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)

Poetry Friday: PaperTigers 10th Anniversary Top 10 Multicultural Children’s Poetry Books selected by Janet Wong

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Second up in our Top-10 series in celebration of PaperTigers’ 10th Anniversary, we are delighted to welcome poet Janet Wong with her choice of multicultural poetry books.  Janet is herself the acclaimed author of an impressive list of poetry collections and fiction for all ages of young people, including Twist: Yoga PoemsNight Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams and Knock on Wood: Poems about Superstitions, all stunningly illustrated by Julie Paschkis; Homegrown House illustrated by E. B. Lewis; and the middle-grade free-verse Minn and Jake novels.

Recently, Janet has embraced e-publishing with several collections of her own poetry, including Once Upon a Tiger and Declaration of Interdependence: Poems for an Election Year. She has also collaborated with Sylvia Vardell on three PoetryTagTime e-collections of poetry. You can read Janet’s thoughts about e-publishing here, and also my 2008 interview with her here.

I love that Janet has selected one book for each year of PaperTigers – which has also made me chuckle, since the list is actually now 11. You may have noticed that Deborah Ellis’  Top 10 also had eleven titles, grouping two books together.  Could this be a theme?  Perhaps, a bit like a Baker’s Dozen, a Reader’s 10 actually equals 11?!


Top 10: Multicultural Poetry Picks (2002-2012) by Janet Wong

Picking my top ten multicultural poetry books of the past decade was pretty difficult; but I managed to stick to my goal and to limit myself to only one title published in each of the ten years of the existence of PaperTigers. Here are ten books for young people that I love, some collections and some novels in verse. Please look for them at your library—and give them as gifts to your library if you can’t find them there. Read from these books aloud, a few pages now and then, when you have time. A poem is a perfect 5-minute pick-me-up, like a snack for the mind.

2002:   19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye

2003:   Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson

2004:   Under the Breadfruit Tree by Monica Gunning, illustrated by Fabricio Vanden Broeck

2005:   A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Philippe Lardy

2006:   Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

2007:   Tap Dancing on the Roof by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Istvan Banyai

2008:   Becoming Billie Holiday by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

2009:   Yum! MmMm! Que Rico! by Pat Mora, illustrated by Rafael Lopez

2010:   Amazing Faces collected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet

2011:   Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

2012:   The Wild Book by Margarita Engle


This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Irene Latham at Live Your Poem – Irene has a group zoo poem on offer today so head on over.

And P.S. We’ve just launched our own Facebook Page – PaperTigers: Books + Water – do visit us.



The Diversity in YA Fiction Tour~ May 7 – 14, USA

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

The Diversity in YA Fiction website was founded by authors Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon, to celebrate diverse stories in YA fiction. An exciting spin-off from the website, the Diversity in YA Fiction Tour is set to take place May 7 – 14 across the USA and will feature 25 authors of middle-grade and young adult fiction who just happen to have written books featuring characters who are of color or LGBT.

The idea for the tour came about last summer when the children’s literature blogosphere erupted with discussions of whitewashing book covers. In her article written for School Library Journal Malinda says:

Cindy and I are both Asian Americans, and we have never been disinterested parties in this debate. Last summer, Cindy’s first novel, Silver Phoenix, was repackaged in a way that disappointed many readers because they thought it downplayed the book’s Asian elements. At the same time, I was seeing early cover concepts from my publisher for my second novel, Huntress, which is an Asian-inspired fantasy. Believe me, it was a stressful time for both of us.

From the beginning, we shared a vision for “Diversity in YA” that emphasized celebration. Yes, the number of books published about people of color is fewer than those about white people, but there is no reason to not celebrate the books that already exist. There are so many writers telling stories about unique communities and cultures, from Jacqueline Woodson, who has been writing wonderful books about African-American and queer teens for years, to newcomer Dia Reeves, who is turning YA paranormal on its head with her quirky, bloody escapades featuring multiracial teens in Texas.

Everyone is welcome to attend this celebration of diversity, where there will be the opportunity to hail favorite books and authors, as well as to discover new ones to love. Here’s the tour schedule:

San Francisco | May 7, 2011 at 3 p.m.
Focus on Asian American YA with Cindy Pon, Gene Luen Yang, and J.A. Yang at the  San Francisco Public Library (Main Library), Latino-Hispanic Room

Austin | May 9, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.
With Bethany Hegedus, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Cindy Pon, Dia Reeves, and Jo Whittemore, and moderated by Varian Johnson at BookPeople

Chicago | May 10, 2011 from 5:30-6:45 p.m.
With Claudia Guadalupe Martinez, Nnedi Okorafor, and Cindy Pon at Barbara’s Books

Boston | May 12, 2011 at 7 p.m.
With Holly Black, Sarah Rees Brennan, Deva Fagan, Cindy Pon, and Francisco X. Stork, and moderated by Roger Sutton
at the Cambridge Public Library (Main Library)

New York | May 13, 2011 at 6:30 p.m.
Focus on LGBT YA with Cris Beam, David Levithan, and Jacqueline Woodson at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center

New York | May 14, 2011 at 1 p.m.
With Matt de la Peña, Kekla Magoon, Neesha Meminger, Cindy Pon, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Jacqueline Woodson, and moderated by Cheryl Klein at Books of Wonder

A Conversation With Katia Novet Saint-Lot on her virtual book tour for Amadi’s Snowman

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008


PaperTigers: Your life has been a tapestry of living in many cultures—in France, Spain, England, the United States, Nigeria, India. How has this helped you as a writer?

Katia: This is an interesting question. How does life in general help and/or affect us as writers? I would say every experience shapes us, and what we are shows up inevitably in what we write. I could not have written Amadi’s story if I had not lived in Nigeria. On the other hand, it must be said that a life spent traveling or living in vastly different countries (even if I also find similarities from one to another) has made me slightly jaded. I’m so used to witnessing diverse ways of living, eating, dressing, even driving a car on the road (!) that it takes more and more to surprise me. I notice that particularly when we have guests. Some of the things that amaze them, I have come to view as part of my daily routine or panorama.

PaperTigers: It’s been said that writing a picture book is as demanding as writing a poem. Each word must be precise, the use of language must be economical, and the images evocative. Longer forms of fiction can be more forgiving. Why did you choose this difficult form for Amadi’s story? And would you choose it again?

Katia:I love the picture book format. I love the conversation between the art and the words on the page, how they are meant to complement each other. I think that writers who are also artists are very lucky to be able to experience this medium in its full beauty, and difficulty. Amadi came to me that way : it was a turning point in the life of a young boy, related to a particular instance, and something that needed to be resolved quickly. And yes, I have three other picture book manuscripts that I hope will find a home. Children love pictures. They love being able to suspend the flow of a story to examine an image, notice details, talk about the expression on the face of a character, the background, etc.

PaperTigers:As a mother of two girls, why did you decide to write about a boy? Is there a “real-life” Amadi? How did you manage to enter the heart and mind of a small “Igbo man of Nigeria” and give him such complete life on the page?

Katia:There is no “real-life” Amadi, but there are lots of boys just like him. The problem of these boys dropping out of school to earn quick money in the street is very real. As for entering the heart and mind of Amadi, I think it’s the reverse. Amadi entered my own mind and started telling me his story. I just had to write it down. (more…)