Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen plus Interview

I can’t believe we are almost half-way through summer. Hope you and your families are having a wonderful, relaxing, and joyous time. When I first started my writing journey back in 2011, I was fortunate to be a reader for the Cybils early chapter books category. I loved the spunkiness of the characters and the fast-paced storylines, but what I found myself missing was diversity. So last winter when I heard about the Jasmine Toguchi books by Debbi Michiko Florence, I was thrilled.

Synopsis for Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen (from Amazon): 
Eight-year-old Jasmine Toguchi is a flamingo fan, tree climber, and top-notch mess-maker!
She’s also tired of her big sister, Sophie, always getting to do things first. For once, Jasmine wishes SHE could do something before Sophie―something special, something different. The New Year approaches, and as the Toguchi family gathers in Los Angeles to celebrate, Jasmine is jealous that her sister gets to help roll mochi balls by hand with the women. Her mom says that Jasmine is still too young to join in, so she hatches a plan to help the men pound the mochi rice instead. Surely her sister has never done THAT before.
But pounding mochi is traditionally reserved for boys. And the mochi hammer is heavier than it looks. Can Jasmine build her case and her mochi-making muscles in time for New Year’s Day

What I Like:
Jasmine is a charming, spunky character, and Japanese-American.  I like that it’s a book that has a universal truth where the multicultural aspect is part of the backdrop rather than the focus. I enjoyed learning about the Japanese tradition of mochi-tsuki while feeling that Jasmine could be the girl next door. It’s a perfect blend of East meets West.

The first two books in the series Mochi Queen and Super Sleuth release TODAY! Here are some links to help you easily find them: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Now onto the interview with Debbi!

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1. Can you tell us a little about your writing journey? Ups/Down/Anything in Between
It has been a very long and bumpy road and a good lesson in perseverance. I talked in detail about my journey on my blog. (http://debbimichikoflorence.com/2015/10/the-long-bumpy-road/)

Since then, I’ve gone through revisions and copyedits for the first three books in the series. Recently, I handed in the last round of revisions to my editor for book 4, Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper. It’s mind-boggling to realize that I’m pretty much done writing all four books for the series, just before the first two books launch! I have loved every single step along the way of writing this series, particularly working with Grace Kendall and FSG, and my illustrator Elizabet Vukovic, and designer Kristie Radwilowicz – I’m grateful to this fabulous team!

Around the same time I made my sale, I signed with my dream agent, Tricia Lawrence, of The Erin Murphy Literary Agency. She’s a tireless advocate of my work and has been so amazing – guiding me along this path to publication while also giving me support and feedback on my works-in-progress. She’s a wonderful friend and partner and I couldn’t ask for a better agent to have along on this journey!

2. What aspects of childhood do you like to capture in your writing?
I seem to be fixated on relationships in flux – like Jasmine’s changing relationship with her older sister throughout the series and when Jasmine has a falling out with her best friend in Super Sleuth. In my novels/works-in-progress, the focus is also on changing relationships, between friends and family, and also the aspects of first love. I’m fascinated by relationships.

3. Can you share your writing process with us? Panster/plotter, paper/pen. Specific habits or tips that have served you well?
I’m a panster in that I start my first draft with only a premise and a character or two in mind. I don’t outline, but I think my first drafts are basically very long rambling outlines.

I draft in Scrivener. I LOOOOVE Scrivener! I take notes and brainstorm in a notebook (each project has a separate notebook), but I write all my drafts on my laptop. I print up hardcopies in between drafts and write all over them before revising.

4. Can you tell us a little about how you came up with Jasmine Toguchi and her stories? How did you develop Jasmine as a character?
I was inspired by a newspaper article about a multigenerational family that made mochi the traditional way. I wondered what would happen if a little girl wanted to do the “boy job” of pounding mochi, and Jasmine Toguchi was born. Jasmine talked to me in my head for many months before I sat down to write a word of her story, so by the time I started writing she felt very real to me.

5. I understand Mochi Queen was initially written as a stand-alone, but then your editor asked you to extend Jasmine into a series. That is so cool! How did you go about conceiving other storylines?
Honestly? The minute I got on the phone with Grace, the ideas poured forth. Suddenly, I had many stories I wanted to write about Jasmine. I also knew that I wanted each story to contain a thread of Japanese culture while focusing on a universal theme: wanting to do something before an older sibling/breaking family tradition, figuring out how to mend a fight with a best friend while hanging on to a family tradition, learning how to find a talent, and making a wish come true.

6. One of the things I loved about Mochi Queen was the inclusion of the extended family. Was this an important aspect for you to have in there? Will they be appearing in future stories?
Thank you! Some of my fondest memories of growing up include extended family. Visiting relatives in Japan for long stays in the summer, celebrating birthdays and holidays with extended family, etc. I miss that as an adult now that I live across the country from my family. I particularly miss my grandparents and wish they were still around. Obaachan will make a small appearance in book 4. If I were to write more books for the series, I can see the extended family appearing again. (Yes, I do have ideas for more stories!)

7. Any other books we should be on the lookout for?
Book 3, Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl and book 4, Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper will be out in April 2018 and July 2018 respectively. I’m super excited for these books to make their way into the hands of readers, too!

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Some rapid fire questions.

Fact that most people don’t know about you?
I love umeboshi, Japanese style pickled plums.

Favorite type of mochi?
Azuki (red bean)

If you could have any kind of animal as a pet, what would it be?
Oh goodness! I think I’ve reached a limit with pets for now. Right now, we have two ducks (Darcy and Lizzy), a minilop (Aki), and a puppy (Kiku). In the past I’ve had hamsters, snakes, fish, a guinea pig, dogs, cats, and many birds including an Amazon parrot.

What book is on your bedside table?
I have piles of books all over the house that I want to read. So. Many. Books! Right now I’m almost finished reading (and loving) WANT by Cindy Pon.

Where can readers find you on the Internet?
Website and blog: http://debbimichikoflorence.com/
Twitter: @DebbiMichiko
Instagram: @d.michiko.f and for Jasmine Toguchi news @jasminetoguchi
Facebook: facebook.com/debbi.michiko

Thank you so much for having me on your blog!

Thank you, Debbi, for stopping by today and sharing a bit about yourself. Wishing you many future successes.

South Asian Kidlit 2017 – Part 1

Hope everyone is keeping warm this winter. Here in California, we’re just trying to stay dry in one of the wettest winters ever. Not that I’m complaining. It’s better than the string of drought years. I am still working away on my picture books and have started working on a YA historical novel. Speaking of picture books, I would love to see more South Asian titles in that category. 😉

Last summer, I posted some fantastic South Asian children’s and young adult books that released in 2016. Thanks to the We Need Diverse Books movement, #ownvoices, #diversity, and a general interest in the publishing and reading communities there has been an uptick in books that contain diversity as well as by diverse authors. Today I bring you nine titles (1 PB, 4 MG, 4 YA) that are being released in the first-half of 2017. These books are traditionally published and are either by a South Asian author, contains a South Asian Main Character, or involves South Asian culture. The books are organized by Category and then Publication Date. Come back in July for Part 2 containing books being released in the 2nd half of 2017.
south-asian-kidlit-2017


bluesky
Title: Blue Sky White Starssarvinder-naberhaus-1200
Author: Sarvinder Naberhaus
Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Category-Genre: Picture Book

Synopsis: Wonderfully spare, deceptively simple verses pair with richly evocative paintings to celebrate the iconic imagery of our nation, beginning with the American flag. Each spread is sumptuously illustrated by award-winning artist Kadir Nelson

Bio: Sarvinder Naberhaus immigrated from Punjab to the U.S. when she was four years old. Her first book, Boom Boom, was illustrated by Caldecott-honor winning artist Margaret Chodos-Irvine. She also has an upcoming board book, Lines.

Website: www.sarvinder.com
Twitter: @SarvinderN
Facebook: Sarvinder Author


amina
Title: Amina’s Voicehena-khan-low-res
Author: Hena Khan
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Publication Date: March 14, 2017
Category-Genre: Middle Grade

Synopsis: The first year of middle school is tricky for stage-shy Amina, when her best friend Soojin starts talking about changing her name and, even worse, spending time with Emily—a girl that used to make fun of them! Amina’s older brother seems to be getting into a lot of trouble and when her uncle comes to visit from Pakistan, her parents try awfully hard to impress him. But when Amina’s mosque is vandalized, she find her voice, and learns that the things that connect us will always be stronger than the things that try to tear us apart.

Bio: Hena Khan is the author of several award-winning books including Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, It’s Ramadan, Curious George, and Night of the Moon. She’s also written choose your own adventure style novels and books on space, spies, and more. Hena was born and raised in Maryland, where she still lives with her family.

Website: www.henakhan.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/henakhanbooks
Facebook: www.facebook.com/hena.khan.books
Instagram: www.instagram.com/henakhanbooks/


the-gauntletTitle: The Gauntletkayemavatar
Author: Karuna Riazi
Publisher: S&S/Salaam Reads
Publication Date: March 28, 2017
Category-Genre: Middle Grade – Fantasy

Synopsis: A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.

Bio: Karuna Riazi is a born and raised New Yorker, with a loving, large extended family and the rather trying experience of being the eldest sibling in her particular clan. Besides pursuing a BA in English literature, she is an online diversity advocate, blogger, and publishing intern. Karuna is fond of tea, Korean dramas, writing about tough girls forging their own paths toward their destinies, and baking new delectable treats for friends and family to relish.

Twitter: twitter.com/karunariazi


step-plate
Title: Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singhuma
Author: Uma Krishnaswami
Publisher: Tu Books/Lee & Low
Publication Date: May 1, 2017
Category-Genre: Middle Grade – Historical Fiction

Synopsis: In Yuba City, California, in the spring of 1945, Maria Singh longs to play softball. But even as Maria’s world opens up, her parents—Papi from India and Mamá from Mexico—can no longer protect their children from prejudice and from the discriminatory laws of the land. When the family is on the brink of losing their farm, nine-year-old Maria must decide if she has what it takes to step up and find her voice in an unfair world.

Bio: Uma Krishnaswami is the author of more than twenty books for young readers. She teaches in the low-residency MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, Vermont College of Fine Arts. Born in New Delhi, India, Uma now lives and writes in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Website: http://umakrishnaswami.org
Blog: https://umakrishnaswami.org/blog-writing-with-a-broken-tusk/


finding-mighty
Title: Finding Mightysheela_chari_author_photo
Author: Sheela Chari
Illustrator: R. Kikuo Johnson
Publisher: Abrams
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Category-Genre: Middle Grade – Mystery

Synopsis: Along the train lines north of New York City, twelve-year-old neighbors Myla and Peter search for the link between Myla’s necklace and the disappearance of Peter’s brother, Randall.

Bio: Sheela Chari is the author of FINDING MIGHTY (May 2017) and VANISHED, an Edgar Award nominee for best juvenile mystery, an Al Roker book pick on the Today Show, and an APALA Children’s Literature Honor Book. She has an MFA in Fiction from New York University and teaches writing at Mercy College. She lives in New York with her family.

Website: www.sheelachari.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sheela.chari
Twitter: @wordsbysheela


soulmated_cover_500
Title: Soulmatedshaila_patel_3x4-5
Author: Shaila Patel
Publisher: Month 9 Books
Publication Date: January 24, 2017
Category-Genre: Yound Adult – Paranormal Romance

Synopsis: Irish empath Liam Whelan is forced to find his fated soul mate and is drawn to Indian-American Laxshmi Kapadia–only she’s not an empath and would derail his father’s plans for when they did find “The One.” Laxshmi struggles with her own parental expectations in the form of ultimatums that leave her neither the option of pursuing dance as a career, nor an interest in her handsome new Irish neighbor. Will Liam and Laxshmi defy expectations and embrace a shared destiny, or is the risk of choosing one’s own fate too great a price?

Bio: Shaila Patel is a pharmacist by training, a medical office manager by day, and a writer by night. Her award-winning novel Soulmated debuts on 1/24/17. She enjoys traveling, craft beer, tea, and loves reading books—especially in cozy window seats. You might find her sneaking in a few paragraphs at a red light or connecting with other readers online.

Website: www.shailapatelauthor.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ShailaPatelWriter
Twitter: twitter.com/shaila_writes
Instagram: www.instagram.com/shailapatel94
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/shailapatel94


thatthingwecallheart-hc-e
Title: That Thing We Call a Heartshebakarim-sm
Author: Sheba Karim
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary

Synopsis: As Pakistani-American teen Shabnam falls for Jamie and begins to mend her friendship with her estranged best friend Farah, she learns powerful lessons about love and the true story of happened to her family during the 1947 Partition of India.

Bio: Sheba Karim’s first YA novel was Skunk Girl. Her third, The Road Trip Effect, will be out in 2018. She has an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and lives in Nashville, TN.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shebakarimwriter/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/shebakarim


when-dimple-met-rishi-front
Title: When Dimple Met Rishisandhya-menon-with-filter_443x375
Author: Sandhya Menon
Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Category-Genre: Yong Adult –  Romantic Comedy

Synopsis: A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Bio: Sandhya Menon is the author of the upcoming YA novels WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI (Simon Pulse/May 30, 2017) and THE STORIES WE TOLD (Simon Pulse/Summer 2018). She was born and raised in India on a steady diet of Bollywood movies and street food, and pretty much blames this upbringing for her obsession with happily-ever-afters, bad dance moves, and pani puri. Sandhya currently lives in Colorado, where she’s on a mission to (gently) coerce her husband, son, and daughter to watch all 3,220 Bollywood movies she claims as her favorite.

Twitter: http://bit.ly/sandhyatwitter
Instagram: http://bit.ly/sandhyainsta
Facebook: http://bit.ly/sandhyamenonbooksfb


saints-arc-cover

(not final cover art)

Title: Saints and Misfitssajpic-copy
Author: S. K. Ali
Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary

Synopsis: Saints and Misfits follows Janna Yusuf, a geeky, hijabi Arab-Indian-American girl, as she navigates high school and the possibility of first love—even though Muslim girls aren’t supposed to date, right? She’s trying to figure herself out, along with her place in the world, especially if that means revealing a shattering secret that just might send ripples through her tight-knit Muslim community.

Bio: S. K. Ali was born in south India. She lived there until the age of three, at which point she found herself in Montreal, Canada. After a brief stint learning how to read, write and paint, all in French, she made her way to Toronto, where she ended up getting a degree in Creative Writing.

Twitter: @sajidahwrites
Website: skalibooks.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15615126.S_K_Ali

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

happy-new-year-2017-images

Happy New Year to all my readers!

Once again I am participating in Julie Hedlund’s anti-resolution revolution. Instead of focusing on what I didn’t accomplish, I review my successes and use that as a building base for my 2017 goals. You can see my 2016 goal setting here. It worked quite well in that I was able to stick to my plan for the most part.

List of 2016 Successes:

  • Got an Agent!! (THE highlight of the year. This wasn’t a listed goal since it wasn’t fully under my control, but I did have a goal to finish revisions for prospective agents. So Check!)
  • Going on submission with several PB stories. (another highlight, but again not a goal since it wasn’t entirely under my control.)
  • Wrote 8 NEW first drafts of picture books! (My goal was to write 12, but I’m still happy with 8. My previous record was only 5.)
  • I finally attended the NJ SCBWI conference!! This had been on my bucket list since I first started writing five years ago. Also attended the SCBWI Summer conference. (Goal met. Check!)
  • Took the Nonfiction Archaeology class and completed a draft of my first picture book biography. (Check!)
  • Read two craft books, Story Genius and Big Magic. (My original goal was to finish reading Writing Irresistible Kidlit which didn’t happen. These two books were more of what I needed at the time. Lesson learned – be flexible.)
  • Read/listen to 23 novels and 230 picture books. (My goal was 25 novels, so I almost met my goal. Check!) Check out my post where I break down the numbers and list some favorite titles (Adult thru PB)
  • Added one more polished story to my portfolio. (Had set a goal of two. Will be working on this again in 2017.)
  • Kept up my blogging. Still a little sporadic. (My goal was to blog at least once a month. Check!)
  • Wrote 3K words for a YA novel. From this, I learned I need to have more structure laid down. This ties into a 2017 goal.
  • Became involved in South Asian kidlit. I wrote a piece for WNDB on South Asian kidlit and did a promotional post for 2016 South Asian books and authors. Hadn’t planned for any of this, but will definitely continue.
  • Got two accountability partners. 🙂
  • Volunteer PB application reader for We Need Diverse Books

My word was for 2016 was CREATE and that I did by completing 8 new PB drafts and starting my YA novel. The last few months have ended with a pile of rejection slips which while expected is still a downer. I had one story which I spent 6 months revising in 2016 and that I thought was done, only to realize I may have to tear it up and start again. So my word for 2017 is PERSEVERE – to stay focused on growing as a writer. And if I get a book deal along the way that’s a bonus.
wordcloud1
Goals for 2017

  • Persevere in the difficult picture book revision. Review course material, favorite books, do paid critiques and above all keep trying. Start to explore early chapter books to see if that’s an option.
  • Take a novel craft class. Have the big elements figured out – story arc, main and secondary characters, motivations, stakes, etc.
  • Continue research efforts for the novel.
  • Attend agency retreat and one conference.
  • Write 6 new sh***y first drafts.
  • Revise 2-3 stories to a polished state.
  • Read/listen 20 novels.
  • Blog once a month.
  • PERSEVERE

Wishing you the very best. What are some of your goals for 2017?

My Book Reading Report for 2016

It’s that time of the year to tally up. Here are my stats according to GoodReads.

TOTAL BOOKS READ IN 2016 = 255
5 Adult;  11 YA;  6 MG;  2 CB/ER; 231 PB

Listed below are my favorite reads from this year. This list contains titles published in 2016 and past years.2016reads

ADULT: When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi), Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert)

YA: The Sky is Everywhere (Jandy Nelson), The Sun is Also a Star (Nicola Yoon), The Game of Love and Death (Martha Brockenbrough), The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexie)

MG: Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White (Melissa Sweet), Hour of the Bees (Lindsay Eagar), Dear Mrs. Naidu (Mathangi Subramanian)

PB:

  • Strictly No Elephants (Lisa Mantchev and Taeeun Yoo)
  • Horrible Bear (Ame Dyckman and Zachariah O’Hora)
  • Mother Bruce (Ryan T. Higgins)
  • Nerdy Birdy (Aaron Reynolds and Matt Davies)
  • Mirette on the High Wire (Emily Arnold McCully)
  • Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes (Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton)
  • Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay (Susan Hood and Sally Wern Comport)
  • Diary of a Spider (Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss)
  • Are We There Yet? (Dan Santat)
  • Poppy Pickle (Emma Yarlett)
  • Maple (Lori Nichols)
  • Pink is for Blobfish (Jess Keating and David DeGrand)

What were some of your favorite reads? I’m always looking for excellent titles for my 2017 to-read list.

Dear Mrs. Naidu

dear-mrs-naiduTitle: Dear Mrs. Naidu
Author: Mathangi Subramanian
Publisher: Zubaan Books, 2015
Pages: 286
Genre: Contemporary, Multicultural
Themes: Activism, Friendship, Economic Diversity
Ages: 10 and up

Synopsis (Zubaan Books website):
Twelve-year-old Sarojini’s best friend, Amir, might not be her best friend anymore. Ever since Amir moved out of the slum and started going to a posh private school, it seems like he and Sarojini have nothing in common. Then Sarojini finds out about the Right to Education, a law that might help her get a free seat at Amir’s school – or, better yet, convince him to come back to a new and improved version of the government school they went to together. As she struggles to keep her best friend, Sarojini gets help from some unexpected characters, including Deepti, a feisty classmate who lives at a construction site; Vimala Madam, a human rights lawyer who might also be an evil genius; and Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, a long-dead freedom fighter who becomes Sarojini’s secret pen pal. Told through letters to Mrs. Naidu, this is the story of how Sarojini learns to fight – for her friendship, her family, and her future.

Why I Like This Book:
This book is a window into another world, another lifestyle, one filled with hardship, friendship, and community coming together to improve the education for the lower class students. I love the main character Sarojini, who shows that even a 12-year old, a girl full of heart and courage CAN make a difference.

The story is told in epistolary style. Sarojini is writing letters to a deceased Mrs. Sarojini Naidu as part of a school assignment. Mrs. Sarojini Naidu was an activist and freedom fighter during India’s struggle for independence from the British. As the story unfolds, we see the young Sarojini gain strength. She makes friends with the Deepti the new girl from the construction site, and together they are the heart of the Child Rights Club.  Their fight is to make their government school a better place for kids — by advocating for a playground, clean drinking water and more. But gathering support from the community and the local government is a challenge.

I enjoyed the realistic representation of the neighborhood Aunties and the headmaster of Sarojini’s school. While the Aunties initially dissuade the girls and remind them of the dangers of talking to the press, they eventually come to help the Child Rights Club. The headmaster we learn has lost faith in the government from a previously failed attempt, hence the reason he has become jaded.

While this book was published for the Indian audience, I do think there is an audience for this book in the United States. It’s not just for children of Indian ancestry but for any child that is interested in learning about other cultures and what life is like elsewhere. Adults may need to provide some background information on the following topics – fight for Indian independence, slums, government vs private schools in India, views on Hindu-Muslim relations. Short glossary of common words – roti (thin bread), dosa (South Indian rice paper roll), Amma (mother), Appa (father).

Read the Author’s Note to find out the extent of research the author undertook. Impressive.

I highly recommend this book for any middle-school collection.

Find Dear Mrs. Naidu at the following spots:
Kitaab World | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 9383074981
ISBN-13: 978-9383074983

They All Saw a Cat

they-all-saw-a-cat_fcTitle: They All Saw a Cat
Author/Illustrator: Brendan Wenzel
Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2016
Editor:  Ginee Seo
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 3 and up! (all ages should read it)
Themes: Perspective, Subjectivity

Opening Lines:
The cat walked through the world,  with its whiskers, ears, and paws …
and the child saw A CAT,
and the dog saw A CAT,
and the fox saw A CAT.
Yes, they all saw the cat.

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):cat-eggs
In this glorious celebration of observation, curiosity, and imagination, Brendan Wenzel shows us the many lives of one cat, and how perspective shapes what we see. When you see a cat,
what do you see?

Activities:

Why I Like This Book:
A gorgeous thoughtful book sure to become a modern classic. I love the dichotomy of taking simple picture book text paired with colorful child-appealing art to talk about a big, abstract, philosophical idea. Pure Genius!

The book follows a cat as he walks through the world and the reader gets to see how each of the other animals – a fox, dog, rat, fish – view the cat. What I find amazing about this book is that the big idea is not addressed anywhere in the text. It only exists in the reader’s mind as he/she is reading the text and looking at the pictures. It is something to be realized and felt inside.

A variety of materials were used to make the art: colored pencils, oil pastels, acrylics, watercolor, and more. The author used different styles to help show each animal’s unique perspective of the cat.

This is an important book, one that I hope will find its way onto every bookshelf.

Find They All Saw a Cat at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 1452150133
ISBN-13: 978-1452150130

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

Beautiful

KidsLogoORIGINALFILETitle: Beautiful
Author: Stacy McAnulty
Illustrator: Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Publisher: Running Press Kids (September 13, 2016)
Editor: Lisa Cheng
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 3-6
Themes: Identity, Girl Power, Self-Esteem

Opening Line:
“Beautiful girls … have the perfect look.”

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):
Every girl is unique, talented, and lovable. . . .Every girl is BEAUTIFUL.
Much more than how one looks on the outside, true beauty is found in conquering challenges, showing kindness, and spreading contagious laughter. Beautiful girls are empowered and smart and strong!

BEAUTIFUL breaks barriers by showing girls free to be themselves: splashing in mud, conducting science experiments, and reading books under a flashlight with friends. This book will encourage all girls to embrace who they are and realize their endless potential.

Why I Like Love This Book:
This book takes the sugary, sweet, stereotypical praises and compliments for little girls and turns it on its head in a superb way! This is a must have book for any young child. I think it’s important not only for girls to see who they can be, but also for boys to realize it too.

I love the interplay between text and art. The text contains the typical saying while the art shows a new and smarter interpretation of the words. Take a look at the examples below.

BEAUTIFUL_int.indd
BEAUTIFUL_int.indd
I love the energy, enthusiasm, and contentment of the girls enjoying the activities they are partaking in. This is where their beauty shines.
The large type and big illustrations make it perfect for a group read-aloud. Use the book as a conversation starter on breaking gender roles and asking what is beautiful.

Find Beautiful at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0762457813
ISBN-13: 978-0762457816

The review is part of the BEAUTIFUL BLOG TOUR. Do check out these other stops over the next two weeks.
8/29 Flowering Minds
8/30 Kids’ Book Review
8/31 My Word Playground
9/1 Stacking Books
9/2 Unpacking the POWER of Picture Books
9/3 MomReadIt
9/5 Enjoy Embrace Learning
9/6 Geo Librarian
9/7 A Foodie Bibliophile
9/8 MamaBelly
9/10 Diapers and Daydreams
9/11 The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
9/12 Unconventional Librarian

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

South Asian Kidlit 2016

Hope you summer as been relaxing. My life seems to be a bit all over the place with writing conferences, kid camps, vacation … can’t believe summer is half over. Yesterday I did a guest post on South Asian kidlit for We Need Diverse Book’s Looking Back series. While researching for that post I felt a little sad and lost that there were no South Asian books that really made a difference in my formidable years. In fact only this past year when I watched the film MEET THE PATELS did I even realize what I was missing. What it’s like to see yourself, your experiences, your thoughts reflected in a mirror. It was wonderful. Now that we have a formidable South Asian population with people venturing into the arts, I think we’ll see an uptick in South Asian representation.

South Asian Kidlit 2016

Today I would like to shine a spotlight on some fantastic books by South Asian children’s writers that are being released in 2016. These books are traditionally published and are either by a South Asian author, contains a South Asian Main Character, or involves South Asian culture. The books are organized by Category and then Publication Date.


BU cover GroundwoodTitle: Book Uncle and Meuma
Author: Uma Krishnaswami
Illustrator: Julianna Swaney
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Publication Date: September 1, 2016
Category-Genre: Chapter Book

Synopsis: Nine-year-old Yasmin means to read a new book every day for the rest of her life. When her favorite lending library is threatened, she has to take her nose out of her book and do something! Explores themes of community activism and friendship in a city in contemporary India.

Bio: Uma Krishnaswami was born in India. She is the author of more
than 20 books for children. Uma teaches in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, Vermont College of Fine Arts, and lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Web site: http://umakrishnaswami.org


seatTitle: Save Me a SeatGita pic 1
Author: Gita Varadarajan & Sarah Weeks
Publisher: Scholastic Press, New York
Publication Date: May 2016
Category- Genre: Middle Grade – Realistic Fiction

Synopsis: Joe has lived in the same town all his life and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own. Ravi’s family just moved to America from India, and he’s finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in. Joe and Ravi don’t think they have anything in common- but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.

Bio: Gita Varadarajan was born and raised in India and moved to the US five years ago. She has worked with children all over the world in India, the UAE, and now teaches second grade in Princeton NJ. She lives in West Windsor, New Jersey with her husband, Arun and two teenage sons. This is her first novel.

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/gita.varadarajan
Twitter:https://twitter.com/gitavarad1


Untitled-4

Title: Mirror in the SkyAditiKhorana
Author: Aditi Khorana
Publisher: Penguin/Razorbill
Publication Date: June 21st, 2016
Category-Genre: YA – Contemporary/Speculative

Synopsis: An evocative debut, perfect for fans of The Leftovers and We All Looked Up, about the discovery of a mirror planet to Earth and how it dramatically changes the course of one Indian-American girl’s junior year.

Bio: Aditi Khorana has worked as a journalist, a researcher, and an entertainment research executive. She graduated from Brown University with a degree in International Relations and has an MA from the Annenberg School for Communications. She lives in Los Angeles California. Mirror in the Sky is her debut novel.

Website:www.aditikhorana.com
Twitter:@aditi_khorana
Instagram:aditi_khorana


Enter_Title_final_revealTitle: Enter Title Hererahul
Author: Rahul Kanakia
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: August 2nd, 2016
Category-Genre: YA – Contemporary

Synopsis: In order to score a book deal, an unscrupulous overachiever has to turn herself into a quirky, light-hearted YA novel protagonist. But after she’s caught plagiarizing an assignment, Reshma Kapoor will need to decide how far she’ll go to get a satisfying ending (Note: it’s pretty far).

Bio: Rahul Kanakia’s first book, a contemporary young adult novel called Enter Title Here out from Disney-Hyperion. Additionally, his stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Apex, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, The Indiana Review, and Nature. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins and a B.A. in Economics from Stanford. Originally from Washington, D.C., Rahul now lives in San Francisco.

Blog: http://www.blotter-paper.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rahkan


NewRaniCover_d02Title: Rani Patel in Full EffectIMG_1669
Author: Sonia Patel
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Category-Genre: YA FICTION

Synopsis: Almost seventeen, Rani Patel appears to be a kick-ass Indian girl breaking cultural norms as a hip-hop performer but in truth, she’s a nerdy flat-chested nobody who lives with her Gujarati immigrant parents on the remote Hawaiian island of Moloka’i. Her parents’ traditionally arranged marriage is a sham and her dad turns to her for all his needs—even the intimate ones. When Rani catches him two-timing with a woman barely older than herself, she feels like a widow and, like widows in India are often made to do, she shaves off her hair. This sets off a cascade of events and naive choices, including a relationship with an older man who leads her into an underground hip hop crew, that look like they will undo her but ultimately give her the chance to discover her strengths and restore the things she thought she’d lost, including her mother.

Bio: Sonia Patel is a child & adolescent psychiatrist. She was trained at Stanford University and the University of Hawaii. She lives and practices in Hawaii. Rani Patel In Full Effect is her first young adult novel.

Website: http://soniapatel.net/
Twitter: twitter.com/soniapatel808
Instagram: instagram.com/soniapatel808
Facebook: facebook.com/soniapatelauthor


timekeeperTitle: Timekeeper (Timekeeper #1)Author Photo_Tara Sim
Author: Tara Sim
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Category-Genre: YA Historical Fantasy-Steampunk

Synopsis: In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely. Clock mechanic Danny must figure out who’s bombing the towers around London or else risk losing the boy he loves forever. The stunning first novel in a new trilogy by debut author Tara Sim, Timekeeper is perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare and Victoria Schwab.

Bio: Tara Sim is the author of Timekeeper and can typically be found wandering the wilds of the Bay Area, California. When she’s not chasing cats or lurking in bookstores, she writes books about magic, clocks, and explosives.

Website: http://www.tarasim.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/EachStarAWorld
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaraSimAuthor
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25760792-timekeeper?ac=1
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tssim53/
Tumblr: http://tarasimauthor.tumblr.com/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/tssim53/

Interview with Molly Idle

Last Friday, I shared the newest addition to the Flora series, FLORA AND THE PEACOCKS. Today I am excited to share with you my interview with the talented author/illustrator Molly Idle.

molly
What aspects of childhood do you like to capture in your art and writing?
I think, captured in the books I make, are my feelings from childhood. Love and belonging, anxiety, anger, wonder… those feelings are what I try to connect with when I work.

Who are your creative influences – in books, art, or any other media?
Oh, so many! Visually, I am hugely influenced by classic films. If it’s a 1940s musical, filmed in Technicolor- I’ve seen it, and most likely, love it! Lovely lines are what draw me to certain artists. I never tire of watching Disney’s early animated films, and the work of the Nine Old Men, like Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnson, and Marc Davis.

And I could stare at drawings by Daumier and Degas forever.

What advice would you give to beginning authors and illustrators?
To authors, I would say: Read and write every day. To illustrators, I would say: Draw every day. Nothing will do so much good for you as consistent practice will.

Since you are an author and an illustrator, what comes first for you when creating a book?
It’s different for every book. Sometimes, an image pops into my head, and I start working from there. Other times, a name, or phrase comes to mind, and that becomes my starting point for a story. Beyond that initial “lightbulb” moment though, there’s a back and forth in the way I work between imagery and writing (if there are words in the book). Sometimes, a picture tells me what needs to be said, or more importantly, what doesn’t need to be said. And other times, it’s the text that directs my visual compositions.

The FLORA books were groundbreaking in their storytelling structure. I love how the flaps help move the story along. How did the use of flaps in that manner come about?
Prior to making picture books, I used to work in animation. When I started playing with the idea of creating a wordless picture book about friendship, told through dance, I knew it was a story that was all about movement. And I wondered if there was a way that I could bring the illusion of movement created in an animated scene, into a book. Making moveable flaps that acted as animated “key frames” was the answer!

What challenges did you face in creating a book with flaps?
The first challenge finding a publisher that was up for trying something new. Fortunately , Chronicle Books took a look at my original dummy of the book, saw what I was trying to do, and took a chance on it, and me! Not for nothing is their corporate motto “See things differently.” Once they has acquired the book, I worked in tandem with my editor, art director, and designer to figure out how the flaps would work in printing and production, and what they would cost. We also had to figure out a way to make the flaps as durable as possible!

I love how the flaps do different things in each of the books. In FLAMINGO – the flaps were showing the next scene. In PENGUIN – the flaps were showing movement along the ice. In PEACOCK – the rise and fall of the plume flaps were showing an intensified emotion of happy or sad. What things did you do to keep pushing the creative boundaries?
The stories themselves present challenges that keep me pushing my creative boundaries. Each story needs to be told in the way that best suits it. In Flamingo, the flaps needed to be such that they would allow the reader to change the characters interactions with one another. In Penguin, the characters were skating, and I needed to find a way to move them physically closer and farther apart as they skated through the book, in the same way that their relationship moved closer together, and father apart, emotionally. Hence the horizontal flaps. But in Peacocks, the story was about the push and pull of attention within a trio of friends. I wanted the reader to be an active part of that push and pull between the characters. The best way I could think of to do that, was to make the flaps part of the characters themselves. Making the tails of the Peacocks into the flaps was the ideal means of doing just that.

Your FLORA books have a beautiful movement and choreography to them. What were your influences?
The answer to this question takes us back to my love of old musicals. I could watch Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, or Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, dance all day!

Here is a clip from Singing In The Rain that makes me smile every time…

Any future tales in-store for Flora?
Yes! Coming out in 2017 are two new Flora board books: Flora and the Chicks, and Flora and the Ostrich!

Board books, cool! What aspects of friendship you are exploring? Will the books have your signature flaps?
As to the board books…
Flora and the Chicks is a counting book, and Flora and the Ostrich is a book of opposites.

florachicks

**********************************
Some rapid fire questions.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an author/illustrator?
I might go back to making movies… or maybe I’d try my hand at something completely different, like gardening.

Favorite pick me up snack/drink?
Espresso!

What book is on your bedside table?
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne

Where can readers find you on the Internet?
www.idleillustration.com
Facebook: Idle Illustration
Instagram: @mollyidle
Twitter: @mollyidle

Thank you Molly for stopping by today and sharing a bit about yourself. Wishing you many future successes.

Flora and the Peacocks

Welcome! Previously I reviewed Flora and the Penguins. It is my pleasure to bring to you Flora and the Peacocks, the latest addition in the Flora series, from the talented picture book author/illustrator Molly Idle. The Flora books explore the different aspects of friendship through innovative flaps in a wordless format.

Check-out my interview with Molly. Learn about her creative influences, approach to using flaps in storytelling, and her next two FLORA books!

Flora-and-the-PeacocksTitle: Flora and the Peacocks
Author/Illustrator: Molly Idle
Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2016
Editor: Kelli Chipponeri
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 2-6
Themes: Friendship

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):
The darling, dancing Flora is back, and this time she’s found two new friends: a pair of peacocks! But amidst the fanning feathers and mirrored movements, Flora realizes that the push and pull between three friends can be a delicate dance. Will this trio find a way to get back in step? In the third book featuring Flora and her feathered friends, Molly Idle’s gorgeous art combines with clever flaps to reveal that no matter the challenges, true friends will always find a way to dance, leap, and soar—together.

Activities:

Why I Like This Book:
I love the Flora books for their artistry, innovation in storytelling via the use flaps, and for their exploration of the different aspects of friendship. Ms. Idle blends these three components like a maestro understanding how each one can help heighten the other to create a symphonic work of art. Kids can relate to the tug-of-war that happens in this three’s a crowd situation.

Flora befriends a pair of peacocks starting the merry-go-around of who is friends with whom, leaving at least one person unhappy until the very end.

  • I love the use of the flaps which heighten the emotion. My favorite is on spread five, where the peacock trains flap up in what I call happy –> very happy for the peacock next to Flora and miffed –> very miffed for the peacock standing away from the pair.
  • Who knew a wordless book could have so much tension. Loved the climax where the peacocks are fighting with Flora stuck in the middle. Love the movement through these spreads and the use of the right-left flap.
  • The use of green color and peacocks are perfect for this tale. Green the color of envy. Peacocks tend to be self-centered, at least in children’s books.
  • The finale consisting of an oversized gate-fold of the trio as friends is magnific.

Another beautiful addition to the Flora family.

Enjoy the gorgeous trailer.

Find Flora and the Peacocks at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 1452138168
ISBN-13: 978-1452138169

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.