Sunday, March 24, 2019

Sharing the Heart to Offset the Hate in the Headlines: Books From Muslim Authors

With the news about the terrorist attack on mosques in New Zealand, my mind went to books I could share with students. The books that would help them better understand the wearing of a hijab. The books that would help them better understand what it means when they hear the word Muslim or Islam. The books that would help them better understand that there are Muslim authors in this country writing books for them to read. The books that would help them better understand that our library is an inclusive space. The books that would help them better understand the heart of the people instead of the hate from the headlines. The books that would help them better understand that we are not talking about an "other" but a "someone".  Because that is the power of books. They grow understanding and empathy, and if we are critical about representation and are intentional about what and when we share and promote them, they can grow a better society. So I'm sharing some recommendations of kidlit books by Muslim authors and illustrators. I hope you find titles to read and share on these lists.

Yo Soy Muslim, Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets, Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, Saffron Ice Cream, Mommy's Khimar, Under My Hijab, Malala's Magic Pencil, Stepping Stones, Salam Alaikum, The Proudest Blue, Bilal Cooks Daal, Leila in Saffron

Early Chapter Books: Meet Yasmin (series), Zayd Saleem Chasing the Dream (trilogy).
Middle Grade Novels: Amina's Voice, The Gauntlet, Amal Unbound, Other Words for Home

Love From A To Z, Saints & Misfits, Internment, Love Hate & Other Filters, Shatter Me (series), Written in the Stars, A Land of Permanent Goodbyes, The Secret Sky, An Ember in the Ashes (series), A Very Large Expanse of Sea,
& on my TBR: Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali, The Candle and the Flame

Thursday, March 7, 2019

ANOTHER - Wordless Picture Book(s)

I love wordless picture books! When I heard Christian Robinson was debuting his first book as author & illustrator, I was excited to see what it would be about. When I heard it was a wordless picture book, I was even more intrigued.
And ANOTHER does not disappoint. Evoking a sense of wonder with its playfulness and creativity, there is much for kids to imagine in conjunction with each page. And I especially love that the idea for this story came from him thinking about diverse representation and wondering "what if you saw yourself in a book...literally"
interior spreads

Reading wordless picture books with students never fails to help me discover more than I could on my own. When kids get time to explore what they notice in the illustrations, they often point out things I missed or overlooked, and their enthusiasm in pouring over the pictures to find clues to the story is a joy to see.  I can't wait to see what they discover in the world of ANOTHER!

Some more of my favorite wordless picture books to share with students during #classroombookaday read alouds.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Author Interview: Eva Eland - When Sadness Is At Your Door

Happy Book Birthday to Eva Eland & When Sadness is At Your Door

A comforting primer in emotional literacy and mindfulness that suggests we approach the feeling of sadness as if it is our guest.
Sadness can be scary and confusing at any age! When we feel sad, especially for long periods of time, it can seem as if the sadness is a part of who we are–an overwhelming, invisible, and scary sensation.
In When Sadness Is at Your Door, Eva Eland brilliantly approaches this feeling as if it is a visitor. She gives it a shape and a face, and encourages the reader to give it a name, all of which helps to demystify it and distinguish it from ourselves. She suggests activities to do with it, like sitting quietly, drawing, and going outside for a walk. The beauty of this approach is in the respect the book has for the feeling, and the absence of a narrative that encourages the reader to “get over” it or indicates that it’s “bad,” both of which are anxiety-producing notions.
Simple illustrations that recall the classic style of Crockett Johnson (Harold and the Purple Crayon) invite readers to add their own impressions.
Eva Eland’s debut picture book is a great primer in mindfulness and emotional literacy, perfect for kids navigating these new feelings–and for adult readers tackling the feelings themselves!
To celebrate, Eva is here answering a few questions about her debut picture book. 
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What inspired you to write this book about this topic right now?

Actually, I wanted to make a comforting picture book and wanted to understand more about image making that could achieve this. But I soon realised, that to make something comforting, I needed to understand the ‘difficult emotions’ better first, so I started to explore sadness, fear and anger as characters. Sadness was the one that I most resonated with myself, as it’s a feeling that has frequently visited me since childhood, and a feeling that has become very familiar, almost like an old friend.

My students are always interested in the behind-the-scenes process. How long did it take from the time you started drafting the book to finishing it to be ready for publication? 

Short version: I only worked on the book for about 2,5 months with Andersen Press (which is not a long time), but before we started working together on it I had already developed the book over the course of 1,5 years, but alongside many other projects and with many intervals, as I was studying the Children’s Book Illustration masters at the Cambridge School of Art at the time.

Longwinded version: With this book it’s a bit difficult to tell, because I had the original idea it’s loosely based upon in 2012. In 2016, during my studies at the Children’s Book Illustration masters at the Cambridge School of Art, I revisited this idea, but I initially focused on a completely different story, also about sadness. Early 2017, I decided to rework the first idea and make it into a picture book that I could present at the International Children’s Book Fair in Bologna, at the stand of the Cambridge School of Art. It’s there that Andersen Press found my book and approached me. We started working on it together in the summer of 2017. It was changing till the very end, as we had to tell the same story in fewer pages. It really became so much better because of this focus and we took great care in making sure the message was just right. We finished it in a relatively short time, for the final artwork I think I only had 3 to 4 weeks. It was only possible to finish it in a relatively short time because of all the work and experimenting I had done before that time already.

How/Why did you decide on the limited colors/illustration style for this book?

At the time I was developing this book, I was also experimenting with printmaking techniques, in particular risography, the method of printmaking I also used for illustrations in the book. I also experimented with just how far I could pare back my work, for it still to be effective and communicate. Working with a limited colour palette seemed to be a natural fit for this book. The subdued colours fit the subject, and I think with a topic like sadness, it is important to leave as much space for the imagination of the reader, to allow for their own interpretation. So however big, small or personal your sadness might be, you can still relate to the words and images in the book.

Did you try any other ways of depicting sadness before landing on this final version?

Funnily enough, the shape of this sadness, was there from the beginning. I did however experiment in between with lots of different ways of depicting sadness (abstract shapes, elephants and hairy creatures all past the revenue), but I decided that the sadness character you can find in the book now was the most effective one after all. It was important that the character wasn’t too specific but also that it had an endearing element to it, so children can relate to it and wouldn’t feel threatened by it. The halftone texture of sadness has been quite a long journey however to find. I was very sure from the beginning it shouldn’t have a solid outline and it should be semi-transparent - but sometimes it can still take a while to get it right.

What do you hope kids (& adults) take away from reading this book?

On the one hand I like it that the book seems to have a reassuring and comforting element to it, but what I like most is that it has the potential to show kids (and adults just alike) that it’s not necessary to be afraid of our emotions. We can learn to understand them better and take care of them, and as a result we will understand ourselves and others better. This is a continuous journey, but reading a book like this can be a great conversation starter between kids and adults, to explore the subject further - and as a result we might be able to feel more kindness and compassion towards feelings like sadness, ourselves and others. 

What's next for you?

Making more books! I’m finishing my second book with Andersen Press at the moment, which will be coming out in spring 2020 if all goes well - and I have lots of new ideas for books that I will soon start to develop further. I can’t really share more I’m afraid.

Thank you, Eva, for being here today! 
Thank you to Random House for coordinating and providing an F&G of When Sadness is At Your Door to preview.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Sneak Peek at Some of My Favorite 2019 Books

I shared my end-of-year Favorite 2018 Books & Picture Books, and now I'm looking ahead to 2019!

These are the 2019 releases I've already read, loved, and think will stand the test of time to still be favorites a year from now. All are worth a pre-order.


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