A Donated Library: Books for Refugee Children

Children’s books paired with passionate book people are a potent combination. On April 27th of 2017, I was reminded just how potent.

A few months ago, I was chatting with my neighbor on our driveway. She shared a few frustrations regarding processes at her work in an organization which helps place refugee families in the greater Seattle area. These families have run from war, famine, or natural disasters–sometimes more than one. They come to the World Relief offices and spend hours filling out paperwork as they are processed. If they have small children, their kids have to wait patiently, often for hours.

Since I’ve stepped away from the classroom to focus on my family and my writing, I’ve gotten to spend time getting to  know my local booksellers, librarians, authors and illustrators. I knew my cadre of book people would have good suggestions for books to potentially entertain these kids. Why not set up a small collection of books at their office? The idea of an waiting room library was born.

Nothing makes a librarian or bookseller happier than being asked about books to fill a specific need. I also asked for suggestions on social media. Not only did the book community have ideas, they also wanted to donate books. The books, we thought, should be for kids who may or may not read English and they should see themselves reflected in those books. The families are from countries like Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Moldova, Russia, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran and many others.

When Independent Bookstore day came (called Seattle SEABookstore Day in Seattle proper) most of our northwest indie bookshops get in on the action. One county librarian said she’d help by purchasing books created by our nearby authors and illustrators. This way she could support the locals as well as local business. All of this while helping a cause in which she believed. By the end of the week I had a stack of excellent titles.

At the recent LA SCBWI conference, I was fortunate to hear the executive editor of Salaam Reads speak. I approached her after and told her it was nice to have a publishing imprint where I knew I could find appropriate, quality books with Muslim characters for families and friends (including the refugee center). When I told her of my idea she said she’d be happy to send a box of books for the center, too.

The project hasn’t finished by any means. Since setting up the library to great success, other books have called out to me too. I recently came across Kadir Nelson’s beautifully illustrated Blue Sky White Stars, which I bought for the library. Also, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls may be appropriate, as well, with its rich collection of inspiring women from around the world.

I received a card from my neighbor soon after. “Could you send this pic of our staff to say thank you to all the wonderful people in the children’s literature community? The kids absolutely love the books. Honestly I don’t know who loves them more the kids or staff! I’ve caught several staff reading the books together, as well as parents! Many blessings be upon you.”

The children receive the gift of empowerment and entertainment through books carefully selected by generous professionals.

I’ve been informed a local foster care facility has a library in constant need of graphic novels. I think I can predict the response I’ll get when I ask for some help finding titles.

 

While mild-mannered in public, behind closed doors MARK HOLTZEN has been known to groove to his diverse collection of music, cook and garden with moderate skill and make weird faces at his children and students. You also might find him inhaling handfuls of popcorn, struggling to learn new guitar chords or riding one of his bikes through Seattle. Currently on a teaching hiatus after years in an elementary classroom–including science at a gifted K-8 school–he writes essays, middle grade novels and is working to create more regional history for kids. He continues to be amazed and thankful (mostly) for the universe and its inhabitants daily. His debut picture book was A TICKET TO THE PENNANT with Sasquatch Books. Find him at his blogTwitterInstagram or Facebook.

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Are There Genres in Picture Books?

We always talk about genres in novels, but what about in picture books? Are there any? Are they the same as for novels? Is it even helpful categorizing picture books into genres? It seems to me that picture books can definitely fall into the adventure, mystery, sci-fi, horror (monster books), and fantasy genres, even though we don’t usually do this. Instead, we think of them falling into either character-driven or concept picture books. Then, of course, there’s nonfiction like biographies, and fairy tales, fables and folktales. Of course, there’s the ever-popular fractured fairy tale, which are fun twists on traditional fairy tales, like The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, Little Red Gliding Hood, and Good Night Baddies.

But there’s also an emergence of other picture book genres that are wowing young readers.

  • The first are what I call Wonder Picture Books. They’re usually beautifully illustrated with rich poetic language, often for a new baby or young child. Adults love them as much as children, maybe even more so! Some examples include: The Wonderful Things You’ll Be, All the World, and On the Night You Were Born.

Mindful Concept Picture Books are similar to wonder books but written for slightly older children. The text is sparse but the feelings are deep and sensory. Books in this category include The Quiet Book, Say Zoop! (which also falls into the meta category below), Water Can Be…, and I Wish You More…

“Meta” Picture Books: They ask the reader to think outside the book and question what a book is. Often readers are pulled into the action with the use of second person and even asked to physically interact with the book like in Press Here and Tap the Magic Tree. This has been the breakthrough picture book category of the past few years. Other books in this category include We are In a Book (Elephant and Piggy Series) and The Book of Mistakes.

The Don’t Books: Maybe, the recent surge in Don’t Books took off with Don’t Let the Pigeons Drive the Bus. Nothing thrills children like a bossy picture book because they’re usually the ones being bossed around. Examples include: You Don’t Want a Unicorn, I am Not Book I am not a Chair, You will not like this Book, The Day the Crayons Quit, and Be Quiet.

The Mash-Up Picture Books combine two popular things and mash them together. Kids love these, too, because they’re unexpected, and they break the rules and that’s pretty exciting stuff. Plus, they are usually packed with a big splat of humor. Examples include: Dragons Love Tacos, Dear Santasaurus, Pirosaurs, and Dinotrux.

I hope this has been helpful. Let me know your thoughts on picture book genres!

KARIN LEFRANC is from nowhere and everywhere. She lived in Sweden, Lebanon, South Africa and the UK but now lives in the US in a small Connecticut town which boasts the largest tree in the state. She’s an admitted tree hugger, who has on occasion, even been spotted kissing a tree or two.  Her debut picture book I WANT TO EAT YOUR BOOKS was published in 2015 by Sky Pony Press. When she’s not writing picture books, she’s time traveling to the 6th century in her middle-grade novel. You can find her on Twitter.

 

 

 

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Picture Book Author Interview: Camille Andros

I’ve been obsessing about this picture book for almost a year now. Finally, finally, finally March is here! CHARLOTTE THE SCIENTIST IS SQUISHED releases March 14th and would make THE. BEST. EASTER/SPRING. GIFT. POSSIBLE!

Charlotte is a serious scientist. She solves important problems by following the scientific method. She has all the right equipment: protective glasses, a lab coat, a clipboard, and a magnifying glass. What she doesn’t have is space. She has so many brothers and sisters (she is a rabbit, after all) that she is too squished to work on her experiments! Can she use science to solve her problem? This funny, satisfying story is a playful introduction to the scientific method and perfect for inspiring an interest in STEM subjects.

Bunnies! Science! Two of my favorite things! And here to tell us more about Charlotte is author Camille Andros!

Welcome to THE WINGED PEN, Camille, and congrats on your debut picture book, CHARLOTTE THE SCIENTIST IS SQUISHED. Tell us about your inspiration for Charlotte and the STEM focus in this book.

I was in the shower (where all the best ideas are realized) when I decided I wanted Charlotte to be a scientist. I always loved science as a kid but felt like I wasn’t smart enough to be one. I want kids to know that being a scientist can look like a lot of different things and if they love it, they should do it!

Absolutely! Science is for everyone! Charlotte is a rabbit with many brothers and sisters, which causes her a bit of trouble. Tell us about your “qualifications” for writing a story about a character with a BIG family. 🙂

The original idea for a bunny story with a big family came from my husband. Together we have six children. My husband is the sixth of ten children. All those ten children have their own children so there are sixty-seven cousins. When everyone is all together it is eighty-nine people. On my side of the family I am the oldest of seven kids and there are twenty- four cousins and forty people when we are all together. My kids have a total of eighty-five first cousins.

I cannot even imagine all those nieces and nephews! What do you hope young readers take away from your story? 

I hope young readers never stop asking questions and know that being a scientist can look like many different things. Loving your family and learning how to best get along with them doesn’t hurt either. 😉 

What is your work/writing schedule?

I wish I had a regular schedule, but I take each day at a time. At the start of each day (or the night before) I figure out what the most important things to do in that day are. Sometimes it is working on a story, sometimes it’s revising, sometimes it’s doing stuff like this-doing interviews, recording podcasts, school visits. And sometimes–it’s laundry. It’s different every day.

Do you have any strange writing habits?

I don’t think this is super strange but when I am creating something totally new, I snack. A Lot. Chocolate, ice cream, popcorn, chocolate…;) But when I am revising I am all business. No treats/food.

In that regard, we are identical twins. I just have to stretch out revising long enough to lose any weight I gain during drafting! Which writers inspire you? Is there a recently published book you’d heartily recommend?

I love Virginia Lee Burton, Barbara Cooney, Alan Say, Kevin Henkes, Phil and Erin Stead, Mac Barnett, Adam Rex, and Jon Klassen. There are so many more.  I think one of the most beautiful picture books in the last few years is SWAN-THE LIFE AND DANCE OF ANNA PAVLOVA by Laurel Snyder Illsutrated by Julie Morstad. It’s exquisite.

Tell us a little about the other books you’ve sold.

Next year I have a book coming out with Julie Morstad as the illustrator called THE DRESS AND THE GIRL. It’s about a girl and her favorite dress and how they get separated from each other when the girl’s family immigrates to the United States. It’s about love and loss and their journey to find each other again.

Oh, that sounds lovely and I love the immigration theme. What can you tell us about what you’re working on now?

Right now I’m working on the second Charlotte the Scientist book that will also be coming out next year.

CAN. NOT. WAIT for both of those books! Okay, my friend. Buckle up for the lightning round. *Hands Camille a bowl of chocolate ice cream.

If you had a superpower, what would it be? Hmmm maybe to have the ability to apparate. To think about a place and be able to be there would be awesome.

Wooden pencil or mechanical? Wooden and sharp.

Coffee or tea? Hot Chocolate 😉

Sweet or salty? Both

Dog, cat, or other? Neither (sorry-I have six kids instead of pets)

Plotter or pantser? A little of both.

Any advice for all those aspiring authors out there? Never give up. The writers who are published are the ones who just kept trying.

Great advice! Thanks so much for joining us, Camille!

Here’s an adorable picture of Charlotte wearing her safety goggles for you to swoon over while you hop on over to Goodreads to add it to your TBR.

CHARLOTTE THE SCIENTIST IS SQUISHED would make the perfect gift for all the little scientists in your life and is available for pre-order through your local indie or through one of the following links.

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

 

Camille always carries a small black notebook on her travels to far-flung places to record the stories she imagines (even on the days when “far-flung” is her backyard vegetable garden.) She has her BA in Health Science, is an EMT, and won 1st place in the school science fair as a kindergartner. She’s addicted to the smell of a newborn baby, which may explain why she has six children! Dancing ballet for 14 years left her with an appreciation of beautiful things – warm fresh bread, a quiet sunset after a hectic day, and a new picture book. Find out more about Camille by checking out her website or following her on Facebook or Twitter!

 

MICHELLE LEONARD is a math and science nerd, a chocolate biscotti baker, and a SCBWI member who writes middle-grade and young adult fiction. Her young adult sci-fi short story IN A WHOLE NEW LIGHT will be published in the BRAVE NEW GIRLS ANTHOLOGY: STORIES OF GIRLS WHO SCIENCE AND SCHEME releasing August 2017. Connect with her on Twitter.

10 Epic Muslim Picture Books

The Islamic New Year was October 1st. It came and went and few of us noticed. Well, this list of epic Muslim books for children is there to change that.

Islamic literature has been underrepresented for a long time. It used to be filled with stereotypes and false information, but more and more own voice writers are emerging, and Jee, do their books rock!

 

basraThe Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq (2005), written & illustrated by Jeanette Winter is the story of Alia Muhammad Baker, a chief librarian in Basra, Iraq. When bombs hit her library, in 2003, she and a Muslim friend save 70% of the books by hiding them in their homes. This story shows how the civilians are the ones who suffer the most during armed conflicts because the country’s art, artifacts and knowledge are burned away and destroyed. We also learn that the library of Basra contained books in other languages picturing other people in the world like we have in our own libraries.

 

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Deep in the Sahara (2013) by Kelly Cunnane (illustrated by Hoda Hadadi) is the story of Lalla, a girl who lives in Mauritania. Her dream is to wear the malafa, a beautiful local garment, but she is still too young. The story, beautifully illustrated, gives an inner look at the complex reasons why Muslim women freely wear their veil.

 

kingKing For a Day (2013) by Rukhsana Khan (illustrated by Christiane Krömer) tells the story of Malik, a Pakistani boy, who, despite his handicap, masters the art of kite making and kite wrestling. The story really shows that it’s not enough to become the “king”. A king is not truly one unless he shows compassion and shares from his wealth.

 

 

skyThe Sky of Afghanistan (2012) by Ana A de Eulate (Illustrated by Sonja Wimmer) is a gorgeously illustrated and powerfully written story of an Afghan girl, Malala, and her dreams for peace.

 

 

 

Four Feet, Two Sandals (2016) by Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed  (illustrated by Doug Chayka) tells the story of two young Afghani refugees living in a refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan. Relief workers bring clothes sandalsand Lina finds a beautiful sandal. Feroza, another refugee, finds the other sandal. They haven’t had shoes in years. They decide to take turns wearing the sandals and from then on a friendship grows between them. This is a moving story that shows the difficulty of living in camps.

 

mosqueThe Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Saved Jews During the Holocaust (2010) by Karen Gray Ruelle (illustrated by Deborah Durland DeSaix) is a historical picture book talking about compassion and empathy. It shows a story few people know about. During the Nazi occupation of France, a group of Muslims took on themselves to give certificates of Muslim identity to Jews so that they could avoid persecution. The Jewish families hid in the mosque that had gardens, apartments, and a library.

 

moonUnder the Ramadan Moon (2011) by Sylvia Whitman. Soft and warm pastel colors along with a lyrical prose introduce us to the month of Ramadan and its rituals. Unlike regular Ramadan stories that emphasize on the fast, this book reminds Muslims that Ramadan is mostly about giving in charity, being kind, praying, and abandoning bad habits.

 

 

Snow in Jerusalem (200snow1) by Deborah da Costa (illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu) is the poignant story of Hamudi, a Muslim boy and Avi, a Jewish boy, fighting over a street cat they both feed between their houses. They eventually learn to share the cat and its litter.

 

 

eidThe Best Eid Ever (2007) by Mobin-Uddin Asma (illustrated by Laura Jacobsen) is the story of Aneesa who helps refugees. When she receives beautiful clothes for Eid, one of the biggest celebrations of the year for Muslims, she realizes that being Muslim is about sharing what we love the most.

 

 

husseinMy Name Was Hussein (2004) by Hristo Kyuchukov (illustrated by Allan Eitzen) is the story of a Bulgarian Roma boy forced to change his Muslim name to a Christian name when an army invades his village. Based on a true story. This tale shows the tradition of Ramadan and also talks about a boy forced to reconsider and question his identity. 

 

 

Resources:

Leilinh. “Book List: Picture Books about Muslim or Middle Eastern Characters”
http://blog.leeandlow.com/2014/05/15/book-list-picture-books-about-muslim-or-middle-eastern-characters/

 “Muslim Booklist – Contemporary Novels & Short Story Collections.”
http://www.rukhsanakhan.com/muslimbooklist/novels-shortstory.html

“Novels from Muslim Countries.”
http://www.unc.edu/~cernst/novels.htm

Peckinpaugh, Timothy. “Islamic Facts for Kids.” http://peopleof.oureverydaylife.com/islamic-kids-5693.html

 

SussuIf you liked this article, visit Sussu Leclerc in her gothic castle, over the dream waterfall, in Fantasy Land, at Book Riders and A Novel Without Further Ado or follow her on Twitter: @bookriders1.

 

 

 

Spotlight Interview with Karin Lefranc

Alright, Karin, the grocery stores are filled with Halloween treats and decorations and it’s also your book’s birthday!

Happy Birthday, I WANT TO EAT YOUR BOOKS!

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Look at that cover! He’s the only zombie I’ve seen that I want to hug.

If you too are drooling over this book, check it out here and here or here. But, these spotlight interviews are to get to know you better, Karin. Our readers can take a look at your bio to find out about you, sure, but I’d like to know more.

Um…let me see. In addition to being a writer, I’m a certified children’s yoga teacher so I used to tell kids stories through yoga poses! Now when I’m not writing or running around with my four kids, I help high school seniors, as a college essay consultant, to write brilliant college application essays! I absolutely love it, as their topics are close to their hearts, and I get to channel them and see the world through their eyes for 650 words!

What’s the best thing about where you live and how does it inspire your writing?

I live smack bam between NYC and Boston outside Hartford in Simsbury, Connecticut. It’s hilly and woodsy so good for hikes, which is always good for inspiring stories or working out plot problems! Our town is proud to claim the largest tree in Connecticut, The Pinchot Sycamore Tree. It’s located on the same road that our first presidents took to Boston, including Washington, Jefferson and Adams, and it amazes me that the tree was alive when they were. Hey, that’s inspiring me right now to write a picture book!

Aww! I love tree books. Seriously, The Giving Tree…Please write this! Last book you read: The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone, who I also have the pleasure of knowing as she lives in the next town over from me! It’s a high concept YA about a girl whose grandmother tells them that she’s dying but wants the whole family to go on a death-with-dignity cruise. But trust me, it’s fun and cheeky and heartfelt.

Last song you listened to on repeat: Crazy by Gnarls Barkley—I enjoy riling up my kids while their crazy mom sings this to them!

Dinner is on the stove, but the best first line for your WIP pops in your head and if you don’t write it down NOW, you’ll lose it forever…. What do you do?

Burn dinner, of course!

That’s what cereal is for, right?! Your current WIP in five words: (bonus points if you can do it in less!)

Are you kidding? Hedda struggles to be brave like her ancestor Beowulf.

Try again… Hedda must save the troll girl (still six words!)

Girl, rainbow bridge, Beowulf, Norse goddesses (obviously very challenging for me!)

You’re packing a bag of books for a desert island, which 5 books make it in the bag? 

Anna Karenina (my favorite book!) War & Peace (also by Tolstoy and I’ve never read it– and it’s really long so it will keep me busy for a long time!) Lord of the Rings (ultimate escapism when I want to be transported from my island). The Little Prince (when I’m feeling alone and doomed). Immortality (Milan Kundera will keep my thinking about my existence long after I’ve finished the last page).

That’s an ambitious list! As if you’re not busy enough, what’s next for you?

My fabulous CPs, fellow pennies Gita and Rebecca, are urging me to finish my PB about a hoity-toity coyote who loves England so much, he decides to fly to London to visit the queen and her corgis!

Yes, please!!! I want to beta read this! It was so fun getting to know you better. Readers, if you like what you read here, follow Karin on Twitter @karinlefranc and you can check out the book trailer for I Want to Eat Your books here!

Photo on 3-19-15 at 1.23 PM #2Kristi Wientge is the author of KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE out Summer 2017 with Simon & Schuster BFYR.

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