Monday, April 29, 2013

South Asia Book Awards 2013

The South Asia National Outreach Consortium announces the South Asia Book Awards:

The winning books in 2013 are The Rumor by Anushka Ravishankar, illustrated by Kanyika Kini, and Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through a Never-Ending War by Deborah Ellis.

The Rumor (Tundra Books, 2012) is a charming, energetically-paced picture book, a North American edition of a 2009 publication from  Karadi Tales of Chennai, India. The people of the fictional village of Baddbaddpur like to tell tales "so tall that if you put them one on top of the other, they would reach the stars." When bad-tempered Pandurang coughs up a feather one day, the anecdote grows like wildfire--or perhaps like a forest! A neat twist at the end results in an altogether unexpected transformation, while the very last turn leaves the reader with an echoing aside from the storyteller whose narrative presence infuses these pages. The illustrations add color and movement in equal measure. One of Ravishankar's best, right up there with her Tiger On a Tree. (Grades PreK-4).

For Kids of Kabul (Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2012), author Deborah Ellis went to Kabul to find out what has happened to Afghanistan’s children since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. She spoke to children, who gave her often searingly honest accounts of their lives. Courage, optimism, and the power of endurance are reflected in this book, in which Ellis steps back in the role of listener, and gives agency to the young voices. (Grades 5 – 12).

Congratulations to the winners! The full list can be found on the SABA web site. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

"Did I Choose You, Or Did You Choose Me?"

Publishers Weekly reports: "Esteemed children’s author E.L. Konigsburg, a two-time winner of the Newbery Medal (From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, in 1968; The View from Saturday, in 1997) and the only writer to have received both the Newbery Medal and a Newbery Honor in the same year, died on Friday, April 19 at age 83."

My son read From the Mixed-up Files...when he was around 10. It made enough of an impression that I'm pretty sure he contemplated running away to a museum more than once, when his parents became too exasperating. For me, though, The View From Saturday was a defining book. The multiple voices. The interlinked, delicately crafted short stories. The way the book played with form and style. The Souls and their allies. And maybe especially quick-witted Julian Singh, a South Asian character, imperfect but in a time when there weren't many like him in children's books. And above all the teacher in a wheelchair. What an attitude she had--do we not need a Mrs. Olinski around today to face off against Core Standards and endless testfests?

Do books choose us or do we choose them? After reading The View From Saturday in 1996, I spent several weeks reading just about every book Elaine Konigsburg had written. Because this is what her books did, all of them. They drew me into their fictional worlds, but through the journey, whether it was to the Met or to Milan of da Vinci's time, they unmasked truths about here and now. They spoke to the odd, the eccentric, the unjust and the beautiful in ways that got under my skin and changed me. I returned to her books again and again as I struggled to find the hearts of my own stories.

Go in peace, Elaine Konigsburg. I never had the pleasure of meeting you, but I'm going to miss your voice. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Drop Everything and Read Month

Thank you to Joy Chu for cueing me in.

Drop Everything and Read Day, begun in honor of Ramona Quimby's creator, Beverly Cleary, is now Drop Everything and Read Month. Ramona fans will get the allusion from Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Thirty-two years after the publication of this Newbery Honor book we are firmly in the age of Core Standards. Teaching goals and testing calendars threaten to "eat readers"(Ramona fans will get that reference as well). Dropping everything to read seems like a call to action that anyone who cares about literacy and kids ought to get behind.

This month Beverly Cleary, the beloved creator of Ramona, turned 97. Here's a video interview in which she's speaking to Ilene Cooper.

It's a simple, elegant idea, and can't you just see Ramona thinking her way toward it in that classroom? Really, from "run" to "read" is not such a big mental stretch. Drop what you're doing and read. What a terrific concept! What will you drop in order to read? You can send your ideas and photos to the nice people at HarperCollins
Me, I'm planning to drop some seeds in the ground today. Then I'll pick up a book--a real book, with pages that need to be turned by hand--and settle in for a good read. Sigh. Can't wait. 

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

No Crystal Stair Wins the Battle of the Kids' Books

Illustration by Mark Tuchman
Never mind the Oscars.

In the children's and YA book universe, here's the competition that counts.

Congratulations to writer, librarian, and my critique partner and fellow Autodidactics member Vaunda Micheaux Nelson on her "dark horse" win.