Male Monday: Haiku of Kobayashi Issa

Since May is Asian Pacific Heritage month, I thought this Monday would be a good time to feature Cool Melons–Turn to frogs: The life and poems of Issa Story and Haiku translations by Matthew Gollub; Illustrations by Kazuko G. Stone. Published by Lee and Low, 1998.

Issa (pronounced ee-sa) was born Kobayasi Yataro in 1763 and rose to fame in Japan as a Buddhist priest and poet. In his lifetime, he wrote over 20,000 poems. For this book, Gollub read over 2500 of Issa’s haiku and selected the ones he thought would best tell Issa’s life. I could rewrite the poems here and try in my own lame way to tell you about the art work, but I’m going to take a chance with the copyright police and give you an image of one of the pages of the book. The poem on this particular page was written by Issa when he was just 6 years old. The poems are written on the side of the page in Japanese.

Wouldn’t you love to have some of the original artwork from this book?!

book review: Split

author: Swati Avasthi   

date: Random House; 2010

main character: Jace Witherspoon

 from the inside flap:

Sixteen your old Jace Witherspoon arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother, Christian, with a  re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father), $3.84 and a secret.

 He tries to move on, going for new friends, a new school and a new job, but all his changes can’t make him forget what he left behind. His mother is still trapped with his dad. And his ex-girlfriend is keeping his secret—for now.

 I’m not sure why I didn’t like Jace more. He may not have been developed well enough for me to like him, or perhaps I just didn’t like him because he was a jerk. Did I need to know him more, or less?

 Prior to writing this book, Avasthi worked as a domestic-violence legal clinic coordinator. This experience provided her background and insights that she obviously brought to this story and artfully developed into a portrayal of a young teen who is emotionally tortured from the abuse of his father. How does he not let his victimization define him? How does he get his brother to open up and tell how he overcame his past, their shared past? Jace does find answers and in reading through his struggle, I was able to understand the effects of abuse more that I ever had before. 


themes: relationships; abuse; identity


I love how online access provides so many ways to keep learning. I love the diversity of ideas that challenge me to question, accept, prove or substantiate. Sometimes, I just get a greater reason to smile. I’m trying to make a point of expanding my access to include sources I don’t necessarily agree with but I’m also I staying on my toes with blogs like American Indians in Children’s Literature and the Pirate Tree where I can find stimulating writing that I can agree with more often than not.

Today on American Indians in Children’s Literature, Debbie Reese posted about the

spoken Word Team from Santa Fe Indian School. She first introduced them on her blog in 2009 and she mentions them again today to promote their new poetry CD. You really want to click this link to hear just one amazing sample from this poetry CD. Like me, you’ll be adding it to your school and/or personal collection.

“I come from the skin of sunlight” I love that line!

Pirate Tree is a relatively new blog that began in April

J. L. Powers

to expose and discuss literature and writers for children and teenagers that delve into themes of social justice and social conscience. The title, “The Pirate Tree,” comes from a picture book that Lyn Miller-Lachmann once wrote about two children whose grandfathers fought on opposite sides of a war. The children were prohibited from going into each others’ yards, but they figured out a way to meet and play pirates together by climbing a tree with limbs and branches above both their yards. Like the story suggested, we are interested in books and writers that question

and rebel against the status quo, argue for peace and reconciliation, take

the side of the marginalized and powerless, and use creative solutions to overcome obstacles.

 The five writers for The Pirate Tree are Ann Angel, Nancy Bo Flood, Peter Marino, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, and Jessica (J.L.) Powers. We plan to post reviews, interviews, and/or essays at least twice

Peter Marino

weekly and welcome suggestions for topics, interviews, and guest posts. Most of the books covered are fiction and nonfiction for children and teenagers, although some adult titles suitable for teen readers will also be included.

Ann Angel

Thanks, Lyn for providing this description

Nancy Bo Flood

Lyn Miller-Lachmann


There was a time when  if one wanted to teach 3rd grade, they simply needed to have finished the 4th grade. This makes teaching sound like an easy gig, but not necessarily in an agrarian society were few stayed in school. Once in the ‘profession’ limitations were placed on teachers that required them to stay single, follow strict moral codes and rise before dawn to heat the schoolhouse.  Communities kept a close eye on teachers because in their wisdom, they knew it was necessary to be careful who was given access to the children.

This care still continues and sometimes we appreciate the caution and other times see it as excessive and unnecessary. Teachers still have codes of ethics. There are communities that publish teachers’ salaries in the newspaper and qualifications are publicly accessible on the Internet. It can still be difficult for GLTBQ educators to find or keep teaching jobs and a teacher’s arrest for DWI will often make the local news.  In today’s world, teachers often spend more time in a day with children than do their own parents.

And so do books.

Books give publishers access to children and affect how they perceive the world around them. Books validate us, inspire us and teach us. So, shouldn’t we be concerned about the librarians, authors, publishers, editors and other adults who have access to our children through the world of books? In working for diversity, we have to focus beyond what’s not on the shelf and look at the real decision makes. We have to see  the need for more diverse books as more that the battle for Mitali Perkins, Greg Neri or Gaby Triana to become rich and famous. Rather, we have to work for people of color to be the decision makers who control the publishing houses, make the marketing decisions and edit the books.  These are the positions that control the ideas and images that reach our children.

In the past week, I’ve seen growing multi-faceted approaches to addressing diversity issues. Does what’s on the cover matter? Do we fight like Martin or Malcolm? While Charlotte’s Library questioned the whiteness of a bi-racial child on a cover, Shelftalker’s recent post grew into a debate as to whether  books with multicultural casts should make a greater effort to show ALL characters on their covers.  What are we teaching our children? Without honestly portraying the browness of the world, how do we end racism?

There’s so much to do! It’s not just books and book covers in the 21st century! We have to be aware of the overarching message and this implies that we can’t just regulate the adults in front of our children or filter what they access on the Internet. We have to be concerned about the real decision makers, the powers behind the scenes that control the ideals that charge the information. We have to be vigilant, watching the book covers, the language in the text and the cultural references.  We can’t believe that just because America is getting browner that there will be greater access! White Readers meet Black Authors  just blogged about the resistance of whites to what movies with majority Black (or Latino or Asian) casts. I won’t resist watching a television show with majority white actors, will you? Sounds like colonialism perpetuated to me and these colonists still have access to our children.

So what are we going to do this week?

We’re going to donate books published by companies that support people of color to Ballou High School through GuysLit Wire AND to Helen’s high school through Ari’s C.O.L.O.R. project.

We’re going to call the local public library and place a request for one of these books by these same companies.

2011 Americas Award Winners

Congratulations to all the winners!

2011 Américas Award Winners

 Clemente! by Willie Perdomo.  Illustrated by Bryan Collier.  Holt

 The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan,  Illustrated by Peter Sis.  Scholastic

Américas Award Honorable Mention

 The Firefly Letters by Margarita Engle.  Holt, 2010

Américas Award Commended Titles   

 Arroz con Leche / Rice Pudding: Un poema para cocinar / A Cooking Poem by Jorge Argueta.  Illustrated by Fernando Vilela.  Groundwood.

 Biblioburro:  A True Story from Colombia by Jeanette Winter.  Beach Lane, 20102

 César Chávez: A Photographic Essay by Ilan Stavans.  Cinco Puntos

 Dear Primo by Duncan Tonatiuh.  Abrams.

 Dizzy in your Eyes: Poems about Love by Pat Mora.  Knopf

 Eight Days:  A Story of Haiti by Edwidge Danticat.  Illustrated by Alix Delinois.  Orchard

 Fiesta Babies by Carmen Tafolla.  Illustrated by Amy Córdova.  Tricycle.

 From North to South / Del norte al Sur by René Colato Laínez.  Illustrated by Joe Cepeda.  Children’s Book Press

 Grandma’s Gift by Eric Velasquez.  Bloomsbury, 2010.

 How Tia Lola Learned to Teach by Julia Alvarez.  Knopf, 2010.

 The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork.  Scholastic

 Me, Frida by Amy Novesky.  Illustrated by David Diaz.  Abrams.

– Napi funda un pueblo / Napi Makes a Village by Antonio Ramirez.  Illustrated by Domi.  Groundwood

– Ole! Flamenco by George Ancona.  Lee & Low

 Star in the Forest by Laura Resau.  Delacorte

2011 Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature

The Américas Award is given in recognition of U.S. works of fiction, poetry, folklore, or selected non-fiction (from picture books to works for young adults) published in the previous year in English or Spanish that authentically and engagingly portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States.  By combining both and linking the Americas, the award reaches beyond geographic borders, as well as multicultural-international boundaries, focusing instead upon cultural heritages within the hemisphere.  The award is sponsored by the national Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP).

The award winners and commended titles are selected for their 1) distinctive literary quality; 2) cultural contextualization; 3) exceptional integration of text, illustration and design; and 4) potential for classroom use.  The winning books will be honored at a ceremony (fall 2011) during Hispanic Heritage Month at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


Good morning!

For those of you who are moms, Happy Mothers Day to you!

I considered listing some of my favorite YALit moms but really had a hard time coming up with any. Not everything I read is POC, but for the sake of my blog, I would list fictional moms of color. You know what? Quite often the mom has passed away and the dad is raising the children as in My Life as a Rhombus,  and How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won A Bubba Sized Trophy. These dads managed to have good relationships with the main character of the story.

More often, she’s a busy working mom and grandma or dad has a better relationship with the children than the mom such as in the Drama High series, Mare’s War, and Stringz.

Most often, we get the mother through the eyes of the child who sees mom as one who cannot relate and is out of date. The mom is most concerned with sexual activity and rarely is there a well developed relationship. Mothers seem to have lofty expectations and rarely give their children tools, or good reason, to attain them. Good grades and college are the goal rather than being self sufficient and prepared to have a variety of choices in the future. How to know a decent date is never expressed, just don’t get pregnant if a girl and don’t get in trouble if you’re a boy.  Think about the moms in Jazz in LoveDoes My Head Look Big in This or Good Enough.  

Single mom’s such as the one in He Forgot to Say Good-bye and Upstate are just too busy getting by to know how to mother. Moms as role models  are lacking in the current book I’m reading and the book could be so much better if the parents had a clearer voice. This, to me, is one of the problems with ALL YA being told in first person. The teen narrator doesn’t see the mother as one who can successfully prepare them for the world.

I know these weak or non-existent mothers are typical  of YA Lit in general, but why are there so few exceptions in POC books? I’ve always thought African American, Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans had much stronger family ties that European Americans, and that moms were a central part of the family.

POC moms I like in YA Lit? I can only think of the moms in Out of My Mind  by Sharon Draper and the Tia Lola series by Julia Alvarez which are both MG. I know there have to be others in YA! Maybe the mom in the NiNi Simone books?

A few things going on this week

  • The Diversity Tour began in San Francisco yesterday. Are they going to be near you? Are you going to get to hear this dynamic group of authors? They’re going to be in the midwest, but unfortunately it’s too late on a work night for me to drive up to Chicago. We’ll have to get the scoop from Reading in Color!
  • Shadra Strickland shared information with me about Literacyhead‘s new Youtube channel and lifetime membership offer in honor of their first birthday.  Literacyhead is a great organization that believes in the power of art and literature for our children. Jan Burkins, the executive director, is passionate about the work of artists and authors and is so diligent about using diverse picture books to support the classroom teaching experience.
  • Every Thursday, Yasmin Shiraz is hosting a radio show on the theme of Retaliation. Visit her FaceBook page to find out the topic for this Thursday, or to suggest a topic.
  • Guys Lit Wire is running a Book Fair in support of the Ballou Senior High School library in Washington D.C. As soon as this post is done, I’ll be making my donation! I’ll never, ever forget the kindness of those who donated to my school on behalf of Ari’s C.O.L.O.R. project and the only way I know to repay that kindness is to pass it on.
  • Look for something different this summer? How about joining Doret and Vasilly as the host an online reading of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson? I’ve had this wonderful book for quite a while and this will be a wonderful opportunity for me to get it read! The reading will begin on 1 June and will run throughout the month. Sign up on Vasilly’s blog if you’ll be joining the reading.
I’m wish you a colorful, wonderful week of reading!

2011 Asian Pacific Islander Teen Book Releases

Since May is Asian-Pacific Island Heritage Month, I thought it would be appropriate to list some of the 2011 Asian American fiction releases. I’ve mentioned it before and so has Trish @ the YaYas. Where are all the MG/YA books with Asian male protagonists? And, where are all the Asian-Pacific Island male MG/YA authors?

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shan; Scholastic,  1 January

Aloha, Kanani and Good Job, Kanani by Lisa Yee, illus. by Sarah Davis Pleasant Company Publications; January

Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang; Delacorte, 11 January

Clara Lee and the apple pie dream by Jenny Han; Little Brown and Company, 11 Jan (MG)

The Iron Queen (Iron Fey series) by Julie Kagawa; Harlequin, February

Inside out and back again by Thanhha Lai; Harper Collins, 22 February MG

Tall Story by Candy Gourlay; David Ficklying Books; February

Warp Speed by Lisa Yee; Arthur A. Levine, 1 Mar *

Truancy Origins by Isamu Fukui; Macmillan, March

Huntress by Malinda Lo; Little, Brown, April

We’ll always have summer by Jenny Han; Simon and Schuster, 3 May

The rampage of  Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa; Little, Brown Books for Young , 7  June

Level up  byGene Luen Yang and Pham Thiem; Roaring Brook Press, 7 June

City of ice (City Trilogy) by Laurence Yep; Starscape 7 June

The Detention Club by David Yoo, June

   Which books are you most looking forward to reading?