Authors' Corner

Authors’ Corner: Wilson Ong

By Kathy G. Short, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

wilson ong wears glasses and a flannel shirtMary J. Wong recently donated the entire set of original oil illustrations for Paper Son: Lee’s Journey to America by Wilson Ong to the Worlds of Words Center along with his thumbnail sketches and color studies. In working on the exhibition, we wanted to include Wilson’s perspective and process in creating the illustrations and so interviewed him, gaining many useful insights into his process and the connection of the book to his family story. Continue reading

Authors' Corner

Authors’ Corner: Joseph Bruchac

By Megan McCaffrey, Governor’s State University in Chicago, Chicago, IL

Bruchac sitting on a hide, holding a drum and smiling.

Photo by Eric Jenks

Author Joseph (Joe) Bruchac, a storyteller most of his life, sat in conversation with children’s literature students at the University of Arizona on January 31, 2022, a session which I attended. Raised by his maternal grandparents who lived down the road from his parents, little “Sonny,” as he was called, did not know much about his Native American roots. Once Bruchac began to explore his Native American heritage in college, he became drawn to his Abenki roots. He says, “I knew as a child, for example, that we had native heritage, but I did not know much about it.” Bruchac was born in October 1942 in upstate New York, and he still lives in Saratoga Springs above what was his grandparent’s gas station and general store where he was raised. Today, Bruchac operates a bookstore in the former general store. Continue reading

Authors' Corner

Author’s Corner: Ray Jaramillo

By Mary L. Fahrenbruck, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM

Ray Jaramillo’s first picturebook for children, Gust, Gust, Gust! (Page Publishing, Inc., 2021), is the story of a young boy who is afraid of the wind. Gustavo, called Gust, lives in a village located in southwestern New Mexico, U.S.A. where the wind blows constantly. To comfort Gust, his Tata plays the bongos each time the wind begins to whirl. Eventually, the villagers grow tired of listening to Tata play his bongos and ban him from ever playing again. Unbeknownst to the villagers, banning Tata’s bongo playing has devastating consequences for the village. To find out if the villagers can survive without the music of Tata’s bongos, pick up Ray’s new picturebook, Gust, Gust, Gust! Continue reading

Authors' Corner

Authors’ Corner: Mitali Perkins

By Rebecca Ballenger, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Mitali Perkins laughing.Mitali Perkins writes books for readers to explore crossing borders. Her work explores the themes of poverty, immigration, child soldiers, microcredit and human trafficking and is based on her experience living overseas and her study of Political Science at Stanford and Public Policy at U.C. Berkeley. WOW spoke to Perkins about a new movie based on an old book, code switching, her expanding career and connecting with readers. Continue reading

Authors' Corner

Authors’ Corner: LeUyen Pham

Megan McCaffrey, Governor’s State University in Chicago, Chicago, IL

Profile photo of LeUyen Pham with her black hair up against a bright white backgroundLeUyen Pham prides herself on providing multicultural representation in her books whenever possible or, as she has stated, to make sure children do “not feel excluded.” She, more than most, can firsthand relate to more than one culture and believes children should see themselves in books. LeUyen was born in Saigon, Vietnam, in 1973. She and her family were several of the last refugees on the roof of the United States (US) Embassy rescued by helicopter during the fall of Saigon in 1975. She was only 2 years old at the time Saigon fell and her family escaped. Her family made their way to the United States via several stops along the way with the help of a sponsor and settled in Temple City, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. Besides both her Vietnamese and American culture, she also has strong French connections. The most immediate connection being her mother who is half Vietnamese half French. Her husband is French graphic artist Alexandre Puvilland and her two children with Puvilland attend a French School in Los Angeles. Another French connection comes from her own Vietnamese heritage; Vietnam was occupied by the French from the late 1800s until the mid-1950s, leaving its cultural marks throughout the larger Vietnamese culture and most likely LeUyen’s parents lives. Hence, LeUyen is not only part of multiple cultures but also is also part of a culture that she did not see represented in children’s literature while growing. Continue reading

Authors' Corner

Author’s Corner: Thanhhà Lai

Susan Corapi, Associate Professor, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

Up-close profile photo of Thanhha Lai smiling.

Photo Credit: Steve Puppe

Quite candidly, Thanhhà Lai is one of my heroes because of what her books do for my students. Each semester, as I read Inside Out & Back Again (2011) with my pre-service teachers, they gain immeasurable insights from Hà’s story that will help them teach English Language Learners in a way that supports them academically, socially and emotionally. Hà’s story teaches what compassion looks like. The relationships, cultural clashes, and questions she has with teachers, neighbors, schoolmates, church attendees and family members help readers gain a window into how a newly arrived refugee might feel and think. I have yet to meet a college student who was not moved to be a better teacher for children or teens who are adjusting to a new culture and language. That is a powerful book! The U.S. is experiencing increased chaos due to the pandemic, resulting unemployment and racial violence, so there is an important place in schools for narratives that teach students compassion, the ability to get along, and especially the need to understand behavior as motivated by values and beliefs. Hà’s story does that for readers willing to engage with her emotional and academic journey. Continue reading

Authors' Corner

Authors’ Corner: Tony Johnston

Marilyn Carpenter, Professor Emeritus, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA

Tony Johnston is a gifted author for children and young adults. She is known for her 120 plus picturebooks; however, her poetry and novels also receive positive reviews. Recently, I enjoyed a conversation with Tony about her newest novel, Beast Rider, experiences that inform her writing and her writing process.

Marilyn Carpenter on left with Tony Johnston on the right smile for the camera at a conference. Continue reading

Authors' Corner

Authors’ Corner: Cynthia Leitich Smith

By Rebecca Ballenger, The University of Arizona

Color portrait of Cynthia Leitich SmithIn recent months, Cynthia Leitich Smith won the American Library Association’s American Indian Youth Literature (YA) Award for her book Hearts Unbroken and became author-curator of a new imprint, Heartdrum. She is also author of the Tantalize series, the Feral trilogy, Jingle Dancer, Rain Is Not My Indian Name, Indian Shoes, and a number of other books for children and teens. She is core faculty at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and editor/publisher at Cynsations. We first connected with Smith when she attended the 2019 Tucson Festival of Books and then again at USBBY where she spoke on her outreach as an author on school visits. Continue reading

Authors' Corner

Authors’ Corner: Darryn Joseph

By Nicola Daly, WOW Scholar-in-Residence, New Zealand Fulbright Scholar, University of Waikato

Darryn Joseph is an author/illustrator based in Aotearoa/New Zealand with affiliations to the Ngāti Maniapoto tribe. He is also a university senior lecturer (a professor in American terminology) of Te Reo Māori, the Māori language at Massey University in Te Ika a Māui, the North island of New Zealand. In 2003, he won an award for a short story written in Te Reo Māori and was then commissioned by Huia Publishers (based in Wellington) to write a sci-fi chapter book in Te Reo Māori. RT3: Ki Tua o Rangi Ātea (2004) led to two further books in a trilogy: RT3: Ki Tua o K-T-Pae (2005) and RT3: Ki Tua o Tāwauwau (2006). In 2010, Hewa won the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA) Te Kura Pounamu Award for children’s books in Te Reo Māori. According to Darryn, “Hewa is about a boy who wants to help protect his family and friends from a baddie. It involves American military software, a futuristic battleship called the USS Barack Obama and artificial intelligences gaining sentience and self determination.”

Head shot of Darryn Joseph. Behind him is one of his paintings of bold strokes in green and red. Continue reading

Authors' Corner

Authors’ Corner: Tara Chace

By Heather Lennon, NorthSouth Books, with Hannah Gill, University of Arizona, Tucson

Portrait of translator Tara ChaceTara Chace, a translator living in Seattle, has translated Norwegian, Danish and Swedish books into U.S. English since 1999. Angryman by Gro Dahle immediately draws a reader in because of its heavy use of imagery that captures the fear and sadness of the main character, Boj. The book tackles a heavy subject in a meaningful and important way. NorthSouth Books’ recent Q&A with Tara Chace can give readers a context to the work’s subject as well as an understanding of translating picturebooks more generally. In that interview (adapted here), Chace discusses the book and her career with translating, as well as Nordic books and the heavy subject matter that Angryman features. Continue reading