Author Archives: fairrosa

About fairrosa

Children's Librarian for 4 years. Middle School Librarian for 17 years and counting. Love children's books. Favorite genres: fantasy and scifi.

Sunday Select, October 4, 2015

This week’s selection is not a lengthy one but the image quote pins a moment in history that I hope to be a turning point in the United States’ public psyche: and I truly believe that children’s and young adult literature can play a big part in our communal effort to raise conscientious and compassionate next generations.

Quote of the Weekdear-congress-1b

by Jonathan Schmock
from “Dear Congress” on

Considering Cultural and Emotional Competency

It’s Banned Books Week again. Can we stop yelling at each other about it?: Jacqueline Woodson interviewed by Ron Charles — from The Washington Post

Big News about Hoffman’s AMAZING GRACE by Debbie Reese — from American Indians in Children’s Literature

Patterns of Immigration Excerpt by Roni Dean-Burren  — from Dean-Burren’s Facebook Post

Authors & Books

It’s a Coder! It’s a Teacher! It’s a Kick-Ass Graphic Novelist!: Is Gene Luen Yang from Kryptonby Michael Mechanicook — from Mother Jones

Alice in Wonderland: A Very Important Date by Monica Edinger — from School Library Journal

Alice: 150 Years of WonderlandOnline Exhibit at The Morgan Library

2015 Finalists: Young Readers  — from Kirkus

I gathered these entries from various sources such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and specific sites that I follow such as Educating Alice, Pub Peeps, Book Riot, School Library Journal, The Horn Book, We Need Diverse Books, American Indians in Children’s literature, etc.

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So You Want to Be A Jedi: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back by Adam Gidwitz

soyouwantobeajediSo You Want to Be A Jedi: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back by Adam Gidwitz, with original concept arts

Really enjoyed much of the book — many of the Jedi lessons are great fun and with the trade-mark Gidwitz caring for a young person’s mind and character. The second person narrative device worked for me and the added extended training segments made me happy. The third person narrative parts about Han & Leia are faithful to the movie but to someone like me who saw the original movie and re-watched it a few times in the past few decades, they can seem a bit bland. I could tell that the imagined audience is actually those who’re young and not exactly familiar with Episode V. Waiting to hear from my 4th & 5th graders of their view.

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Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

unusualchickensUnusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

Definitely a breezy read with some fun bits and pieces. I really like Kelly Jones’ portrayal of Sophie, level-headed, with plenty of normal kid concerns and normal kid courage. Jones included some not-too-heavy-handed tidbits about how others perceive Sophie, being half Mexican American, being viewed as poor, being “presumed” in not-so-flattering ways.

Since my taste runs more toward more saturated kind of fantasy, I wanted the chickens’ powers (and they are amazing powers) to manifest more, stronger, and add more tension to the story.  However, I can also see how this can be quite attractive to those who just want their magic to be more like everyday happenings — not too many world-altering encounters.

My narrative device-detector antenna was definitely alert for this one and wish that the letter-writing device had worked all the way through.  The really really long, as-it-happens, climatic sections did not work all that well for me: not sure when/where Sophie would have been writing to Agnes in the middle of rescuing the chickens and participating in the Poultry Show (and it is apparent that those letters weren’t written after all the excitement as a report, since Agnes would have known all that had happened and wouldn’t have needed such narration of events.)

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Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

circusmirandusCircus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

For the most part, the story works, and I did care about the main character and what he was hoping for. The ending is the kind that kid readers always want: the young protagonist actually GOT to enter the fantasy realm, rather than learning some precious lessons on how to hold the magic in one’s heart but knowing that “fantasy world” does not quite exist. So, kudos to Beasley on that front. I was hoping that once we learned the back story of the aunt, I would have had more sympathy toward her behavior but she remained a two-dimensional device and not fleshed out character all the way through. Definitely felt that the writing is a bit plain and some details could be trimmed to tighten the pacing, but totally see it appeal to certain young readers.

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Sunday Select, September 27, 2015

FCLSSQuote of the Week

Are you ready for a revolution?
As an African-American librarian, I am.
Think about it. It’s 2015, and we still need to campaign for “more diverse books.”
The question we librarians need to ask ourselves is: Are you exposing your users to the full range of authors and literature out there? Are you going out of your comfort zone and reading and learning about authors and sharing that with the community you serve?

— by Shauntee Burns-Simpson,

from A Call to Action for Librarians @ BookRiot

We Need Diverse Books

A Call to Action for Librarians by Shauntee Burns-Simpson — from BookRiot

Ta-Nehisi Coates to Write Black Panther Comic for Marvel by George Gene Gustines — from The New York Times

Lying to Children About the California Missions and the Indians by Deborah A. Miranda — from Zinn Education Project: Teaching a People’s History

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan reviewed by Pooja Makhijani — from The Rumpus

The Diversity Baseline Survey — from Lee & Low Books

Authors & Books

Top 25 Books from the 2015 NBA (Neri Book Awards) by G. Neri — from

Some Kids’ Books Are Worth The Wait: ‘They Do Take Time,’ Says Kevin Henkes  — from NPR

Jane Goodall, UN Messenger of Peace  by Monica Edinger — from Educating Alice

Children’s Books Interview – Horn Book Editor, Roger Sutton  — from Miss Marple’s Musings

A Manifesto for Children’s Literature; or, Reading Harold as a Teenager by Philip Nel — from Iowa Review 

I Am Marie Lu: Ask Me Anything  — from

Nielsen Summit Shows the Data Behind the Children’s Book Boom by Natasha Gilmore — from Publishers Weekly

Something Great to Share


Size Comparison Science Fiction Spaceships by Dirk Loechel — from Deviant Art

(Click on this small partial image to see the full size, high rez original.)


I gathered these entries from various sources such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and specific sites that I follow such as Educating Alice, Pub Peeps, Book Riot, School Library Journal, The Horn Book, We Need Diverse Books, etc.

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X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz & Kekla Magoon

xX: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz & Kekla Magoon

So many of my esteemed colleagues have reviewed this book extremely favorably and some of them told me exactly why they love this book.  They cite the energy in the narrative, the honesty in the young man’s anger, and the eventual growth and redemption of this lost soul.

So I feel like walking on thin ice to say that I didn’t find the novel or the protagonist quite compelling all the way through.  I found the beginning of the narrative strong and powerful.  I was moved by Red’s emotional ties to his mother and siblings; I was convinced that he would find justification of he must steal.  His slow realization of his “place” in the world saddened me.  The refrain of “Just a n****r” is both chilling and makes my blood boil!  And one cannot easily forget his witnessing a lynched body and the connection to the song “Strange Fruit.”

But then… we have 200 pages more of Malcolm engaged in various illegal activities, and continuously excusing himself because of his sorrowful past, family situation, societal reality, etc. I understand that all of these are based on real events, family stories, and Malcolm’s own words. I can only speak for myself as a reader how after a while it felt more tedious than compelling. The pacing went from tight to sloppy.  I got quite impatient and did not feel empathy or sympathy toward him.  Perhaps that’s not the intent of the author but it was difficult for me to want to follow his next missteps since I stopped caring.

The final payoff of X’s enlightenment comes very late and lasts very briefly within the confine of this novel. The book ends before his important life’s work begins.  For many who already know quite a bit about Malcolm X, his personal narrative, his rage, and his complex relationship with the Nation of Islam, the ending is but a beginning — we know what he would become.  And the book includes extensive after matter to detail Malcolm X’s achievements.  I just wonder what impression this “novel” of Malcolm X leaves a younger reader.

I also wonder how the pacing feels and my emotional engagement might have been different if the narrative voice had been a more universal third person, so that I could understand his internal struggle and also observe his external charms and charisma (and not just being told by the protagonist that “people seem to be drawn to me” or “girls like me.”)

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Notes from Beijing: Chinese Children’s Books and Other Thoughts, Part 1

FCLBeijingThese thoughts went through my mind as I visited Beijing and the International Book Fair with a focus on the local books published for the Chinese young readers.

First, simply about communication and information exchanges.

It was quite an education for me to truly understand that the “WORLD” wide web as I see and use it is definitely NOT so “world wide.”   YouTube, Google-platform, Facebook, and Twitter are all inaccessible in China, unless someone has installed IP masking devices (VPN, etc.)   So, when I tweet or share something on Facebook from New York City, I cannot guarantee to reach the millions of potential internet users in China.  According to the editor of one of the publishers, Fairrosa Cyber Library site often shows up without her being able to load the included images — and no YouTube videos can be displayed either. Furthermore, since my recent reports on Newbery & Caldecott winning publishers feature Google spreadsheet graphs (pie-charts), the information, without a plain text summary, was inaccessible to the Chinese readers of my blog.

Although I always knew about the differences in accessibilities of certain sites in China, experiencing it first hand definitely made me think twice about my comfortable assumptions.

Another striking realization came after I spoke with several representatives of major children’s book publishers: either with the editors, publishers, or rights managers: each told me that they have all sold their best titles internationally.  Upon further inquiry, “internationally” means Korea and other Asian countries such as the Philippines, and France, and other European countries such as Germany.  They almost NEVER meant North America, especially The United States.  They all told a similar tale: the U.S. publishers of children’s books only wish to sell Chinese language rights and have the books available in China for sale; very rarely would a U.S. publisher seriously consider buying and translating Chinese originals into English editions for American children.  I wonder if this situation will change any time soon?

I have always noticed that translated children’s books are scarce on the U.S. market and felt sad that the U.S. children do not have the same level of exposure to world literature and diverse viewpoints and sensibilities that I had the good fortune to have, growing up in a small island country.  I read books translated from all over. Some of my all time favorite books that were re-read many times were from Italy (Heart or Education of Love), France (Arsène Lupin: Gentleman Thief series), Cuba (Malfada – a satirical comic strip series), Japan (manga) and India (Buddhist allegories.)  And while there have always been publishers who work hard at bringing books from other cultures to the U.S., there seems to be some difficulty to sell these titles when the cultural landscape and sensibilities differ greatly from the everyday, presumed mindset of the U.S. children.

Case in point: One thing I noticed was how the strong Chinese tradition of not shying away from sad endings remains evident even in picture books for fairly young children.  Tragedy is quite common in traditional Chinese literature, theater, and now TV shows and movies, and children are often familiar with many somber tales.

Take these two books by Cao Wenxuan (曹文轩) for example:

lastpatherThe Last of the Panthers shows the devastating scenario of the “last” of many species and there is no uplifting or hopeful ending when our Panther gives up on itself and falls into the perpetual sleep.  It is heart wrenching but so effective.  A young person reading the simple text and looking at these gorgeous pictures would acutely feel the pang of loss of such majestic animal and might be inspired to be more responsible in caring for our natural world.
kingofthecapAnother title is the Hat King.  A story set during the Sino-Japanese war when the boy and his grandfather (a magician skilled in “hat tricks”) had to endure the deaths of the boy’s parents at the concentration camp and even when they successfully escaped from the camp, they had no house to go back to any more.  And that’s how the tale ends. This is a story almost never told to the children in the U.S. It’s powerful and bleak — but it’s also real and full of familiar affection.

Will either of these titles, which are top-selling picture books, or dozens of other quality peers, ever find their way to the general U.S. mass market? And if and when they do, will they be translated faithfully and stay intact?


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