Why Hasn’t the Number of Multicultural Books Increased In Eighteen Years?

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Must read article on publisher LEE & LOW’s blog: Why Hasn’t the Number of Multicultural Books Increased In Eighteen Years?

One of the few minority-owned publishing companies in the United States, co-founded in 1991 by Tom Low and Philip Lee, LEE & LOW Books is an independent multicultural children’s book publisher whose goal is to publish stories all children can relate to. Since its first list, in 1993, LEE & LOW has published an impressive lineup of over 200 titles, many of which have been translated to Spanish and won a number of major awards and honors. In 2000, LEE & LOW launched the imprint BEBOP BOOKS, which extends the company’s mission by bringing diverse stories to children who are just beginning to read.

In 2010, TU PUBLISHING, an independent press focusing on diverse fantasy, science fiction, and mystery for middle grade and young adult readers, was acquired and in 2012 Children’s Book Press (CBP), the first multicultural children’s book publisher in the United States, became an imprint of LEE & LOW. Read PaperTigers’ 2010 Q and A session with Jason Low of LEE & LOW here.

Must read literacy articles in the The New York Times.

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Two must read articles recently published in the The New York Times: For Young Latino Readers, an Image Is Missing and Books to Match Diverse Young Readers. “Introductory chapter books aimed at second, third and fourth grade readers overwhelmingly reflect a suburban milieu with white protagonists.  Students of other races and ethnicities seldom encounter characters like themselves in books, and some education experts say that can be an obstacle to literacy.” Read what teachers, students, parents and literacy advocates have to say about this and then use The New York Times interactive page to click on book titles that feature main characters who are black, Latino, Asian, American Indian or Alaska Native and read the beginning of each book.

Week-end Book Review ~ Little Treasures: Endearments from Around the World by Jacqueline K. Ogburn and Chris Raschka

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

Jacqueline K. Ogburn, illustrated by Chris Raschka,
Little Treasures: Endearments from Around the World
Houghton Mifflin Books, 2012.

Ages 4-8

Most people have heard a parent calling their child “honey” (USA), “ducky” (UK) or “possum” (Australia). What about “kullanmuru” (nugget of gold) or “misiaczk” (bear cub)? While these may not sound familiar to some, to citizens of Finland and Poland, these are commonplace names that are heard every day.

As a young girl, author Jacqueline K. Ogburn always loved picture books, and anyone that picks up Little Treasures: Endearments from Around the World gets a sense of her passion. In this latest title, Ogburn has collected some of the most popular terms of endearment from around the world and presents them in this beautifully illustrated book. While Ogburn could have chosen to focus solely on the more commonplace languages (Mandarin, Spanish, and English), she has gone above and beyond by including endearments from countries such as Uganda, the Slovak Republic, and Finland. Even better is that alongside each endearment in its native language she not only includes the English translation but also the endearment’s phonetic pronunciation so that “readers can try to say all these sweet beautiful words…to express love for their children.”

The pictures, by award-winning illustrator Chris Raschka, were created using ink, watercolor, and gouache, and they complement Ogburn’s words perfectly. Raschka has created a sense of internationalism by adding certain details specific to each country, such as incorporating the colors of the country’s flag’s into the clothing (for example: blue, white and gold for Argentina) or including a woman in a burqa among the Arabic-speaking families. There is a certain playfulness to the characters as well, from the rainbow-palette of skin colors to a child’s lopsided smile, and the random stars, flowers, and animals that can be found among the children and their parents.

Along with the overall message that children are loved the world over, readers both young and old will delight in the vibrancy and excitement that comes with learning about a new culture and language, not to mention a few foreign words! Ogburn and Raschka have created a book that shows love is the same all over, no matter what culture, country, or continent you’re from.

Keilin Huang
August 2012

PaperTigers’ Global Voices: René Colato Laínez (USA/El Salvador) ~ Part 2

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

My Life in the United States ~ by René Colato Laínez

Part 2 of 3 (Read Part 1 “The War in El Salvador” here)

For Christmas of 1984, my mother sent me a new pair of shoes from the United States. I still remember my father’s words, “These are good gringos shoes. These are very good shoes for the trip to the United States.”

On February 17 1985, my father and I left El Salvador. Two days later, we arrived in Mexico City. Then, we were stuck in Mexico City for almost two months. We could not continue our journey because Mexican immigration took all the money from my father. It wasn’t until April that my mother sent us more money for our trip. During my journey, my father and I crossed three countries and climbed the mountains from Tijuana to the United States. But we made it to Los Angeles. My shoes were not new anymore. They had holes everywhere. One shoe was missing the sole.

There are certain moments that mark your like forever. My journey and my new life in the United States as a new immigrant created a big impact in me and in my writing. In my book, My Shoes and I, I tell the story of my journey and in my other books I write about the new immigrant child in the United States. Most of my books are based in my life and some are autobiographical just like René Has Two Last Names/René tiene dos apellidos and I Am René, the Boy/ Soy René, el niño.

I experienced the silent period and many culture shocks. In El Salvador René is a boy’s name. I could not believe it that in the United States my beautiful name was a girl’s name, Renee. Children not only laughed because I had a girl’s name but also because I had two last names, “Your name is longer than an anaconda” “You have a long dinosaur’s name.”

I was able to adapt to the new country. I studied really hard and graduated with honors from high school. Then, I went to college and became a teacher. But I did not have legal papers yet. My mother became a resident thanks to the amnesty program. She applied for my papers but it was 1993 and I had not received my green card. I started to work as a teacher because I got a work permit. For two years, I received letters from LAUSD, “We need to have evidence of your legal status. Your work permit will expire soon.” But finally in 1995, I received the famous immigration letter. Yes! I had an appointment to get my green card. It was not green after all. It was pink!

The ideas to write many of my books are born in the classroom. One day, a first grader told me, “I want to write a letter to my mamá. She is in Guatemala and I miss her so much.” That night I wrote a story named Waiting for Papá/ Esperando a Papá and it became my first published book. This book is based on my life. I wrote about the war in El Salvador and my feelings when my parents were away from me. I added the situation of a boy waiting for his father in the United States. Just like in the case of my first grader who was waiting for his mother.

A few years ago, one of my kinder students was crying because her father was deported to Mexico. Soon all my students told me that they knew someone who was deported too. This was my inspiration to write From North to South/ Del norte al sur. In my book, Jose’s mother is deported to Tijuana and now he and his father travel from north to south, San Diego to Tijuana, to visit her in her new home, Casa Madre Assunta, a shelter for deported women and children.

I got the idea to write the The Tooth Fairy Meets El Raton Perez when I heard my next-door teacher screaming and ready to go to the office. One boy told her that a mouse took his tooth the night before and that he loves that mouse because he visited his house often. There were five children living in the same house. “This child lives among mice and rats. I need to call social service,” she said to me. She did not go to the office after I told her about that special mouse. It was El Ratón Pérez, the tooth mouse collector in Latin America and Spain. In Spanish speaking countries there is not a tooth fairy. There is a Mouse, El Ratón Pérez.

My ex-students usually come back to visit me when they are in high school or college. Many of them have lost their Spanish skills by this time. I want to instill in these students and my future students the importance of being bilingual. This was my inspiration to write Playing Lotería/ El juego de la lotería. In this book a boy practiced his Spanish in Mexico while he played lotería with his grandmother.

I will continue to write more books but my goal will be always be the same, to produce good multicultural children’s literature; stories where minority children are portrayed in a positive way, where they can see themselves as heroes, and where they can dream and have hopes for the future.

René Colato Laínez is the Salvadoran award-winning author of many multicultural children’s books including  The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez, From North to South, René Has Two Last Names, I Am René, the Boy, Playing Lotería and My Shoes and I. He is a graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults. René is “the teacher full of stories” at Fernangeles Elementary School. In his books, you can find culture, fun and hope for the future. Visit him at www.renecolatolainez.com and read our 2006 interview with him here.

We are thrilled to have René  join us as PaperTigers’ Global Voices Guest Blogger for the month of July. Part 1 of his series “The War in El Salvador” was posted here while Part 3 will be posted here on the blog on July 25th.

InCultureParent Article: Ten Reasons Parents Should Read Multicultural Books to Kids by Meera Sriram

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

InCultureParent.com - Raising little global citizens. InCultureParent is an online magazine for parents whose mission is to foster great understanding across cultures through the lens of parenting. The magazine offers articles on raising multicultural and multilingual children, parenting around the world, columns on the religious life of children, international adoption and multicultural living, blogs, global holidays/crafts/recipes, multicultural children’s book reviews and much more. Be sure to read today’s article Ten Reasons Parents Should Read Multicultural Books to Kids by Meera Sriram!

Spirit of PaperTigers Outreach ~ Books and Water: Nourishing the Mind and Body

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Over the past few months the PaperTigers’ website has been focusing on the theme of Water in Multicultural Children’s Books. We chose this theme in part because  it coincides with our Spirit of PaperTigers Outreach project. The Spirit of PaperTigers (SPT) Outreach seeks to further the overall goals of the PaperTigers Program: bridging cultures and opening minds, promoting greater understanding and empathy among young people from different backgrounds, countries, and ethnicities. More specifically, SPT outreach works to advance education through books and reading, and development through clean and accessible water.

Since 2009, the PaperTigers Program has put books into the hands of young readers through schools and libraries, encouraging literacy, developing understanding and making reading a lifelong habit.  Taking this work a step further, SPT outreach is seeking to ensure that, in areas where there is water stress or water scarcity, the children to whom the books are sent will have access to clean water and good sanitation. The possibility of effective education in certain parts of the world is linked to the basic realities of food and water.  By focusing on books and water together – nourishing both the mind and body – SPT continues to promote literacy and encourage children to become “hungry readers.”


Every year we send carefully chosen books to particular schools and libraries in various parts of the world. The books chosen seek to provide “multicultural” or “trans-cultural” stories that promote awareness of, knowledge about, and positive acceptance of “the other” in ways children can learn and enjoy. We are convinced of the crucial role of literacy and reading in an education that fosters understanding and empathy.

While many organizations are doing excellent work in getting books to children through schools and libraries in areas of need, the specific focus of the SPT outreach is, each year, not only to select a set of books whose content and focus enhance the goals of reading and literacy, but to engage in particular areas in water projects that assist a school/village to have access to clean water and sanitation. SPT’s first water projects have been successfully completed in Tamil Nadu, India, La Gonav, Haiti, and Kiphire, Nagaland, India with future water projects under consideration in Guatemala  and the USA.

In addition to working with others to provide access to clean water, SPT hopes to reduce the effects of such diseases as diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, and river blindness contracted through contact with unsafe water and poor sanitation, or malaria and dengue fever contracted through stagnant water, which continues to have devastating effects on health – particularly on children.  Without adequate sanitation, education remains a distant dream for many children. Particular focus will also be given to the education of girls, where their development is often seriously impeded by long exhausting hours transporting water each day to their homes from distant water sources – water sources that are often contaminated and used by animals and humans alike.

To learn more about SPT and to read feedback from the participants, click here to be taken to the Spirit of PaperTigers Outreach website.

CBC (Children’s Book Council) Diversity Committee

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Earlier this year the Children’s Book Council (located in the USA) launched the  CBC Diversity Committee in order to:

increase the diversity of voices and experiences contributing to children’s literature. To create this change, the Committee strives to build awareness that the nature of our society must be represented within the children’s publishing industry.

We endeavor to encourage diversity of race, gender, geographical origin, sexual orientation, and class among both the creators of and the topics addressed by children’s literature. We strive for a more diverse range of employees working within the industry, of authors and illustrators creating inspiring content, and of characters depicted in children’s literature.

Click here to visit the CBC Diversity Committee Blog and here to access their Resources page which contains information put together by the Committee for anyone interested in producing, promoting, buying, or writing diverse books for children.

Click here to read John A. Sellers’ recent Publisher Weekly article CBC Diversity Committee: Starting Conversations and Building a Following.

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

Q&A with Barefoot Books, publisher of "Little Leap Forward: A Boy in Beijing"

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

barefoot-booksEstablished in 1992 by Nancy Traversy and Tessa Strickland, Barefoot Books is a children’s book publisher based in Bath, UK and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. It publishes multicultural books that, in addition to providing high-quality content, pay great attention to art and design. One of the company’s core values is to use art and stories “to create deep and lasting connections—whether it’s a child and parent connecting over a book; a child connecting to the universal wisdom of other cultures; or a broad network of people connecting through shared values and the desire to help children become happy, engaged members of a global community.”

Tessa Strickland, Barefoot Books’ co-founder and editor-in-chief, answered our questions about Little Leap Forward: A Boy in Beijing, one of the seven books selected for inclusion in our Spirit of PaperTigers Book Set Donation Project, and about other topics related to the company and to multicultural children’s literature.


PT: How did Little Leap Forward: A Boy in Beijing come about as a project for Barefoot Books?

TS: This project came about in quite a circuitous way. First, I was contacted by Clare Farrow, who wanted to know if I was interested in having her retell any traditional Chinese tales. In the course of our conversation, I learnt that she and her husband, Guo Yue, had just completed a manuscript about his life, Music, Food and Love. It so happened that this telephone conversation came about just as I was starting to cast around for stories for older readers, and I was fascinated by what Clare told me about Yue’s childhood in Beijing. So, I asked to read a copy of the manuscript.

PT: When you acquired the manuscript, did you know from the get go that you would publish it as an illustrated middle grade book, or was the decision regarding full plate illustrations made later in the process?

TS: When I read Music, Food and Love (Piatkus, 2006), I thought that the best way to tell Yue’s story to children would be to focus on the summer of 1966. The manuscript went through about four drafts and was a close collaboration between Yue and Clare, me, and an excellent editor, Anne Finnis. The decision to make full-plate illustrations was made once we had a manuscript that everyone was happy with.

PT: What can you tell us about the pairing of Guo Yue and Clare Farrow’s text with Helen Cann‘s art?

TS: We have done a number of books with Helen Cann; I knew that she would be a delight to work with. Not only is she very talented, she is also extremely interested in developing her own style and in working
collaboratively. She had some very fruitful meetings and discussions with Clare and Yue, who were both extremely happy with her illustrations.

PT: How do you think the public’s attitude toward multicultural books for children has changed since Barefoot Books was founded, in 1992? Are there any major differences between the US and the UK markets in that regard?

TS: As Barefoot has always focused on multicultural books, it is hard to say with very much claim to objectivity how (more…)

Call to a New Year's Resolution… more books by writers of color

Monday, December 14th, 2009

As we approach the end of one year and the beginning of the next, we tend to face two directions, reflecting on events past and looking forward to the future. The Roman god Janus comes to mind! In the past few months discussion about ethnic diversity in books has come to the fore, with a certain amount of scrutiny of the publishing world and what could be done to ensure that more books are made available by writers of color. If you haven’t already done so, take some time to read Laura Atkins’ paper on “white privilege in children’s publishing” from this summer’s IRSCL conference, as well as the many in-depth comments attached to it. It may have been written three months ago but these are issues that are not going to go away – yet!

Some writers have blogged about it more recently – Zetta Elliott (who also followed up on her post with an insightful interview of Laura, entitled From the Other Side: An Editor Speaks Out!) and Neesha Meminger have both contributed to what will no doubt be an on-going discussion. Uma Krishnaswami also commented on this (since withdrawn…) blogpost and these words really resonated with me:

there are some of us now who are trying to write beyond the boxes, beyond the simple classifications or the books that are *about* culture or race. In this time of economic stress it’s even more important to make sure we don’t slide back to old insularities!

I think we all need to make a New Year’s resolution that we won’t allow these issues to be conveniently side-tracked. On a recent visit to San Francisco I came away laden from several independent and second-hand bookshops with books that I have got to know through PaperTigers – but I found it very unsettling to say the least that in the large children’s section of an enormous chain bookshop I also visited, I could only find two books – two books!!! So there are not just issues of publishing to be contended with, but also marketing and distribution. And in these times of “economic stress” , we take our hats off to those publishers who are producing a consistently wonderful array of multicultural titles. We do need to keep the voices for diversity heard, written by a diversity of voices, which includes more writers of colour; and we need to ensure that readers from all backgrounds have access to a diverse range of reading material – because that is the only way that kids will be able to fit their own stitches into the vast multicultural tapestry of life.