{diversity in lit} Friday #20

A few links to reviews, articles, sites, etc. of the Diversity in Literature concern from around a small portion the book blogosphere, accumulated over the past week or so.



–Lisa (TBR 313) reviews Short Girls, Bich Minh Nguyen (Viking 2009). “In chapters that alternate between Van and Linny, the sisters reluctantly face returning home.  The story moves between the past and present, as they look back on their childhood, growing up with first-generation immigrant parents, trying to find a balance between Vietnam and America.”

Me, You and Books reads I’ll Be Right There by Kung-Sook Shin (Other Press 2014). “The prose in this book has a crisp, bell-like clarity, and yet we are often left unsure of what is happening or why. A sense of urgency drives the novel as we only slowly discover the stories behind character’s actions. Death and loss are present, but joy is also present sustaining the characters as they embrace it and later in their memories.”

Wandering in the Stacks shares Y.S. Lee’s Book 1 of The Agency series: A Spy in the House (Candlewick 2010). “I *love* that this book is concerned with social justice issues (and in a non-preachy way!) The main investigation centers around artifacts stolen from a Hindu temple in India, possibly brought to London from traders and installed in private collections. Stealing another culture’s treasures is something that pops up in the news now and again, bringing with it questions about where these items belong, and who should have the rights to them.”

–Sarah (What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate) reads Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis (Knopf 2009). “It’s an excellent book overall, but I am more than usually grateful that the author sat down and wrote it. The story of the 6888th battalion has been lost and buried. The unit wasn’t even recognized for it’s services until 2009, and by then only 3 women could be located.”

–Sarah (What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate) also reviews Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (Viking 2011). “This book was interesting and imaginative…but also a little bit dull, which seems like a direct contradiction! Something about the writing style, and specifically the voices of the characters seemed…flat. I felt like the spark was missing from the narrative, and this puzzled me immensely because the story was at the same time richly detailed and full of surprising quirks. Nigerian culture, and the magical world of the Leopard people poured from the pages. The hidden spaces of Leopard Knocks with it’s market streets and massive library, the way charms and acts of juju worked, the spirit faces that each person wore beneath their real one – all these details were colorful and somewhat familiar, but full of the zest of a different setting. Being transported to West Africa was, to me, just as exciting as exploring the landscapes and rules of a new fantasy world.”

–Little Red Reviewer writes about Karen Lord’s The Best of All Possible Worlds (Del Rey 2013). “is a novel of language, of growing up, of saying goodbye, of saying hello, and realizing that language is far more than just words. I highly recommend it.”

–Sam J. Miller (for Guys Lit Wire) reviews  Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories edited by Alisa Krasnostein & Julia Rios.”This anthology highlights twenty stories that are creepy, funny, edgy, entertaining, and thought-provoking. There’s all kinds of dazzling diversity on display here: the authors are diverse, the speculative concepts are diverse (stories about drugs that let you see the future, and ancient deities giving life lessons, and superpowers, and urban legends gone wrong) and the settings for the stories are diverse (Palestine, China, New Jersey).”


–Publisher’s Weekly talks with award-winning illustrator Yuyi Morales. “I am an immigrant, a member of two worlds, a speaker of two languages, a mother of a niño born in Mexico [who is] now a man who has embarked on his own journey in this place that he calls home: America,” Morales said in her speech. “Please, continue to make this land the welcoming, diverse place of opportunities for niños and niñas to grow—and please let me be part of it.”

–“The Mazur/Kaplan Company and Olympus Pictures have optionedHolly Goldberg Sloan’s bestselling novel Counting By 7s. They’ve attached Oscar-nominated Beasts Of The Southern Wild star Quvenzhané Wallis and will build the movie around her.” says Deadline Hollywood.

–Julie Danielson writes about “Capturing a Ballerina’s Beauty,” “In the Author’s Note of her new picture book, Firebird, ballet dancer Misty Copeland notes that when she read ballet books as a child, she didn’t see herself. “I saw an image of what a ballerina should be, and she wasn’t me, brown faced.” Firebird is her attempt to change that, to give children one more ballet book featuring people of color. There simply aren’t many of these books on shelves.”

–Colin Dwyer (for NPR) posts news about Roxane Gay’s new gig at The Butter, “Roxane Gay has said that she’ll be making a “concerted effort” to publish people of color and queer writers.”

—–book lists, sites, etc.—–

–The #Diversiverse wrapped up and here is the Review Link-up Page. Do peruse.

–Edi (Crazy QuiltEdi) posts “Authors Extending their Reach,” “Several YA authors of color are adding depth to their repertoire this year by writing in outside the young adult world.” Check out some good reading options.

–Susie Rodarme (for Book Riot) shares “Beyond Murakami: 7 Japanese Authors to Read

–Swapna Krishna (for Book Riot) makes “An African Reading List.” “Through extensive Googling and suggestions from fellow Rioters, I’ve compiled the following list. These are fiction books by African authors, sorted by country. Not every African country is represented here, though I did my best. All of these books are available for purchase in the U.S. If an author has written multiple books (such as Achebe or Adichie), I listed just one so you’d have the author’s name. I also did not have any sort of genre/format restriction, so though most of these are adult literary fiction, not all of them are.”


{picture book} Hatke’s creatures

JuliasHouseJulia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke

First Second 2014.

When Julia’s house finds a new place to settle, she puts a sign out for lost creatures to combat her own sense of loneliness. But now a new conflict has arisen and a list of chores is her solution.

Ben Hatke, whom we have long since learned is a genius with young heroines and illustrated robots, impresses with his more earthbound whimsy. Julia’s house is charming and its inhabitants excite the imagination—and the fine digressions into lore.

Julia's Home for Lost Creatures II

julias house for lost creatures 2

The color palette, style, energy (I do love Julia’s hair)…Hatke manages a delightful picture book that is sweetly entertaining. And what caregiver will be able to resist a conversation on the way we can participate more harmoniously as family?—which is how we talk chores in our own creature-filled household. A lesson (besides “look at the mermaid doing the dishes, sweetie!”) that I appreciated was Julia’s understanding of her own limitations and abilities; which seem to frequent Hatke’s work. The house is too quiet, she opts for hospitality; it becomes too much for her, she asks for help. Hatke’s heroines are a resourceful lot. I was totally geeked to see Julia had a workshop.

Oh, and if you were a bit bummed by the idea that one of Hatke’s robots would not make an appearance? You’ll find a lovely invention there at the end.

julia's house chores

Julia’s House for Lost Creatures is a great little book about community. It is also a great place to join Hatke in the workings of the imagination. I look forward to what Hatke will have for us next. (another Zita??).


Not to be categorized as girls only and it spans a good age range. I’m thinking about this one for a storytime and encourage listeners to draw their own creature (and what chore would suit them best?). You should also take this book as a hint to check out Zita Spacegirl if you’ve yet done so.

Hatke did a blog tour called “Ben Hatke’s Bestiary of Lost Creatures” that may interest you.

 {images belong to Ben Hatke}

{bookishness} nominate, nominate…


“The Cybils awards are given each year by bloggers for the year’s best children’s and young adult titles.”


The 2014 Cybils Nominations are OPEN!

It is time to nominate books, friends.

But as the Cybils announcement reminds us, do review the Category descriptions and the Rules & Regulations.

A few Brief reminders: The book needs to be published between October 16, 2013 and October 15, 2014.

And ONE book per CATEGORY per PERSON. No exceptions.

Publishers and/or authors: submit your nominations once the public nomination period closes.

Public nominations close October 15.


I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to judge Round 2 of the Graphic Novels; nominate some brilliance, I’m hoping to see a fantastic shortlist. There should be some really good competition in that category this year!


{comic} revealed

Hidden : A Child’s Story of the Holocaust

Written by Loïc Dauvillier; Illustrated by Marc Lizano

Color by Greg Salsedo; Translated from the French by Alexis Siegel

First Second Books, 2014.

Ages 6-10; Grades 1-5.

 Encouraged to talk about her evident sadness, a grandmother shares her memories long hidden about her experience as a child in 1942 Paris. Opening in the late hours of evening (the dark) in the privacy of a home, steeped in themes of hiding and silence, the novel will eventually affect a catharsis that moves the reader to compassion and tears. And yet, it will be a story the reader will loathe to tuck away and forget.

The continual exchange between grandmother and granddaughter Elsa escapes the contrived as the young Elsa struggles to understand how a young Dounia Cohen’s life is upended by the horror of a mass eradication of Jews in Paris. Elsa alongside Dounia wonders at the lies adults will tell, the sudden cruelty of her neighbors or their heroics, the loss of a parent, the importance of a courageous community. The gently told story does not skirt the horror and sorrow. The portrayal of the injustice Jews and their sympathizers faced honors the intellect of a grade-schooler. The sequences are those Hidden’s young audience would understand, the fear and heartache of losing their parents, schoolroom humiliations, inexplicable displays public violence… They will find contemporary relevance in subjects of honesty, loyalty, identity, bullying, and loss. I was struck by how contemporary the novel makes the holocaust–how present. I was moved by the silence after that final narrative line at the bottom of page 68; how its said into the quiet; how Elsa sleeps in innocence.

One of the marvels of Diary of Anne Frank is how the reader connects with her youth. Elsa’s sympathies reflect her youthful audience. Dounia as young and old help them cope. She is the wise grandmother and the child witness. She shows fear and regret and incredible courage. The story reinforces what is right and good without the heavy-handed messaging.

Dauvillier understands the power of the oral historian in couching his story. He creates a connection to the present and the past not only through a framework and a paced movement from one to the other, but in reemphasizing the connections visually. Elsa is the unfreckled version of her grandmother when young. And while the story is told, Elsa is safe in the arms of the older Dounia/Simone. Hidden closes out of doors in the daylight in a tender exchange of reconciliation that forgives the silence and celebrates sharing the unspeakable.

I admit to being uncertain about the art when the book first came out, and I did find following the text a bit tricky at first. I appreciate, however, the accessibility of the cartoon work. Lizano manages the expressive without unbalancing the gentility in the narrative. He provides meaningful settings even when the image shouldn’t be rendered in anything more than words. He provides meaningful renderings when the language for child-audiences are inadequate. A lot of frames are close-ups, emphasizing subjectivity and a sympathy with the character and situation. The viewer is just as often cast as an observer of distances and emptiness, of the foreign. Lizano and Salsedo are fearless with darkening tints and shadows.


I was deeply impressed by Hidden. It approaches a difficult narrative with a caution that does not underestimate its young readership*. It leaves an impression that is empowering and interventionist, rather than crippling—an impression not only meant for the youngest of us.

Hidden would be a great graphic novel for intergenerational story time, and I shouldn’t think it only for educational venues or historic commemorations. Put this one on the any-day shelf.


*something I see more in translated European texts.

{images belong to Marc Lizano}

{bookishness} BBW 2014: Gaiman


“Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian “improving” literature. You’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant.” –Neil Gaiman, “Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and the Imagination.” The Guardian.

{picture/book} rules of summer

Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan. Arthur A. Levine (Scholastic) 2013.

 “Never break the rules. Especially, if you don’t understand them.”–back cover copy.

Rules of Summer, in its most simplified description, is about two brothers’ summer adventures. The story is told by Shaun Tan so there is the surreal and the incredible wordless impact of his imagery. Fans of Tan’s work should already have the book read or on their radar. If you don’t know Tan (for whatever reason), you may begin here.

“This is what I learned last summer” is how the story begins. And it is fair to assume the voice is that of the younger brother, but as the story progresses there are moments where the elder might have inspired a new rule as well. As it is, each of the double-page spreads “tells of an event and the lesson learned*.” And as the publisher also observes, “By turns, these events become darker and more sinister.”

Like the past tense framing of the story alludes, some rules aren’t realized until after they are broken. We understand how much is left unknown and unspoken and the genius of the book is how much it reflects these notions. There is a very very clever brain behind all the beauty on the page.

I mentioned surreal, and indeed there is a strangeness to the realist settings, but there is also a surreality to the story itself. The dark and the whimsical coincide, the summery tones in the color also have texture, and it opens with a more ominous tone than it closes.

Rules of Summer also opens on the title page with the younger running; you can practically hear him calling out to his elder brother not to leave him behind. His older brother doesn’t leave him behind—which is terribly important to the narrative. The summer ends and the sun is setting outside the darkening room where the boys watch television together and the walls hold drawings that commemorate their adventures.

The books dedication reads “for the little and the big,” which is precisely who it is for. Also, a good book for brothers and for people who have a folkloric imagination.


*Would be amusing to take a double-page spread and try to write a story that would inspire that image.

{images belong to Shaun Tan; read more about the book via Tan’s site, here}


read in participation w/ #Diversiverseamdu150

{bookishness} BBW 2014: Smith

art by Jonathan Hill (Americus)

Alison Flood at The Guardian writes about how “‘Bone’ Author Jeff Smith Speaks Out Ahead of US Banned Books Week:”

“Comics are now part of the literary scene, part of the discussion, and it shines a spotlight on these kinds of attacks,” [Jeff Smith] said. “That doesn’t mean the people who want to ban these books are malicious; in fact just the opposite. They have a concern which to them is legitimate. But that isn’t the point. The point is that they are trying to take away someone else’s ability to choose what they want to read, and you can’t do that.”


“As libraries, schools and bookshops in the US prepare for a week-long wave of events and exhibits on the perils of censorship – since 1990, the American Library Association has seen more than 18,000 attempts to remove materials from schools and libraries – the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s executive director Charles Brownstein said that comics and graphic novels were seeing “an increasing amount of challenges”.

“‘Comics are one of the most commonly attacked kinds of books. They’re uniquely vulnerable to challenges because of the medium’s visual nature and because comics still carry a stigma of being low-value speech. Some challenges are brought against comics because a single page or panel can be taken out of context, while others come under attack because of the mistaken notion that all comics are for children,’ said Brownstein.”