Poetry Friday ~ PaperTigers 10th Anniversary: My Top Ten Picks by Sally Ito

Friday, November 9th, 2012

[Time is running out to enter our Tenth Anniversary Draw – the deadline is tomorrow – so if you haven’t already, take a look here for the chance to win some fantastic prizes for you or your school or library]

Sally Ito is a poet, editor and translator living in Winnipeg, Canada, where she also teaches Creative Writing; she is currently writer.  Sally was  a book reviewer and contributor to the PaperTigers blog until earlier this year and wrote many of our contributions to Poetry Friday during that time (which is why we decided to post Sally’s selection on a Poetry Friday day!).  So we are delighted to welcome her back with her Top Ten list of favourite books, encountered through her work with PaperTigers.

As a prelude, do listen to Sally reading the title poem from her collection Alert to Glory (Turnstone Press, 2011) in the video below.

My Top Ten Picks by Sally Ito

When I joined the Paper Tigers blog contributor team in 2008, the thing I was most excited about was getting to read and review great multicultural books for kids.  What I discovered was a plethora of wonderful books that reflected who I was culturally and who my community was, culturally, as well.  From my short time with PaperTigers, these are my ten picks of multicultural books for kids.  It’s a little Japan-heavy, I realize but I hope you indulge my bias!

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan (Allen & Unwin, 2008) – I found this quirky picture book amazing and it was an inspiration for me when I was teaching to take my creative writing students out into our immediate neighborhood (an historic district called The Exchange) in Winnipeg to see what we could make of our environment in a creative way.

Naomi’s Tree by Joy Kogawa, illustrated by Ruth Ohi (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2008).  This book is about a cherry tree and a Japanese Canadian girl who grew up with it and was separated from it by the circumstances of the Second World War.  This book was a personal favorite since the author’s history reflects my own family’s in Canada.

Granny’s Giant Bannock by Brenda Isabel Wastasecoot, illustrated by Kimberly McKay-Fleming (Pemmican, 2008).  This is one hilarious book about a Cree-speaking grandmother and her grandson Larf who accidentally bakes a giant bannock by misunderstanding his grandmother’s instructions on how to make the doughy confection from scratch.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, translated by Cathy Hirano (Scholastic, 2009).  This book is a translation of a popular fantasy series that was also made into a TV series.  The story is set in early imperial Japan and features a woman warrior named Balsa who protects the son of the emperor, Chagum, as he carries within him a spirit from another dimension who must lodge in a human host in order to survive.

The Song of the Cicada by Shizue Ukaji.  This is a Japanese book, yet untranslated into English, that I discovered while living in Japan in 2011.  It’s an Ainu folktale illustrated with textile creations made by Ukaji herself.  It’s the story of a woman who prophesies disaster – namely a tsunami – to her people and what becomes of her as a result.  A timely read for the year I was visiting the country.

The Fox’s Window and Other Stories by Naoko Awa, translated by Toshiya Kamei.  This is a collection of short stories spanning a career of writing by Japanese author Naoko Awa.  Magical, enchanting and absorbing are the words I’d use to describe these stories, which have also been referred to as ‘modern fairytales.’

David’s Trip to Paraguay by Miriam Rudolph.  A bilingual book with German and English text, this story is about a young Mennonite boy named David who travels to Paraguay from Canada in the late 1920s.  Rudolph, an artist, charts the arduous journey with vivid and colorful illustrations of the things David sees on the trip.

Gifts: Poems for Parents edited by Rhea Tregebov (Sumach Press, 2002).  We say we read to our children for their sake, but it’s just as true that we read to feed ourselves, too.  Poetry is a kind of bread for the soul, and this particular treasury of poems by Canadians really fed me as a poet and a parent.

Bifocal by Deborah Ellis and Eric Walters.  This is one book I read in part with my son, who later went on to have the book assigned to him for his English class in junior high school.  It’s about two teenagers – Haroon and Jay – who have to negotiate their cultural identities during a tense lockdown situation at their high school.

Aya by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie.  I started covering graphic novels for PaperTigers a few years ago as I felt this was a developing trend in books for young people.  And this book was one of my favorites!  Aya is about a young woman growing up in Cote D’Ivoire, looking to become a medical student, but whose life is inevitably shaped and influenced by those around her with less lofty goals than her.

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Ed at Think Kid, Think – head on over.

Shaun Tan at Seven Stories

Friday, August 26th, 2011

On Wednesday, Older Brother, Little Brother and I had the thrill of hearing this year’s Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award winner Shaun Tan speak at Seven Stories in Newcastle, during his whistle-stop visit to the UK. I’ve loved his work since being mesmerised by The Arrival four years ago; and we’ve also had the privilege of featuring Shaun’s work in our PaperTigers Gallery. Shaun’s picture books truly tap into something essential in our existence so that no matter how old you are and whatever your life experience, there is something there for everyone to absorb and distill. His books have had a big impact on the boys too, and it was a real eye-opener for them to meet their creator and hear about the drawn out process and sheer hard work that goes into producing a book. Now we are all desperate to see the Oscar-winning short of The Lost Thing!

Older Brother was most struck by Shaun saying that imperfection was a “very important concept for an artist”; and that he is always aiming for simplicity, because it’s through that apparent simplicity that he can achieve layer upon layer of meaning. Then accompanying the text with unexpected illustrations to create further tensions – but he pointed out that he wouldn’t call his work surreal per se: rather, the unexpected juxtaposition of familiar objects in his work is what is surreal.

Little Brother especially loved the first in Shaun’s series of cartoons depicting a day in his life: Waking to the Sound of a Solitary Cicada – a huge cicada looming in through the open window. He’s still laughing about that (but, as is so often the case with Shaun’s work, for me, the more I think about it, the more the funniness is tempered with a feeling of unease…). Little Brother also came home thinking about the humor and tensions achieved by people/creatures doing extrordinary things as though they are completely normal – like feeding Christmas decorations to a huge, friendly monster-machine aka the Lost Thing. And when Shaun pointed out that, as per the element of the familiar present in all his creations, the Lost Thing is a cross between a dog, a horse and an elephant, yes, you can absolutely see it.

I was bowled over by (more…)

Crisscrossing the Globe: a World of International Books for Young People

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Crisscrossing the Globe: a World of International Books for Young People is an article in the 2/1/2010 issue of School Library Journal describing USBBY’s 2010 Outstanding International Books list. Written by Elizabeth Poe, the article includes annotations for all the books recognized. The outstanding lineup of titles includes My Little Round House (selected for the Spirit of PaperTigers book set donation project), Sopa de Frijoles, Wanting Mor, Hannah’s Winter, Tales from Outer Suburbia, and more.

This annual list is one of the activities of USBBY, the US chapter of IBBY, the International Board on Books for Young Readers, whose aim is to promote international understanding and good will through books for children and young adults. A goal very much in line with PaperTigers’ own.

And speaking of USBBY, the organization is currently seeking applicants for the 2011 Bridge to Understanding Award. The award recognizes a program that promotes reading as a way to expand a child’s world. Any organization (such as schools, libraries, clubs, scout troops), within the United States, that has a program for children using books and reading as a way of promoting an understanding of cultures/countries outside the United States is eligible to apply. The selection committee will consider such criteria as the number of children reached by the program and the impact on the community as demonstrated by publicity coverage or anecdotal evidence. To be considered for the 2011 award, the program must occur during 2010. Download an application, or visit the website for more information.

Shaun Tan interview…

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

In this interview, author and illustrator Shaun Tan talks to BookBits about his book Tales from Outer Suburbia, which has just won the Children’s Book Council of Australia Older Readers Book of the Year Award.

With thanks to Fiction is like a box of chocolates for highlighting this. I do so agree with what they say: “Some people have a talent, but few are as multi-talented and original as Shaun Tan.” After The Arrival and now Tales from Outer Suburbia, what will he take our breath away with next?

From around the Kidlitosphere…

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

The Children’s Book Council of Australia has just announced the winners of this year’s awards. I’ve spotted two of my favorite books of the past year among them: Shaun Tan’s Tales from Outer Suburbia (Winner, Older Readers Book of the Year) and Home and Away by John Marsden, illustrated by Matt Ottley (Honour, Picture Book of the Year). Read this rather sobering post from The Book Chook outlining the awards and highlighting possible changes afoot in Australian publishing and their potential effect on the many wonderful small independent publishers in Australia.

Just One More Book has this podcast about Ten Days and Nine Nights: An Adoption Story by Yumi Heo.

Shelf Elf has a review of Mitali PerkinsSecret Keeper (you can also read PaperTigers’ review here).

And read Chicken Spaghetti’s great post, “Neesha Meminger on Kids’ Books by South Asian Authors” – including Neesha’s South Asian selection of books she would add to the CCBC’s list of “50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know” – apparently soon to become 75… – Hmmm – take a look at the list and tell us what you would add…