Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Measuring Up brings together two worlds

Measuring Up, by Lily LaMotte/Illustrated by Ann Xu, (Oct. 2020, Harper Alley), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062973863

Ages 8-13

Twelve-year old Cici is a Taiwanese girl whose parents are moving to Seattle. She’s not thrilled about leaving her life behind in Taiwan, especially her A-má, the grandmother that helped raise her. While she and A-má video chat, she misses her grandmother terribly and wishes she could bring her to the States. School is okay, but there are the inevitable comments from bullies; even her new friends tend to lump her in with “Chinese” as opposed to “Taiwanese”. Cici wants so much to bring A-má to Seattle to celebrate her 70th birthday, and a kids’ cooking contest offers her the perfect chance to do it: the grand prize will pay for A-má’s ticket! Cici has a few hurdles to overcome, though: her father’s insistence on prioritizing schoolwork over everything else, including cooking; the fact that she only knows how to cook Taiwanese food, and being intimidated by one of the other contestands, a girl named Miranda, whose family owns a popular restaurant and who was practically raised in kitchens. With some help from a friendly librarian (hi!) who introduces her to Julia Child, Cici begins finding her own “courage and conviction” – and that inspires her as she finds herself in her new country.

Cici navigates two worlds in Measuring Up: her Taiwanese world and her new, American world; neither of which make her entirely comfortable all the time. She struggles to “fit in” with her American friends, with new activities like sleepovers – that don’t sit so easily with her parents – and her discomfort with her friends seeing “how Taiwanese” her home life is. Learning to cook with Julia Child’s recipes, and Child’s willingness to not be perfect, gives her the confidence to step outside her comfort zone. Working with Miranda is intimidating at first, but with her newfound confidence, Cici begins trusting herself and finds her voice in the competition and with Miranda, too. It’s an exciting development to watch unfold across the pages, and the colorful artwork is eye-catching. Readers who enjoy slice-of-life, coming of age books like Shannon Hale’s Real Friends books, Victoria Jamieson’s All’s Faire in Middle School, Remy Lai’s Pie in the Sky will love Measuring Up. The New York Times has a great article on food-related novels for kids, too; it’s a great piece on how we connect food, family, and culture. and and Visit author Lily LaMotte’s webpage and find out more about the book, including a recipe from the story.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Jen Wang does it again with Stargazing!

Stargazing, by Jen Wang, (Sept. 2019, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250183880

Ages 9-13

Jen Wang’s given us cyberpunk fantasy with In Real Life (2014) and high fantasy with The Prince and the Dressmaker (2018). With Stargazing, readers get a more contemporary story with, as Kirkus notes, a true portrayal of the diversity within the Asian-American community.

Christine is a Chinese-American girl from a more traditional Chinese family. She is focused on school and her music, until her family moves YuWen Lin and her daughter, Moon, into the in-law apartment where Christine’s grandfather used to live. YuWen and Moon are a struggling family, and the hospitality offered by Christine’s family is much appreciated. Christine and Moon are encouraged to spend time together, but the two are polar opposites: Moon is a vegetarian Buddhist who loves K-Pop and is rumored to get into fights. Despite their differences, Christine and Moon grow close, with Moon introducing Christine to a lighter, more fun side of life, letting her relax and let her guard down. Moon confides in Christine, telling her that she belongs in outer space, and that beings from space speak to her. When Moon meets a Caucasian girl that shares many of her interests, Christine’s jealousy takes control, and she puts Moon into an embarrassing situation; Moon reacts with her fists, which leads to an episode that lands Moon in the hospital.

Jen Wang weaves an intricate story of family expectations, social groups, and the complexity of navigating friendships in Stargazing, giving us some of her best storytelling yet. Influenced by events in her childhood and growing up in an Asian-American family, the story has depth and incredible emotion. Whether she’s giving us cyber farmers (In Real Life) or a friendship between two schoolgirls who love K-Pop, Jen Wang always manages to make her character’s humanity the central focus of her stories. Christine and Moon are so real, so strong, that their voices come right off the page and speak to readers; telling them about their stories, their lives, their struggles. When Christine writes that she doesn’t consider Moon Asian, we see the conflict between a traditional Chinese household versus a more contemporary, Westernized Chinese-American household. Christine’s mother holds Chinese lessons in her home; YuWen runs a plant nursery and watches TV with her daughter at night. While Christine listens to more Westernized music, Moon embraces K-Pop and dance routines. The two families present a glimpse into the diversity of Asian-American families, both connected to the culture in different ways.

Stargazing is a definite must-read and has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly. Newsarama has an interview with Jen Wang that’s worth reading.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Tween Reads

The Dragon Pearl takes Korean mythology to the stars

Dragon Pearl, by Yoon Ha Lee, (Jan. 2019, Disney-Hyperion), $16.99, ISBN: 9781368013352

Ages 8-12

The latest from Disney’s Rick Riordan Presents line gives readers a space opera, Korean mythology, ghosts, nonbinary characters, and moral quandaries! Min is a 13-year-old shapeshifting female fox spirit who lives with her widowed mother and extended family on the planet Jinu. Her older brother, Jun, is part of the Space Force – where Min intends to follow him in a few years, when she hits age 16 – but things change when an investigator shows up at Min’s home, with news that Jun has deserted his post and is rumored to be searching for the Dragon Pearl, a mythical object that could help turn planets into paradises… or destroy them. Determined to find her brother and clear his name, Min runs away from home and finds her way onto a starship; when the ship falls under mercenary attack, she wakes up on the very ship her brother served on: the Pale Lightning. Assuming the form of Jang, a cadet who died during the mercenary attack and subsequent rescue attempt, Min tries to unravel the mystery of Jun’s disappearance, and stumbles onto a plot much bigger than she could have imagined. She joins forces with Jang’s friends: Hanuel, a female dragon spirit, and Sujin, a nonbinary goblin spirit and continues her detective work.

Dragon Pearl is a space opera, complete with space battles, intrigue and shifting loyalties, and a mythos, based on Korean mythology, all of which come together to build an epic adventure that middle grade readers will devour. Min faces racism/species-ism as a fox spirit; she and her family present as humans, because foxes have a bad reputation for trickery being untrustworthy. She has to lie to Jang’s friends to keep her secret; that guilt is with her day in and day out, especially as her own friendship with them grows. She has to break rules for the greater good: to find her brother, who’s also considered a deserter. She’ll deal with the fallout as it comes; Min’s family is her priority. Is she a hero? Is she a traitor? It depends on whose point of view you’re viewing from. The same can be said of the Dragon Pearl, which can create a lush homeworld or destroy a planet. Is it a valuable treasure or a cursed trinket?

Let’s talk about the rich characters Yoon Ha Lee creates. Min and her fellow cadets inhabit a universe where rank and personal pronouns are part of the uniform. Sujin, the goblin cadet, uses “they/their” pronouns and no one has an issue with it. Sujin is a funny, creative character whose gender identity fits seamlessly into the Dragon Pearl universe. They wield a magical spork, for heaven’s sake. That’s the exciting news! Haneul is a dragon spirit who can communicate with the weather; the Pale Lightning’s captain is a tiger spirit who exudes charisma and a more than a wee bit of menace. Min, a fox spirit, exudes Charm to head off potential problems at the pass and is clever, constantly thinking of her next moves to get her to her goal. An exciting adventure, moral conflict, and rich character diversity make this one a nice addition to your fantasy middle grade collections, and yet another hit from Rick Riordan’s Disney imprint.

Dragon Pearl has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Conferences & Events

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2018: A Different Pond #ReadYourWorld

The next book on my #ReadYourWorld shelf is this quietly beautiful story of a father and son.

A Different Pond, by Bao Phi/Illustrated by Thi Bui,
(Aug. 2017, Capstone), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1-62370-803-0

Recommended for readers 5-10

A Different Pond is an autobiographical story of a father and son’s fishing trip that tells us so much more. The boy and his father wake before dawn to go fishing; his father has a second job he must leave for after they fish. Little pieces of information in the words and art tell us about this family: the bare bulb burning in the kitchen; the take-out calendar, dated 1982; references to Vietnam and war, family members not coming home; the fact that his father must work a second job and fish for food because “Everything in America costsa  lot of money”; even the father’s calloused hands. This is the story of a refugee family trying to get by in their new country, and the story of a son embracing quiet time with his father. It’s powerful and timely and perfect in its simplicity, the text reading like evocative verse:, such as Bao Phi’s description of his father’s spoken English: “A kid at my school said my dad’s English sounds like a thick, dirty river. But to me his English sounds like gentle rain.” The art goes from warm colors inside the family’s home to vibrant shades of blue and gray as father and son fish, and the art is presented panels and spreads, with the endpapers providing us a glimpse into childhood memories: an action figure, a pair of sneakers, a decorative door hinge. Notes from the author and illustrator, with childhood photos, bring readers deeper into the immigrant and refugee experience.

A Different Pond is one of Kirkus’ Best Books of 2017 and received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist.

 

cropped-banner2018 multicultural book

Multicultural Children’s Book Day (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board.

2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors

HONORARY: Children’s Book Council, Junior Library Guild

PLATINUM: Scholastic Book Clubs

GOLD: Audrey Press,Candlewick Press, Loving Lion Books, Second Story Press, Star Bright Books, Worldwide Buddies

SILVER: Capstone Publishing, Author Charlotte Riggle, Child’s Play USA, KidLit TV, Pack-n-Go Girls, Plum Street Press

BRONZE: Barefoot Books, Carole P. Roman, Charlesbridge Publishing, Dr. Crystal BoweGokul! World, Green Kids Club, Gwen Jackson, Jacqueline Woodson, Juan J. Guerra, Language Lizard, Lee & Low Books, RhymeTime Storybooks, Sanya Whittaker Gragg, TimTimTom Books, WaterBrook & Multnomah, Wisdom Tales Press

2018 Author Sponsors

Honorary Author Sponsors: Author/Illustrator Aram Kim and Author/Illustrator Juana Medina

Author Janet Balletta, Author Susan Bernardo, Author Carmen Bernier-Grand, Author Tasheba Berry-McLaren and Space2Launch, Bollywood Groove Books, Author Anne Broyles, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Eugenia Chu, Author Lesa Cline-Ransome, Author Medeia Cohan and Shade 7 Publishing, Desi Babies, Author Dani Dixon and Tumble Creek Press, Author Judy Dodge Cummings, Author D.G. Driver, Author Nicole Fenner and Sister Girl Publishing, Debbi Michiko Florence, Author Josh Funk, Author Maria Gianferrari,Author Daphnie Glenn, Globe Smart Kids, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Author Quentin Holmes, Author Esther Iverem, Jennifer Joseph: Alphabet Oddities, Author Kizzie Jones, Author Faith L Justice , Author P.J. LaRue and MysticPrincesses.com, Author Karen Leggett Abouraya, Author Sylvia Liu, Author Sherri Maret, Author Melissa Martin Ph.D., Author Lesli Mitchell, Pinky Mukhi and We Are One, Author Miranda Paul,Author Carlotta Penn, Real Dads Read, Greg Ransom, Author Sandra L. Richards, RealMVPKidsAuthor Andrea Scott, Alva Sachs and Three Wishes Publishing, Shelly Bean the Sports Queen, Author Sarah Stevenson, Author Gayle H. SwiftAuthor Elsa Takaoka,Author Christine Taylor-Butler, Nicholette Thomas and  MFL PublishingAuthor Andrea Y. Wang, Author Jane WhittinghamAuthor Natasha Yim

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.

Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party! http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/twitter-party-great-conversations-fun-prizes-chance-readyourworld-1-27-18/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with MCBD on social media and be sure and look for/use the official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Posted in Non-Fiction

Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They left Behind

Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They left Behind, by Cynthia Grady/Illustrated by Amiko Hirao, (Jan. 2018, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580896887

Recommended for readers 5-10

Inspired by a true story, Write to Me tells the story of Clara Breed, a children’s librarian who corresponded with her Japanese American patrons when they were sent to internment camps during World War II. She gave them postcards to let her know where they were; she visited them, wrote to them, and sent them books and crafts to help ease their minds during their confinement. She advocated for those children by writing articles and attending rallies, advocating for her kids. When the kids came home, she was waiting for them – and they came to her. She was comfort in a cruel time. Write to me tells the story of Clara Breed through conversations with her library kids; muted pencil art illustrates life in the prison camps, with excerpts from actual letters on each page to show the passage of time. Endpapers display photos from the period, including family arrivals at the camps and evacuation notices for Japanese Americans. An author’s note features a photo of Clara Breed and two of her patrons, taken at a reunion in 1991. There’s a timeline of Clara Breed’s life, including links to her articles on the war, relocation, civil liberties, and human rights, and a selected history of the Japanese People in the United States. Source notes, bibliography, and further reading are available. A touching book about a woman who touched lives, and a nice addition to biography collections.

 

 

Posted in Preschool Reads

Put Dragon Dancer on your Lunar New Year reading lists

Dragon Dancer, by Joyce Chng/Illustrated by Jérémy Pailler, (Jan. 2018, Lantana Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 9781911373261

Recommended for readers 4-8

As the Lunar New Year approaches, a Singaporean boy named Yao waits to awaken the sky dragon, Shen Long. When he does, Yao will go on a magical adventure with the dragon, dancing the bad luck of the previous year away, and bringing in the good luck for a prosperous new year.

Originally released in the UK by Lantana Publishing in 2015, Dragon Dancer is a gorgeous book that draws on ancestry, legend, and tradition for Lunar New Year reading. The text pulses with the energy of the dragon dance, the art coming alive from the page as the dragon writhes, corkscrews, and spins away misfortune and welcomes in prosperity. The background pages remain starkly white, allowing the brilliant colors to spring off the page and into readers’ imaginations. The music in the story urges dragon and dancer on, and draws the reader into the narrative: you can feel the drums pounding, the cymbals clashing, the crowds cheering. Yao thinks of his grandfather, hoping for his strength and guidance as he prepares to wake Shen Yao, and the dragon praises his skills as a dragon dancer. A note from the author provides a bit of personal experience of the New Year celebration. This one’s a definite purchase for my holiday collection.

 

Posted in programs, Storytime

Harvest Festival Programming

The Mid-Autumn Festival starts tomorrow, October 4th, so I’ve been doing some programming with the kids here to celebrate. Yesterday, I had a Fortune Bookies workshop where we made fortune cookie bookmarks with felt. The glue didn’t hold so great – I really need to get a hot glue gun – but the moms jumped right in and made the best of a Make It Work Situation and saved the day with a few discreetly placed staples.

PictureNot one of my Fortune Bookies – this is Heidi Fiedler’s model.

 

Today’s program was more successful. I had a tea party! Ever since reading How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea, I knew I wanted to use the story in a tea party setting. The Festival provided the perfect time. I bought some moon cakes, palmiers, and milk tea and set up a proper tea table, cutting the moon cakes up so everyone could share, laying out bags of palmiers so I’d have extra food on hand, and pouring cups of milk tea for everyone. I was able to accommodate 10 kids and 4 parents, with no leftovers and a very happy group!

The reception to How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea was good; they were engaged and interested in the different teas throughout the book. Next up was Loretta Seto’s book, Mooncakes, which I loved. It’s the story of a little girl sitting with her parents, underneath the full harvest moon, and telling the three most popular stories about the Harvest Moon: the story of Chang’E and how she flew to the moon; of how Wu Gang chops away at a tree to gain immortality, and the Jade Rabbit. This one seemed to be the biggest hit with the families as a whole. I finished up with Grace Lin’s Thanking the Moon, for my younger kiddos, and had one QH Kid say, “That’s a really short one.”

All in all, a nice little party to welcome the harvest.