Happy Multicultural Children’s Book Day! #readyourworld Book Reviews

Happy Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

Children’s reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom teamed up in late 2013 to create an ambitious (and much needed) national event. Today, January 27th, 2015, they are hosting yet another Multicultural Children’s Book Day as a way of celebrating diversity in children’s books.

While #weneeddiversebooks focusses on changing the face of children’s literature by encouraging writers and illustrators from a variety of backgrounds to submit their work and urging changes in the publishing industry, #readyourworld seeks to get multicultural books into classrooms and libraries.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

Here are some ways you can celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day:

  • Visit The Multicultural Children’s Book Day website and view the booklists, reading resources and other useful multicultural information.
  • Visit the Multicultural Books for Kids Pinterest Board for more reading ideas.
  • Have children bring in their favorite multicultural book to school on this day and all this week and share it with the class.
  • Watch for the #ReadYourWorld hashtag on social media and share.
  • Visit MCCBD sponsors Wisdom Tales Press, Satya House Publications, DARIA (World Music with DARIA, Rainbow Books and others to discover new books to read.
  • Create a Multicultural Children’s Book Day display around the classroom or library.
  • Visit The Multicultural Children’s Book Day website on January 27th to view and participate in our huge blogger link-up, multicultural book reviews, giveaways and more!

MCCBD team hopes to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.

Today, I’m happy to share with you three of my favorite multicultural picture books to read and share.

First up, the Ezra Jack Keats Award winning, YESTERDAY I HAD THE BLUES by Jeron Ashford Frame, illustrations by R. Gregory Christie (Tricycle Press, 2003). A boy starts by exploring his “deep down in my shoes blues, the go away, Mr. Sun, quit smilin’ at me blues,” and goes on to explore other feelings as they relate to colors. His Daddy has the grays, his friend Sasha has the pinks, Talia has the Indigos, Gram the yellows and Mama the red. The author uses a jazzy string of strong and active nouns and verbs to describe each feeling and color. “Sasha says she got the pinks. The shiny tights, ballet after school, glitter on her cheeks pinks.” Jeron Ashford Frame’s poetry is toe tapping and R. Gregory Christie’s illustrations, while uniquely his, reminds me of Romare Bearden and William H. Johnson.

Next, OUT OF THE WAY! OUT OF THE WAY (Tulika Publishers, 2010, Groundwood Books, 2012), words by Uma Krishnaswami and pictures by Uma Krishnaswamy. One day, a boy finds a baby tree on a well worn path. He protects it with rocks and the path and people curve to avoid it: the bullock-cart man, the bicycles, people and animal feet. As the tree grows and spreads wider above creating a home for birds and small animals, the traffic and the town below it grows too. Krishnaswami captures the constant movement of people, carts, tires with the phrase “here to there and back again.” Soon the path is a lane and then a paved road. Krishnaswami is a master of refrain with her “Out of the way!” phrase.  The illustrator, Krishnaswamy, gives us a glimpse into the bustle of Indian culture with a lovely combination of line work and bright color.

I love this book as a multicultural substitute for that other tree book. (You know the one with the tree who tells the boy to go ahead and cut it down for his own purposes.) This one respects the interaction and connection between tree and human. It suggests that while humans grow and need, they can give space and respect to each other and to nature.

Set in old Peking, THE ELEPHANT’S PILLOW (Frances Lincoln, 2003) by Diana R. Roome and illustrator Jude Daly, tells the story of a spoiled merchant’s son named Sing Lo. Never satisfied with what he has, Sing Lo asks his rickshaw man, “What is the greatest sight of all?” Thus begins Sing Lo’s quest to see the Emperor’s elephant and to cheer him up. In the process, Sing Lo must rise to various challenges (through three tries) and transforms into the hero we knew he could be. The illustrations find their roots in the triptychs of Asian scrolls with saturated reds, blues, and oranges offset by pale yellows. It is a wonderful read aloud that is sweet and relatable. In the end, the elephant behaves much like a content puppy when it wants to be rubbed behind the ear.

You can bring books like these to children who need them by donating to First Book! 

Through First Book, MCCBD is having a virtual book drive.

A special thank you to the Children’s Book Council (CBC) for their support with Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCCBD)!

Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press, Daybreak Press Global Bookshop, Gold SponsorsSatya House,  MulticulturalKids.com,   Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic Poof, Silver Sponsors: Junior Library GuildCapstone Publishing, Lee and Low Books,  The Omnibus Publishing. Bronze Sponsors:Double Dutch Dolls, Bliss Group Books, Snuggle with Picture Books Publishing,  Rainbow Books,   Author FeliciaCapers,   Chronicle Books   Muslim Writers Publishing ,East West Discovery Press.

Our CoHosts: We have NINE amazing Co-Hosts. You can view them here.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day January 27th

This post is reblogged from Pragmatic Mom. You can follow the author, Mia Wenjen on Twitter @pragmaticmom, on Pintrest, or on Facebook.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day

January 27, 2014

Our mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries.

 Children’s reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom have teamed up to create an ambitious (and much needed) national event.  On January 27th, Jump into a Book and Pragmatic Mom will be presenting the first ever Multicultural Children’s Book Day as a way of celebrating diversity in children’s books.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

Meet your hosts and co-creators of Multicultural Children’s Book Day.

Valarie Budayr

Valarie Budayr of Jump Into a Book is a best-selling children’s author of The Fox Diaries: The Year the Foxes Came to our Garden and The Ultimate Guide To Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. She is passionate about making kid’s books come alive and is proud to be a play and reading advocate. Valarie’s mission is to inspire children,families, and communities, to experience and create our world together while having fun.

MiaMedium

Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom is a Harvard grad with a love  of children’s books (picture books through YA) and sneaking in teachable moments in art, science, math, foreign language and language arts. Mia is passionate about getting kids excited about reading and helping parents ensure that their child is successful at school.

Here are some ways you can help us celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day

  • Have children bring in their favorite multicultural book to school on this day and share it with the class.
  • Have a special Multicultural Children’s Book Day book read aloud time.
  • Create a Multicultural Children’s Book Day display around the classroom or library.
  • Read Around the Continents and Countries. Great resources list at JumpIntoaBook.com and PragmaticMom.com
  • Visit The Multicultural Children’s Book Day page at Jump Into a Book.
  • Visit our Multicultural Books for Kids Pinterest Board for more reading ideas.
  • Do a craft or activity presented on Jump Into a Book or Pragmatic Mom which relates to the many cultures in our world.

VCFA/Goldblatt: Angela Johnson Scholarship for New Students of Color or Ethnic Minority

I mention my MFA alma mater Vermont College of Fine Arts a lot. My time at VCFA was a life-changing experience. By 2009, I had already spent a good eight or so years on writing for children. I had a few dollars in my pocket from selling my poetry to wonderful magazines such as Ladybug, Babybug, and Highlights High Five. I was steeped in New England SCBWI and had attended numerous conferences asking many questions of fine faculty. In fact, that year I was the Director for the annual spring conference. (more on that later) But the letters I got from agents and editors were maddeningly similar. Basically they all said… there’s good writing here but you don’t quite have the craft down yet.

VCFA was all about craft and nothing about business. Coming from SCBWI this was frustrating, but eventually it was freeing. After the first residency at VCFA I realized that I hadn’t had enough knowledge to even know what questions to ask. The community, the award-winning faculty, and the program helped me to climb away from my plateau and make my work better. After VCFA, I read differently, I wrote differently, I taught differently, I was supported differently, and I supported others differently.

One thing that really bothered me at VCFA was that the faces of the students in the WCYA program did not look very diverse. Diversity in children’s literature is an ongoing issue. That SCBWI conference that I’d been planning for two years was titled, Many Voices and sought to include more people of color in the faculty and participant pool. If you’ve been following the CBC Diversity blog, or Anne Sibley O’Brien’s Coloring Between the Lines, or reading Christopher Myers article in Horn Book, you know that the issue of diversity in children’s books is a huge problem. (See Tina Kügler’s great info graphic below.)

Infographic by Tina Kügler originally for Illustration Friday

What is to be done? Many people think that the answer is in enrolling more people of color at great MFA programs like VCFA. To that end, the agent Barry Goldblatt established a scholarship in honor of Angela Johnson, the critically acclaimed African American poet and author of more than 40 books for children and young adults. She has won the Coretta Scott King Award three times, the Michael L. Printz Award, and received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2003. Her work explores the lives of characters of color of all ages, in historical and contemporary settings and celebrates a myriad of experiences growing up in America.

In addition to honoring Ms. Johnson, this scholarship will help to fill the void of multi-cultural voices in the world of children’s and young adult literature by providing scholarship assistance to minority students attending VCFA.

The recipient of the scholarship is in no way obligated to submit works to, or seek representation by Barry Goldblatt Literary, LLC.

Here are the details of the scholarship directly from the VCFA press release. If you fit the eligibility criteria, please apply. You have nothing to lose and the world and its children have so much to gain by hearing your voice!

Award Amount

One or two scholarships of up to $5,000 will be awarded annually and will be applied to the student’s tuition costs.  The maximum scholarship awarded will not exceed $5,000.

Eligibility  Criteria

Qualified applicants will meet the following criteria:

  1. A minority, defined as a person of color or a person of ethnic minority in the VCFA community
  2. Demonstrates talent, promise, and commitment to a career as a writer in the children and/or young adults field of literature.
  3. Has strong financial need.
  4. Priority will be given to incoming students.

Application Process

Eligible applicants must submit an essay (see below) by April 30.  Essays are to be emailed to:  Melissa Fisher, Director, Writing for Children & Young Adults  at melissa.fisher@vcfa.edu  with the words “Application for Angela Johnson Scholarship” in the subject line. Essays emailed after April 30 will not be considered.

Essay are not to exceed 350 words and should describe the applicant’s:

  • Commitment and or passion for the literary field of children’s and young adult literature;
  • Extenuating or financial challenges.

A Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form must be filed by April 30.

Questions?

Email Melissa Fisher, Director, Writing for Children & Young Adults at melissa.fisher@vcfa.edu.

Three Links to Great Web Content: August 4-10, 2013

When I was about eight years old, I used to sit on the landing and listen to the adult conversations that went on at dinner parties my parents would hold. I’m sure my parents thought I was asleep, and sometimes I would indeed fall asleep on the landing and they’d have to carry me to bed. The point is, that I didn’t want to miss anything. Sometimes Twitter and social media reminds me of this. With the incessant stream of tweets and updates I’m bound to miss out on something crucial.

The fact is, there is so much information out on the web that you can’t, and shouldn’t, try to keep up with it. I thought I’d post a few great links from my week and would love to see your favorite links, and a few sentences about them, in the comments.

First off, Ingrid Sundberg. Ingrid Sundberg is a fellow VCFA alum. She recently posted a fabulous series taken from her thesis on story architecture. If you only saw bits, or missed the whole thing, bookmark this page which includes the links for the entire series. Organic Architecture: Links to the Whole Series

If you are a parent or an educator, and haven’t found PragmaticMom.com, you should take a look. In addition to crafts, education, and parenting tips, she is an avid children’s lit reader with wonderful book lists. Her Multicultural Books for Children: 40+ Book Lists are an amazing collection of books broken into various helpful categories.

Lee Wind and the amazing SCBWI blog team were super busy last weekend at the LA Conference. Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend this year (I’m planning to go in 2014), but I was able to get the juicy tidbits on the Official SCBWI Conference Blog. If you are searching for an agent, you may want to read the many agent profiles. Illustrators will want to check out the winning portfolio images, and writers will be inspired by the encapsulated keynote speeches.

Again, I’d love to see your favorite links of the week– interesting industry news, and craft discussions that you retweeted, reblogged, tumbled or pinned that my readers might have missed. I’ll be watching the comments. 

Huge News! Pen New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award Winner– ME!

I am pleased thrilled ecstatic to announce that on April 1st I was informed that my YA manuscript about a rower who has a secret romance with her crew coach, CONTROL. CRUSH., won the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award! I’m sure that this was not an April Fools joke because soon after, I began to get wonderful congratulatory notes from other writers in our community whose work I respect and admire.

So what’s the big deal about this award and what is PEN New England anyway? The Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award honors emerging writers and illustrators and is given to a New England resident for an unpublished work. This year, the award was given to TWO emerging writers. I’m so happy to say that I’ll be sharing this award with Katherine Quimby. I’ve known Kathy for many years through SCBWI. Kathy and I share an alma mater, she’s in her third semester at Vermont College of Fine Arts; I graduated in July of 2011 – we’ll share this award! 

Kathy and I will read from our manuscripts at the awards ceremony tentatively scheduled for Sunday, May 19th at 6:30 pm at Lesley. If you are in the Boston area, I hope you’ll come. If you’re not able to make it, don’t worry. We’ll both be at the NESCBWI Annual Conference in Springfield. Please stop me and say hello!

As part of the award, our manuscripts will be submitted to a participating publisher. I’m so thankful to the committee for this opportunity to get my work in front of industry professionals. I’ve been on this journey for over ten years – long enough to know that I’d write even if I never got published. Perhaps that’s the moment when things begin to change for a writer. Still, I can tell you that I’ve had plenty of dark and doubting moments when I thought I should just give it all up.

There is something to be said for making your dreams known the universe, for putting yourself out there, for taking a chance. I’d wanted to submit manuscripts for this award for the past three years and missed the deadline. This year, the deadline snuck up on me again. Luckily, through a snafu, I was able to get my work to the committee, and I’m so glad I did! The email about this award came at the perfect time, and I couldn’t be happier.

PEN (poets, playwrights, essayists, editors, and novelists) New England is the most active chapter of PEN American Center which is part of PEN International– a literary community celebrating literature and protecting free expression. “The P.E.N. Club,” founded in London in 1921 by Mrs. C. A. Dawson Scott, a Cornish novelist, and John Galsworthy, a well-known literary figure, was borne out of Mrs. Dawson Scott’s “unshakable conviction that if the writers of the world could learn to stretch out their hands to each other, the nations of the world could learn in time to do the same.”

101 Kidlit Links (okay not that many…but a lot)

The English class that I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays lets out just in time for me to turn on Maine Public Radio and catch Maine Calling with Keith Shortall. Yesterday’s program put a spring in my step as Keith had author illustrators Scott Nash, Chris Van Dusen, and Kirkus reviewer Vicky Smith discussing writing and illustrating for children, and the publishing industry. Click here for the archived show.

I pulled over and called in immediately to remind the listeners that over 500 SCBWI members in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, and over 1,800 members in New England take the art, craft and business of children’s books seriously. Since then, I’ve had a few emails and wanted to post a few quick answers to FAQ’s and links for anyone who might be curious about SCBWI, New England SCBWI, critiques, professional development, etc. Feel free to leave me comments below with other questions and I’ll try to answer them in a timely way.

If you are just getting started, you can find the top 10 FAQ’s about writing and publishing for children and Young Adults, how to format your manuscript, info about publishers, and an editor’s point of view here.

If you are more experienced and are looking for further professional development you can try various adult or continuing ed programs including MECA. For more intense and academic study take a look at Vermont College of Fine Arts, Hamline, Lesley, or Simmons. RISD, and Hollins are a couple of the children’s book illustration certificate programs. Google MFA Children’s Illustration if that is what you want.

If you are a teacher or librarian and want to hire an author or illustrator to present their book and teach about the craft of writing or illustrating, I suggest the SCBWI speaker’s bureau. You can search by state, or look for specific people. The New England region also has a database called Connections.

If you live in the New England area and want to find out more about the New England region of SCBWI, visit our website. We are an active region with many events. Coming up is our annual spring conference. One of the largest regional conferences, New England welcomes more than 500 participants and 100 faculty to Springfield, MA for three days of workshops and speakers May 305, 2013. The focus this year is craft and we are featuring PRO tracks for those who are published. Registration will begin in February. Watch the website for more info.

The SCBWI community is especially welcoming and supportive and that is only the beginning. Discounts to professional development conferences and workshops, publications, critique groups, and a whole series of grants and awards are benefits of membership. Check it out. There’s a link at the bottom of the page to actually register as a member.

SCBWI critique groups are only available to members. To see if there is already a group in your New England area you can click on your state here. There is a two part post with Stacy Mozer (our Crit group organizer) here, and here.

There are some writers and illustrators who are not interested in waiting for or supporting traditional publishing and so they choose the self-publishing route. There are plenty of print-on-demand, and epub companies. I’m not qualified to recommend one company over another. Do be aware that some companies are Vanity Presses (often they contact you) who make promises of publication with hidden costs. Educate yourself about publishers and agents by doing a quick check on Predators and Editors.

If you are taking your first steps on your journey to become a writer or illustrator, I have two messages. One: Welcome. If you are here you probably can’t stop yourself. You write and draw because you are compelled. The journey is long and comes with many pitfalls and no promises. You are in good company. Two: If this is not your heart’s desire, turn back now. The journey is long and comes with many pitfalls and no promises.

 

Member Monday: The Children’s Book Industry, A gendered affair

A disclaimer is always at the bottom of this blog but before today’s post I just want to make sure it’s seen:

Disclaimer: As always: Any opinions expressed here are entirely my own and not the views of the SCBWI. FMI http://www.scbwi.com

Phew. Done.

Yesterday, as you probably know, was Mother’s Day here in America. Google made a super-cute, animated logo that jumped to the Wikipedia explanation of the founding of Mother’s Day by Anna Jarvis in 1908. Earlier though, in 1870 at the end of the bloody Civil War, Julia Ward Howe called for a Mother’s Day in honor of Peace. She, who wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic, also wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation. In the spirit of activism and women– today’s post.

What does Mother’s Day have to do with the Children’s Book Industry? Well, I’d bet money that a lot more than 50% of my (small) readership is women. How do I know? Go to any SCBWI conference and check out the bathrooms. We always switch one men’s room to a woman’s room in order to handle the demand. It’s not only the writers either. A large number of the editors and other industry professionals are women too– strong, intelligent, wonderful women.

In the illustration department the numbers start to sway. More men tend to be illustrators we know. Of the 12 illustrators in the “Bookmakers Dozen” only three are women. 

Now think about the people you see keynoting at national SCBWI conferences. The folks we know have really made it. Often men. I have nothing against these strong, intelligent, wonderful, men and I have to say that the tide IS changing. At the last few big conferences I attended, the podium seemed much more balanced. Nevertheless, one might ask… no, I ask… Why is it that we have an industry that is primarily female but whose big money makers are mainly male.

I’ve talked to a lot of people about this and have stitched together some thoughts on the issue. Below are four mistakes that women often make and men often don’t. (Let me mention that I do all of these things, all the time.)

1. Women often give away, that for which they should be compensated.
Think of your calendar, or list of things to do. How many times have you scheduled volunteer activities? Certainly there is nothing wrong with that, but all of those duties (often in service to our children) take away from time that you might do the work.  Further, how many times do you go into classrooms, or libraries to do readings or writing workshops for free? How much do you give away your Children’s Writing/Illustrating/or Publishing expertise?

Tip: Some pro bono work helps us get quotes and recommendations for our blogs, and helps us market ourselves, but have some sort of rule about how many or what kind of visit you will do for free and when those are done, say no to free visits.

2. Women often settle for compensation that is below the market value.
Our work and our knowledge is worth something. What is it worth? That is harder to determine. Some of us are published in magazines, some have books, some have awards. The Graphic Artist Guild has a Pricing and Ethical Guidelines publication that pools payment info and organizes it according to job and region so that illustrators/graphic artist have a better idea about the going rate and therefore know what to charge. Alexis O’Neill has this PDF entitled “What do I charge?” at her School Visit Experts.com site. I think it would be interesting to have a survey of all SCBWI members about their visit and conference fees and to publish the results. Even if we knew what to charge though, women often settle for less. If you don’t believe me take a look at this book, or this book, or this article, or this one, or this one.

Tip: Do some research and ask people you respect how much they charge. I know, it’s scary. Ask anyway. Try to zero in on your worth and stick to it when a school starts telling you they don’t have any money. Research outside funding sources or grants that they could apply for in order to pay you your stated price. Ultimately, you are trying to sell books. Could they schedule a book signing event for the school where they contract with a local indie bookseller?  In terms of book contracts– get an agent. It used to be that those in the Children’s Industry didn’t need one. Those days are gone. Most publishing houses are closed to unagented manuscripts and the extra money you will get with an agent who knows editors and their contracts is significant.

3. Women often over-schedule outside events which leaves less time to do the work.
Anytime you are not writing, illustrating, sketching, revising, reading critically, you are not doing the work. Ultimately, your teaching or your school and conference visits depend on your publishing calendar. New books, mean new visits.

Tip: Be deliberate when scheduling visits. Budget out your year. Say to yourself, I want to make this much money from visits this year. I’ll need to do this many visits to make that happen. Try breaking your year into school visit season and writing season. You probably know your own work rhythms. Are you unproductive in January and February? Schedule all your travel and visits then.

4. Women have a lot they are responsible for and this keeps us from doing the work.
Many of us have a ton of domestic responsibilities. We drive children, do laundry, take care of our parents, and on, and on, and on. Ultimately, we will not get the book contracts if we don’t do the work. We can wait for another more favorable time (which may never come) or we can “write in the cracks,” a term I’m borrowing from Eileen Spinelli. Further, at-home loneliness often drives people (read: me) to social networking sites where we convince ourselves that we are building an online platform for the magical day when our book is purchased.

Tip: Value yourself and your work enough to get a babysitter, then run away and write or draw. If you have a spouse, negotiate time on your own and schedule it in the family calendar. Take a pen and notebook and write on the road. If your kid is in baseball practice, stay in the car and write or sketch. You don’t need a laptop and you especially don’t need the internet. If you are not published and that is your goal, I challenge you to find one hour each day when you are “building your online platform,” to do the work.

In closing– Value your time. Value your knowledge. Do the work.