Windows on the World — Part 1

by Barbara Thompson-Book, Indiana University Southeast, New Albany, IN

It has been said that books, including books for children and young adults, can act as “windows on the world.” When we give our children books about places they have never visited, but have heard of from family members, the news, movies, or other print media we offer them glimpses of what living in a culture other than their own might be like. This echoes Holly Johnson’s post in August, about using international books to help inform our children’s understandings about geography and the world at large. She wrote, “I find it important to educate young people about geography and the present reality of a particular region.” Of course in today’s electronic environment, information on just about any topic is at their fingertips via Google or any of several search engines, thus providing another window to the world. The issue then becomes, how can we, as teachers, use both high quality literature about worlds other than the one we inhabit, and bring credible internet sources together to support that literature? That is my intent for the next four weeks — to link incredible stories of places I have not visited except in books with internet sources that have helped inform me about the material I experienced in the books through reading.
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The Role of Small Presses in Multicultural Children's Books

by Ann Parker, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Last week I shared information that I collected on the role that small, independent book publishers play in publishing multicultural children’s books, particularly bilingual books. In this post I examine the contributions made by small presses and discuss some publishers who are committed to publishing quality children’s books that were originally printed in another country and often in another language.

Not too long ago, as a child growing up in Georgetown, D.C., I remember little Mom and Pop stores located on every corner. My friend Sarah lived near Mrs. Rosen’s store — so close that her mom would send us there on Saturday mornings to get breakfast. You had to ring the bell at Mrs. Rosen’s so she would buzz you in. We had another corner store closer to our home, where my 25 cent weekly allowance would buy a lot of penny candy.
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Creating Book Brands

by Ann Parker, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

admitoneThis week I want to examine a trend that the large, conglomerate book publishers are using to sell children’s books. This trend is called branding. Branding is a marketing term for the process of creating a brand that encourages people to identify a certain product more quickly. Nike, Coke, and Microsoft are all brands that immediately evoke a particular product –- and a particular feeling about that product. With books, branding means creating other products that tie in with the book. Book publishers and sellers have used tie-ins with book characters for centuries as a strategy to make their books more attractive to the people -– adults and children -– who buy them. There is concern that this practice has gotten so out of control in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries that publishers have lost sight of the goal of publishing to produce good literature and have turned it instead into a commodity driven empire. Let me give you some examples.
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Independent Publishers Feature Bilingual Books

by Ann Parker, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Last week I discussed how several small, independent presses are publishing bilingual children’s books, often at the request of teachers and librarians within their communities who want to provide books in the languages that their children speak. These smaller companies have found an important economic niche in publishing multicultural books, particularly bilingual books, since the audience for these books is too small for the large conglomerate publishing houses to make publishing these books economically feasible (although more of them are discovering the market for books in Spanish). The smaller companies also have the advantage of being able to work closely with authors and illustrators to ensure that a book is culturally authentic, since they often find authors and illustrators from within their own communities, and can utilize their local resources to ensure that the language and culture portrayed in their books is authentic. For this reason, teachers and librarians can be assured that books published by these smaller companies are culturally authentic. I’d like to look at some of these smaller companies located in the greater Southwest and at some of the outstanding books they are producing.

Probably one of the most well-known independent presses that publishes multicultural and bilingual children’s books is Continue reading

Publishing Bilingual Books

by Ann Parker, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Last month, Janine Schall interviewed children’s book writer and illustrator Xavier Garza, who publishes his books in English and in Spanish because he thinks children should be exposed to their first language or to a language other than their own. More and more publishing companies, particularly smaller, independent publishers, are publishing dual language books. This week, I’d like to examine bilingual books and the role they can play in the classroom. Next week, I’ll focus on some of the outstanding bilingual books that are being published by independent publishers.

For my doctoral dissertation, I interviewed people from five publishing companies (Cinco Puntos Press, Luna Rising, Salina Bookshelf, Piñata Books, Children’s Book Press, and the University of New Mexico Press) to learn why they were publishing multicultural children’s books generally and bilingual books specifically. I found that most of them considered these books to be a niche market, because the big conglomerate publishing companies, whose interest is mainly in how many books they can sell, weren’t interested in books that had such a small buying audience from the outset. Interestingly enough, several national companies, such as Scholastic, have decided that there is a big enough market for Spanish language books (see Scholastic en Español), but the smaller companies also publish books in Native American and Asian languages as well as other languages from around the world.
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Children Respond to Xavier Garza's Books

by Janine M. Schall, University of Texas-Pan America, Edinburg, TX

In previous posts I talked with author Xavier Garza about his books for children. I’d like to share more children’s responses to Xavier’s work in this bonus post. I’d also like to ask other teachers and librarians to share by commenting here how they have used multicultural literature with their students. How do students respond to multicultural literature? How do teachers and librarians facilitate this response?

Angie Hilton read Zulema and the Witch Owl with her fourth grade students in Alamo, Texas. Her students then created an artistic response. I’ve included some of their work in this slide show:

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"Is the Chupacabras Real?" Xavier Garza Answers Questions from Children

by Janine M. Schall, University of Texas-Pan American, Edinburg, TX

On this fifth Monday of November, we continue our focus on children’s author Xavier Garza. In this post, Xavier answers questions from 2nd and 3rd grade students at Ynes B. Escobar Elementary in Roma, Texas. Student questions were video taped and transcribed. Xavier’s responses follow the transcription.

Mr. Xavier Garza, what gave you the idea to write the storyJuan and the Chupacabra? Like were you looking around and something gave you the idea?

Xavier: The idea came to me from my childhood memories. When I was little my cousins and I would pretend to hunt for monsters in the fields found in the back of our grandfather’s house. We would hunt for everything from La Llorona to the Chupacabras, but we never did catch any of them.
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Interview with Xavier Garza, Part 4

by Janine M. Schall, University of Texas-Pan American, Edinburg, TX

This is the last of a four part interview with author and illustrator Xavier Garza, 2005 América’s Award Honor Book winner. This interview was conducted electronically by Janine Schall.

The luchador "El Toro" from Lucha Libre-The Man in the Silver Mask

The luchador "El Toro" from Lucha Libre-The Man in the Silver Mask

Janine: The illustrations in your books are striking and attractive to kids. Juan and the Chupacabras was illustrated by someone else. Was that a publisher’s decision? Were you able to collaborate with April Ward or was she given your text to work with on her own?

Xavier:That was strictly the publisher’s decision. At the time that I got the contract for Juan and the Chupacabras, my book Lucha Libre still hadn’t come out. I was viewed as not having any experience in the field of children’s book illustrations, which I have to admit is very different from just being able to draw and paint. A lot of work goes into producing these illustrations, and you have to learn to work with art editors. Making illustrations for a book isn’t a one person show. After Lucha Libre came out and received very favorable reviews for the art as well as the story, it opened the door for me to ask to illustrate all of my own books. Zulema and the Witch Owl was also done with Arte Público, and featured my own illustrations. I love my book Juan and the Chupacabras, but I would be lying if I said that I don’t wish that I had done the illustrations myself. I however must say that April Ward did a wonderful job working on the book. Her art alongside the sketches done by Felipe Davalos who was the original illustrator of the book, but who had to drop out of the project due to scheduling complications, were truly beautiful. I have never met April Ward, and this isn’t uncommon when it comes to an author and an illustrator working on a book. They are often kept apart so as to give the illustrator more freedom to turn the writer’s vision into his or her own.
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Interview with Xavier Garza, Part 3

by Janine M. Schall, University of Texas-Pan American, Edinburg, TX

This is the third of a four part interview with author and illustrator Xavier Garza, 2005 América’s Award Honor Book winner. This interview was conducted electronically by Janine Schall.

Janine: All of your picture books are English/Spanish bilingual. What made you decide to write bilingual books?

Xavier: I am a firm believer in the advantages that come from being able to speak more that one language. While I agree that everyone should learn English, I see no reason to give up the tongue of your ancestors. I disagree with those who spout an English only point of view. I find it silly that they would seek to portray an individual’s ability to be bilingual as being something bad. They forget that America isn’t composed of just one culture; she is a varied and diverse nation that is made up of many, many different tongues, traditions and ideas. She is forever changing, never staying constant for too long.

Janine: It’s lovely to hear such a strong defense of bilingualism — even here in the Valley I sometimes hear teachers denigrating Spanish. I imagine that growing up in Rio Grande City it would be difficult not to be bilingual, but was that something that your family and/or schools supported? I noticed that you don’t do your own translations for your books. Why is that?
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Interview with Xavier Garza, Part 2

by Janine M. Schall, University of Texas-Pan American, Edinburg, TX

La Lechuza comes after naughty children, illustrated by Garza

La Lechuza comes after naughty children, illustrated by Garza

This is the second of a four part interview with author and illustrator Xavier Garza, 2005 América’s Award Honor Book winner. This interview was conducted electronically by Janine Schall.

Janine: A number of your books deal with traditional, folkloric aspects of Hispanic culture such as the Chupacabras and La Lechuza. Why do these characters keep recurring in your writing? Why do you think children enjoy these figures so much?

Xavier: We love our Cucuys. We love to be scared. Continue reading