Category Archives: Field Reports

19th Day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

As we continue to understand and learn about Asian Americans and their (our) histories and cultures, it is also important to keep offering truthful windows to the contemporary Asia and its multitudes of cultures.

Earlier last year, I made a vow to help bridge the U.S. and the China children’s literature fields and because of lucky circumstances, I have been able to work with some dedicated publishing folks in Beijing to bring recent Chinese picture books in bilingual form to US readers.  As seen on Betsy Bird’s BEA round up for some noteworthy upcoming titles, picture books from Candied Plums will be available for purchase later this year!

I’m so pleased that Betsy enjoyed and highlighted this sweet tale:

Haws

and can’t wait to share the other titles with everyone soon!

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15th Day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Starting today, I’ll post here and on other social media some articles and perhaps my own thoughts on media representations of Asian Pacific Americans in the United States.   Here Media include movies, tv shows, books, and games.

Today’s offering from the New York Times, an article by Keith Chow, first published on April 22, 2016.

Why Won’t Hollywood Cast Asian Actors?

The TL:DR version:

Even a modest hit like the “Harold and Kumar” trilogy, starring John Cho and Kal Penn, was able to quadruple its production budget after box office and home media sales. Meanwhile, films with white stars fail at the box office all the time. Chris Hemsworth, who stars in this weekend’s “Huntsman” sequel, has had many more box office flops than successes, yet he is considered a bankable movie star.

Such facts reveal Hollywood’s dirty little secret. Economics has nothing to do with racist casting policies. Films in which the leads have been whitewashed have all failed mightily at the box office. Inserting white leads had no demonstrable effect on the numbers. So why is that still conventional thinking in Hollywood?

And don’t forget to scroll through the

Whitewashing, a Long History slide show, featuring slides such as this one:

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And they didn’t even touch on Tilda Swinton cast as a Tibetan (now Indian?) Mystic (The Ancient One) in Marvel’s upcoming Doctor Strange or Scarlett Johansson as Mokoto Kusanagi in the American Remake of a Japanese SciFi film, Ghost in the Shell. 

ancientoneghostintheshell

 

 

 

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The 2016 International Children’s Literature Winner: Cao Wenxuan from China! 曹文轩

Cao-300x300So excited to report that Cao Wenxuan (曹文轩) won IBBY’s Andersen Award this year. According to Xinhua news outlet, this award is given only ONCE in a lifetime for an international author/illustrator for “the aesthetic and literary qualities of writing and illustrating as well as the ability to see things from the child’s point of view and the ability to stretch the child’s curiosity and imagination.”

Read about it on this official press release.

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Sunday Select, December 6, 2015

FCLSS

End-of-Year Best/Award Lists Round Up

Some lists were already announced and included in other issues of FCL Sunday Select.  They are not repeated here.  It is always of interest to note the varied opinions from different venues: booksellers vs professional review publications vs popular review platforms.

SLJ’s Best of 2015: Books, Apps, and More — from The School Library Journal

Notable Children’s Books of 2015 — from The New York Times (Sunday Book Review)

2016 Morris Award Finalists — from The Amercian Library Association

The Best Books of 2015 — from The Boston Globe

Editors’ Picks: Books for Children and Teens — from Amazon.com

Goodreads Choice Award 2015 — from Goodreads.com

The Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2015 Edition — from The Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College of Education

Best Children’s Books of 2015 — from The Washington Post

Best Children’s Books of 2015 — from The Guardian

Best Children’s and Teen Books of 2015 — from BookPage.com

 

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Sunday Select, November 29, 2015

FCLSS

Quote of the Week

I can’t change the color of my skin or where I come from or what the teacher workforce looks like at this moment, but I can change the way I teach. So I am going to soapbox about something after all. Be the teacher your children of color deserve. In fact, even if you don’t teach children of color, be the teacher America’s children of color deserve, because we, the teachers, are responsible for instilling empathy and understanding in the hearts of all kids. We are responsible for the future of this country.

So teach the texts that paint all the beautiful faces of our children and tell the stories of struggle and victory our nation has faced. Speak openly and freely about the challenges that are taking place in our country at this very moment. Talk about the racial and class stereotypes plaguing our streets, our states, our society. You may agree that black and brown lives matter, but how often do you explore what matters to those lives in your classroom?

— words from a speech by Emily E. Smith
as reported by Valerie Strauss
 “Teacher: A student told me I ‘couldn’t understand because I was a white lady.’ Here’s what I did then.’
 for The Washington Post

Thanksgiving Weekend — A Single Highlighted Selection

Teacher: A student told me I ‘couldn’t understand because I was a white lady.’ Here’s what I did then by Valerie Strauss — from The Washington Post

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Sunday Select, November 1, 2015

FCLSS

Quote of the Week

It was interesting to hear my White students say that they think that books do a good job of representing diverse characters. My students of color at this time did not say anything. I did not add to the conversation and I ended the conversation at this point.

…….

It was eye opening to my students. My White students seemed surprised by what my students of color were sharing. I then wrapped up our conversation saying that history and books often overlook certain groups of people and that this year we will be learning about many points of view.

— by Sarah Halter Hahesy
 “Transparency About the Lack of Racial Diversity in Children’s Books
 from Raising Race Conscious Children

Viewpoints & Practical Suggestions

Transparency About the Lack of Racial Diversity in Children’s Books by Sarah Halter Hahesy — from Raising Race Conscious Children

Supplement Materials to Top Ten Things You Need to Know About Children’s/YA Publishing in 2015 by Harold Underdown — from The Purple Crayon

YA Authors Talk Social Media, Research Process…and Spill Secrets by Mahnaz Dar — from School Library Journal

‘Tis The Season (to contemplate on best books for young readers)

Calling Caldecott (for potential Caldecott Contenders) moderated by the Horn Book staff  — from The Horn Book Magazine

Heavy Medal moderated by Jonathan Hunt & Nina Lindsay (for potential Newbery Contenders) — from The School Library Journal

Someday My Printz Will Come (for potential Printz Contenders) moderated by Karyn Silverman, Sarah Couri, and Joy Piedmont — from The School Library Journal

The National Book Award Winners 2015  — from The National Book Foundation

CYBILS Awards — from CYBILS

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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Sunday Select, November 15, 2015

FCLSS

Quote of the Week

While the burden of mistakes can be placed on the author and illustrator, in truth publishers share an equal part of the responsibility in making sure that the books they produce are accurate and do not reinforce harmful stereotypes.

— by Jason Low, publisher of Lee & Low Books
 “Is Staff Training Worth It?
 from The Open Book

The Most Important Industry News of the Week

This week, I am featuring only ONE industry news link herebecause I don’t want to dilute its significance.  Hopefully, we’ll start hearing from other publishers, large and small, that take their staff on this worthwhile journey.  As an educator who partook in similar trainings in recent years, I have to say that I believe everyone in the United States should have the experience of going through such tough journeys: self-examining, questioning, and re-affirming ideologies that will help create a more equitable society for our own future.

Is Staff Training Worth It? by Jason Low — from The Open Book (Lee & Low Books Blog)

Authors, Books, & Book Lists

A Conversation With Philip Pullman by Katy Waldman — from The Slate: Book Review

APALA Author Interview – Gene Luen Yang by by Jaena Rae Cabrera — from APALA (Asian Pacific American Library Association)

Pep Talk from Neil Gaiman by Neil Gaiman– from National Novel Writing Month

The Little Black Fish and other stories: Iranian illustrated children’s books – in pictures by David Almond and Saeed Kamali Dehghan — from The Guardian

Thinking About Thanksgiving by Nina Lindsay  — from Reading While White

Family Ties  by Elissa Gershowitz — from The Horn Book Magazine

OPL 2015 Holiday Gift Guide–Children’s Books by Amy Martin — from Oakland Public Library

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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Sunday Select, November 8, 2015

FCLSS

Quote of the Week

Updated — I have now included also the entire Panel discussion — which Sean Qualls & Sophie Blackall also shared their views.  They all do not agree with each other.

Around 26:00 — Sophie Blackall talked in details about her own reactions toward the controversy over her book A Fine Dessert; 35:00 – Sean Qualls starts talking; 38:00-ish, he touches briefly on A Fine Dessert; keep watching and you’ll hear Susannah’s views as well.

— Daniel Jose Older
 “Daniel José Older on A Fine Dessert

A Fine Dessert – Multiple Conversations

Collected below are various online articles, conversations, and comments about the picture book A Fine Dessert written by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, published by Schwartz & Wade, an imprint at Random House.  The book has been under careful scrutiny by many – when it was highlighted as one of the Caldecott hopefuls, when it was among the 10 illustrated books of 2015 chosen by The New York Times, and when it received objections by readers who found certain text and images hurtful.  I did not read or look at the book until this past Monday, after many others already grappled with the book for a while.  The conversations are important to note and should continue, not only about one book, but about the entire Children’s Publishing industry.  More on that from my own viewpoint is forthcoming.  Since Debbie Reese has been diligently documenting and collecting all the pertinent links.  I’m providing only ONE link here in this section.  Do read as much as you can and consider and re-consider!

Not recommended: A FINE DESSERT by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall by Debbie Reese — from American Indian in Children’s Literature

Books & Awards

The Scholastic Picture Book Award 2015 Winners  — from Scholastic Book Award/Asia

SIMMONS COLLEGE AND LEE & LOW BOOKS ESTABLISH NEW SCHOLARSHIP   — from Lee & Low Books

An Interview with Kate DiCamillo — from The Horn Book Magazine

Please don’t air brush African teen fiction by Ellen Banda-Aaku — from The Guardian

‘Monstress’: Inside The Fantasy Comic About Race, Feminism And The Monster Within by Graeme McMillan — from The Hollywood Reporter

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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Sunday Select, November 1, 2015

FCLSS

Quote of the Week

Africa is not rich or poor, educated or illiterate, progressive or archaic.

What Africa is depends on which part of it you are referring to.

No single story can adequately reflect that, but a multiplicity of stories can and should broaden our received wisdom about the continent.

With more platforms and opportunities than ever before, there has never been a better time to challenge that confusing and costly concept of a single African story.

— by Nancy Kacungira
 “Why I cannot tell ‘the African story’
 from BBC News

Viewpoints

Why I Cannot Tell ‘The African Story’ by Nancy Kacungira — from BBC News

Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books by Rachel Grate — from Arts.Mic

You Have to Read the Book by Elizabeth Bird and the Comments section by many — from Fuse8 Production

We Are Not Rainbow Sprinkles by Roger Sutton and the Comments — from The Horn Book

Book Lists & Awards

WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS™ ANNOUNCES INAUGURAL WALTER DEAN MYERS GRANT RECIPIENTS  — from weneeddiversebooks.org

PW’s Best Books 2015  — from Publishers Weekly

The New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2015 — from The New York Times

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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Sunday Select, October 25, 2015

FCLSS

Quote of the Week

Those words nearly broke my heart. I could have sobbed in the convention hall. Instead, I swallowed them as a reminder that I need to do a better job, too. That I’ll always need to do a better job. That there is no arrival point. I’ll never arrive at some point where I’m outside the system of systemic racism—I’ll always be in it, and because I am, I have to do the best job possible calling people into the conversation that recognizes it, in order to do the work to try to deconstruct it. I’ll always need to do a better job “calling people in” rather than “calling people out.”

— by Brendan Kiely
 “The White Boy in the Third Row
 from Reading While White

Opposing Viewpoints (Do They Have to Be?)

These past couple of weeks we saw sparks flying with opposing views over specific children’s books and general thoughts on children’s book publishing – mostly centered on the “writing the other” notion.  It seems to me that many practitioners (authors, librarians, critics, etc.) have been thinking hard and deeply and some have tried to sort out strongly held convictions when they clash against others’ beliefs.  Selected here are a few strands that I found especially powerful and am currently struggling with.  I lead the list with one article by Brendan Kiely, whose proposal for “calling people in” to the conversation and discussion on diversity issues in children’s and YA literature seems most sage and hopefully can serve as a reminder that we are ALL in this together and our final goals are to provide the best literary work for the young people in our world.

The White Boy in the Third Row by Brendan Kiely — from Reading While White

This Book Is Creating A Space For Queer Black Boys In Children’s Literature by JamesMichael Nichols — from Huffpost Gay Voices

About Meg Rosoff’s next book… a collection of links to various responses to a following facebook blow-up while discussing Large Fears, the book under discussion in “This Book is Creating a Space for Queer Black Boys in Children’s Literature”  — from American Indians in Children Literature

The Privilege of Colour, the Prejudice of White by Shelley Sousa — from Shelley Sousa: real writer made up worlds

The Hired Girl by Jonathan Hunt and especially the Comments section by many enthusiastic readers — from Heavy Medal

Good Intentions, Bad Outcome by Michael Grant as a response to On Writing PoC When You Are White by Justine Larbalestier

Books, Authors, the Publishing Industry

Wordcraft Circle Honors and Awards, 2015  — from worldcraftcircle.org

What it feels like to write a picture book by Viviane Schwarz — from The Kraken Studio

A Defence of Rubbish by Peter Dickinson

International Literature Shines at the USBBY Conference Science  by Lyn Miller-Lachmann — from http://www.lynmillerlachmann.com

The PW Publishing Industry Salary Survey 2015: A Younger Workforce, Still Predominantly White by Jim Milliot — from Publishers Weekly

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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Sunday Select, USBBY Special

FCLSS

Quotes (Paraphrased) of the USBBY Conference

(On Verse Memoirs) Even when writing one’s own memoir, there are gaps that one has to fill with invented details. — Margarita Engle

(On Verse Novel) We are always writing outside of our own experiences.  The important thing is to be conscientious in one’s research and understanding of “the others.” — Padma Venkatraman

Translators are writers, editors, storytellers, researchers, and cultural mediators, all rolled into one. — Panelists’ Consensus on Translation

Where does a translator’s loyalty lie: with the author or the readers?  In a way, we can say that by being loyal to the readers, one is loyal to the authors as well.  And there is the loyalty to the text.  Also the loyalty to the idea as IF the author actually knows the target language and makes the meaning or the language very clear to the kids who will be reading the translated book. — Ajia

Certain kind of information is best conveyed via what we consider as the “comics format.”  Look at the airline safety guides, manuals to put together furniture, etc.  Certain stories can be best expressed via the duality of text and images. — Gene Luen Yang.

We need to encourage the chaotic and messy creative process that is writing and creating stories: especially in children and the importance of play.  — David Almond

from the 11th Annual USBBY
Regional Conference, New York, NY

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Title of David Almond’s talk

11th Annual USBBY Highlights

USBBY is the United States Chapter of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY.)  I joined USBBY only this year and am so glad to have attended the whole conference.  What a weekend!  Presenters come from China, Korea, Bulgaria, Russia, Brazil, Great Britain, France, The Netherland, Iran, Austria, Denmark, etc. and the topics include picture book art, translation, graphic novels, verse novels, Alice in Wonderland (as part of the theme of the year,) international YA literature, disabilities in children’s books, among many others.

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LuAnn Toth and Kate DiCamillo

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Lois Lowry

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Chris Raschka

Attendees were treated to thoughtful and moving speeches by Leonard Marcus, Lois Lowry, Kate DiCamillo, David Amond, Chris Raschka, Susan Cooper and also lively and enlightening panel discussions.  Panelists included well known American children’s book creators such as Gene Luen Yang and Paul O Zelinsky, and international guests such as Roger Mello (Brazilian illustrator,) Ajia (Chinese translator,) and Lisbeth Zwerger (Austrian illustrator.)

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Graphic Novels panel

Two breakout sessions offered conference goers 24 different workshops to further examine aspects of children’s literature with the mindset of broadening one’s knowledge and bridging cultures.

My first break-out session choice was on Verse Novels and Memoirs.  Authors Holly Thompson, Padma Venkatraman, and Margarita Engle gave great talks and insights into the power of telling stories with verse and their incredible dedication on detailed researches into the characters that they were to portray.

Nami Concours 2015The second break-out session for me was an introduction to the incredible international picture book illustration concours held on the Nami Island of South Korea.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen picture book illustrations being taken so seriously, treated with such reverence, and brought to life and made so relevant to the children and adults who encounter these objects of literature and art.

Because the Nami Concours is such a unique and amazing event, I will devote an entire post on it in the coming week.  Look out for my post — or you can check out the website:

http://www.namiconcours.com/

 

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New York ComicCon 2015 – Day 4

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Selected sights and some notes

Lucasfilm hosted a Readers Theater for Star Wars fans:

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Adam Gidwitz conducting a Jedi Lesson:

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More Talented Artists from Diverse Backgrounds in the Artist Alley

Edwin Huang

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Dexter Vines

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Tran Nguyen

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Annie Wu

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Velentine De Landro

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Janet Sung

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Creators of Lumberjanes: Noelle Stevenson & Shannon Watters (Grace Ellis is not pictures)

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Couldn’t Leave without Seeing the Gotham Panel

with the super talented actors!

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New York ComicCon 2015 – Day 3

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Selected sights and some notes

First event of the morning — a wonderful session sponsored by Scholastic where Raina Telgemeier fielded many audience requests and drew for the crowd:IMG_20151010_111738

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Star Wars Everywhere

Books, Crafts, Movies, TV Shows… IMG_20151010_112211

Costumes,

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Jelly Bean ART! (Click and Enlarge to see the details) IMG_20151010_115119
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Artist Alley

Spent some time at the Artist Alley — Couldn’t stay too long… too many wonderful art, too little money… IMG_20151010_115658

 

Probably my new favorite pop artist:

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This is an example of Haas’ art (from his website) — TOTORO!

A couple of other accomplished artists with their own distinct styles:

Ray Fawkes

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Tony Moy (梅)– TOTORO!!
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Jed Henry — inspired by traditional Japanese art (hmm… a theme here?) TOTORO!!!

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Jiu Ge (from Beijing/Seattle) Fan Art of Buckie & Loki IMG_20151010_122740

Didn’t get this artist’s name but again, Japanese Manga/Anime inspired artwork:

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Jim Mahfood:IMG_20151010_124245

Dave Crosland:

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More Cosplay Fun

Doctor Octopus — all home made, anchored on a backpack frame

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Over the Garden Wall (Cartoon Network)
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War Boy (Mad Max: Fury Road)

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Masters of Unreality: Heavy Metal & SFF (SciFi/Fantasy)
(AKA My Favorite Panel Today)

These three authors/metal musicians discussed their inspirations, influences, writing habits, views on popular vs canonized literature (and music,) etc.:

Myke Cole (Gemini Cell: A Shadow Ops Novel)
Michael Fletcher (Beyond Redemption)
Peter Orullian (Trial of Intentions)

One point raised by Cole resonated with me, although he was referring to contemporary music. He encouraged the American music fans to be conscious about how American music industry has always been in the “exporting business” and how we miss the gems from around the world if we just stay inside the US bubble.

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Michael Fletcher, Myke Cole, Peter Orullian

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New York ComicCon 2015 – Day 2

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Selected sights and some notes

Arrival: 10:15 a.m.

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Waiting in line (in clumps) for special event wristbands:IMG_20151009_102318

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Got three wristbands — Marvel Lego Games Panel, Adult Swim Panel Block, and Batman Bad Blood Panel — IMG_20151009_104059Wound up only going to the Adult Swim event.

Some future comics from Dark Horse at the Announcements panel:IMG_20151009_110459

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This kind of serendipitous encounters is why I enjoy attending the Con — an artist commissioned on the show floor to make a Boba Fett image in his own style:IMG_20151009_121100 IMG_20151009_121135 IMG_20151009_121627 IMG_20151009_121631
And no Con can be completed without Cosplay or random outfits (like mine):

Kiki’s Delivery Service:IMG_20151009_140538

No special anything:
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Beetlejuice — this couple made their own “faces” and even the book!
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Avengers, with Quick Silver running:

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IMG_20151009_134634My #1 Goal this year — meeting the creative soul behind Zen Pencils: Gavin Aung Than, all the way from Australia!  We chatted for a bit and I wished him best of luck of his two new books and on his North America book tour.  Look for him and buy his books!  His touring schedule can be found HERE.  but I’m going to list it all here for you.  Please support him!
BOSTON
Monday, October 12
7:00pm @ Harvard Coop (B&N College)
AUSTIN
Tuesday, October 13
7:30pm @ BookPeople
DENVER
Wednesday, October 14
7:00pm @ Tattered Cover Colfax
PHOENIX
Thursday, October 15
7:00pm @ Changing Hands Phoenix
SAN DIEGO
Friday, October 16
7:30pm @ Mysterious Galaxy
LOS ANGELES (Huntington Beach)
Sunday, October 18
2:00pm @ Barnes & Noble, Huntington Beach
SEATTLE
Monday, October 19
7:00pm @ Third Place Books
SAN FRANCISCO (Berkeley)
Wednesday, October 21
7:00 pm @ Books Inc Berkeley
Two more fun things to report: Will buy Star Wars Origami for both the Library collection & for my Origami folding group.

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Teeturtle is a fantastic T-Shirt company with simply fun Sci-fi Fantasy designs.  They can be found HERE.

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New York ComicCon 2015 – Day 1

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Selected sights and some notes

Arrival: 1:15 p.m.

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I decided to not visit the show floor and attended as many panels as I could fit in for the next few hours: DC Comics – Master Class/Art History; Vertigo: The New #1s; Geeks in the Stacks: Engaging Your Library Community with Pop Culture; Star Wars Rebels Season 2 Sneak Preview; Sean Bean Brings Legends to NYCC

Two of the five events were of greater interest to Graphic Novel lovers and librarians: the Vertigo panel that revealed 12 series titles and the practical advice for librarians and libraries that wish to host their own local Cons.

I am intrigued by these first issues from Vertigo coming out in the next 3 months:

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And at the Geeks in the Stacks, teen librarian Ivy Weir gave some on-point practical advice on how to host a library Comic Con:

  • Keep it free to attend and friendly to all ages
  • Act like it’s the biggest Con
  • Create a brand
  • Vet your guests
  • Ask your online and real life communities for help
  • Remember this is fun!

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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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Notes from Beijing: First Impression of Chinese Children’s Publishers

FCLBeijingFor the past 25 years, I immersed myself in the world of English Children’s and YA Literature: the output by writers, illustrators, and publishers from the U.S., the U.K., and Australia, mostly created in English.

This year (and hopefully for years to come,) my focus has shifted: I’d love to see what’s going on in the Children’s Literature world in my own mother country: China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan.)  And if possible, I’d love to serve as a bridge to connect the U.S. readers (young and not so young) with contemporary children’s literature created in China, by Chinese writers and illustrators, originally written in Chinese.  I’d love to help expand the U.S. readers’ understanding and reception of that vast treasure.

The first step was for myself to get to know that “vast treasure” a little more.

This and a few forthcoming posts are to share my first impressions:

During this year’s BEA (in NYC) and at Beijing International Book Fair, I learned a little about how Chinese publishers and Chinese children’s publishers function structurally.  As evidenced in these few photos, most publishers are attached to some huge publishing “groups,” all following a detailed government issued publishing guideline.  Each Province or Special District has its own Publishing Group that often contains more than a dozen publication specialty companies — we can consider them “branch publishers:”

This is Sichuan Publishing Group: the branch publishers range from Science, Culture & Arts, Literature, College Textbooks, Maps, and Children’s publishing companies.

sichuangroup

Below is Shandong Publishing group’s display of Confucius (Shandong being his birth place) statue and all the sub groups: Science, Culture & Arts, Multi-Media, and Children’s publishers, etc.  (The children’s branch of this group is the Ming Tian – Tomorrow – publisher that brought us many high quality children’s picture books in the past decade or so!)shandonggroup

And when a Children’s Publishing branch is successful, it gets a separate booth at the Children’s Literature exhibit area:

Hai Yan (Petrel)

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Feng Huang (Phoenix)

fenghuang

Shao Nian (Young People)

shaonian

Jie Li (Relay)

jieli

CCPPG (China Publishing Group)

CCPPG

Zhe Jiang Shao Nian Er Tong (Zhejiang Province Children’s)

Zhejiang

There seems to be plenty of creative autonomy within each individual branch.  However, the publishing guidelines and government mandates are not that hard to detect.  For example, since the third entry of the “essential missions” in the official publishing guidelines stresses the ideal of disseminating and upholding the doctrines of Marx, Lenin, Mao, and Deng, this following publication isn’t much of a stretch by one of the biggest children’s publishers, China Children’s Press & Publication Group (CCPPG):

karlmarx

karlmarxenglish

And although Chapter 3, entry 27 states that the publication aimed at minors may not contain materials “luring youth to mimic anti-social and anti-moral behaviors and criminal acts” or “featuring terrifying and cruel content that might harm the mental and physical health of youth,” Hunger Games (both in English & in Chinese translation) trilogy sells extremely well in China.  (So are Maze Runner, Percy Jackson, Divergent, Twilight, etc.)

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Notes from Beijing: Children’s Book Authors & Companies

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On my 10-day trip to Beijing in August 2015, attending the Beijing International Book Fair and meeting with various publishers, editors, and booksellers, I collected some names and information to share.  In this post, three authors, three publishers, and one mega store are mentioned, but of course there are more in that vast land full of talented and passionate children’s book creators!  As I learn more about specific titles, I will continue to report.

Three Authors

One of the most revered current children’s book author is 曹文轩 Cao Wenxuan (pronounced “tsau wen-shuan”)。He teaches Chinese literature and children’s fiction writing at the Beijing University and is sought after by many Children’s book publishers for fiction, picture books, nonfiction, and editorial advisory on book series.  His picture books tend to be philosophical in nature, slightly wordy, and not shying away from presenting harsh realities to even the very young.  Here’s a link to a short info on Wikipedia.

最后一支豹子

The Last Leopard

grandmalivesinaperfumevillageA book recently translated and published by NorthSouth Books by a Chinese author is Grandmother Lives in A Perfume Village by 方素珍 Fang Suzhen.  Fang is a Taiwan native and has become really popular in China and is nicknamed “Granny Flower” (花婆婆) who has a literary blog and advises parents on how to share children’s books with their children.  She’s the Taiwan translator for Barbara Cooney’s Miss Rumphius (Granny Flower).  Fang’s blog is in Chinese.

I fell in love with many of the picture books by 熊亮 Xiong Liang (pronounced shuong liang).  Mr. Xiong is both an illustrator and an author with the uncanny ability to tell very moving stories with very few words and simple story arcs.  I hope many non-Chinese readers will eventually get to appreciate his work.  Here are a couple cover images:

泥

The Mud General

年

Nian the New Year Monster

Three Publishers

These three publishers all have their own visions and skilled editors to bring Chinese children the highest quality contemporary original works.  The official and formal descriptions do not do their justice!

21 Century Books and its 20-volume set of original middle grade novels by Chinese authors definitely captured my attention:
http://www.21stcenturypress.com/
http://read.21cccc.com/english/

彩乌鸦

Ming Tian (Tomorrow) Publisher as part of the Shan Dong publishing group has some of the best original picture books around:
http://knowledge.chinesebookshop.com/Tomorrow_Publishing_House

兔儿爷

The Toy Rabbit Story by Xiong Liang

海燕 (Petrel) Publishing House just ventured into making their own picture books and novels for children after bringing many quality translated work to China from overseas:
http://knowledge.chinesebookshop.com/Petrel_Publishing_House

海燕

One Mega Store

当当 (DangDang.com) is one of the major online shopping stores in China and many if not most parents buy their children’s books from this outlet which hosts book and reading events, creates age-level and genre book lists, and compiles tailormade book lists (by human sales reps, not just algorithms), etc. for their loyal customers.

As the site claims, this is the world’s biggest children’s books online seller, where according to the report by its sales manager local Chinese and imported foreign books have equal shares of the market. Check it out: http://touch.m.dangdang.com/topics.php?page_id=40131&sid=cbb00b359ca906be87bf470ace50a1ec

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Notes from Beijing, Day 9

FCLBeijingThis was not a work day for me. Got up later than the past week and spent the hot and humid morning and early afternoon at the Beijing Olympics Park, shopping center, and by the Bird’s Nest (The Olympics Stadium.)

Afternoon also brought me back to Nanluoguxiang and Houhai area: revisiting old haunts and discovering new spots.

Said goodbye to the extremely kind and gentle Xiaocui, the exporting manager with whom I hope to maintain long lasting friendships.

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Oh. And finally had donkey (驴) meat! Extremely tender, a lot like beef!

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Notes from Beijing, Day 8

FCLBeijingMy last day of scheduled meetings with publishers. In the past week, I read/looked through about 100 locally produced, original picture books. Much will be reflected on after I get back home next week!

Two more events worth mentioning: the special picture books and activities area set up for children and their caregivers to explore: much fun and organized chaos. No one misbehaved.

The biggest happy surprise event was an interview and Q&A with my long time hero illustrator Alan Lee. A lot of devoted fans here due to his involvement with the Lord of the Rings movies. My first encounter with his artwork was in the early 80s. Having the opportunity to hear him discuss his art with so much care and humility was such pleasure.

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Of course… More yummy food:

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