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Preview: mitali's fire escape


Updated: 2018-03-17T05:34:32.620-07:00




YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR (Macmillan | FSG) has received some exciting responses. Before it came out, EW picked it as one of the most anticipated young adult novels of the year. On release day, which is thrilling enough, I heard that it was nominated for the National Book Award! It also won a Walter Honor Award! I was thrilled, to say the least.The book received praise from Bustle and Teen Vogue, and SIX ★ starred reviews (Publishers Weekly, Horn Book, School Library Journal, Shelf Awareness, VOYA, and Booklist.) The New York Public Library, School Library Journal, Horn Book, and Publishers Weekly all featured it as one of the best books of the year. It's also one of the titles on the Best Fiction for Young Adults list and the Amelia Bloomer list of recommended feminist fiction literature, both curated by the American Library Association. Meanwhile, on the audiobook side, the beautifully-narrated version of the novel was an Audie Award finalist. Yay! Celebrate with me, friends. ORDER IT NOW! YIPPEE! Read an excerpt.Download the discussion guide.It's also available in a magnificent audio version, performed by five uber-talented actors. You Bring The Distant Near | Macmillan FSG | YA/Adult ★ "An unforgettable novel that spans decades and continents as it moves among three generations of Indian women, some new immigrants to the U.S., all struggling to bridge cultures ... Perkins’s vibrantly written exploration of a family in transition is saturated with romance, humor, and meaningful reflections on patriotism, blended cultures, and carving one’s own path. " — Publishers Weekly starred review ★ "Full of sisterhood, diversity, and complex, strong women, this book will speak to readers as they will undoubtedly find a kindred spirit in at least one of the Das women." — Booklist starred review  ★ "An intricately woven examination of identity and culture and the ways these forces interact .... The characters are full of genuine warmth and affection for one another, even when they struggle to show it." — VOYA starred review ★ "An ambitious narrative that illuminates past and present, departure and reunion, women and family." — Horn Book starred review ★  "This stunning book about immigration and cultural assimilation is a must-purchase for teen and new adult collections." — School Library Journal starred review ★  "With wisdom and wit, You Bring the Distant Near illustrates the beauty in diversity. Perkins's striking imagery and deep, heartfelt insights illuminate the darkest corners of ignorance, providing a bright path to understanding and embracing differences in all their many splendors." — Shelf Awareness starred review"This touching, intricately layered novel follows an Indian American family who immigrated to the United States in the 1970s as it adjusts to life here and faces both opportunities and struggles over time ... Accomplished storytelling, vividly drawn characters and details that capture the changing American zeitgeist broaden this vibrant book’s appeal beyond its target audience. Readers across the generations will take it to their hearts." — Washington Post "The fully fleshed characters and complex family dynamics provide a vibrant background for exploration of multigenerational adaptation to a diverse America and of the familial and romantic love that nourishes their new roots." — Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books"Perkins tells a nuanced, quintessentially American story. She affectionately traces four young women’s interrelated yet distinct paths to determining their identities, and, later in the book, adds a fifth. Ranee, the Das family matriarch, has long lived according to Bengali tradition. In her 60s, she embarks on a process of discovery familiar to man[...]

VISITED: An Advent Poem


 Visited: An Advent Poemby Mitali PerkinsWe wait. Heavy footsteps pass our cell. Again. Once more.Not this time. Not for us.And then.They stop. Key in our door?We leap off the cot.The guard grunts the words we’ve been imagining:“You’re visited.”The halls reek of bleach and blood.Who cares? We want to skip, and race, and dance.But our feet in regulation black must trudge behind slow boots.Meanwhile, he’s traveled.Miles and miles on deserted, dusty roads.To reach his destination. (Where we are. Where we live.)Checks in at the Visitor’s Center.Reminds them of an appointment he made long ago.Shows his ID.They check for weapons; he has none.They let him keep his signet ring.Everything else must go.Now the detector lets him through.Two sliding gates, electrified.Barbed wire encircles him into a trap. (With us. Where we live.)Across the gray, dreary courtyard, cameras track his lonely stride.No living leaf in sight.Again, they frisk him.Again, he flashes credentials.Big keys unlock the last door.Inside, he takes a seat.We burst into the room, pushing past our guard.Who scowls but lets it go.This time. This one time.Because there he is.Rising to his feet.Eyes alight at the sight of us.Throws his arms around our tired bodies.We feel his tears on our cheeks.Or are they ours?This room is bursting with reunion.Couples play cards as if they’re home by the fire.Children dance near two pairs of knees.Fathers hold the hands of sons who have eaten with pigs.We feast on chips and soda from the vending machine.They taste like baguettes and red wine.Leaning in, he lowers his voice: “Is it well, my darling, my own?”We tell him everything: the wrongs, the wounds, the waiting.But they belong to yesterday.Now, all is well.Today, we are visited.I wrote this poem after visiting a friend in Corcoran State Prison.  [...]

Happy Paperback Launch, TIGER BOY!


To celebrate the paperback release of TIGER BOY (Charlesbridge | 6/6), the Avid Reader (apt name for an indie, right?) in Davis, California is hosting an event. You're invited to join us if you're in the Sacramento Valley area.
The Avid Reader is excited to welcome Mitali Perkins for a reading, discussion, and signing of her fast-paced and well researched chapter book, “Tiger Boy” on Saturday, June 17th at 1:00 p.m. 
In a starred review, the School Library Journal writes, “Sure to encourage vital conversations among children, this is a fine addition to libraries and classrooms seeking to diversify collections.” 
When a tiger cub escapes from a nature reserve near Neel’s island village, the rangers and villagers hurry to find her before the cub’s anxious mother follows suit and endangers them all. Mr. Gupta, a rich newcomer to the island, is also searching—he wants to sell the cub’s body parts on the black market. Neel and his sister, Rupa, resolve to find the cub first and bring her back to the reserve where she belongs. The hunt for the cub interrupts Neel’s preparations for an exam to win a prestigious scholarship at a boarding school far from home. Neel doesn’t mind—he dreads the exam and would rather stay on his beloved island in the Sunderbans of West Bengal with his family and friends. But through his encounter with the cub, Neil learns that sometimes you have to take risks to preserve what you love. And sometimes you have to sacrifice the present for the chance to improve the future.
Event date: Saturday, June 17, 20171-2 p.m.
The Avid Reader
617 2nd Street
Davis, CA 95616

I'm a FUNNY GIRL, no matter what my kids say


"A collection of uproarious stories, rollicking comics, rib-tickling wit, and more,
from 25 of today’s funniest female writers for kids."

Happy Book Birthday to Betsy Bird, editor of FUNNY GIRL (Penguin Random House, 5/9/17) and to all 24 of the other contributors. Here we are, as imagined by author and artist Amy Ignatow:

Note my tiny, regal body. I am revealed as the Queen of Snaildom.

Praise for FUNNY GIRL:

* “Stellar. . . . Will surely appeal to a wide audience. ”– Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* “Certain to fit the bill for just about any child looking for a good laugh or 20.”– Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Timely . . . girl-power humor for the middle-grade set.”– The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Hilarious and heartfelt, this won’t only appeal to future funny girls and boys, it’ll inspire them.”–Booklist

Cheering for a real RICKSHAW GIRL


My book RICKSHAW GIRL is about a fictional girl who defies gender roles to try and make money for her family. A friend recently sent me a link to this portrayal of the brave and beautiful Sumi Begum, a young woman who pedals the streets of Dhaka pulling a rickshaw to provide for her family. Her story is heartbreaking and inspiring.

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DIVESTMENT: A Good Friday Poem


From time to time, I've posted poems about Good Friday, like this one, and this one. Here is this year's offering.

DIVESTMENT: A Good Friday Poem

By Mitali Perkins

Who speaks, I wonder?

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do. Who can request this—as nails tear bones and flesh—but Divinity?

The emptying begins.

Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise. Enough Power still to Promise.

Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother. Some Strength left to Shepherd.

But Kairos is slipping away. He's divesting. Next comes the ancient question of Humanity, the wail of those trapped in chains of chronology.

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

I thirst. Oh! It's the primal cry of a Child, the Sick, the Old, anyone too weak to sate this need unaided.

It is finished. In one fading moment, the thunder of God and whisper of Man co-utter parallel declarations.

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. The frightening freedom of faith, breathed by faint and feeble voice.

Now all is silence. He is crushed by powerless me, drained of Divinity, driven to dust only by this: his quest to liberate and rule with me.

And so I try to speak.

Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem

YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR Exclusive Cover Reveal!


Thanks to Bustle for a lovely review and exclusive cover reveal of my forthcoming novel, YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR (Macmillan FSG | 9/17).

"Perkins' new YA novel isn't just an exploration of family, but a tracing of its transformation as it crosses oceans and borderlines. 'You Bring the Distant Near' captures the immigrant experience for one Indian-American family with humor and heart. Told in alternating teen voices across three generations, this elegant YA novel explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture — for better or worse."

A Poem: Four Men at Mule Creek State Prison


Four Men at Mule Creek State Prison

By Mitali Perkins

He puts on his bifocals and opens the family Bible. For two hours, he reads verses of hope to her in quiet Tagalog. A handkerchief, embroidered by hands buried far away, receives her tears.

She sprints across the room at the sight of him. He scoops her up and she kisses his clean-shaven cheek two dozen times. Her beribboned braids hide his tattoo as he bends to long-kiss her mother on the mouth. You’re given two times to touch — one twenty-second hug at first sight and one more before the last. But the Christmas tree is tinseled. A guard chews a microwaved cheeseburger from the vending machine and looks the other way.

His ponytail is graying. Their two chairs sandwich his like white toast on ham. Her ancient eyes memorize the silent features; his father’s are hidden behind one age-spotted hand. Who will be his bread when they are gone?

Our man is an orphan at twenty-two. His mother died in a fire last year, after her thirty-sixth birthday. He asks for a book on how to write cursive. I get out in twenty-thirty-two, he says. Abuela wants me out of Oakland. I'll need a signature of my own.

All Things South Asia Book Award


Just got back from a wonderful trip to D.C., where I accepted the 2016 South Asia Younger Readers Book Award for TIGER BOY. Here's my awkward (but grateful) speech.  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="" width="480">Gauri Manglik of KITAABWORLD handled book sales brilliantly. If you haven't checked out their marvelous site that provides an easy way to choose books about South Asia, you're missing out.What a delight to meet Mathangi Subramaniam, winner of the South Asia Book Award for Older readers for Dear Mrs. Naidu.  Watch for her adult novel coming soon. I can't wait.The Program of Events. Delicious chaat and chai, too.My beautiful glass engraved plaque.Author visit with fourth-graders at Capital City Public Charter School.A thousand thanks to Rachel Weiss of the University of Wisconsin, who serves with passion and dedication as the Award Coordinator, and to the rest of the members of the Selection Committee.[...]

You're Invited: South Asia Book Award Ceremony 12/2


2016 Award Ceremony

Please join us for the 2016 South Asia Book Award Celebration!

Friday, December 2, 2016
2016 Award Celebration and Presentations
Providence Community Center
3001 Vaden Drive, Fairfax, VA 22031
6:30 – 8:00 pm
Join us as we honor the achievements of award authors:
Mitali Perkins (Tiger Boy)
Mathangi Subramanian (Dear Mrs. Naidu)
and highly commended author:
Khadija Ejaz (My Friend is Hindu)
This event is free and open to the public! See information below about directions to the award venue!

Saturday, December 3, 2016
Meet the award authors Mitali Perkins and Mathangi Subramanian for book signings!
National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Exhibition Hall
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C.
10:00 am – 12 Noon
Look for SABA’s Exhibition Booth #421

Directions to the Providence Community Center
7 min walk from Vienna/Fairfax-GMU Station
From I-495
Exit onto I-66 west and follow the directions from I-66 (listed below).
From I-66
Take Nutley Street towards Fairfax. Turn right onto Lee Highway (Route 29). Turn right at the second traffic signal (Vaden Drive). The Community Center is located about a quarter mile ahead on your left.
From Fairfax Circle
Take Lee Highway (Route 29) east toward I-495. Turn left onto Vaden Drive. The Community Center is located about a quarter mile ahead on your left.

Writing Tips: My Chat With NANOWRIMO


Here are a few of my favorite writing tips revealed in a chat with Grant Faulkner, Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month.

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NCTE 2016: Charlotte Huck Honor Award and More


I'm heading to the National Council of Teachers of English Convention in Atlanta this weekend. Here's my schedule if you want to stop by and say hello:

SATURDAY, November 19
9:00 – 10:00 AM Autographing with Candlewick Press (OPEN MIC: RIFFS ON LIFE BETWEEN CULTURES IN TEN VOICES)
VENUE: Booth 606 
11:00 AM – 12:15 PM Panel: "Advocating for Immigrants and Refugees through the Use of Literature and Creative Non-Fiction: Two Authors (one is me!), a Librarian, and Teacher Educator Sharing Stories and Strategies.
VENUE: Room A412 
12:30 – 2:30 PM NCTE Awards luncheon, where Tiger Boy is receiving a Charlotte Huck Honor award and I give a *brief* speech.
VENUE: Thomas Murphy Ballroom 
2:45 – 5:30 PM "The 2016 Orbis Pictus and Charlotte Huck Honor Book Award-Winning Authors and Illustrators Share Their Stories and Insights."
VENUE: Room B2013
SUNDAY, November 20
10:00 – 11:00 AM Autographing with Charlesbridge Publishing (TIGER BOY)
VENUE: Booth 432

Children's and Young Adult Fiction Featuring a Child with an Incarcerated Parent


Some of you know I'm part of a Facebook read-to-change book group. We finished Michele Alexander's THE NEW JIM CROW: MASS INCARCERATION IN THE AGE OF COLORBLINDNESS and are about to start Bryan Stevenson's JUST MERCY. It's not to late to join us as we begin this round of reading next week.As I'm reading, I find myself wondering which children's and young adult novels feature a main character with an incarcerated parent. I put the question out on twitter, and here are the results (please leave other titles in the comments section and I will add.)Picture BooksKNOCK KNOCK by Daniel Beaty MAMA LOVES ME FROM FAR AWAY by Pat Brisson KENNEDY'S BIG VISIT by Daphne BrooksVISITING DAY by Jacqueline WoodsonEarly ReadersTHE SUNNY HOLIDAY SERIES by Coleen ParatoreNINE CANDLES by Maria Testa Middle-Grade NovelsRUBY ON THE OUTSIDE by Nora Raleigh BaskinQUEENIE PEAVY by Robert BurchALL RISE FOR THE HONORABLE PERRY T. COOK by Leslie ConnorAN ANGEL FOR MARIQUA by Zetta ElliottJAKEMAN by Deborah EllisTHE YEAR THE SWALLOWS CAME EARLY by Kathryn Fitzmaurice HIDDEN by Helen Frost PIECES OF WHY by K.L. Going  FLUSH by Carl Hiaasen JUNEBUG IN TROUBLE by Alice Mead THE RAILWAY CHILDREN by E. Nesbit (Classic)THE SAME STUFF AS STARS by Katherine PatersonTHE GIRL IN THE WELL IS ME by Karen Rivers DOG YEARS and SOME FRIEND by Sally Warner Young Adult NovelsTYRELL by Coe Booth MEXICAN WHITE BOY by Matt De la PeñaLITTLE DORRIT by Charles Dickens (Classic) KEESHA'S HOUSE by Helen Frost THE ROW by J. R. JohanssonCHASING FORGIVENESS by Neal ShustermanAuthor Francesca Forrest (PEN PAL) has a brilliant suggestion: why not buy a few of these titles and then donate them to a prison library? Fantastic! Here's the American Library Association's page on how and which libraries serve prisons. [...]

TIGER BOY in the Language of Love


The Rageot Editeur version of TIGER BOY, translated by Ariane Bataille and illustrated by Aline Bureau, releases this month in France. To see a story created in your imagination translated into another language for kids across borders? One of the best moments in a writer's life. Merci, mon ami!



I'm excited to announce that Candlewick Press has just released the paperback version of OPEN MIC: RIFFS ON LIFE BETWEEN CULTURES IN TEN VOICES! Open Mic | Candlewick | 12 years and upBUY ITDownload a Classroom or Book Club GuideListen in as ten YA authors—some familiar, some new—use their own brand of humor to share their stories about growing up between cultures. This collection of fiction and nonfiction embraces a mix of styles as diverse as their authors, from laugh-out-loud funny to wry, ironic, or poignant, in prose, poetry, and comic form. With contributions by Cherry Cheva, Varian Johnson, Naomi Shihab Nye, Mitali Perkins, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Debby Rigaud, Francisco X. Stork, Gene Luen Yang, and David Yoo. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="140" mozallowfullscreen="" src="//" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="250"> "Open Mic: Riffs On Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices" by Mitali Perkins, created by Ali, a student at The Bubbler.REVIEWS"[Open Mic] will leave readers thinking about the ways that humor can be a survival tool in a world that tends to put people in boxes." — Publishers Weekly"Naomi Shihab Nye offers an eloquent poem about her Arab American dad, whose open friendliness made him 'Facebook before it existed.' David Yoo, Debbie Rigaud, Varian Johnson, and Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich also contribute stories to this noteworthy anthology, which robustly proves Perkins’ assertion that 'funny is powerful.'” — Horn Book Magazine"Teachers will find some powerful material here about how the young can become discomfited and find solace in their multifaceted cultural communities." — School Library Journal"...David Yoo’s excellent 'Becoming Henry Lee' is the one that will probably elicit the most laughs. But all invite sometimes rueful smiles or chuckles of recognition. And all demonstrate that in the specific we find the universal, and that borders are meant to be breached." — ALA Booklist[...]

RICKSHAW GIRL the Play Pedals to the Finish Line


Last Sunday was the closing show of the Bay Area Children's Theater's adaptation of RICKSHAW GIRL. I was sad to bid farewell to the cast and crew, but the memories of their artistry bringing my story to life will uplift and sustain me for years to come. My thanks to one and all, with deep gratitude for this marvelous privilege. I know it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a writer.From left to right: Amit Sharma (Cast/Tabla), Emily Alvarado (Naima), Director Vidhu Singh, Salim Razawi (Saleem), Ariel Irula (Mother), Pankaj Jha (Father), Sonali Bhattacharya (Music), and me. Missing: too many to list, but I must mention Radhika Rao (Rashida/Rickshaw Painter) and Aditi Kapil (Playwright). Meeting an author is kind of scary.I found a Facebook status written by someone I didn't know who took her daughter to the show. Her words were encouraging as my friends and family can't really be trusted for an impartial response."Was amazed today at Bay Area Children's Theatre's production of RICKSHAW GIRL. I think it was my absolute favorite show of the season which is hard to say when I loved them all! We had not read the book before and didn't know the story so it was beautiful to discover such a treasure! It was so nice to see Holly engaged with a story so unfamiliar, and we loved the Bangla songs and the Tabla music! We were lucky to be blessed to meet the author of the book who was in attendance at this final Berkeley performance ... We are looking forward to next season already!"[...]

Poetry Friday: I Have Them, and You, and This


I Have Them, and You, and This

by Mitali Perkins

Lilacs greet us on our morning walk. "Consider," they urge.

We do. We see it. Neon suits the showy poppies. Lupine dance in purple chiffon. Queen Anne's lace is a stately bride.

Songbirds swaying on stalks trill a welcome, too. "Attend," they sing.

We do. We see them. Hummingbird sips crabapple nectar. Eagle swoops to a rabbit. Pelican hoards a smelly catch. Sparrow's last breath is seen.

We are alone, together, with You. As Water shapes stone. As Light dazzles water. As Stone guards the spring.



On Sunday we surprised the cast and crew of Rickshaw Girl by showing up for their last performance in San Ramon before the show heads to San Francisco. This Bay Area Children's Theatre performance of Aditi Kapil's well-paced, poignant script, directed masterfully by Vidhu Singh, surpassed my wildest dreams. Beauty abounded — spilling over from the set design, through the music and dancing, via the actors, until it filled the faces of the rapt audience.I especially enjoyed hearing whispered comments from young theatergoers that revealed a deep engagement with the story and affection for the characters. Thanks to one and all involved for the gift of this show to me and my family. (If you want to see it during the next few weekends in S.F. or in Berkeley, you may order tickets here.)The stage design transports you to a village in Bangladesh.Ma and I quietly took our seats. Can you spot us?Afterwards, we greeted the actors in the lobby.My Ma with Naima's Ma (Ariel Irula) and Baba (Pankaj Jha)Aren't they adorable?Even seeing the tickets was thrilling.Here's the official video from the Bay Area Children's Theater, followed by some professional shots taken during the show by Joshua Posamentier. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="135" src="" width="480">[...]

RICKSHAW GIRL the play premieres this April and May!


Every Saturday and Sunday at 11 and 2 from 4/2-5/22, you may catch the Bay Area Children's Theater's beautiful adaptation of my novel Rickshaw Girl. GET TICKETS HERE! 

And if you want to get a signed copy, come to the show when I'll be there (see below). Thanks for supporting this story of a brave girl who finds a way to honor her family.

Mind the Gap: Questions about Power for Storytellers


I'm an advocate of safe spaces. I like creating them, especially for children. I also like creating in them. In my years as a writer of children's stories, it feels to me like the tension and hostility about issues such as appropriation and authenticity is growing. Sometimes this exhausts me, and I'm tempted to crawl off the fire escape and hide. But there's too much at stake (i.e., the well-being of children). So, in order to keep pressing on in my mission, I offer these questions as a checklist for fellow authors and illustrators, perhaps as fodder for discussion in critique groups and conferences, or for your private journaling pleasure.

As always, conversation is encouraged as we pass the tea and biscuits.
  1. "How big is the power gap between me and my main character?"
  2. "What kinds of power gaps exist between me and my characters in the time and place of their story?" (i.e., class, culture, education...)
  3. "How do these gaps matter in the time and place of potential receivers of my story?"
  4. "How have I crossed those gaps in real life?"
  5. "Given my answers to 1-4, should I begin the work of listening, learning, and loving needed to tell this story? Or should I leave it for another to tell?"

"Should White Authors Avoid Writing Characters of Color?"


I'm scheduled to be a Highlights Foundation mentor this summer, and so was recently interviewed by author Barbara Dee on a blog called "From The Mixed Up Files ... of Middle-Grade Authors." She asked me about middle-grade fiction and mentoring, and then added a question about whether or not white authors can write main characters of color. I want to share my answer to that here.

Do you feel white authors should avoid writing from the POV of a character of color?

No. I’m alarmed that this question is increasingly asked. As adults who write for and about children, ALL of us have to confront the intersections of our privilege before telling a story. As we explore how we are crossing different kinds of power borders to tell a certain character's story, it should become more clear to us whether or not we should proceed with that story. For example, take my RICKSHAW GIRL. Naima, my main character, and I do share the same cultural origin, skin color, and gender — we are both brown-skinned Bengali girls. But she is an uneducated daughter of a Muslim rickshaw puller while I am the overeducated daughter of a Hindu engineer. Do Naima and I REALLY have the same POV, as some readers might reverentially gush? It’s tricky, though, as some power differentials shriek with pain in our culture thanks to the realities of American history while others are more muted. Tread carefully, friends, as all of us must in this powerful, mind-shaping vocation, but don’t set up some crazy apartheid system in the realm of stories. Ethnicity is a social construct: in a world where we are mixing and melding more than ever, are you going to decide who is a Muggle and who is Pureblood enough to tell a story?

Viva L'Italia! BAMBOO PEOPLE is up for a prize!


Bamboo People is one of five finalists for the Mare di Libri Prize (Sea of Books) for best Young Adult fiction of 2015. The winner will be chosen by a jury of 10 dedicated (strong) readers in the 14-15 year old range, garnered from all parts of Italy. The five finalists were chosen by seasoned librarians, booksellers, editors and teachers.

The prize, in its third year, was created because young adult boy and girl readers have become the true judges of literature geared toward them. The announcement of the five finalists is the first important stage of the Mare di Libri Festival, the first and only festival in Italy dedicated exclusively to teenagers. The ninth edition of the festival will take place from June 17-19 in Rimini.

The other finalists are The Secrets of Heap House, Edward Carey; Tinder by Sally Gardner; Escape Crime by Christophe Leon; and Tell Me About a Perfect Day by Jennifer Niven.

(As translated by my former next-door neighbor and friend, Lory Zottola Dix — Grazie, Lory!)

RICKSHAW GIRL on Stage: Order Tickets Now!


My novel for elementary-aged readers, RICKSHAW GIRL (chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the best books for children over the past 100 years), is pedaling to the stage in a wonderful musical adaptation! The Bay Area Children's Theatre will put on shows at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday from April 12 to May 22, first in San Ramon's Front Row Theater, next at the San Francisco's Children's Creativity Museum, and last but not least in Berkeley at The Osher Studio.

Here's the ticket purchase information: If you want to say hello and get a signed book, I plan to be there at the opening shows in San Francisco (Saturday, April 16 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.) and the closing shows in Berkeley (Sunday, May 22 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.).

WARNING: This Book Might Be Recalled. Read it Fast. Decry it Even Faster.


I'm all for truth and justice, but I question Scholastic's recent decision to recall a book.First, the slope is too slippery when it comes to removing published books from our schools and libraries. What about books published last year? Ten years ago? A century ago? Should they be recalled also? Should we protect today's children from the positive depictions of colonialism in TINTIN IN THE CONGO and BABAR by recalling them? What about black Asia and Silas standing in the back of the room in LITTLE MEN and JO'S BOYS? I'm not defending the contents of A BIRTHDAY CAKE FOR GEORGE WASHINGTON, but it was published. Shouldn't it stay in the pantheon of our shared intellectual content? I suppose this raises another question in an age of fuzzy publishing boundaries: is preventing a published book from being read different than stopping a pre-published book from being read? Librarians, defenders of intellectual content, please weigh in.Second, instead of recalling, the publisher could move us forward in the representation of African-Americans in children's literature. For example, why doesn't Scholastic invite their wonderful editor, Andrea Davis Pinkney, long-time champion of books representing the African-American experience and one of the few African American editors in the industry, to call for great submissions telling Hercules' WHOLE story? Then the company can publish two more top-notch picture books about Hercules and Delia and encourage teachers and parents to read all three with children. This way, the next generation can learn to discern the differences themselves. Scholastic can underline the danger of a single story, support a great editor, encourage other authors and illustrators who care about telling the stories of African Americans, keep the memory of Hercules and Delia alive, and continue to remind all of us that our first President owned slaves.But I fear this won't happen. It's too late. The shouts have been heard. The book is recalled. I hope we aren't veering towards recalls steered by social media because outcry can go many ways. But the outcry itself is all right by me. It's thrilling that depictions of kids on the margins, past and present, are now questioned and debated with passion and fury. That's the real victory, and the best modeling for the next generation. ‪ADDENDUM: A CHALLENGE FOR WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORSHere's how I might adapt Hercules' and Delia's story, for example. My suggestions are rough and dumb, but I'll throw them out there. Maybe they'll get someone's juices flowing.Scene one: Holding a big cat in her arms, Delia sneaks into the kitchen before sunrise.  She sees her father hurriedly handing a letter to someone who disappears into the pre-dawn darkness. "Who was that, Daddy?" Hercules takes her in his arms. She wipes away a flour smudge on his cheek. "Someone who might help us escape, sugar." Delia knows how much Daddy wants to be free. Three hundred slaves live on this estate with George Washington and his family, but nobody has managed to escape yet. Freedom! What would that be like? "I'll work hard, earn money, buy us a small house," Daddy says. "We'll get a kitten of our own to keep the mice away," adds Delia.Scene two: The door bursts open. Delia scurries to hide behind her father. A kitchen slave overseer storms in. "It's Mr. Washington's birthday! Mrs. Washington wants the best cake you have ever baked for his party." "But there is no s[...]

When You're Interviewed By A VERY Smart Fifth-Grader


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Thanks, Girls Leadership, for selecting RICKSHAW GIRL as a Parent / Daughter Book Club Pick, and for inviting me in to your offices to be interviewed by the brilliant Daliya.