Gathering books’ Pre-AFCC Glitter Post Featuring PaperTigers’ Corinne Robson

Friday, May 17th, 2013
AFCC - PaperTigers' Corinne Robson

The other day, Corinne gave a heads up to Dr. Myra Garces-Bacsal’s sparkly Pre-AFCC Glitter posts – well, today’s features Corinne herself – so head on over to the wonderful Gathering Books blog  to see what Corinne is going to be doing at AFCC…

One thing it doesn’t mention, though, is that Corinne is also on the judging panel of one of the children’s book awards that will be presented during AFCC… Just looking at the shortlists makes you gulp at the decisions she and the rest of the panel are having to make!

Looking for a little Pre-AFCC (Asian Festival of Children’s Content) Glitter?

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Myra Garces-BacsalHead on over to Dr. Myra Garces-Bacsal’s wonderful Gathering Books blog  and read her Pre-AFCC Glitter posts in which she  conductings short interviews with AFCC invited guest speakers and other conference attendees. Recent posts include Holly Thompson, Naomi Kojima, and Emily Lim. Hard to believe that AFCC starts in only a week and half! The excitement is building! Check out the official AFCC website to see all that’s in store.

Excitement building for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content ~ May 25 – 30, Singapore

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

AFCC logoThe excitement is building for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content being held May 25 – 30 in Singapore. PaperTigers is proud sponsor of the AFCC, an annual event that brings together content creators and producers with parents, teachers, librarians and anyone interested in quality Asian content for children around the world. This year’s conference will have an added emphasis on young adult literature and children’s works in translation and will be featuring Malaysia as the country of focus. Two years ago I was blessed to be able to attend the AFCC and we subsequently devoted a PaperTigers issue to Singaporean Children’s Literature and the Asian Festival of Children’s Content.  This year Marjorie and I will both be attending and to say we are cloud 9 would be an understatement!

Last week the AFCC organizers held a press conference at the host hotel, Hotel Grand Pacific, right across the street from the official festival venue, theCentral Public Library.  Head on over to Dr. Myra Garces-Bacsal’s wonderful Gathering Books blog to read about and see photos from the press conference (click here). Also, be sure to check out Myra’s Pre-AFCC Glitter posts in which she will be conducting short interviews with AFCC invited guest speakers and other conference attendees. First up is Holly Thompson who will be launching her newest YA novel The Language Inside at AFCC, Holly was raised in the USA and is a longtime resident of Japan. Her verse novel Orchards (Delacorte/Random House) won the 2012 APALA Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature  and is a YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults title. She recently edited Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories (Stone Bridge Press) and was a guest blogger on our blog last year. Click here to read her PaperTigers’ blog posts.

Marjorie and I will be participating in several of the AFCC sessions. First up for us is Marjorie’s seminar/workshop The Fine Art of Reviewing Children’s Books. Should you be attending  the AFCC we would love it if you were able to partake in this event! Details are as follows:

The Fine Art of Reviewing Children’s Books

Monday, May 27th
2:15pm – 5:45pmMarjorie_Coughlan_-_SWIC_200_250_90_s_c1

Presentation:

  • What makes a good book? What makes a good review?
  • The components of a book review.
  • Choosing books to review,

Break

Workshop:

    • Group-discussion, reviewing a book
    • Writing a review for publication

Marjorie Coughlan is the Editor of PaperTigers.org, a website and blog which seeks to highlight the richness of multicultural books from and/or about anywhere in the world, with a particular focus on the Pacific Rim and South Asia. PaperTigers.org is part of PaperTigers: Books+Water and includes the WaterBridge Outreach program.

PaperTigers 10th Anniversary: Multi-colored Threads of Home by Dr. Myra Garces-Bacsal

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Dr. Myra Garces-Bacsal is an Assistant Professor at the National Institute of Education, Singapore and was just nominated for the NIE’s 2012 Excellence in Teaching Award. In addition to teaching, Myra shares her passion for the written word through Gathering Books, a children’s literature and YA fiction website with a vibrant blog. At the 2010 Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore PaperTigers was honored to co-host a panel discussion with Myra and with Tarie Sabido of Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind. As part of our 10th Anniversary celebrations we asked Myra if she would send us her Top 10 list of multicultural books and she submitted to us this most wonderful and insightful article:

Multi-colored Threads of Home

When I first heard the term multiculturalism in children’s literature, my first thought was one of joyful celebration and anticipation. Enchanted as I am with the nature of storytelling and the lyrical beauty of words – I sensed that this celebration of diversity would give space to distinct and resounding voices, formerly silenced and marginalized. Little did I know how naïve I was. Reading the edited book by Dana Fox and Kathy Short entitled Stories Matter: The Complexity of Cultural Authenticity in Children’s Literature has provided me with a veritable spread of polemical issues, conflicting perspectives, not to mention the sociopolitical underpinnings that provide a tenable-yet-shaky frame for a more thorough understanding of multiculturalism in books for children. Gradually, I came to realize that there are multiple layers that permeate this deceptively-innocuous intention to bring the world to a child’s hands through a book. Issues range from insider-outsider perspectives (with Jacqueline Woodson’s plaintive Who can tell my story and Marc Aronson’s heartfelt A Mess of Stories) to questions of ethnic essentialism and problems of cultural authenticity. Needless to say, my views about my beloved picture books have now become more nuanced and textured as I begin to gradually appreciate the quiet struggles and the thinly-veiled tension that serve as the backdrop of these narratives for children.

When Marjorie very kindly invited me to share my top ten multicultural books for children, all these thoughts were raging through my mind. I knew that I wanted to steer clear of these thorny, hardly-resolved, and undeniably complex issues. At the same time, I wanted to go beyond folklore and festivals. I decided that I might as well develop my own criteria of picture books that spoke to me.

The list that I have here is made up of narratives with a pulse, with soulful characters who are confronted with inner demons yet are able to transcend the sordid realities of life through flights of fancies, quilting dreams, or the promise of spring. While life’s shadows take on a tangible form (be they rabbits or wolves), the reader feels a deep sense of faith with winged-hands that are unafraid to search, reach out, and ultimately discover home within one’s self.

In Allen Say’s Grandfather’s Journey, the reader gets to know the restless heart of a wanderer. In the review that I have written in GatheringBooks, I noted that:

Each page is filled with luminous paintings of places that Grandfather has been accompanied by sparse text that is one or two sentences long. While it is perfect for very young children, I envision that it would also be great for older kids who would wish to explore geography, develop a sense of space and time, while providing a means to understand one’s roots and cultural identity.

 While the story is linear, starting with grandfather’s leaving his home in Japan as a young man to “see the world” and ending in old age with grandfather’s longing left in the air for the reader to touch and grasp – each portrait seems to be filled with untold narratives, inviting the reader to sit back and imagine the possible labyrinthine stories the picture brings.

The book also touches on the concept of transnational identity as Say’s grandfather would miss the mountains of Japan while he is in California, yet he would also long for his ‘home’ in California while in Japan. There is that continual search for something elusive outside of one’s self – the search for home.

Shaun Tan’s The Arrival must be among everyone’s top ten list, as it provides a surreal and powerfully-moving representation of all the strange and odd experiences that moving to and living in another country (outside one’s own birthplace) might engender. Absolutely wordless, the monstrous scales and paper boats in the skies provide the reader with a glimpse of the various Ellis Islands of the world – human geese flying south to find refuge. The muted narratives of displacement are rendered even more compelling with the subtle snapshots of pain, inviting the readers to infuse their own ‘river of words’ as they ‘read’ through the wordless tales of deliverance.

This ‘wordless’ concept of home is also something that Jeannie Baker played around with in Mirror as the reader is regaled with the outstanding duality of what life is like in both Morocco and Sydney for two young boys. From a journey of bedtime and morning rituals as ingeniously portrayed in two different parts of the world – one is able to glimpse desert and dry land mirrored with cityscapes, cars, and airplanes. There is also the startling realization that despite the remarkable differences in appearances, there are things that connect us regardless of barriers in geography, language, cultural practices: there is always the night sky, the moon, family, food, and love.

This notion of kinship that goes beyond skin color and language is likewise evident in Brothers by the husband-and-wife tandem Yin and Chris Soentpiet. Ming, a young Chinese boy just arrived in San Francisco to live with his older brothers, who was among the first Chinese railroad workers in the city. Ming was immediately thrust into doing his family duty to mind the struggling store that they are renting to make ends meet. He was warned never to go past Chinatown, as their almond-eyed presence – while necessary for the country’s survival – was neither embraced nor accepted by the ‘locals.’ Things changed when Ming met Patrick, an Irish boy with “brown hair and eyes the color of the bright sky” as he found a friend who is like him in spirit. The two boys’ friendship illustrates how linguistic and cultural boundaries are oftentimes intangible walls of our own making.

These walls may actually prove to be insurmountable for some as could be seen in Armin Greder’s sparse-yet-intensely-gripping The Island. This picture book demonstrates how the pervasive fear towards people who are different could prove to be tragic and beyond redemption. There is darkness seeping through the pages of the book as the reader is confronted with the extent of man’s unfounded rage and haunted by the many atrocities people tend to commit in the name of fear, and how the voice of reason and compassion may easily be smothered by the shadows of what-ifs and relentless musings of the worst aspects of human nature.

In John Marsden’s The Rabbits as illustrated by Shaun Tan, the shadows are given allegorical and aesthetic form as one sees rabbits in suits and numbats in trees populating this metaphorical universe. This picture book allows the reader to take on a radical shift in perspective as one is privy to the sentiments of the locals – not the foreigner, not the immigrant who is struggling to fit in and belong – but a condensed view of colonization from the mistrustful and wounded eyes of the colonized. In the review that I have written in GatheringBooks, I noted that:

The straightforward, deceptively-simple retelling of Australia’s history is matched perfectly by Shaun Tan’s amazingly-stunning artwork that complements the narrative with dark black spaces, monochrome illustrations of how the rabbits have overtaken the entire country (“Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits. Millions and millions of rabbits. Everywhere we look there are rabbits.”), the sepia-toned undercurrents of loss and tragedy, and the deliciously-surreal representation of all that is right and unjust, pure and sullied, and what it means to stand one’s ground (regardless of how shaky and small and crumbling it is). The book is a reminder, as well, of what we value as we cry out in anguish and claim ownership of what is rightfully ours – as one’s entire world is overtaken, captured, and judged to be less than what it is.

This arbitrary yet heavily-pronounced judgment of the superiority of one cultural group as compared to another is clearly evident in Roberto Innocenti’s Rose Blanche as the reader gets to understand more clearly the gritty aspects of war through a child’s innocent eyes. I was struck by how young Rose Blanche proudly waved the Nazi flag as she and other German kids viewed the coming of the soldiers as a cause for celebration and festivity. The red-ribboned girl, however, discovered truths that even our adult minds are incapable of comprehending when she followed the soldier’s truck amidst the clearing – her innocence and youth stripped from her eyes as she sees gaunt and emaciated faces and bodies in striped pajamas. In my review of this book I wrote:

Rose Blanche is a heartbreaking reminder of the real costs of war – and the fact that nothing is worth the gaping black chasm that takes the place of youth, and friendship, and the lovely act of becoming. In war, there is nothing but abrupt ends, cut-off laughter, and discarded dreams. I invite you to open this book and celebrate the sweet song of spring – and perhaps, in time, we can indeed, create a world that is worthy of the beautiful children we have brought into this world. Collectively, we can strive to be the heroes and peacekeepers that our children have always regarded us to be.

This courage to face one’s fears and grit to go beyond one’s self is evident in Margaret Wild and Anne Spudvilas’ Woolvs in the Sitee. While the book begins with a sense of inevitable doom and resignation – a darkness that threatens to engulf – this does not overwhelm the reader who touches that bit of sunshine and warmth in the pages – primarily because it is rarely seen that it is even more apparent. There is that keenly-felt struggle to find meaning and transcend one’s pain to save another and a decisive invitation from the young protagonist, Ben, to “Joyn me” in facing one’s own ‘woolvs.’

Faith Ringgold’s Tar Beach takes us on a different quest as the readers gets to fly among quilted stars together with Cassie Louise Lightfoot, as she ‘owns’ George Washington Bridge and New York through her flights of fancies. It is an evocative graphical representation of a young girl’s resilience amidst poverty as seen in Ringgold’s stunning story-quilts-transformed-into-picture-book. It is a celebration of a child’s indomitable spirit as she declares the world to be hers for the taking while she pursues her dreams in winged feet and star-filled eyes.

I end my list though with poetry as I share the amazing collaboration between Maya Angelou and the gifted graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat in Life Does not Frighten Me. I must have read this book more than a dozen times as the lines sounded more like a whispered prayer to me – an antidote against things that go bump and creep in thine soul: ghostly clouds and barking canines, big old meanies and fire-breathing dragons. A perfect gift as well to the Paper Tigers ladies as they celebrate their tenth year anniversary. In this beautiful picture book, the reader is given a dream catcher, an amulet, a magic spell that would shatter the darkest of evils and make the shadows go crawling back where they come from – with the powerful words:

 I go boo
Make them shoo
I make fun
Way they run
I won’t cry
So they fly
I just smile
They go wild
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

More treats in store at the 2012 Asian Festival of Children’s Content ~ Singapore

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

More news about the upcoming 2012 Asian Festival of Children’s Content taking place this month in Singapore! Head on over to Gathering Books and read their blog post “Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2012: A Luscious Feast“! Lots of great photos to enjoy too.

Poetry Friday: Be Not Defeated by the Rain — Poetry for Tsunami Survivors of 3/11

Friday, March 9th, 2012

March 11 marks the first year anniversary of the disastrous earthquake and tsunami that hit northern Japan.  One event that will commemorate the disaster as well as raise funds for ongoing work in the area for teenagers particularly,  is the launching of the Tomo anthology (Stonebridge Press) on March 10.   The Tomo anthology was conceived of by writer Holly Thompson of Japan as a fundraiser for teens in the Tohoku region.  An array of writing was assembled and edited by Thompson, the result of which is a beautiful collection of writing aimed at young adults.  Recently, on the Tomo blog, interviews with some of the writers/translators have been appearing and one such translator is David Sulz, who translated the well known Kenji Miyazawa poem Ame no Mikazu (“Be Not Defeated by the Rain.”) A deceptively simple poem, “Be Not Defeated by the Rain,” is a manifesto of sorts, oddly humble and defiant at the same time.  Its message speaks deeply of a man’s singular determination to overcome the vagaries of nature by being the best he can be to others in his community.   I have loved this poem since I first read it, and it seems an appropriate poem for this anniversary.  I’m glad to see it included in this anthology.

Poetry Friday this week is hosted by Myra at Gathering Books.

 

 

“A Delectable Taster of Picture Books from Singapore” by Myra Garces-Bacsal of Gathering Books

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Myra Garces-Bacsal of Gathering Books fame has just written a Personal View for us – “A Delectable Taster of Picture Books from Singapore”:

Ever since the birth of Gathering Books a year ago, I have endeavored to know more about children’s literature in Singapore, the Little Red Dot that is my current home now. When Marjorie emailed me about putting together my Personal View on children’s books in Singapore, I knew I would have a tough time – but an enjoyable one as well. And being the researcher that I am, I headed straight to the library to immerse myself in more and more children’s books written and illustrated by Singaporean authors.

Among the qualities I observed from the variety of picture books that I took pleasure in reading was that most of the narratives (1) are informative; (2) are meant to educate or share some knowledge concerning an individual’s developmental disorder/illness; (3) highlight some environmental issue or societal concern; or (4) provide some random fact about animals, place, or groups of people. Given that Singapore is an excellence-driven society with a high premium on education, this does not surprise me at all. Despite the country’s being a ‘tiny red dot’ on the map, I continue to be amazed at the variety of picture books that are available that so effectively demonstrate the richness of Singapore’s heritage and history.

Head on over to the PaperTigers website to read the rest of Myra’s article, including her selection of picture books… I guarantee that you, like me, will be trying to work out a way to get hold of them! Here’s a delectable taster:

Reading the World Challenge 2011 – Update 2

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011


During the couple of months since my last update, we’ve included several books for the PaperTigers Reading the World Challenge in our reading.

As well as Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, which I blogged about last week, we have read Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord together, an exciting read from beginning to end. It’s the story of two German boys Prosper and Bo, who, after the death of their mother, run away from the aunt who wants to give a home only to the younger Bo. They go to Venice, because their mother filled them with stories of the city’s magic, and there they end up living in an abandoned cinema with some other stray children, under the protection of Scipio aka the Thief Lord, who is not much older than them. They find plenty of adventure and magic of their own, not to mention a certain amount of disaster and worry, before the story reaches its ultimately satisfying conclusion.

Bedtimes stretched out as we found it harder and harder to put the book down, and it was just as well we reached the school holidays about 80 pages before the end, because we were then able to swallow the last eleven chapters whole in one wonderful morning!

Little Brother (10) has read his non-fiction selection: three of the books in Fifth House Publishers/Fitzhenry and Whiteside’s wonderful The Land is Our Storybook series. Here’s what he says about them:

We Feel Good Out Here by Julie-Ann André and Mindy Willett, Photographs by Tessa Macintosh (2008):

I liked the story about how Atachuunkaii, the man in the canoe tricked a giant called Ch’ii Choo.

The Delta is My Home by Tom McLeod and Mindy Willett, photographs by Tessa Macintosh (2008):

I enjoyed the bit about the muskrat push ups – it was really interesting and I liked the pictures because they were funny – and impressive because Tom McLeod drew them himself.

Come and Learn With Me by Sheyenne Jumbo and Mandy Willett, photographs by Tessa MacIntosh (2010):

I liked the “Clean Socks” story about Ashley and Selena, who was her mum. Sheyenne wrote it – I haven’t read Robert Munsch’s book called Smelly Socks, which is actually what inspired her – but her story is about new socks – also because she can’t get socks where she lives.

All in all: (more…)

Short Reflections and Photo Blog on the Panel Discussion for the AFCC from Gathering Books

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Via Gathering Books

Finally! The event that we have arduously prepared for in the last several weeks is now past and gone. As part of the pre-AFCC (Asian Festival of Children’s Content) festivities, we have just done a panel discussion on “Building a Nation of Readers via Web 2.0″ featuring yours truly from GatheringBooks, Corinne from Paper Tigers, and Tarie from Asia in the Heart World on the Mind.

We started promptly at 5:30 and ended around 7pm. We had quite a good turnout, nearly around 40 individuals including ourselves (and my daughter and husband, of course). Here are some photos taken from the event:

 

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(L-R): Tarie from Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind; Myra from GatheringBooks, Corinne from Paper Tigers

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I was giving the introduction here, I believe

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Talking about the History of our Blogs

Essentially, the flow of the discussion centered on several themes/key issues:

The history of our blog: what is the story behind our websites?
What is the kidlitosphere and the YA Blogosphere?
Networking and Collaboration: How we establish links and networking with authors, publishers, book bloggers, fellow bibliophiles, educators
How do we build a nation of readers via Web 2.0: What is the future of book blogging? How has it evolved through the years, and how do you think it would evolve in the next coming years?

 

The exchange was truly dynamic, animated, and interactive. We were fortunate to have an audience who was keen to find out more about Web 2.0, blogging, and were sharp enough to point out issues and concerns such as safety on the internet, reviews of e-books, and how exactly can a nation of readers be built through the internet. There was a question raised as to whether we are preaching to the converted, since we essentially build a network of fellow bibliophiles who are connected on the net, anyway. Does it translate to those who may not be within the virtual world?

It is only now, upon reflection, that I realize that there may have been several points that I could have shared which might have escaped me earlier. Regarding the building of a nation of readers, we have pointed out that our websites can be used as a medium through which we can reach more marginalized children coming from disadvantaged communities through outreach programs such as the the one being initiated by PaperTigers and our 1:4:1000 Book Drive where we hope to donate 1000 books to 4 public schools in Samar for our 1st Year Anniversary this June/July.

 

Over and above the outreach programs we do, I think we may have failed to emphasize that prior to knowing about the kidlitosphere and the YA blogosphere, we were clueless Facebook netizens and Twitter enthusiasts and internet-aficionados who have zero awareness that such a world (kidlitosphere, etc) exist! My own personal take on this is that discovering this world as a bibliophile may be one of my greatest highs in years! Just the knowledge that I can be part of this nation of readers: avid readers, angry readers, animated readers, insightful readers, critical readers [and that there is a platform for a celebration of this sheer geekiness] – is truly a gift – and brings about its own positive vibe and weaves this beautiful synergy among like-minded individuals with similar interests and passion.

Thank you to everyone who attended and dropped by. And to Book Council for organizing everything so seamlessly and beautifully. It is exciting to have Tarie and Corinne here in Singapore. The knowledge that I have several more days to enjoy their vibrant presence (along with so many others who are attending the AFCC) is simply astounding. Looking forward to this day and the next (and the next).

Asian Festival of Children’s Content Starts Today!

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Today is the day! The Asian Festival of Children’s Content starts in a few hours with the Keynote Speech “What is the Future of Children’s Publishing” by Stephen Mooser (USA). After that the day is jam-packed with events to choose from. I will be attending sessions by Christopher Cheng (Australia), illustrator YangSook Choi (Korea), author Holly Thompson (Japan/USA), Pooja Makhijani (Singapore/USA) and John McKenzie (New Zealand).

Last night’s pre-festival panel discussion that I hosted with Tarie Sabido (Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind) and Dr. Myra Garces-Bacsal (Gathering Books) was a success. Over 40 people attended and took part in our discussion Building a Nation of Readers via Web 2.0: An Introduction to Kidlitosphere and the YA Blogosphere . Thanks to all those who attended and a special thanks to Tarie and Myra who were such lovely ladies to work with!