Conflicted

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child releases soon and the world is once again engulfed in Harry Potter Mania. People are starting to freak out, my bookstore is preparing for a Midnight Release, we have a cute display up and fans are getting that magical feeling again. This is the excitement that J.K. Rowling so brilliantly created for us; we’re anxious to return to the world of Harry Potter and see where she takes us next.

Except…I can’t get over how J.K. Rowling continues to ignore Native voices.

These voices are speaking up about her cultural appropriation in Magic in North America. I wrote a bit about it here, around the time the first chapter was released on Pottermore, and though it’s been months, Rowling has been silent. No engagement and no dialogue. Her only response so far to this problematic piece of writing has been to block a Native person on Twitter.

There’s a very bitter taste in my mouth. I’ve been trying to re-read the series in anticipation of the new book and I just…can’t right now.

One great thing about the internet and social media is that it’s a powerful platform; Native authors and academics are discussing J.K. Rowling’s work and major news outlets have amplified their voices. This is a big deal.

I’ve also been thinking about the lines between respect, fandom and criticism of authors/illustrators. Sam Bloom wrote a really good piece about Lane Smith’s book A Tribe of Kids, “playing indian” and critically examining an author’s work. Authors make mistakes and they can also learn from them. Especially in children’s literature, it’s important to listen to criticism because THIS IS ABOUT THE KIDS. When you’re writing about/alluding to cultures that aren’t your own, you have the responsibility to be respectful.

With great power comes great responsibility, J.K. Right?

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Brown Girl Writer & Dreamer at My Local Library

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Image Credit: Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin Random), Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson strode into Cincinnati’s Main Library on June 18th to talk to us about her book Brown Girl Dreaming. Her walk is confident, she wears a nose ring and wore a shirt that said “Black is Beautiful.” She began with a quiet bang by reading from her book Each Kindness and then kept it very real. Not long ago, the Cincinnati Library board unanimously decided not to change their insurance to cover gender confirmation surgery for long time employee, Rachel Dovel. Woodson was honest with us, she said it was difficult for her to be in the space as a gay, out, woman of color who cares about equality. Though she was happy to talk to us, she was also frustrated that the library didn’t support Rachel & equality.

“I stand with Rachel” she said.

I respect and admire her strength in supporting another woman who continues to be strong in the face of opposition.

The next hour was her reading from Brown Girl Dreaming, anecdotes about her two kids and their short attention span, comments about living in Brooklyn, reflections on parenting and her confusion about how to pronounce Chillicothe, Ohio. >_< The mood was comfortable; the crowd wasn’t as big as I hoped it would be but the people in attendance were engaged. I was very happy to see young brown girls in the audience. In the very front row sat a few young white girls who followed along in their copies of Brown Girl Dreaming while Jacqueline read aloud to us (she’d announce what page she was on) and two of the girls had really great questions at the end.

It was a really nice event; I even asked a question about diverse books and her hopes for the future (how could I resist??) and when she signed my book, I got to talk to her a little more. She’s such a cool person!

I wish you the best Jacqueline! Thanks for stopping by Cincinnati, speaking to us and sharing your light.

 

P.S. If you haven’t read Brown Girl Dreaming yet…get on it! 😉

Za Za Zoom! Za Za Zoom! ~ With Hervé Tullet

 

On May 20th I attended a reading, workshop and book signing for the dynamic (and VERY kind) Hervé Tullet. Hervé is a New York Times Best Selling Author of children’s books that encourage imagination and creativity. He stopped by the Columbus Museum of Art for a few days to work with families and children. I was happy to see so many multicultural families at the workshop!

I hit the road early Friday morning with my friend Claire to make it to the event on time. Hervé began by setting his books on the edge of the stage for the children to see then bent over to pick up a book to read. He entertained us with his funny sounds and movements. In addition to his books Press Here, Let’s Play! and Mix It Up!, he read some of his books in French! If he made a funny sound, we repeated it but he had us do this over and over again until he was satisfied! Because many of his books are interactive, he chose children to help him read them to the audience. My favorite moment was when he read his book The Game of Shadows. Suddenly he got a “phone call,” cued the lights to turn off and used his cell phone to shine a light though the cardboard cut-outs of the book. The light made eerie shadows on the auditorium ceiling and the kids loved it! I was smiling and laughing gleefully throughout the entire experience.  😀

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Next we walked upstairs (like a happy herd of families + artist) to paint under his instruction. Long strips of white paper were taped on the floor with cups of paint and paintbrushes beside them. He instructed us to paint a dot, paint a bigger dot, paint a circle, paint dots in the circles and move, move, move! It was like a collaborative art project-musical chairs and in the end we created a beautiful field of flowers, together. I overheard one child say “Oopsie!” as he painted a flower but his mother said to him “That’s alright; you can’t make any mistakes.” That interaction stood out to me because it represents the message of Hervé Tullet’s art and books; have fun and enjoy!!

The last part of the event was a book signing where Hervé beautifully signed a copy of Press Here for me. For every family, he pulled out his paint markers and dabbed, dotted and listened intently as he vigorously created beautiful art inside their books. I was pleased to learn that every family got a free copy of his book Art Workshops for Children.

Now that I’ve met Hervé Tullet, I’m even more excited to share his books with the world because I know where he comes from. His spirit is beautiful. I hope that many families and classrooms can experience the excitement, wonder and energy that he tucks inside his books. Get painting (and reading)!

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Merci beaucoup for a great day of painting, fun and laughs, Hervé!

Yo Illustrators…I Love ya!

Why is it soooo hard to search for books by illustrator? Sure I can search Google but it’s a problem when databases and computer programs have no “illustrator” option for search.

The other day a customer came into my bookstore asking for books illustrated by C.F. Payne. There’s NO way to search our inventory by illustrator (there IS an author option, of course). How messed up is that? So I struggled to quickly find 1) The books C.F. Payne’s illustrated (quite a lot) and 2) which ones we had in store! I was talking to author/illustrator Sarah McIntyre about this problem and she said that in general, it’s hard to get data on illustrators and the industry is very behind…#PicturesMeanBusiness! They really do. >_<  There’s no denying the necessity of a skilled illustrator to sell books so why are we so behind in crediting them/making it easier to find (and buy) their work?

When the average customer walks into a bookstore or library, they’re drawn to the illustrations of a book first. Most people don’t follow authors/illustrators; they just want a good book. But when people do find an illustrator they enjoy, it should be easier to serve them and get them the books they need.

Here’s an excellent post from Sarah MacIntyre’s blog on book metadata. Please check it out!

http://jabberworks.livejournal.com/713698.html

Harry Potter and the Goblet of NOPE!

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Image Credit: Pottermore/Warner Brothers

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET of NOPE!

Dear JK Rowling,

Alia here.

There’s no denying you’re one of the most brilliant minds of our era. You’ve created worlds that we get lost in and complex characters that we love dearly. But with MAGIC IN NORTH AMERICA, something went wrong.

Maybe it’s that you’re not from North America? But surely you did your research into the complexities that are the native peoples of this continent…Maybe it’s that you didn’t grow up constantly bombarded by stereotypical images of native people on TV, in movies, as Halloween costumes, etc.? Maybe it’s because you didn’t go to school here and didn’t receive an incomplete history of native peoples that basically stops after “First Contact” & “Thanksgiving” and ignores modern native people? Perhaps…

There are real issues here. You’re dealing with real people, cultures, traditions and religions and with that comes a lot of responsibility. Native people are already heavily stereotyped around the world as “Magical Beings” and now…they’re in your magical canon! Not only do you refer to them as a monolithic group (there are hundreds of nations in the US alone), you *seem* to imply that native wand-less magic is powerful but not as refined as European magic (due to the power of a wand).

I encourage you, Ms. Rowling, to respond to native academics, fans, etc. who are asking you tough, but important questions. Debbie Reese, Dr. Adrienne Keene and many others have tweeted at you. Herehere & here are some EXCELLENT articles that delve into your work from a native perspective. This one is excellent as well. I ask you to check out Debbie Reese and Dr. Adrienne Keene’s websites in general. Just look around. They do great work.

Let’s get this discussion going and please let us know who you consulted for this project because we’re SUPER CURIOUS. (at least I am…)

Representation Matters.

It really does and yes, anyone CAN write a story, but I’d hope they LISTEN and learn as much as possible before releasing it to the world, especially when you’re dealing with living people, religions, and NATIVE KIDS. There’s a long history of misrepresentation, exploitation and stereotyping of native peoples.

MAGIC IN NORTH AMERICA is problematic and we await your response…

Sincerely,

A Fan

**SIPS TEA (out of the Goblet of Fire)**

Excellent Black History Book Series

EmpakBlackHistBooks

If you can get your hands on these books, please do! They’re by the Empak Publishing Company (Empak Enterprises, Inc.) and I believe there are ten books total in the series. They’re most likely out of print now (mine are from the 80s) so you’ll have to look for them at a used book store or online.

What I love about these books is that they cover so many great topics like Historic Black Women, Historic Black Firsts, Historic African Kings and Queens, Historic Blacks in the Arts, Historic Black Educators, etc. Below is a sample page from A Salute to Historic Black Women (Vol. 1 in the series).

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Click image for a closer look

Well, I’ll Be!! It Was Clear as Day for All to See!

I finally read the books Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer (I know…I’m late) in anticipation of Ada Twist, Scientist coming this fall…and they’re awesome!

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Image Credit: Abrams Books for Young Readers, Andrea Beaty/David Roberts

Look at that pretty cover!

Because I love diverse books and because this book features a girl of color who loves science, I shouted for joy when this cover released!

BUT PEOPLE…ADA TWIST HAS BEEN IN THE SERIES ALL ALONG! (GASP)

And this is a beautiful thing. Today I noticed her sitting quietly and playing joyfully in Ms. Greer’s class along with Iggy Peck and Rosie Revere. We’re getting to hear Ms. Greer’s students’ stories! Here are the first two books in the series:

And now we get to learn more about Ada Twist this September!

I shared my delight in this “discovery” with the author of these books, Andrea Beaty, and she told me this:

“I wrote ROSIE REVERE, ENGINEER because I was curious about the shy kid with the swoopy hair in IGGY PECK, ARCHITECT. I wrote ADA TWIST, SCIENTIST because I was curious about the kid in the red polka-dot dress who stands scratching her chin and thinking while everyone does other things. I knew from that illustration that she was a thinker. David’s characters lead me to stories and then those stories lead him to complete the world which, in turn, inspires me. It’s fantastic fun!”

I love it! ❤ We continued to have a discussion about how the creative process of a book is multifaceted. She also said that art directors and editors play a big part in shaping how a story comes to fruition. I think it’s clear that lots of love has gone into this series and the response of families, students and readers around the world has been wonderful. People love these two creative kids and I can’t wait to meet Ada Twist!

Happy Reading!

 

ALA Youth Media Awards!

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Image Credit: American Library Association (ALA)

Well guys, it’s almost that time!

Right now in Boston, the American Library Association’s Midwinter Conference is well underway. Book lovers, librarians, publishing reps, authors and illustrators are talking books, giving away and signing advanced copies of books and (I’m sure) having a blast!

Perhaps the most anticipated aspect of the conference is the ALA Youth Media Awards on Monday morning. This is where they award the BIG AWARDS; Newbery, Caldecott, Geisel, Pura Belpré, Printz, Sibert, Odyssey, Stonewall, Coretta Scott King, Schneider Award and more…That’s an awful lot for one day. 🙂

**Click this link for a live webcast of the awards ceremony and a summary of all the awards**

Unfortunately, I’m behind in my Newbery reading so I have no official selection yet but if I HAD to choose, based on what I’ve read so far, I’d pick Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Why? Because though there are some issues with pacing, it’s an EPIC and unique story and I’ve seen children embrace it. I’m in the middle of The War that Saved My Life and it’s great, so I’d be happy to see that one win too. Either way, I’m celebrating all these great books.

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Just a sample of books being considered for the Newbery Medal!

I already posted about my Caldecott Medal Prediction (Float by Daniel Miyares!) I’ve been certain about that for a while…You can read that post here! I’d love to see Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle or Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh win the Pura Belpré!

Float

Image Credit: Simon & Schuster, Daniel Miyares

There are so many cool books up for the Newbery award this year. The School Library Journal’s blog Heavy Medal does an awesome Mock Newbery and it’s fun to see what people think deserves to win. Check out that post here.

Here are some titles that people are loving:

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

My Seneca Village by Marilyn Nelson (I think this is more suited for the Printz (YA award)! For a more mature reader)

The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton

Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin

Finally, one of the biggest take aways from all this Newbery and Caldecott excitement is the potential for learning in the classroom. Teachers can read the books throughout the year, hold Mock Elections and finally hold an Awards Ceremony Watch Party in class! This might even get your reluctant readers excited about reading! Here is a great post about Mock Elections around the country. Get inspired!

Happy Reading and YAY for Monday Morning!

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Everyone

2015 was a great year for books and for me because I had the pleasure of jumping into so many amazingly creative stories and I was able to share these stories with you, my readers. So thank you for your support and interest in my wee little blog! I’m so pumped for all that’s to come this year. 2016 will be amazing! I can feel it…

The first three books I’m choosing to celebrate the New Year are all about relationships. As I spent time with my friends and family over the Christmas and New Year holiday, when I think about the most important relationships in my life, I’m amazed at how special a REAL GOOD relationship is to one’s spirit and emotional health. There’s nothing quite like it. And so, I hope you enjoy my upcoming reviews for Ask Me, Growing Up Pedro, and The Sea Tiger!

~Wishing you a year of health, happiness and blessings~

Let Our Powers Combine!

 

I’m now a part of a new exciting Tumblr called The Book Wenches! This fun new blog combines my powers with the powers of my good friends Tori, Marita, Claire, Melissa and Jo Ann. We all met working at the same bookstore and this blog is our way of keeping connected and sharing our PASSION for books.

I’ll mostly blog about children’s books but my talented friends have interests that vary greatly! They’re into Sci-fi, Fiction, YA, Middle Grade and more. This will hopefully be an outlet for me to discuss my feelings about “big people books.” 😉  Tori already posted some excellent feminist and diverse reading lists so please check those out if you’re looking for great reads. I hope you’ll support our new creative venture and check out The Book Wenches!

Happy Reading As Always!

Alia