low, 2004);
Powwow’s Coming by Linda Boyden (University of New Mexico Pres, 2007)House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday (Harper & Row, 1968 – new reprint edition, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2010).

In every area of the curriculum – art, literature, sports, science, government and politics – include contemporary Native Americans. For example, in sports, one of the greatest American athletes of the past century was Jim Thorpe. But how often is his biography included in a list of American athletes? Joseph Bruchac, whose work reflects Native American traditions as well as his own Abenaki Indian heritage, (more…)

Competition time!

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Hop on over to readergirlz where

It’s time for another rgz blog-o-hunt for Native American Heritage month!

Cynthia Leitich Smith has prepared the questions and hints of which blogs to hunt out the answers are provided…

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Book Blogger Appreciation Week

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Sep 15-19 2008Yesterday Cynthia Leitich Smith celebrated the 10th anniversary of her wonderful “Children’s and YA Literature Resources” website (congratulations, Cynthia!). Now I wonder… how come we were the ones to get a gift?

In honor of “Book Blogger Appreciation Week” (Sep 15-19) Cynthia decided to highlight blogs that “focus on underrepresented perspectives in the field of youth literature.” PaperTigers has made her short list, and now we find ourselves in the very good company of Mitali’s Fire Escape, The Brown Bookshelf and other great blogs. Thank you, Cynthia! Please know that your contributions as a writer, blogger and promoter of good literature are much appreciated too—this week and always!

Adapting to different realities

Monday, May 19th, 2008

We’ve recently posted our celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month to the PaperTigers website (click now or click later, but do hop on over and enjoy the new features) and, as usual, we had more material then we could fit into the update. So here are some additional thoughts for you to mull over:

I found interesting words by authors Linda Sue Park and Laurence Yep pointing to an intersection, so to speak, between fantasy/science fiction and multicultural literature. And the idea that the themes and scenarios explored in some science fiction books might resonate with immigrant and biracial children is an intriguing one…

In a video interview to Reading rockets, Laurence Yep speaks of “adapting to different realities” in a time when books reflecting his own experiences didn’t exist:

I lived in an Afro-American neighborhood and went to school in Chinatown. So the books that I really found true to my own life were fantasy and science-fiction, because in those books you have children from an ordinary world or ordinary place taken to another world, where they have to learn strange, new customs and a strange, new language. Those books talked about adapting, and that was something I did every time I got on and off the bus.

And Linda Sue Park says, in her answer to a question from Cynthia Leitich Smith about the lack of non-white protagonists in fantasy and science fiction:

Fantasy and science fiction generally posit the protagonist as an “other,” amid races and species that are not of this world. Some writers whose lives are lived as part of the majority might feel that they have to leave the real world, as it were, in order to place their characters in environs of alienation. But writers of color don’t need to do that–we’ve got plenty of alienation right here (…). As we continue to get more comfortable in the mainstream of both life and literature, I think we’ll start to see more characters of color in other genres. These things take time.

From a time when fantasy and science fiction about “alien worlds” were closer to home for a young Chinese American boy than the rest of the available stories, to a time when all genres, including fantasy and science fiction, feature characters of color… Now that’s something to think about and root for.

Books at Bedtime: The Huron Carol and some Ho Ho Hos

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

We’re starting to count the days in our family to when school will break up for all of us… we’re looking forward to indulging in some good “book sessions”, when we can all snuggle up and take turns in reading piles of books to each other – old favorites and new.

Two very different books I’m looking forward to sharing with the boys this year are The Huron Christmas Carol illustrated by Ian Wallace and Santa Knows by husband and wife team Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith.

The Huron Carol takes its text from a carol which, as the name suggests, was originally written in the old Huron language in c. 1641, probably by Father Brébeuf, a French Jesuit The Huron Carolmissionary in what is now Ontario, Canada. Sung to the tune of a traditional French carol, it was translated into English in 1921, beginning “’Twas in the moon of wintertime”. This is the version which forms the text of this lovely book, although both the Huron and French words for one verse are given at the end, along with the tune. In it, the Christmas Story is set among the Huron Indians, so that, for example, “chiefs from far before him knelt/ with gifts of fox and beaver pelt”. Ian Wallace’s illustrations emphasise the cultural setting within the intimate space of a Huron longhouse, as well as through his sweeping depictions of the Canadian landscape filled with local wildlife. This book is a really special way to share the universality of the Christmas message, made relevant to a specific group of people by being placed into their own, familiar context.

Meanwhile, you just have to see the cover of Santa Knows to know that this book is going to be a fun
Santa Knows treat. Just look at those pyjamas! When it came out last year, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast said

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This one would make a rousing read-aloud to the elementary-aged children at which it’s aimed

– I definitely agree: especially as that is just the age when the questions about whether Santa exists are starting to emerge. Let Alfie F. Snorklepuss’ experiences (what a glorious name!) be a warning to all those doubters out there! And just to add to the excitement, run to the end of this Cynsations post from a few days ago, where Cynthia Leitich Smith gives details of how to ask her for a signed “Santa Knows” bookplate.

Chatting with Teens

Monday, September 17th, 2007

31 Flavorite AuthorsTo celebrate “Teen Read Week (Oct 14-20),” YALSA and Readergirlz have organized “31 Flavorite Authors for Teens,” a month-long schedule of authors available to chat with teens via Readergirlz group forum. Teens everywhere will have a chance to hobnob with the likes of Mitali Perkins (10/20), Lisa Yee (10/22), Cynthia Leitich Smith (10/29) and many others. Something they won’t want to miss out on!