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The Paris Seamstress: Discussion Questions

Cheryl Bardoe on Harnessing the Power of Literary Nonfiction for STEM

Nothing Stopped SophieWhen I visit schools, I often ask students to share, by a show of hands: Who likes to write? Who loves math? Who is interested in sports? Who likes art? Who is interested in science?… The younger the students, the more likely they are to raise their hands for almost everything. As a writer, I hope to create books that encourage students to see the world as full of possibilities. Literary nonfiction offers a unique path to this goal, and one that is particularly compelling in STEM topics.

 

Humans are wired to engage with story. Evidence for this ranges from paleolithic cave paintings, to the epic of Gilgamesh that was chiseled into stone 4,000 years ago, to contemporary research where neuroscientists track the brainwaves of people listening to stories. Humans are also innately curious, and we yearn to make our mark on the world. Literary nonfiction represents the intersection of these powerful instincts. As an author, I weave information into a narrative in the hopes of helping young readers make connections that broaden their knowledge and inspire them to ask more questions.

 

My latest book, Nothing Stopped Sophie, illustrated by Barbara McClintock, demonstrates how literary nonfiction can engage young readers with STEM topics. Growing up during the French Revolution, young Sophie Germain overcame many obstacles to teach herself math and develop a formula that could predict how materials would vibrate. Her work began a path of inquiry that eventually made it possible to build modern skyscrapers and impressive bridges all over the world.

 

Is Nothing Stopped Sophie a story about math or physics? The answer is, both. It is also about history. And it is about one woman who dared to pursue what others said was impossible. My goal is to offer readers many hooks into any story. Some readers will be brought in by Sophie’s unwavering quest to learn, despite women not being allowed to attend college. Others will be captivated, as Sophie was, by the mysterious patterns that salt forms on vibrating metal plates. And yes, some readers do love math. Nonetheless, we don’t need to understand the intricacies of Sophie’s equation to relate to her passion.

 

Cheryl BardoeIn the book, I describe Sophie’s triumphant equation as being “as precise and eloquent as a poem.” This is because mathematicians themselves often describe their work in terms commonly applied to poetry; they strive for solutions that are elegant and beautiful, with ideas distilled to the purest form. My hope is to recreate for readers the sense of excitement that scientists and mathematicians feel about their work and to open a window into how they approach big questions. Imagine if we viewed the quadratic equation as a graceful, insightful expression of universal truth, just like when we hear the words of Shakespeare or Robert Frost. How might such connections open up interests and possibilities for young minds?

 

I like to share with students my own journey in this area. When I was younger, I used to think that nothing could ever interest me about sports. Many students are visibly shocked by this confession. Now I understand that inspiring stories are everywhere—as long as I open myself up to noticing and appreciating them. Literary nonfiction helps readers do this in STEM subjects by highlighting the significance, exhilaration, and human endeavor behind the modern advancements that are so easy to take for granted.

 

This interdisciplinary approach to writing parallels the heart of STEM initiatives. Educators encourage children to explore the world around them, synthesize information from many directions, and figure out how to make something happen. It’s natural for people to eventually specialize in fields of study and careers. Yet our lives are richer, and opportunities greater, when we preserve our youthful instincts to raise our hands and proudly declare, “Yes! I’m interested in everything.”

 

12 Books for Your Summer Reading List

Summer is officially here! It’s time for ice cream, cold drinks, big hats and sunglasses, and all the best books. On this list we’ve got perennial favorites, books by authors who’ll be returning with new work we can’t wait to get our hands on  👀,  and books that are at the very center of the conversations of communities across the nation. Happy summer, and happy reading!

 


 

The Wild RobotThe Wild Robot

by Peter Brown

ISBN: 978-0-316-38199-4

 

Wall-E meets Hatchet in this New York Times bestselling illustrated middle grade novel from Caldecott Honor winner Peter Brown

 

2018 – 2019 Connecticut Nutmeg Book Award

2018 – 2019 Hawaii Nene Award

2018 – 2019 Idaho Pacific Northwest Young Readers Choice

2018 – 2019 Indiana Young Hoosier Book Award

2018 – 2019 Kentucky Bluegrass Award

2018 – 2019 Nebraska Golden Sower Award

2018 – 2019 Oregon Battle of the Books

2018 – 2019 Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award

2018 – 2019 Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award

 

Fiction/Non: Fiction

Catalog Category: HC FIC 8-12

BISAC: JUVENILE FICTION

Audience: Children/Juvenile

Age Range: 8-12

Grade Range: 3-7

Curriculum Subjects: Adventure: Animals, Adventure: Science Fiction, Adventure: Survival

Accelerated Reader: 5.1

F&P: R

 

Listen to our LB School Author Interview Watch our LB School Interview With the Illustrator Book Club Guide There’s a second book!


Where the Mountain Meets the MoonWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon

by Grace Lin

ISBN: 978-0-316-11427-1

 

A Newbery Honor Winner
New York Times Bestseller

 

This stunning fantasy inspired by Chinese folklore is a companion novel to Starry River of the Sky and the New York Times bestselling and National Book Award finalist When the Sea Turned to Silver

 

2017 – 2018 Illinois Bluestem Book Award
2016 – 2017 Arkansas Battle of the Books
2014 – 2015 Wyoming Indian Paintbrush Award
2013 – 2014 Hawaii Nene Award
2012 – 2013 Connecticut Children’s Book Award
2012 – 2013 Iowa children’s Choice Award
2012 – 2013 California Young Reader Medal

 

Fiction/Non: Fiction

Catalog Category: PB FIC 8-12

BISAC: JUVENILE FICTION

Audience: Children/Juvenile

Age Range: 8-12

Grade Range: 3-7

Curriculum Subjects: Folk Tales/Fairy Tales/Classics: Magic, Personal Development: Friendship, Adventure: Magic/Fantasy

Accelerated Reader: 5.5

F&P: T

 

Educator Guide Author Interview


Towers FallingTowers Falling

by Jewell Parker Rhodes

ISBN: 978-0-316-26222-4

 

From award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes comes a powerful novel set fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks. 

 

2018 – 2019 Louisiana Young Readers Choice Award

2018 – 2019 Nebraska Golden Sower Award

2018 – 2019 Nevada Young Readers’ Choice Award

2018 – 2019 Louisiana Young Readers Choice Award

 

Fiction/Non: Fiction

Catalog Category:

BISAC: JUVENILE FICTION

Audience: Children/Juvenile

Age Range: 8-12

Grade Range: 3-7

Curriculum Subjects: Personal Development: Diversity, Social Studies: America, Social Studies: Patriotism, Personal Development: Loss

Accelerated Reader: 3.3

F&P: W

 

Educator Guide

Meet the Author

NPR’s Here & Now Interview

 

 


Ghost BoysGhost Boys

by Jewell Parker Rhodes

ISBN: 978-0-316-26228-6

 

An instant New York Times bestseller
An instant IndieBoud bestseller
The #1 Kids’ Indie Next Pick
 

A heartbreaking and powerful story about a black boy killed by a police officer, drawing connections through history, from award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes.

 

“Rhodes captures the all-too-real pain of racial injustice and provides an important window for readers who are just beginning to explore the ideas of privilege and implicit bias.” —School Library Journal, starred review

 

“An excellent novel that delves into the timely topic of racism… with the question of whether or not we really have come far when dealing with race relations.”—School Library Connection, starred review

 

“This was one of my most anticipated 2018 books and I was not disappointed. A must read.”—Angie Thomas, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Hate U Give

 

Fiction/Non: Fiction

Catalog Category:

BISAC: JUVENILE FICTION

Audience: Children/Juvenile

Age Range: 10 & up

Grade Range: 5-17

Curriculum Subjects: Personal Development: Loss, Social Studies: African American Heritage, Social Studies: History

 

 

Author Website Listen to an excerpt Educator Guide Book Club Guide

 


Girl in the Blue CoatGirl in the Blue Coat

by Monica Hesse

ISBN: 978-0-316-26063-3

 

A New York Public Library Best Book for Teens of 2016 

A Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People Selection 2017

A YALSA 2017 Best Book for Young Adults

 

The national bestseller and winner of the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery

 

2018 – 2019 Indiana Rosie Awards

2018 – 2019 California Young Readers Award

2018 – 2019 Nebraska Golden Sower Award

2018 – 2019 South Carolina young Adult Book Award

 

Fiction/Non: Fiction

Catalog Category:

BISAC: YOUNG ADULT FICTION

Audience: Young Adult

Age Range: 12 & up

Grade Range: 7-17

Curriculum Subjects: Teen Life: Personal Development, Teen Life: Religion, Teen Life: Activism

Accelerated Reader: 4.9

 

Author Interview with PW Listen to an excerpt Book Club Guide

 


The Thing About Jellyfish coverThe Thing About Jellyfish

by Ali Benjamin
ISBN: 978-0-316-38084-3

 

Now available in paperback, this stunning debut novel about grief and wonder was an instant New York Times bestseller and captured widespread critical acclaim, including selection as a 2015 National Book Award finalist! 

 

2018 – 2019 Minnesota Maud Hart Lovelace Award

2018 -2019 Oklahoma Edmond Red Dirt Book Award

 

Fiction/Non: Fiction

Catalog Category: PB FIC 8-12

BISAC: JUVENILE FICTION

Audience: Children/Juvenile

Age Range: 10 & up

Grade Range: 5-17

Curriculum Subjects: Guidance/Health: Death, Guidance/Health: Emotions, Personal Development: Loss, Science: Animals/Insects/Pets

Accelerated Reader: 5.0

F&P: Y

 

Educator Guide Interview with an Editor Listen to an Excerpt

 

 

 

 


I'm Just No Good at Rhyming coverI’m Just No Good at Rhyming

And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups

ISBN: 978-0-316-26657-4

 

ALA-ALSC NOTABLE BOOKS FOR CHILDREN

Booklist Editor’s Choice

Kirkus Best Children’s Books

NPR Best Books

PW Best Children’s Books

SLJ Best Books

NCTE Notable Poetry Books

Chicago Public Library Best Books

LAPL Best Kids Books

 

The instant New York Times bestseller featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon! B. J. Novak (bestselling author of The Book With No Pictures) described this groundbreaking poetry collection as “Smart and sweet, wild and wicked, brilliantly funny–it’s everything a book for kids should be.”

 

2018 -2019 Kentucky Bluegrass Award

2018 -2019 Maine Student Book Award

2018 -2019 North Carolina Children’s Picture Book Award

2018 -2019 rhode Island Children’s Book Award

2018 -2019 Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award

 

Fiction/Non: Fiction

Catalog Category:

BISAC: JUVENILE FICTION

Audience: Children/Juvenile

Age Range: 6 & up

Grade Range: 1-17

 

Educator Guide

Activity Kit

NPR Weekend Edition Interview

 


Mayday cover

MAYDAY

by Karen Harrington
ISBN:978-0-316-29803-2

 

In the tradition of Counting By 7s and The Thing About Jellyfish, a heartwarming coming-of-age story about grief, family, friendship, and the importance of finding your voice

 

“A fine character-driven tale that slowly grows to a crescendo of satisfaction.” —Kirkus Reviews(starred review)

 

“Wayne is an appealing protagonist with astrong voice who develops believably over the difficult months, as do the other characters. A well-done book on all levels.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

 

“The main characters are well depicted and highly appealing…. Thought provoking and touching, Mayday applies to anyone who has ever felt like an outcast and wishes to become someone with a sense of pride.” —VOYA

 

2018 – 2019 Arizona Grand Canyon Award

2018 – 2019 Pennsylvania young Readers Choice Award

2018 – 2019 Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award

 

Fiction/Non: Fiction

Catalog Category: PB FIC 8-12

BISAC: JUVENILE FICTION

Audience: Children/Juvenile

Age Range: 8-12

Grade Range: 3-7

Curriculum Subjects: Family Life: Grandparents and Extended Family, Guidance/Health: Disease/Sickness, Personal Development: Loss

Accelerated Reader: 4.2

F&P: W


I Will Always Write Back cover

How One Letter Changed Two Lives

ISBN: 978-0-316-24133-5

 

The New York Times bestselling true story of an all-American girl and a boy from Zimbabwe and the letter that changed both of their lives forever.

 

“Sensitively and candidly demonstrating how small actions can result in enormous change, this memoir of two families’ transformation through the commitment and affection of long-distance friends will humble and inspire.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

 

2018 – 2019 Oregon Battle of the Books

2018 – 2019 Wyoming Soaring Eagle Book Award

 

Fiction/Non: Non-Fiction

Catalog Category: PB NF YA

BISAC: YOUNG ADULT NONFICTION

Audience: Young Adult

Age Range: 12 & up

Grade Range: 7-17

Curriculum Subjects: Personal Development: Character Development, Personal Development: Diversity, Personal Development: Responsibility, Social Studies: Europe/Asia/Africa, Personal Development: Friendship

 

Educator Guide Listen to an Excerpt Listen to an Interview with the Authors


The Cruel Prince cover

 

By #1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black, the first book in a stunning new series about a mortal girl who finds herself caught in a web of royal faerie intrigue.

 

“Spellbinding….Breathtaking set pieces, fully developed supporting characters, and a beguiling, tough-as-nails heroine enhance an intricate, intelligent plot that crescendos to a jaw-dropping third-act twist.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

 

“Jude, who struggles with a world she both loves and hates and would rather be powerful and safe than good, is a compelling narrator. Whatever a reader is looking for–heart-in-throat action, deadly romance, double-crossing, moral complexity–this is one heck of a ride.”—Booklist, starred review

 

“Black, quite rightly, is the acknowledged queen of faerie lit, and her latest shows her to be at the top of her game, unveiling twists and secrets and bringing her characters vividly to life.”—VOYA, starred review

 

“Another fantastic, deeply engaging, and all-consuming work from Black that belongs on all YA shelves.”—School Library Journal, starred review

 

2018 – 2019 New Hampshire Flume Award

2018 – 2019 Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Award

 

Fiction/Non: Fiction

Catalog Category: PB FIC YA

BISAC: YOUNG ADULT FICTION

Audience: Children/Juvenile

Age Range: 14 & up

Grade Range: 9-17

Curriculum Subjects: Adventure: Magic/Fantasy, Family Life: Parents/Siblings/Babies, Personal Development: Self-Discovery, Teen Life: Peer Groups/Popularity/Cliques

 

Author Essay Listen to an Excerpt The Cruel Prince on NOVL

 


Strange the Dreamer coverStrange the Dreamer

by Laini Taylor
ISBN: 978-0-316-34167-7

 

A NPR Best Book
A Goodreads Best YA Fantasy and Science Fiction Nominee
Boston Globe Best YA Book\

 

An instant New York Times bestseller and Michael L. Printz honor book!Eleven best of lists including an NPR Best Book, a Goodreads Best YA Fantasy and Science Fiction Nominee, and more!
 
From National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor comes an epic fantasy about a mythic lost city and its dark past.

 

2018 – 2019 Oklahoma Sequoyah Book Award
2018 – 2019 Mississippi Magnolia Book Award

 

Fiction/Non: Fiction

Catalog Category: PB FIC YA

BISAC: YOUNG ADULT FICTION

Audience: Children/Juvenile

Age Range: 14 & up

Grade Range: 9-17

Curriculum Subjects: Adventure: Magic/Fantasy

 

 

 

Book Club Guide Listen to an Excerpt Strange the Dreamer on NOVL Muse of Nightmares hits shelves in October!

 


The Summer of Us cover

The Summer of Us

by Cecilia Vinesse
ISBN: 978-0-316-39113-9

 

A swoon-worthy story about five best friends on a whirlwind trip through Europe, perfect for fans of Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Jennifer E. Smith.

 

“The atmospheric descriptions of the places they visit (and drink in), such as Amsterdam, Prague, and Florence, and the nuanced characterizations lend expansiveness to a plot that might otherwise have become a simple coming-of-age romance…A transformative odyssey of self-discovery.”—Kirkus Reviews

 

Fiction/Non: Fiction

Catalog Category:

BISAC: YOUNG ADULT FICTION

Audience: Young Adult

Age Range: 14 & up

Grade Range: 9-17

Curriculum Subjects: Personal Development: Friendship, Personal Development: Self-Discovery, Teen Life: Relationships/Sexuality, Social Studies: Europe/Asia/Africa, Personal Development: Character Development

 

Author Website

 

 


Florence Gonsalves on writing Love & Other Carnivorous Plants

Florence Gonsalves photoA couple of years ago, when I’d just graduated from college, scared out of my mind with no idea what the future would hold, humor kind of saved my life. “Ancient Greece isn’t hiring,” I told people who asked how my philosophy degree would influence my career path. “I’ll probably be permanently unemployed in the year 450 BCE.”

 

At first, I’d tried the whole, “I’ll probably go to law school!” approach, but that wasn’t the truth at all and telling that little white lie was making me feel worse and worse. The truth was I was petrified, and the only way I could access those emotions was by poking a little fun at myself. Once I started joking about my predicament, I was able to come to terms with it and eventually move past it.

 

Instead of law school, I ended up writing what would become my debut novel, Love and Other Carnivorous Plants. The story follows nineteen-year-old Danny’s summer after her freshmen year of college. It covers a lot of taboo subjects—eating disorders, mental health concerns, drug and alcohol abuse, and questioning one’s sexuality. Danny’s approach to such “touchy” issues is to joke about them, which results in a lot of humor for a book about some pretty serious stuff.

 

One of the beautiful things about fiction is its capacity to speak to real life issues in a person’s life, but to do that the characters (and of course, the author!) have to somehow find a way into what is otherwise hush-hush. So often taboo topics aren’t discussed at all because they are treated so seriously. And treating a subject as so serious that it can’t be joked ironically increases its taboo.

 

As a writer, humor gives me the permission to approach the things that society tells me I shouldn’t. It is the access point to otherwise unapproachable topics, and if we never approach such things, how can we expect to confront them at all? If Danny couldn’t joke about her bulimia, for example, she wouldn’t have been able to talk about it, which would have been a missed opportunity to really explore the pain (but also the occasional lol! moment) of her situation. Taboo creates shame and shame creates secrets, as well as shadows where even darker emotions hide. I think it’s much more important that difficult subjects be broached in the first place, especially because usually those difficult subjects make a person feel lonely and laughter is a universal connector. A good HAHA! brings people together at times when connection is most needed, and at some point the humor does fall away, making room for other emotions.

 

I am so grateful that humor exists as a way of shedding light on those parts of ourselves that most need it. Laughter allows transformation to occur through acknowledgment and acceptance of what is, regardless of how lousy things seem. When it comes to expressing our struggles, I say, as Vievee Francis does, “Say it. Say it any way you can.” Find a way in to a find a way out. Crying is inevitable. Why not let laughter be, too?

 

Barb Rosenstock

Barb Rosenstock photo

Dive into History with Otis & Will Discover the Deep

 

“How come you write about famous people?” asked a third grader.

 

There I stood at another school visit stumped by a young person asking a question I’ve heard over and over again. You’d think that by now, since I write picture book biographies, I’d have a handy answer. But each time, that “fame question” throws me. I guess it’s because I don’t choose my subjects because they’re famous.

 

Instead, I’m drawn to stories about people who’ve changed history. For me, history has never made sense as a series of facts or dates (which I still rarely remember!). Instead, I tend to agree with the quote attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “There is properly no history, only biography.” In my books, I try to show students that history, whether in science, politics, or the arts, is made by regular people. People who pursued a dream or a skill in a deep way—not because someone forced them, not because they wanted to be popular; but usually just because they were curious and liked the work. In other words, the young Abraham Lincoln didn’t know he was gonna be ABRAHAM LINCOLN. He was just Abe, that tall kid; the one who loved to read and made friends easily.

 

This view of history holds true for my new book, Otis & Will Discover the Deep: The Record-setting Dive of the Bathysphere, illustrated by Katherine Roy. It’s the story of how mechanical engineer, Otis Barton, and natural scientist, William Beebe, worked together to create the bathysphere—the first submersible craft that took human beings into the deep ocean.

 

William Beebe is well-known in scientific circles, but hardly a household name; and Otis Barton’s name is kind of off-the-grid all together. I didn’t know about either man ahead of writing the book. Instead, a few years ago, I read a small news item that used the word “bathysphere,” which I’d never heard, and became fascinated with the men who built it. I learned that Otis Barton started as a curious kid who built homemade diving equipment to see deeper into the ocean. And Will Beebe was so in love with nature’s mysteries that once he dove into the ocean for the first time, he never studied anything else.

 

Early on in the research of Barton and Beebe’s amazing adventures, the universe cooperated. My generic request to the Library of Congress website happened to be answered by a librarian, Constance Carter, who’d been Beebe’s assistant in the 1950’s. Photos, film, diaries, and archives were uncovered. There were historical accounts of at least nineteen bathysphere dives over four years. The challenge became how to winnow that much information into one picture book story. I decided to concentrate on a single bathysphere dive in June, 1930—the first time Otis and Will saw the deep ocean they’d dreamed of visiting since they were kids.

 

These childhood dreams drove Otis and Will to great discoveries. To satisfy their own questions, they struggled with scientific and mechanical problems. Most impressively, they put their lives on the line over and over again. Otis and Will became the first to see what lived below the ocean’s light level, or as the book’s refrain puts it, down, down, into the deep.

 

So, are Otis and Will famous? Well, none of the Kardashians have to worry that Otis Barton or Will Beebe will ever have more Instagram followers. At least not yet. But I hope you will agree that Otis and Will are better than famous; they are important.

 

And from now on that’ll be my answer. I don’t write about “famous people.” I write about “important people.” Why? Because each child is important and deserves role models with the same questions, curiosities, and feelings. Because each student is history’s future.

Natasha Tarpley revisits her classic I Love My Hair!

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness. . .”

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois

 

Natasha Tarpley photoThis year marks the 20th Anniversary of the publication of my first picture book, I Love My Hair! As I celebrate this significant milestone, the quote above becomes even more poignant in my reflections on my career thus far, and where I go from here.

 

Long before I had ever heard of Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, I knew what it was like to feel myself split into two. I was born and raised in a quiet neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, where traces of the South, reflecting a history of African American migration from the South to Northern cities like Chicago, still flowed through everything from the cooking smells wafting through open windows, to the lilt in the voices of family and neighbors greeting one another from across the street or driveway, calling after children in the purple-indigo dusk, or trash-talkin’ around a table deep into the night. It was here that I discovered that, even within a two-block radius—from the mailbox on one corner to Scott-the-cute-boy’s house on the other, like two covers of a book, there were countless adventures to be had and discoveries to be made. And there were characters galore.

 

It was in my neighborhood, and within the walls of my family’s home, that I also discovered a portal to my own imagination. The books that filled our house, and which my parents read to us at bedtime, the stories that I watched my mother craft on her magical black electric typewriter about me and my three siblings, helped me, a shy, bookish kid, and later a rebellious tween and teenager, stomping around in combat boots and ripped clothing, to find and express my own voice and creativity as a budding writer. In the worlds that I created for myself on the page, I could be anything—from the popular girl at school, to the lead singer of a famous punk band, who also happened to be British. I could invent fantastic characters. My favorites were an egg, who was a private detective and solved crimes in a town located inside a refrigerator, and a kid genie who lived in a Coke can.

 

I Love My HairBut as I ventured beyond the boundaries of my neighborhood and home, beyond the pages of my notebook, I realized that the world saw me, as an African American girl, very differently from how I saw myself. The world said, “You’re not black enough”, but then also said, “because you’re black, you don’t belong”. Even in my beloved books, or in the movies and television shows that I watched, I rarely saw myself reflected. I began to feel that sense of “two-ness” that DuBois wrote about, a gap between the way others saw me, and the complex, multi-layered vision and understanding of who I knew myself to be. When I started writing for children professionally, my mission was to tell stories for those kids, especially African American kids, who might have also felt that their voices and experiences were overlooked.

 

When I wrote I Love My Hair!  back in the late ‘90s, I wanted to create a whimsical, joyful story to contrast with the often serious, message-laden books that featured black children. I believed then, as I do now, that we are facing a similar publishing landscape that skews towards serious issue stories for black kids. In the spectrum of children’s literature, for example, Caucasian protagonists generally get to experience endless story possibilities. African Americans kids deserve this same opportunity. We are not monolithic. We have diverse life experiences, and feel the full range of human emotions and desire. By focusing on narrow facets of African American life (in literature, in music, movies, and the news), we unjustly constrict the imaginations of African American children, and run the risk of creating a codified and false narrative of the black experience, which our children are forced to consume and encouraged to adopt as their own. For those young people who reject this narrative, it can feel as if they are rejecting blackness itself.

 

Though there is still work to do, I am very encouraged and hopeful that the ever-broadening and deepening discussions and strategies around diversity, will lead to the production and introduction of new and exciting books, stories, and voices.

 

They say that from the pages of a book, many stories blossom. Now, I actually don’t know if the mystical they really do say or have said this at all—I kinda just made it up  (I’m a writer, it’s what we do!). Still, I know it to be true just the same. As I mark this 20th Anniversary of I Love My Hair!, I feel so fortunate and a tremendous sense of honor to have been a part of the family stories, personal journeys, and hair styling nightmares and successes that readers have shared with me over the past two decades. It is to them, the countless children, parents, teachers, librarians, and so many others who love and care for our children, who have passed this book from child to child, hand to hand, classroom to classroom, shelf to shelf, that I Love My Hair! owes its long and happy life. I remain forever indebted to you, dear readers, for supporting me as an author, and for giving my work wings. I hope that many more stories will blossom from the pages of I Love My Hair! for many more years to come.

I’m Just No Good at Rhyming

I'm Just No Good at Rhyming coverThe instant New York Times bestseller featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon! B. J. Novak (bestselling author of The Book With No Pictures) described this groundbreaking poetry collection as “Smart and sweet, wild and wicked, brilliantly funny–it’s everything a book for kids should be.”

Meet Chris Harris, the 21st-century Shel Silverstein! Already lauded by critics as a worthy heir to such greats as Silverstein, Seuss, Nash and Lear, Harris’s hilarious debut molds wit and wordplay, nonsense and oxymoron, and visual and verbal sleight-of-hand in masterful ways that make you look at the world in a whole new wonderfully upside-down way. With enthusiastic endorsements from bestselling luminaries such as Lemony Snicket, Judith Viorst, Andrea Beaty, and many others, this entirely unique collection offers a surprise around every corner: from the ongoing rivalry between the author and illustrator, to the mysteriously misnumbered pages that can only be deciphered by a certain code-cracking poem, to the rhyming fact-checker in the footnotes who points out when “poetic license” gets out of hand. Adding to the fun: Lane Smith, bestselling creator of beloved hits like It’s a Book and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, has spectacularly illustrated this extraordinary collection with nearly one hundred pieces of appropriately absurd art. It’s a mischievous match made in heaven!

“Ridiculous, nonsensical, peculiar, outrageous, possibly deranged–and utterly, totally, absolutely delicious. Read it! Immediately!” –Judith Viorst, bestselling author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

 

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ALA-ALSC NOTABLE BOOKS FOR CHILDREN

Booklist Editor’s Choice

Kirkus Best Children’s Books

NPR Best Books

PW Best Children’s Books

SLJ Best Books

NCTE Notable Poetry Books

Chicago Public Library Best Books

LAPL Best Kids Books