Friday, January 30, 2015

Friend Friday

I met Stephanie Kammeraad at the Michigan Reading Association Conference on Mackinac Island this past summer. She was there with her talented husband and adorable children. We got to chatting during the reception/book signing and she shared her passion for multicultural literature. I thought that would make a great blog post and, even though she's a crazy-busy lady, Stephanie agree to write a piece. So excited to share her thoughts here!

Stephanie Kammeraad

Multicultural Books: Why Do They Matter? 

When our son was about three years old, we went to a folk music concert that was held at our library.  We had seen many of the musicians before and enjoyed listening to their music as a family.  We were in the back of a very large and crowded room, and about half way through the show, our son became agitated and said that he wanted to leave.  He pleaded with me to take him out of the room, so we did. 
Upon entering the hallway, our son turned to me with tears in his eyes and said he was sorry but that he had to leave.  Thinking he was referring to leaving the show, I told him it was okay but asked him why.  Didn’t he like the music?  He said no, that he had to leave here, leave Michigan, and go back to Guatemala.  He was really sorry but said he had to go back, to go where people looked like him. 

Oh my heart.  I felt a punch in my stomach and a wave of guilt and sadness as I looked at our beautiful little boy.  I told him that if he had to leave, we were going with him.  We would be together wherever we needed to be.  It was then our turn to apologize, for our not seeing what he saw so clearly and felt so deeply: He had been the only person of color in that room. 

Thus began a series of changes in our family, a new intentionality that brought race and culture to the forefront of our minds instead of them sitting in the back.  We began looking at all aspects of our life, and we realized how little we had done to help our child feel comfortable in his own skin. 
Our son longed to see a reflection of himself throughout the pages of his life, and we were slowly learning how to find that for him. 

So why do multicultural books matter?  They matter because children are able to see reflections of themselves in the pages of a book.  Their reflection tells children that they are significant, that they have value, that they belong.  Regardless of whether a child is growing up with or around people of their same race or not, regardless of which race a child is categorized as being, every child is affected by the presence or absence of others of their race and ethnicity.  They are affected by who is shown (or not shown) in the books they are exposed to, whether consciously or subconsciously. 

Books can be mirrors, but they can also be windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange.” (*Find this citation here.) Windows allow us to see beyond ourselves, and when we do that, we grow in empathy, in compassion, and in understanding.  I believe every child deserves to have their world opened up to the world of others, to experience seeing beyond themselves.  Wouldn’t our world be a better place if we could all move beyond ourselves, move beyond our fears, our ignorance, move past tolerance, and move into understanding and appreciation?

Everyone needs mirrors and windows in their life, and what a safe place in books to be able to see more of yourself and learn more about others.  Multicultural books are beneficial for everyone.

 Stephanie Kammeraad is a children's bookseller and educator, specializing in multicultural children's books. As the founder of Mama-Lady Books  she creates and facilitates multicultural story times at elementary schools, presents professional development workshops for teachers regarding racism in the classroom and on multicultural books, and facilitates school fundraising book fairs.  She shares information about books, reading, and parenting and teaching multiculturally through her blog, monthly newsletter, and through social media outlets, such as Facebook

 Stephanie is also a home educating mama of two and along with her husband is the co-owner of Cooperfly Creative Arts.  She and her family live in Grand Rapids, MI.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Throwback Thursday

Believe it or not, on this day in 1921, Washington state experienced a hurricane! According to one of my favorite sites, History Link, "a hurricane-force windstorm with gusts of more than 100 miles per hour strikes the Washington coast. Mill stacks are toppled along with power and telephone lines. Water surges over riverbanks and ships and barges break moorings."

Courtesy Washington Forest Protection Association
One man, an engineer for one of the Olympic Peninsula mills, was killed, along with an entire herd of 200 elk. Sixteen Native American homes were destroyed and the logging industry suffered the devastating loss of billions of board feet of timber.

I can't help but think of another, more recent hurricane, Katrina. I was so moved by the news reports of that terrible event that I signed on with teams at two different times to go to the Gulf Coast to help with clean up and rebuilding. 

It was my experience there -- meeting incredibly brave and resilient residents, as well as dedicated and generous rescue volunteers -- that ultimately led to the writing (with my dear friend Mary Nethery) of Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship and Survival

Mary and I are so in awe of the work done by pet rescue groups like Best Friends Animal Society (the organization that took in the two Bobs) that we donate 10% of our author royalties to that organization.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Another Giveaway!

I had so much fun with last month's Doggone Good Reads giveway, I decided to sponsor one more, this time through GoodReads. You can't win if you don't enter!


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        Dash by Kirby Larson




          by Kirby Larson


            Giveaway ends February 28, 2015.
            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.

      Enter to win

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Teacher Tuesday

Kimberley Moran is a second grade teacher who lives in Hampden, Maine. She has two children and one very nice husband. Kimberley would like her bio to make her sound brilliant, witty, and kind because she knows that when you write and read you get to be anyone you want to be.

Kimberly, please fill in the blank: You should never read and (blank) at the same time.

I read books all the time. I have actually read while I drove and I don't recommend that. I have tried to cook and read at the same time. It can be done, but you might want to get one of those lucite things to slip your book into so it doesn't get dirty or listen to it on audio instead. However, you should never ever never read and chop vegetables with a sharp knife at the same time. It's just asking for trouble.

If you were invited to be on Oprah, what book would you bring for her to read?

If I was invited to be on Oprah, I would ask if she would let me have a sleepover first. I think I'd like a visit at her house. I heard she has really nice sheets and special soaps, plus I love Cocker Spaniels. I would bring the book The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay because it was completely transformative for me as a reader. It began my long obsession with coming of age books.

What is the funniest book you’ve read?

I was introduced to many books from a couple I met in my 20s who inspired me to line my walls with books. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend made me laugh until I cried.

What is the saddest?

I have read just a whole lot of historical books about World War II, but none of them prepared me for the emotions I would encounter while reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It was heart warming and heart breaking in a way I had never experienced before.

Favorite reading snack/beverage?

I love to drink hot tea with cream and sugar in pretty mug when I read. It makes me feel warm and cozy and ready to learn from my newest book.

What’s next on your TBR list?

I adore Ann Martin and ordered her new book Rain Reign as soon as I could, but I've had to put it on the back burner because I am a Cybils first round judge right now and that reading has to take precedence, but I plan to read it over Christmas vacation.

Teachers, librarians, reading coaches, principals, custodians, lunch ladies, anyone with school connections: Please play along! Email me here and I'll get you the questions so you, too, can be featured on Teacher Tuesday. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friend Friday

It is with complete delight that I once again host Laurie Thompson as a Friend Friday guest. Though Laurie has had two books published in quick succession, she has worked very hard and long to hone her craft and to get to this point. I know you will want to own a copy of Emmanuel's Dream yourself so I am sponsoring a giveaway! All you have to do is write a brief comment below sharing how you told one other person about Laurie's book -- a tweet, a FB share, over coffee -- and you're in! (This contest operates on the honor system. I know my blog readers are honorable people.) I'll announce the winner next Saturday.

Laurie Thompson -- photo credit: Mary Balmaceda

Hello again! I was here last September after the release of my first book, Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something that Matters, and it's an incredible honor to be back again for another Friend Friday post!

In my last post, I talked about the importance of friendship in changemaking and in writing, and I’d like to expand on those themes a bit more today. Not a day goes by that I’m not thankful to be a part of the warm, wonderful community that surrounds children’s literature. I’m blessed to be a part of several different subgroups within that community: the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, clients of Erin Murphy Literary, the Emu’s Debuts group blog, my critique group, the NFforKids Yahoo group, and others. We share information and advice about publishing, certainly, but we also share our hopes and fears, our successes and near-misses. It’s hard to fathom what a nurturing, supportive environment it is, and it’s delightfully different from anything I’ve ever encountered in any other industry.

Readers of children’s literature are every bit as amazing. I’ve received notes from parents about their children’s intense reactions to both Be a Changemaker and my newest book, Emmanuel’s Dream

One parent mentioned how great it was watching her son’s face while she read it to him and seeing the range of emotions that flashed across his face as he heard Emmanuel’s story: sadness, joy, surprise, hope, satisfaction. Other parents have told me their children have fought over it, taken it to school for sharing time, and even slept with it! 

Teachers have told me they are using these books in their classrooms and/or slipping them to students they think might benefit from them. One teacher was told by a student’s parents that Be a Changemaker changed their son’s life. Another teacher friend of mine dares other teachers at her school to read Emmanuel’s Dream aloud and not cry… so far, no one has succeeded. Now, I don’t normally like the thought of making teachers cry, but in this case, I’ll take it! And, I’ve heard from librarians who say they want more books like these in their libraries and know just the young patrons to hand them to. I’ve heard from several who’ve said Emmanuel’s Dream should be in every elementary school library in the country. I’m amazed that readers, parents, teachers, and librarians take the time to send me these anecdotes and feedback. It is humbling stuff, and oh so encouraging.

Recently, another author friend of Kirby’s and mine sent us an email that began with the words, “In case you're ever wondering if what we do day in and day out makes a difference, I thought I'd share this email I received yesterday…” She went on to share a note she’s received from a reader, now an adult, about the profound impact one of her books had made on her as a child and continues to make now that she’s grown. Humbling and oh so encouraging, indeed. And our friend didn’t share this powerful story with us as a brag. Quite the contrary, in fact. She sent it as a gentle nudge to keep us all going through the good times and the not-quite-so-good times, a gentle reminder that our work matters, and don’t we all need to hear that every now and then?

Yes, we all have days when we wonder if what we do day in and day out makes a difference. Fortunately, we are a part of a fantastic community of writers and readers and book lovers that reminds us every single day. Since you’re reading this post, I’m fairly certain you are part of that community, too. Thank you, for everything you do, every day. Your work matters. And we really couldn’t do ours without you.

Laurie Ann Thompson grew up in rural northern Wisconsin. A former software engineer, she now writes for children and young adults to help her readers--and herself--make better sense of the world we live in, so they can contribute to making it a better place for all of us. She strives to write nonfiction that gives wings to active imaginations and fiction that taps into our universal human truths. Her books include BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS (Beyond Words/Simon Pulse, September 2014), a teen how-to guide filled with practical advice and plenty of inspiration for beginning social entrepreneurs; EMMANUEL'S DREAM (Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House, January 2015), a picture book biography about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, who changed Ghana's perception of people with disabilities; and MY DOG IS THE BEST (FSG/Macmillan, June 2015), an adorable picture book about the unconditional love that exists between a child and a family pet. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Throwback Thursday

On this day, in 1930, excavation for the Empire State Building began. It was completed a miraculous 410 days later!
Lewis Hines photo, courtesy

For a fascinating look into this building, try this book by my dear friend Deborah Hopkinson:

For a fictionalized visit to the New York of a few years before ground was broken for this Big Apple icon, try The Friendship Doll, a novel in stories whose first story features a little girl who butts head with Belle Roosevelt, Teddy's granddaughter.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015