Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review at Coastline Books: Planet Middle School

If you're looking for a realistic middle grade book, take a gander over to Coastline Books where Sara has posted a lovely review of Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes.

Sara says: "Written in free verse, Joylin’s flowing narrative voice is pitch perfect. She navigates the highs and lows of early adolescence with her two best friends KeeLee and Jake and when she questions “Where is a parallel universe // when you need one?”, I had to smile. Ah, middle school. How many times did I have that thought, although never quite so poetic!"

To read the review in its entirety, click here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 Interview with Holly Black and Sarah Brennan

The wonderful people over at recently interviewed YA authors Holly Black and Sarah Brennan about their fantasy books that feature characters who are non-white or bi/multiracial, non-straight, or have a disability. The fact that they write such characters into their fantasy novels is especially noteworthy as the fantasy genre is known for having a disturbing lack of diversity (and if there is any racial/ethnic diversity, those characters are almost certainly antagonists).

 "It's important for publishers to keep publishing diverse fiction, and to try and promote more. It's important for readers to support diverse fiction: because publishing is not dedicated to a Course of Racism Against All Odds. Publishing is full of allies--and people who mean well--and yet we are all tripped up at every turn by the idea that diverse books are less commercial, and so a) publishing them at all is a bad idea, b) if you do publish them, hide what they are and c) don't waste any more money on bookstore placement or advertising them. Everyone needs to work together to solve this problem: it's too huge for writers to be able to solve on our own."

--Sarah Brennan, from the interview

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Another Online Resource about Diversity in YA Books

In 2011, YA authors Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon launched Diversity in YA which was both a website and a national book tour. The site was shuttered at the end of 2011 (as it was only intended to last a year), but yesterday the duo announced they've reopened the blog, this time on Tumblr. So, if you're looking for another resource on diversity (specifically concerning YA books) this one is worth checking out! 

Diversity in YA

Monday, February 25, 2013

Illustrator/Author Profile: Kadir Nelson

In honor of Black History Month, we'd like the highlight a few black illustrators and authors in hopes of introducing new readers to their work. Today we're highlighting the work of Kadir Nelson.

Primarily an illustrator, but now also an author, Neson's art is bold and larger-than-life, lending his work a feeling of strength and often making his subjects appear mythic in proportion. Nelson's work stretches across multiple genres, but here are a few of our favorite historical works by Nelson:

Ellington Was Not a Street

written by Ntozake Shange and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Written in verse, Ellington Was Not a Street, is a great introduction to key players in the Harlem Renaissance. Nelson's oil paintings are visually stunning and do a wonder job of portraying the diverse array of skin tones found in black community with beauty and realism. One of my favorite elements of Nelson's work is his ability to portray emotion which he does particularly well in the spread showcasing the love between Shange, her brother, and their father. This book includes back matter on the Harlem Renaissance artists featured in the story.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

2013 Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature

Earlier this month, the winners of the 2013 Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature were announced. The winners are books selected by the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) "which promote Asian/Pacific culture and heritage and are awarded based on literary and artistic merit" (from their website).

The winners and honorees for picture books, children's literature, and young adult literature are below.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Recommendation: Presidents Day

Just a quick book recommendation today in honor of Presidents Day:

Granted this book is not about presidents, but it is about how a person becomes president, which still seems applicable for Presidents Day (plus it's just such a fun book and so full of diversity it's just begging to be recommended). 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Storycorp Interview with Walter Dean Myers/Book Review: Darius & Twig

There are a few things we'd like to do here on the blog in honor of Black History Month. One is to feature interviews or profiles of Black writers and illustrators. We're a bit late getting started, but here is our first offering: an interview from StoryCorps with National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, Walter Dean Myers, talking to his son, author and illustrator Christopher Myers, about his relationship with his own father (specifically pertaining to his father's feeling about Myers being a writer).

(l to r:Christopher Myers, Walter Dean Myers)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Book Recommendation: Happy Birthday, Abraham Lincoln!

Today marks the 204th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth (born February 12, 1809).  In honor of his birthday, here is a book recommendation:


To Censor or Not to Censor: Does Racist Language Have a Place in Children's Books?

Die kleine Hexe

A huge row recently erupted in Germany over racist language in a children's book. I won't take too much time to recap the situation here (you can follow the link), suffice to say it began when a German father wrote to the publisher of Die Kleine Hexe, a classic German children's book, about how he could not continue reading the story to his seven-year old daughter after encountering the word "neger" (from what I gather, it is the German equivalent of both the word "negro" and the "n-word," now considered offensive). He requested the publisher revise the text. The publisher, after reviewing the book, said they would edit future printingsand all hell broke loose.

This conversation is one in which I am well-versed. I have debated with fellow children's literature scholars and enthusiasts about whether antiquated racist language should be purged from children's books. The arguments I hear most often in favor of keeping the racist language (and that has been cited in this most recent resurgence of the debate) is that by removing racial slurs from texts we are rewriting the past, denying history, and even that we are "whitewashing" the literature in question (though clearly this definition of whitewashing must be very different than the one discussed in a previous post). While I understand where those who hold these beliefs are coming from, I always come back to the question, "Yes, but what about the reader?"

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Book Recommendations: Happy Year of the Snake!

Happy Chinese New Year! Today marks the beginning of the Year of the Snake. When you're done playing with the fun Google Doodle for today, check out the blogs below for Lunar New Year picture book recommendations. My apologies for not making up our own list--we'll be sure to make up for it next year!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Book Recommendation: Happy Birthday, Rosa Parks!

Today would have been Rosa Parks' 100th birthday (she lived to be 92-years old). If you're interested in a beautifully illustrated picture book about her part in the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa, illustrated by Bryan Collier and written by Nikki Giovanni is a good choice. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

All the Colors of the Rainbow: 2012 YA Book Covers That Display Racial Diversity

As a follow-up to the last post, we thought something positive was in order. So, here are all the YA covers from 2012 we could find that prominently feature POC. Enjoy and be encouraged--things are changing, even if it is not as quickly as we might hope.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Whitewashing YA Covers and the Problems with Thinking You Can Solve the Problem

In December 2012, YALSA published an article about the whitewashing of YA book covers. While the article didn't cover anything new (for me, at least), it was heartening to see the conversation about racism in YA lit continue--the dialogue on which is clearly nowhere near being over as the problem is still, unfortunately, very much alive.

There were many responses to the article in the comments and some even posted links to responses on their blogs. And while I appreciated reading others' reactions to the piece, I found some of the responses more than a little disturbing. As a person of color (POC), I wanted to discuss the reasons for my disturbance, and since we (the Ink & Penners) have long been looking to get this blog started, I thought this would serve as a great flagship post!
When discussing such a hot button issue like racism, many people are often deeply bothered by the problems it produces and immediately want to “solve” said problems. This impulse is well-intentioned, but can be predicated on problematic thinking. First, the belief that problems like racism, or the many issues that stem from it, can be solved quickly and by one person. Once the fundamental basics of racism, why it exists, and how it operates, are understood it quickly becomes apparent that it is a problem that will not be solved quickly or by a single individual. Second, if you are not a member of the oppressed people group in question (in this case POC) then thinking you can solve this problem alone is problematic for a variety of reasons. Let me try to explain.