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 – My Top 10 Multicultural Ghost Stories

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

I thought I’d counted very carefully, honest guv’nor, but somehow one extra ghost snuck in there – I’m not sure which one – and I’ve ended up with a ‘Reader’s 10’. (If you’re not sure what a Reader’s 10 is, you’ll need to look at Janet Wong’s Top 10: Multicultural Poetry Picks (2002-2012)). So here’s a list of my favorite ghost encounters – they cover a range of age-groups and genres. Some of the ghosts are friendly, some make you ponder, and some are just plain terrifying…

~ The Young Inferno by John Agard, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura – I’ve blogged about this modern take on Dante’s Inferno for a teen audience here and here.  It sends shivers down my spine every time I read it.

~ Takeshita Demons by Cristy Burne – Miku has just moved from Japan to the UK and it soon becomes clear that several yokai demons have followed her there.  When her little brother is kidnapped, her empty, snow-bound secondary school unexpectedly becomes a battle-ground… this will have you on the edge of your seat!

~ Ship of Souls by Zetta Elliott – I read this earlier this year on a very choppy ferry crossing and was so riveted that I remained oblivious to the scene of sea-sick desolation around me – yes, I loved it.  Read my review here.

~ Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara – it was love at first sight here with both the illustrations and the sweet story of a witch and her cat who move into a new house that’s full of ghosts.  Imagine putting ghosts through the washer and hanging them up as curtains!

~ Hannah’s Winter by Kierin Meehan – Hannah meets more than she bargained for when she goes to stay with Japanese family friends for the winter – and readers might just have to sleep with the light on after being carried along through the pages into the small wee hours!

~ Just In Case by Yuyi Morales – in this gorgeous sequel to the equally funny and delightful Just A Minute, the ghost of Zelmiro “helps” Señor Calavera to find twenty-two (Spanish Alphabet) presents for Grandma Beetle’s birthday – and tricks him into giving her what she wants most…

~ Requiem for a Beast by Matt Ottley – there are many ghosts in this tour de force combining spoken and written text, graphic narrative, and music that blends Australian Aboriginal song and movements from the Latin Requiem: both in the lost memories of the stolen generation, and at the end of a young man’s physical and psychological journeys to come to terms with his family’s past.

~ Home of the Brave by Allen Say – a man’s kayaking excursion suddenly brings him into a bewildering, dreamlike encounter with the ghosts of Japanese-American children incarcerated during the Second World War, and jolts him into insight of his own family history.

~ The Barefoot Book of Giants, Ghosts and Goblins retold by John Matthews, illustrated by Giovanni Manna – as might be expected from a Barefoot anthology, this is a beautifully presented and the nine stories from all over the world make great read-alouds. Most notable among the ghosts is the love-sick Cheyenne “Ghost with Two Faces”.

~ The Secret Keepers by Paul Yee – I have to admit, I had real difficulty deciding which one of Paul Yee’s ghost stories to choose for this list… They are all compelling books that are impossible to put down so I’ve gone for The Secret Keepers for purely personal reasons because I was there at the launch and heard Paul reciting the opening.

~ The Ghost Fox by Laurence Yep – a small boy has to use his wits to save his mother from the evil Ghost Fox intent on stealing her soul.  Vivid descriptions and attention to detail; plkenty of tension and some humor too.  Favorite quote: (Fox speaking to servant) “Fool, you don’t celebrate a great victory with turnips.”

And P.S. If you haven’t yet seen our fabulous 10th Anniversary Giveaway, announced yesterday, go here right now!


Week-end Book Review: Ladder to the Moon by Maya Soetoro-Ng, illustrated by Yuyi Morales

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Maya Soetoro-Ng, illustrated by Yuyi Morales,
Ladder to the Moon
Candlewick Press, 2011.

Ages 4 and up

“What was Grandma Annie like?” young Suhaila asks her mother about the grandmother she never met.  “Full, soft, and curious,” her mother replies.  “Your grandma would wrap her arms around the whole world if she could.”

For children who never had the opportunity to meet a cherished grandparent, the absence of that influential figure becomes a presence in their lives, intensifying the feelings their own parents have about their loss.  “Becoming a parent made me think of my own mother with both intense grief and profound gratitude,” writes Maya Soetoro-Ng in a note following the text of Ladder to the Moon. “I wished that my mother and my daughter could have known and loved each other. I hoped that I could teach Suhaila some of the many things I learned as I grew up witnessing my mother’s extraordinary compassion and empathy.”  In the case of Soetoro-Ng and her daughters, the grandmother in question has intrigued many people around the world as she is also the mother of U.S. President Barack Obama, Soetero-Ng’s older half-brother.

Since the beginning of the Obama campaign, journalists and politicians have wondered and written about this mysterious and unconventional woman, Stanley Ann Dunham, who died in 1995.  There is no question that she, a noted anthropologist and often single mother, had an enormous influence on the lives of her children and thus on history itself.  Her daughter’s dream story about the young Suhaila meeting her grandmother comes from a personal, family perspective that will resonate with any child in such a situation, as well as giving adult readers a new insight into this enigmatic figure.

Grandma Annie encourages Suhaila to use each of her five senses to reach out to the rest of the world. Together they find people in trouble: trembling in earthquakes, trying to outswim Tsunamis, and praying for peace.  Annie and Suhaila reach down from the moon to offer their solace and comfort as they bring these people up, making the moon brighter for all to see.

Yuyi Morales’ stunning illustrations bring diverse people together to share and connect on the moon.  In one scene, they tell stories around a campfire, each with a glowing circle of words around her head.  These lines, pulled from traditional narratives and the personal stories of Morales’ friends, represent six languages and four different alphabets.

Above all, Soetoro-Ng says of her mother, she was a storyteller.  Those stories have been the inspiration for much of the author’s own life; and with a story, she and Morales honor this posthumously famous woman in a deeply personal yet universal way.

Abigail Sawyer
December 2011

Authors remember their grandparents: Grandpa Felix by Yuyi Morales

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Continuing our Authors Remember Their Grandparents series, today we welcome author and illustrator Yuyi Morales to PaperTigers with a poignant piece about her Grandpa Felix.

Yuyi’s most recent book is Ladder to the Moon, written by Maya Soetoro-Ng (Candlewick Press/Walker Books, 2011). It is the story of a little girl Suhaila whose wish that she could know her grandmother is granted one night, when a golden ladder appears with Grandma Annie, ready to take her up to the moon. Read more about the book on Yuyi’s website, and take a look at the first few pages here – gorgeous!

This is not the first time Yuyi has depicted a grandmother by any means – there is her rosy-cheeked Abuelita with hair “the color of salt” in the exuberant My Abuelita written by Tony Johnston, our current Book of the Month on the main PaperTigers website (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2009). And there are her own picture books starring Señor Calavera – Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book (Chronicle Books, 2003) and Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Alphabet Book (Roaring Brook Press, 2008): we are big fans of both of them in our household and love Señor Calavera’s website.

Visit Yuyi’s PaperTigers Gallery, enjoy her wonderful interview/gasp at the images over at 7-Imp’s, and find out about all her books and her many projects on her website and blog.

Grandpa Felix

My white dress of crochet clusters like popcorn, mama made especially for me.
She also made the wings and a halo with antennas, and painted with powder my cheeks, and when I saw myself in the mirror I was a butterfly.
At school I fluttered like I was supposed to do, I ran in a circle and flapped my arms with my wings behind. But nobody looked at me.
Everybody was too busy watching the pretty white girl flap her transparent arms and shake her chamomile washed hair.
Even mama, her swollen eyes straight at me, was looking somewhere else.
Nobody cares to watch the brown that is me.
Just like nobody wants to play with a girl with baby shoes that fit the insole inside and hold my leg right so that some day I can have straight feet.
“Mama, those shoes with the golden buckle and the bow on top are so lovely,” I have been telling her every time we pass by the glass case of the shoe store.
But mama doesn’t say much anymore.
She must be tired of repeating what I already know. That I have to stick with these ugly baby shoes until… when? Until I am a grown up.
Clipity, clap, clipity, clap, went my shoes while we left school.
Pling, plong, pling, plong, went my mama’s eye tears while we walked down the street. To Grandpa Felix’s house.
He is my abuelo because mama told me so. But he doesn’t remember me.
I know it because the other day when our teacher took us to the park, and my grandpa was sitting in a chair outside his door with a red and green blanket around him, and I waved at him thinking, “Now, look, everybody, there is my grandpa waving back to me,” and all the other kids waved too because they didn’t know he was my grandpa Felix – only mine, grandpa kept waving and smiling to all the children, just the same as to me.
He doesn’t remember me, I know.
Mama told me once, that sometimes he doesn’t remember her either, even though she is his child. “How could he?” she explained, “He’s too old to be one hundred and four and remember about so many things.”
Then, that morning, while I was a butterfly, Grandpa Felix stopped remembering no more. In her eyes, my mother’s tears going pling, plong, pling, plong.

Yuyi Morales

Week-end Book Review: My Abuelita by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, photographed by Tim O’Meara,

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

Tony Johnston, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, photographed by Tim O’Meara,
My Abuelita
Harcourt Children’s Books, 2009.

Ages 5-8

“I live with my grandma. And she lives with me. I call her Abuelita.” So begins this lively love-filled story of a boy and his grandmother going about their morning routine. Tony Johnston’s masterful language and Yuyi Morales’ trademark vibrant palette turn the most prosaic of daily events – getting ready for work – into a magical adventure. As Abuelita bends, stretches, baths, yodels, hums, eats, and packs, the reader turning pages with anticipation: what job could possibly require a scarf like a cloud that flows down to the ground, or a skeleton and plumed snake, or a temple and a crown of stars?

Children and adults alike will delight in discovering Abuelita’s job, even as they revel in unexpected joys and surprises sprinkled throughout the text and images. Johnston’s figurative language perfectly compliments Morales’ intricate, impish visuals, which defy any notions of grandparents as elderly or aging. Abuelita wakes up with the sun and is round “like a calabeza, a pumpkin,” with “hair the color of salt and a face crinkled like a dried chile.” After she takes her morning shower, she looks like a great big bee wrapped in her black and yellow towel, and when they sit to breakfast, she eats fried eggs that look like stars.

Each step in the morning routine flies off the page in this 2010 Pura Belpré Honor book. Award-winning illustrator Morales builds on her former success by introducing a new illustration technique, building and staging puppets and taking photographs of the scenes. With the help of Tim O’Meara, she finishes each illustration digitally, which gives the whimsical, exuberant images a three-dimensional quality akin to a Pixar film. Family love wafts from words and pictures alike, as the narrator assists his grandmother in each step of their familiar morning routine, and confides he wants to be like her when he grows up. Magical realism, traditional iconography, and sprinklings of Spanish all root this story in its Mexican context, while its themes of love, family, and dreams make it immediately and intimately familiar to all. A joyful tale for readers and non-readers alike, and an ideal read-aloud for teachers, families, and friends.

Sara Hudson
April 2011

Bilingual Children’s Books – good or bad?

Monday, January 31st, 2011

When PaperTigers’ book reviewer Abigail Sawyer mentioned to me that she is going to be hosting a Blog Carnival about bilingualism over at Speaking in Tongues, she got me thinking. Again. I first started mulling over bilingual children’s books here in relation to Tulika Books, a publisher in India that produces bilingual books in many different Indian languages alongside English, and to former IBBY Preisdent and founder of Groundwood Books Patsy Aldana’s comments in an interview with PaperTigers, and I will quote them again here:

I have always been opposed to the use of bilingual books, however given that Spanish-only books hardly sell at all, I have had to accept that books in Spanish can only reach Latinos if they are bilingual. This goes against everything I believe and know to be true about language instruction, the joy of reading in your mother tongue…

I was surprised by Aldana’s dislike of bilingual books because I love them and my children love them, and I have found that they can be a joy for inquisitive children seeking to learn independently – but I do realise that our contexts are different. Aldana’s dislike of them seems to stem from their being a substitute for monolingual Spanish books in an English-biased market, and she has found a pragmatic way of providing books in their mother-tongue to the Latino community in North America.

We love reading bilingual books because, although our main vehicle is the English, having another language running alongside, often enhances the reading experience for us, especially where the setting of the story is culturally appropriate to the language. This is true even when we can’t read the script, because even without being able to understand it, we can sometimes pull out certain consistencies. Seeing the writing always provides a glimpse of that different culture.

One of my favorite books of the last few year’s (more…)

Around the Kidlitosphere…

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Here is a trio of great links from the past week around the Kidlitosphere:

7-Imp met up with Yuyi Morales over desayuno this week…

Cynsations has a guest post from author/illustrator Elizabeth O. Dulemba about Writing Bilingual Books

Uma Krishnaswami has a commentary on racial stereotyping over at Writing with a Broken Tusk, following up on an article by Binyavanga Wainaina, ‘a wonderfully funny satirical piece in Granta magazine called “How to Write About Africa”‘, from which she quotes, and a video of a presentation given by Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie earlier this year, entitled “The danger of a single story”: well worth watching…

Cybils Nominations

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Phew, just made it! Where have the last two weeks disappeared to? Anyway, I’ve made my nominations for the Cybils – and if you haven’t yet, you have until 11.59 p.m. tomorrow…

So here’s my list:

Fiction Picture Books:

I nominated Naomi’s Tree by Joy Kogawa

… on my list were also Erika-San by Allen Say (Houghton Mifflin, 2009) – nominated by Kara of Not Just for Kids;
and Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore, illustrated by Kristi Valiant (Shen’s Books, 2009) – nominated by Renee of Shen’s Blog;

…and I especially want to look out:
First Come the Zebra by Lynne Barasch (Lee & Low, 2009) – nominated by Hannah from the Lee & Low Blog
Hook by Ed Young (Roaring Book Press, 2009) – nominated by Susannah of Raab Associates
My African Bedtime Rhymes by Brettell Hone (Shamwari Publishing, 2009) – nominated by Ginger Nielson;
Crow Call by Lois Lowry – nominated by Kristine at The Best Book I Haven’t Read
My Abuelita by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2009) – nominated by Lynn E. Hazen
…and the list continues!

Middle Grade Fiction:

I nominated Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan (Groundwood, 2009)

…and must seek out Brushing Mom’s Hair by Andrea Cheng (Wordsong, 2009) – nominated by Linda at Swell Books
and Journey of Dreams by Marge Pellegrino (Frances Lincoln, 2009) – nominated by Janni… and more!

Non-fiction/Information Picture Books:

I nominated My Japan by Etsuko Watanabe

…and great to see already nominated:
Balarama: A Royal Elephant by Ted and Betsy Lewin (Lee and Low, 2009) – nominated by Miri at Wands and Worlds;
Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg and Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and Susan Roth, (Dial, 2009) – nominated by Maggi at Mama Librarian;
Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story by Paula Yoo (Lee & Low, 2009) – nominated by Jama at Jama Rattigan’s Alphabet Soup.

I want to read:
The East-West House: Noguchi’s Childhood in Japan by Christy Hale (Lee & Low, 2009);
The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust by Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland Desaix (Holiday House, 2009);
Tarra & Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends by Carol Buckley (Putnam Juvenile, 2009) – nominated by Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader;
Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter – nominated by Sherry at Semicolon;
Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life: A Story of Sustainable Farming by Jan Reynolds (Lee & Low, 2009).

Non-Fiction – middle/teen:

I nominated Let There Be Peace: Prayers from Around the World by Jeremy Brooks, illustrated by Jude Daly (Frances Lincoln, 2009)

…already nominated: After Gandhi: One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance by Anne Sibley O’Brien and Perry Edmond O’Brien (Charlesbridge, 2009) – I’m in the process of writing a review for this superb book and will add a link soon…
and Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Journey to Change the World… One Child at a Time (The Young Reader’s Edition) by Greg Mortenson (Puffin Young Readers, 2009).

Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Little, Brown and Company, 2009) has been nominated in the Fantasy/Science Fiction section by Emily Reads; and John Agard’s The Young Inferno would have been my poetry nomination but Sherry got there first!

I’ve realised that I have read very little newly-published YA fiction this year so I haven’t made a nomination there either – but it’s good to see Mitali Perkins’ Secret Keeper in there, nominated by Sarah at Archimedes Forgets (what a wonderful name for a blog!); and I do have a copy of Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger (Margaret K. McElderry, 2009) in my to-be-read pile (nominated by R. J. Anderson)…

So it looks like I’m going to be busy enough – I can’t imagine how the judges are going to manage to read all the nominees. And after tomorrow, we’ll be waiting with baited breath to find out the shortlists, published on 1st January…

2009 Américas Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature Announced

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

Press Release
The Américas Award is given in recognition of U.S. works of fiction, poetry, folklore, or selected non-fiction (from picture books to works for young adults) published in the previous year in English or Spanish that authentically and engagingly portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States. By combining both and linking the Americas, the award reaches beyond geographic borders, as well as multicultural-international boundaries, focusing instead upon cultural heritages within the hemisphere.The award is sponsored by the national Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP).

The award winners and commended titles are selected for their 1) distinctive literary quality; 2) cultural contextualization; 3) exceptional integration of text, illustration and design; and 4) potential for classroom use. The winning books will be honored at a ceremony (fall 2009) during Hispanic Heritage Month at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

2009 Américas Award Winners:

Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book by Yuyi Morales. Roaring Brook Press (A Neal Porter Book), 2008.

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle. Holt, 2008.

2009 Américas Award Honorable Mentions:

The Best Gift of All:The Legend of La Vieja Belén / El Mejor Regalo del Mundo:La Leyenda de la Vieja Belén by Julia Alvarez. Illustrated by Ruddy Nuñez. Alfaguara/Santillana, 2008.

Dark Dude by Oscar Hijuelos.Atheneum, 2008.

The Storyteller’s Candle / La velita de los cuentos by Lucia Gonzalez. Illustrated by Lulu Delacre. Children’s Book Press, 2008.

For additional information including a list of the 2009 Américas Award Commended Titles winners click here.

2008 Tomas Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award Winner: Los Gatos Black on Halloween

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

In 1995 the Texas State University College of Education honored distinguished alumnus Dr. Tomas Rivera, by developing the Tomas Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award. This award honors authors and illustrators who create literature that depicts the Mexican American experience. It helps keep alive Dr. Rivera’s legacy in literature and works towards sustaining the vision he saw for the education of Mexican Americans in the United States. In addition it raises conscious awareness among parents, teachers, and librarians of this distinguished literature so these books can inspire, entertain, and educate all children both at home and at school.

The 2008 winner of the award is Los Gatos Black on Halloween by Marisa Montes and illustrated by Yuyi Morales. Written for children in grades K -5, Montes weaves Spanish words into the rhyming text and tells the story of black cats, witches, skeletons and other spooky creatures that march to a haunted casa on Halloween night. Once there the creatures enjoy a fiesta with music and dancing until there is a “RAP! RAP! RAP!” at the door. This causes the frightened spooks to hide, for “The thing that monsters most abhor/Are human niños at the door! Of all the horrors they have seen/ The WORST are kids on Halloween!”

Marisa and Yuyi were kept busy last week with Tomas Rivera Book Award ceremonies and book signings! On Thursday, October 30th, they were honored at a special luncheon held at the university president’s home where they received their award prize and plaque. Later in the day, accompanied by a mariachi band, they attended the Author/Illustrator Presentation on campus.

The next day, as part of the Texas Book Festival Reading Rock Stars Program, the Tomás Rivera Committee selected a public school in Austin and bought every student a copy of Los Gatos Black on Halloween with the award seal on the cover. Yuyi and Marisa did a presentation at the school and the students were thrilled to get their books signed.

The whirlwind weekend of festivities continued on Nov 1st, when Montes and Morales participated in the Texas Book Festival by giving the Tomás Rivera Award reading session and then signing books for festival attendees.

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PaperTigers will continue to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month until mid November.