Book Trailer: Jazz in Love by Neesha Meminger

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Check out Jazz in Love by Neesha Meminger (Ignite Books, 2011)!

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

One very windy day in Iowa, Katie Takeshima and her older sister Lynn climbed to their roof with two boxes of Kleenex. They took the Kleenex out one at a time and let the wind catch it. They got in trouble, but it was worth it. The tissues had looked like giant butterflies in the wind. It had been the smart and beautiful Lynn's idea. As Katie says: "Lynn could take a simple, everyday object like a box of Kleenex and use it to prove how amazing the world is." Lynn doesn't just show her family how amazing the world is, she shows us readers too, just by being herself. The story of Katie and Lynn also reminds us readers of how precious family is.

I've never read a novel both as sad and hopeful as Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata (Atheneum, 2004). In the novel, all the relationships between family members, but especially between Katie and Lynn and their younger brother Sammy, are so real and so beautiful. It's scary and tragic when Lynn becomes terminally ill, and we see how confused and devastated her family gets.

Aside from characters and relationships I truly care about, what really impresses me about Kira-Kira is the fully realized childhood of Katie. Katie shares a lot of her childhood experiences - conversations, mishaps, and play time with Lynn and Sammy; visiting her working mom at a chicken processing plant; visiting her working dad at a hatchery; episodes featuring her odd uncle; camping trips; and more - and for me these experiences are interesting and entertaining because they feel so authentic. And it isn't just Katie's experiences that are authentic. Her thought processes, feelings, and priorities are authentic too. In Kira-Kira, Cynthia Kadohata has demonstrated a sincere respect for and a clear, sensitive understanding of her young readers.

It was Lynn who taught Katie her first word: kira-kira, which is "glittering" or "shining" in Japanese. Kira-Kira is a very touching novel about life and family and childhood that proves that despite profound loss, the world is kira-kira.


[I bought my own copy of Kira-Kira.]

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park


A certain prunus vase is among the most prized of Korea's many cultural treasures. It is the finest example of inlaid celadon pottery ever discovered and has been dated to the twelfth century.

The vase's most remarkable feature is its intricate inlay work. Each of the forty-six round medallions is formed by a white outer ring and a black inner ring. Within every circle, carved and then inlaid with great skill, there is a crane in graceful flight. Clouds drift between the medallions, with more cranes soaring among the clouds. And the glaze is a delicate shade of grayish green.

It is called the "Thousand Cranes Vase." Its maker is unknown.

The passage quoted above is the last passage from A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (Clarion Books, 2001). I've heard that many stories come about by asking what if questions. I haven't done a lot of research on A Single Shard yet, but I imagine that the author read about the Thousand Cranes Vase, maybe even saw it in person, and started asking what if questions and wondering about the childhood of the unknown potter. The result is the story of an orphan boy called Tree-ear, his friend the old Crane-man, the potter Min and his wife, and the village of Ch'ulp'o, renowned for its celadon pottery. Tree-ear is Min's apprentice and he works hard to help the master potter who dreams of being awarded a royal commission.

Tree-ear, Crane-man, Min and his wife are strong and intriguing characters. Tree-ear especially. Young readers will be rooting for him, his creative aspirations, and his friendships all throughout the book! Tree-ear's story is a good one, and it is one that will have young readers always wondering what will happen next.

But personally, what I like about A Single Shard is how well-researched it is and what a delightful and natural-feeling look it is into twelfth century rural Korea and the craft of celadon pottery making. (Information about twelfth century Korea and celadon pottery can also be found in the author's note at the end of the book.)


[I bought my own copy of A Single Shard.]

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy

Monday, December 20, 2010
I'm looking forward to reading Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy, a middle grade novel set in Afghanistan. Words in the Dust will be published by Arthur A. Levine Books on Jan. 1, 2011. It sounds really interesting and I'm hoping it is a non-exoticized portrayal of Afghanistan and Afghan children. (It's a good thing the novel was vetted by several Afghans.)

Below are videos of Trent Reedy talking about the novel with his editor Cheryl Klein. Thanks to Cheryl Klein for sharing the videos through her blog Brooklyn Arden!

Trent Reedy and Cheryl Klein talk about Words in the Dust - Part I:



Trent Reedy and Cheryl Klein talk about Words in the Dust - Part II:

Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji

Saturday, December 18, 2010
Illustrated by Boris Artzybasheff


I have a confession to make: I don't like animal stories. I don't know why. I can't explain it. I just don't find them interesting. Of course, there are some animal stories just so well-written that even non-animal story lovers like myself enjoy them. :o)

In Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon written by Dhan Gopal Mukerji and illustrated by Boris Artzybasheff (Dutton Juvenile; reprint edition, 1968), a very engaging narrator shares the daring adventures of his pigeon, Gay-Neck. Gay-Neck is a beautiful and talented pigeon ("soul of flight, pearl among pigeons"). I got swept up in Gay-Neck's escapades. He flies in the face of storms, gets into skirmishes with birds of prey, fights for leadership in the flock, participates in pigeon competitions, and becomes the glory of the Indian army in the first World War!

Gay-Neck is a great example of a book that is both educational and an interesting story. It satisfies children's curiosity about nature and demand for quality entertainment. In Gay-Neck, one learns much about birds - everything from how a pigeon learns to fly and how a swift builds its nest, to how eagles treat their young and how pheasants save themselves from danger. This book makes bird life fascinating, and sometimes Gay-Neck's ventures are downright GRIPPING. Highly recommended for children who love animals.


[I bought my own copy of Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon.]

Illustrator Interview: Jason Moss

Tuesday, December 14, 2010
It's time for another illustrator interview! Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to. . .



Jason Moss, winner of a Philippine National Children's Book Award for his bright, cheerful, and humorous illustrations in Just Add Dirt, a picture book about a boy who grows vegetables all over his body because he doesn't take a bath, written by Becky Bravo and published by Adarna House in 2009!


Welcome, Jason.

What motivates you to illustrate for children? What is the very best thing about illustrating children's books?


The fact that I'm going to be part of their growing up years as an illustrator. What motivates me is that I'm participating in lending them a dream and further molding their imagination. I say this because I myself, growing up on children's books (both local and foreign titles), said that one day I'll be illustrating myself.

The best thing about illustrating children's books is hearing stories that these kids look at my work over and over again, plus the fact that it's good to know that a lot of parents support Philippine publication, literature and illustration.

What is the greatest challenge from illustrating children's books?

Research and trying to marry tradition and trend to create a classic.

Can you please guide us through the creative process you used when working on Just Add Dirt?

A) Protagonist

After reading the manuscript three times and scribbling and doodling over it, pushing out the first ideas, etc., I then focus on creating a central image that will bring the book together. With an overview of all the characters I've created, I had to come up with yet another original; this time, an image of a child who lacked discipline. After I've established the best possible image/design for the character which I feel will appeal to children, I create the supporting characters who will complement the manner of illustration given to the protagonist. Of course, the protagonist should stick out from the rest.

B) Research

I only learned how to read and speak Tagalog in the 3rd grade and up to this point, I still don't know some words. So the first thing that I did was to ask my mom what the other vegetables were, then I googled them as reference.

C) Thumbnails

This is plotting the book: Where the body text comes out and where the illustrations are placed, whether spot, flush left or right, or double spread, bleed or non-bleed.

D) Final Art

I have to show one sample of final art and the thumbnails to the publisher for approval before I start creating the final art. When it's approved, I immediately start plotting all of the illustrations and begin an assembly line technique for speed, accuracy and color/style consistency.

E) The Cover

I always do this last. I make sure that the title is readable at 3 meters and that there are minimal colors and as many visual elements as possible to attract attention.

What does winning a Philippine National Children's Book Award mean to you?

It feels really good to be appreciated.

Thank you so much for sharing your process, Jason! And thank you so much for opening your studio to me!

One rainy Monday afternoon, I had the privilege of visiting Jason's studio - and felt as if I had found some treasure. Not only was I able to take some pictures of the studio to share with all of you, I was able to go through rough sketches of the illustrations for Just Add Dirt. I took some pictures of those too, of course. :o)


Here are just some of the books Jason has illustrated, laid out on the floor of his studio:


On the walls of the studio:




Some of Jason's books:



One of his desks:



And now some of the notes, research, and rough sketches for Just Add Dirt!








Finally, here is a sketch of the book's cover, followed by the final cover and one of the final illustrations (both images provided by Adarna House):




I was awed during this studio visit (Tarie = fangirl). It was my first time visiting an illustrator's studio and my first time going through rough sketches for picture book illustrations (and it wasn't for just any picture book, too). I hope you all enjoyed this post! Let's keep our fingers crossed for more studio visits. ;o) I'll definitely share them with you through this blog.

Interviews with Paula Yoo

Friday, December 10, 2010
I've said it before, and I'll say it again and again. Paula Yoo is AMAZING. She's a children's and YA book author, a TV writer and producer, a teacher, and a professional violinist. Find out more about her in these interviews:

Here is my 2008 interview with Paula.

I interviewed Paula again yesterday, at Color Online.

Vivian Lee Mahoney interviews Paula today at HipWriterMama! Check it out!

The Secret is in the Soil Book Launch

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Want an example of "the book beautiful"? Check out The Secret is in the Soil: A Beginner's Guide to Natural Gardening (Conquest for Christ Foundation, 2010), written by Flor Gozon Tarriela and Gidget Roceles Jimenez. This book for ages 9 and up is unique and its subject matter much welcome. Plus, Liza Flores has really outdone herself in illustrating and designing the book!


I was fortunate to attend the book's launch last Saturday night at the Manila Polo Club.



There was a good turnout, and aside from the crowd, there were plenty of plants around of course.





Below is a picture of Flor Gozon Tarriela signing books for the kids at the launch.


And here are Gidget Roceles Jimenez and Liza Flores!



Congratulations, Flor, Gidget, and Liza! Best wishes for The Secret is in the Soil!


[The Secret is in the Soil is available at branches of ECHOstore.]

Random Fact/s (12-5-2010)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I need your feedback, guys!

In The Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators by Anita Silvey, Linda Sue Park is cited as the first Asian American writer to win the Newbery Medal (for A Single Shard in 2002). But what about Dhan Gopal Mukerji?

Dhan Gopal Mukerji was born on July 6, 1890 in Calcutta, India and he immigrated to the U.S. in his early 20s. He won the Newbery Medal in 1928 for his novel Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon. He was the first writer of color to win the Newbery Medal and is considered the first successful Indian writer in the U.S. He committed suicide on July 14, 1936 in New York City.

Dhan Gopal Mukerji was obviously a resident of the U.S., but it seems he was never a citizen. The U.S. Congress didn't pass a bill allowing naturalization for Indians until July 1946 (ten years after his death).

Now, my questions are: Can Dhan Gopal Mukerji be considered Asian American / Indian American? Can he be considered the first Asian American writer to win the Newbery Medal?

Interviews with Mitali Perkins

Wednesday, December 1, 2010
I interviewed Indian American author Mitali Perkins back in 2008. I've just interviewed her again for Color Online. What a privilege! Thank you, Mitali. :o)