By Rebecca Ballenger, The University of Arizona
In 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
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.”
By Heather Lennon, NorthSouth Books, with Hannah Gill, University of Arizona, Tucson
Tara 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
By Alexandria Hulslander, Worlds of Words Intern
David Bowles is a two-time Pura Belpré Award winner and professor at the University of Texas Río Grande Valley. In his latest novel, They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid’s Poems, David uncovers the realities of life in a border city. I was immediately drawn to this story in compiled poems as I also grew up in a border city. Though I am not Mexican-American, I watched some of my friends from childhood who are struggle to find their identity, as Güero does. I appreciated the opportunity to read about growing up in a border city, as these stories are not often shared. Continue reading
By Anna Gerwig, Worlds of Words Intern
Photo Credit Gregg Richards
Javaka Steptoe is a children’s book author and illustrator creating a dialog between art and life with thought-provoking collages. Son of award-winning artist John Steptoe, Javaka finds inspiration in his parents’ artistry, experimentally blending ideas like his father’s retelling of Cinderella, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale. In his 2016 picturebook, Radiant Child, he uses New York City as a canvas to challenge the perceptions of art. There’s not just one interpretation or understanding of a story, so Steptoe works to create picturebooks that connect with children from all backgrounds. He’s received various awards, a BFA from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and interacts with readers and educators at schools, libraries, museums, conferences and festivals. Continue reading
By Lacey Nehls, University of Arizona
Photojournalist and award-winning author and photographer Susan Kuklin builds quite the rapport with her audience. As a nonfiction author and photographer of books that feature sociocultural issues, Kuklin breaks waves by using real people and real stories. Her newest book, We Are Here to Stay, follows the tremendous journey of nine inspiring young adults who live in the United States undocumented. We Are Here to Stay was originally set for publication in 2017, but the repeal of DACA made it no longer safe to feature these individuals by images or names. Accordingly their identifying information is withheld. Continue reading
By Blaire Krakowitz, University of Arizona
Ancient Stories for a New Generation
It has been said that no story is entirely original. All stories take ideas and inspiration from others and mold them into something new. Books connect stories from the past to experiences from the present, creating ties between the new and the old. Young Adult fiction embraces older stories and folklore, especially in recent years. Ancient mythologies have become a particularly popular source of inspiration, and for good reason. Myths explain how the world works. Comparisons between the ideas of cultures from the past to our current understanding of the world lend themselves to dynamic, creative exploration in fiction.
Rick Riordan’s young adult novels, including the ever-popular Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, bring modern twists on traditional mythologies into the YA mainstream. Riordan explores Greek, Egyptian and Norse myth works–only a few of the myriad of mythologies to grace world tradition. Riordan teamed up with Disney Hyperion to create the Rick Riordan Presents imprint to provide other authors with the opportunity to retell their own cultures’ myths. In the imprint’s first wave of rich stories emerges J.C. Cervantes’ engrossing, action-packed and ceaselessly charming take on Maya legends: The Storm Runner. Continue reading
By Courtney Gallant, University of Arizona
with Lauren Lombardo, Annie W. Kellond Elementary School (TUSD)
Around the time Worlds of Words received an advance copy of 24 Hours in Nowhere by Dusti Bowling, Lauren was a UofA College of Education senior working at WOW while doing her student teaching at Kellond. As luck would have it, Lauren met Dusti on a school visit that was part of the Tucson Festival of Books in March 2018. Now that the book is out, we felt it appropriate to conduct a follow-up interview. We asked Dusti about the book, what makes for a good school visit and meeting fans. Continue reading
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation is the fourth picture book I have written and illustrated. It was published in 2014 by Abrams Books For Young Readers. The book tells the true story of an American girl of Mexican and Puerto-Rican descent who was not allowed to go to a white only school in California in the 1940’s. Segregation of Mexican-American and Latino children was prevalent throughout the Southwest at the time. Sylvia’s family did not think this was fair. Her parents organized a group of parents and then filed a lawsuit that eventually ended segregated schooling in California.
Most people are not familiar with this story. But its a very important piece of American history. Some of the people involved the Mendez case were involved years later in the landmark case, Brown vs Board of Education. The Mendez family truly paved the way for the desegregation of schools in the entire country.
The research for my book comes from several sources. I read books and articles, watched documentaries and I was able to hear Sylvia herself speak on a couple of occasions. She is very kind and I was also able to do some informal interviews with her. I was also able to find court transcripts. Some of the dialogue in the book comes directly from them.
I think Sylvia’s story is very relevant today. Although it is illegal to segregate children in public schools because of their race or background there is a lot of division and a kind of segregation that is happening nowadays. A recent study by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA showed that segregation has increased in the last decade. 43% of Latino and 38% African-American children attend schools where less then 10% of the students are white. Latino and African-Americans are twice as likely to be in a school where the majority of children are poor. Therefore their schools tend to have less resources.
The artwork in the book is inspired by Pre-Columbian art. I draw by hand but then I scan the images and collaged them digitally. You can see some of my process and inspiration in these videos: https://youtu.be/5dqFLg22Z_0 and https://youtu.be/HL-op6gx1Mc
The book has been very well received. It won the 2015 Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award and it received honorable mentions from the Pura Belpré Award, the Sibert Award and the Orbis Pictus Award. The Anti-Defamation League created a wonderful Book Discussion Guide for it. You can download it here.
My website has more information about all of my books.
Just as I began this post, the first copies of the paperback edition of The Great Trouble arrived on my doorstep. I love when my books become available in this more affordable format for young readers and their families. And I’m especially pleased about this for The Great Trouble because of the timely nature of its subject matter. Continue reading