Tumblr children 2018

1. Tell us about your most recent book and how you came to write/illustrate it.

BLANCA & ROJA is a queer, Latinx reimagining of tumblr “Snow-White & Rose-Red” meets Swan Lake. It’s very much the kind of fairy tale where you’ll find enchanted woods and unpredictable magic, but it’s also a fairy tale about racism, colorism, queerphobia, transphobia, ableism, and so much else we’re sometimes reluctant to talk about. 

2. Do you think of yourself as a diverse author/illustrator?

I’m Latina and queer, and I’m married to a trans guy, and I’m often writing about those identities, so I’m grateful to get to be one of many authors adding more diverse books to shelves. I also write magical realism, which is deeply connected to Latinx tradition, and it’s a world I love sharing with readers.

New York, NY – September 28, 2018 – The CBC Diversity Committee is proud to announce the winners of the inaugural CBC Diversity Outstanding Achievement Awards. These awards will be given annually to professionals or organizations in the children’s publishing industry who have made a significant impact on the publishing and marketing of diverse books, diversity in hiring and mentoring, and efforts that create greater awareness with the public about the importance of diverse voices.

The winners were announced at the CBC Annual Meeting in New York City on September 27, and an official ceremony and conversation with the winners will take place on October 24 at a CBC Forum event. The winners will each select an organization to receive one thousand dollars’ worth of children’s books in their name.

Shifa Kapadwala, the CBC Diversity Committee’s moderator, said: “The committee had the great joy and responsibility of reviewing nominations from across the children’s publishing community. In making their selections, the committee has summarized the accomplishments of these inspiring people and organizations.”

Candlewick Press sat down with T.R. Simon to discuss her new book ‘Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground’

CP:  How do the maturing Carrie and Zora see the world differently as they approach their teens?

T.R.S:  In book two of the Zora and Me trilogy, Zora and Carrie are now twelve going on thirteen. Although they are still children, they have encountered the sorrow of death along with the pride and joy that life in Eatonville affords them. What begins to alter them now is a slowly growing awareness of the past. While Eatonville could seem idyllic, tucked away from the daily brutality of the Jim Crow South, it is not free from the shadow of American history, particularly from the history of slavery. The history of slavery is a hard thing for young people because it requires them to confront the brutality of hate and the despair of powerlessness. Zora and Carrie grapple with the conflicted feelings that learning about Eatonville’s history brings up while simultaneously realizing that life is necessarily, for good and for bad, informed by the past.

CP:  Why did you choose to tell this book with dual narratives?

T.R.S:  I struggled with how to powerfully connect the fact of Jim Crow to the institution of slavery. Ultimately, I decided that the most effective way to do that was to show them side by side. Reconstruction was the attempt of newly freed slaves to enact self-determination, and Jim Crow was a formalization of the backlash to Reconstruction. If you don’t understand how slavery operated and the ideas of race that made slavery go, you can’t understand Jim Crow as the logical social extension of that violently inhumane practice.

Dreamers is your own story of immigrating to the United States from Mexico in 1994 with your newborn son. What inspired you write Dreamers almost 24 years later?

I was working on a graphic novel when Donald Trump was elected president. My heart sunk. I could not believe that the man who had accused Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists had been elected to lead the United States. I felt unable to work, and that my stories made no sense anymore. I also felt afraid of what would come next for immigrant families like mine, like those of my friends and like those that my books had been written for and about. 

My editor, Neal Porter, saw that I was stuck and offered his support and patience. He reassured me that he was there for me until I was ready to produce a new book, he also told me that he thought the book I should be working on was my own immigrant story.

How does it feel to know Little Man, Little Man is being brought to a new audience of young readers? 

It’s a wonderful feeling. A feeling of great accomplishment. It took over a decade to bring it about. Both my brother Tejan (“TJ” whom the book was written for) and I are truly delighted to see this rare gem of a book be republished after almost four decades. Thanks to the perseverance, commitment and dedication of Professor Nicholas Boggs.

The book vividly describes the life of an urban child and the people in his neighborhood. Does this mesh with your memories of growing up in Manhattan’s Upper West Side? 

Absolutely! The Upper West Side of the 70’s was very different than what it has morphed into today. It was a neighborhood with a myriad of intersections in terms of race, culture and socio-economic backgrounds. So although it was just 6 blocks North of Lincoln Center and 2 blocks away from the famed Dakota Building and ABC Studios; you could experience a plethora of images. A person picking someone’s pocket, a drug sale or an incident involving the police. This to me—is typical of many New York City neighborhoods.

By Mae Respicio

In middle school I was mesmerized by the world of Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield in SWEET VALLEY TWINS. I studied every cover and daydreamed about what it would be like to live as popular blonde girls with bright smiles in a suburban utopia.

Like the Wakefield twins I was a California girl, but the world created in the beloved series seemed so different from mine growing up Filipina American and straddling two cultures. The twins never had to be embarrassed about inviting their non-Filipino friends over for fear of their grandmother offering dried fish and rice as an afterschool snack.

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Whenever I fumbled through an awkward tween moment I would wish for a Sweet Valley existence. I wrote in my diary that if I only had blonde hair like Elizabeth (my favorite of the two—she wanted to be a writer after all!), my seventh grade life would be perfect.

Childhood books are transformative. They inform our identities and can end up shaping us as adults. In my twenties I started to explore the Filipino American diaspora and for the first time I realized how much I longed to read about characters like me—that if I’d had such books as a kid it would have been life-changing.

But middle grade novels with a Filipina American protagonist didn’t exist in my era as a kid-reader and even well past that. In college my favorite genre was (admittedly!) chick lit, though there were no breezy beach reads with a Filipina American protagonist. When I became a parent, I thought that maybe children’s literature had changed so I set out on a mission: to fill my shelves with books that my future readers could see themselves in. I scoured every bookstore but still… nothing.


Shadin Al-Dossari, Publicity Intern:

Candlewick was my first real publishing internship. I had interned at a literary journal and a creative writing center, but my time at Candlewick really gave me a complete idea of what the book industry is like. The people who work at Candlewick truly do their best to help make themselves available to you, even for something as simple as chatting over a cup of coffee. The entire office environment is friendly; it felt so nice to be surrounded by people who are just as passionate about children’s literature as I am.

Through the warm and friendly publicity team I learned industry lingo I had never heard of, enhanced skills that were previously mediocre, and gained knowledge about different facets of the book world. Another fun part of the internship was the “Books We’re Reading” board, which is exclusively for the awesome people who make up Candlewick’s Publicity and Marketing department. The board is a fun way to get book recommendations, start a conversation about what others are reading, and is a cool way for interns to feel included.

by Suzanne Selfors

I had the fortune and misfortune of being born into a family that overflows with mental illness.

I say fortune because my family has provided me with some of the most colorful characters I’ve ever met. They’ve raised me, shaped me, influenced and inspired me.

I say misfortune because I don’t know anyone who would choose mental illness. I don’t know anyone who would say, “Hey, I’d sure like to be depressed and anxious, throw in some paranoia and addiction, and I’m good to go.”

I was an anxious child. But I didn’t know that word. Depression and anxiety weren’t common terms in the 1960s. And they certainly weren’t words that were taught to children. Armed now with hindsight and life experience, I can see how anxiety was always there. My mom said I was “tightly wound,” and I remember that whenever I stayed up too late or did too many things, I would break down by vomiting. While I didn’t have panic attacks, there were a few episodes when everyone’s voices would suddenly speed up and the world seemed to be going too fast. My heart would race. I’d find a quiet corner and sit until it passed.

Congratulations on your author-illustrator debut! Can you tell us about your inspiration for Alma and How She Got Her Name?

ALMA is a picture book about a little girl with a long name and a big story behind her name.  The story has autobiographical elements and is inspired by my own strong connection to my extended family. I believe we are all a little bit of those that came before us, and we carry a little of each of our ancestors with us. At the same time, we are uniquely ourselves.

How does being a diverse author and artist contribute to and inspire your work?

I was born and raised in Lima, Peru, and moved to the United States in my mid twenties. In my first years as an immigrant, I was trying to find my place in the US. I wanted to feel less foreign and assimilate fast. I disliked standing out. But welcoming my new culture and traditions came at the cost of giving up those aspects that made me who I was. After I got married and had our first child, I came to the realization that I needed to reclaim the unique aspects of my Peruvian culture. I realized my culture was part of my whole personal identity, and I wanted to pass my culture onto my children. It is at that moment that I started illustrating and attempting to write for children. My work carries my Peruvian and Latino culture deeply. In ALMA, I am writing and illustrating a book about a little girl who is discovering who she is in this world just as I discovered my place in my world.

Why do you write books for children?

I have a friend who is a children’s book author and illustrator, and several years ago she decided to quit her job as a tenured professor in order to pursue a more creative life. She started teaching classes about writing and illustrating children’s books, and she encouraged (well, pressured, really) me to sign up. I said I would – I have a hard time saying “no” – and then thought “oh wow, what did I just get myself into?” But it turned out to be one of the best things I ever did. I also had no idea how hard it is to write a high-quality story for children! It’s much harder than it looks. Taking that class showed me how to be creative in an entirely new way, and writing for children fuels me in ways that I can’t really put into words.  

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There’s another reason why I do this, though. Not long after I took that class, I started playing with the idea of writing a story about an LGBTQ+ Pride celebration. When I was researching comps, I was stunned to find that not only were there very few picture books featuring LGBTQ+ themes, but only one had ever been written about a Pride parade (and it was published almost thirty years ago). That was so disturbing to me – that LGBTQ+ people were virtually invisible in children’s books. And I see on a daily basis what that invisibility does to a community. Most of my college students (including those who are LGBTQ+ identified) have never heard of the Pink Scare, or the Stonewall Riots, or the AIDS crisis, for that matter. They know about HIV, but they don’t know how the gay community was decimated by it. That lack of knowledge is terrifying to me, and I want children AND adults to know about our history, our culture, and how we got here. That’s why I wrote books like This Day in June, When You Look Out the Window (a book about Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin), and Sewing the Rainbow (my latest book about Gilbert Baker and the creation of the rainbow flag).

3 months ago



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