Friday, November 23, 2018

"The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra" in Spanish

The chupacabra originated in Latino and Hispanic culture; the first chupacabra sighting reported was in Puerto Rico in 1996. So it feels appropriate that The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra (illustrated by Mexican-born Ana Aranda) is now available (via Scholastic) in Spanish. 

As you see, the title has changed in the translation (The Macabre Dinner of Chupacabra). I don't know why. I know they have candelabras in Spanish-language cultures.

The original dedication to my son calls him my "favorite funny little fuzzball." In Spanish, he's referred to simply as my "plush."

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

NCTE 2018 and an Orbis Pictus Honor 2019

The 2018 National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention (held in Houston) featured many of the same beats as past NCTEs I have attended (only one of which I've documented here): it hosted a panel I pitched, I hung out with author and educator friends I see far too infrequently, I signed books, I made school visit inroads, I learned a thing or two.

But the event also surprised me with something new.

One of my books received an award.

The Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children was first given out in 1989. My first Orbis Pictus award was given out 30 years later (not to imply I expect there will be more).

Thirty Minutes Over Oregon: A Japanese Pilot's World War II Story was one of the five titles named a 2019 Orbis Pictus Honor Book.

Lisa DiSarro, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Director of School and Library Marketing, kindly accompanied me to the 11/17/18 luncheon where the two 2018 Orbis Pictus winners spoke and the new class was announced. HMH had invited me to attend the luncheon before they knew that Thirty Minutes Over Oregon would be among the honored there. They did find out a day beforehand, but chose not to tell me—which I so appreciated. It was so memorable to be surprised by the announcement made to the room of 35+ tables of 10 people apiece, including many author friends (some of whom were similarly honored, though many of the honorees were not there).

Lisa was at a table next to me and surreptitiously took photos of my reaction.

My panel was called "The Dirty Truth About Nonfiction." My co-stars were Don Tate, John Hendrix (whom I'd not met before), and Leah Henderson. (All of them are articulate and impressive, and all also have great radio voices. I do not.)

We were expertly moderated by Dylan Teut, who stepped in at the 11th hour when the moderator I'd originally lined up was no longer able to attend NCTE. I was thrilled at the turnout...if not quite standing-room-only, close enough that some people sat on the floor. (Wait, what? Sitting-room-only?)

At my signing later that day, HMH had already blinged out the book with the official Orbis Pictus sticker and a starbust.

Last year, I did a panel with Audrey Vernick, but this year saw her only in passing. In that passing, in a symbolic passing of the torch (but not really), I posed for a photo with her and Don (who, as you'll recall, was on my panel this year).

The other highlight of NCTE for me was an activity I did not participate in (or even witness). At 6:15 am on Saturday morning, a group of authors and educators met for a game of basketball. I would've joined them but I was picked last enough in high school.

The ones I can name (L-R): 
Laurie Halse Anderson, Loren Long (mostly obscured), 
Chad Everett, Phil Bildner, ?, Cornelius Minor,
Colby Sharp, Travis Jonker, Sara Ahmed, ?
Kwame Alexander, ?, Matt de la Peña

Thank you again to HMH and NCTE for a humbling experience. 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

"Moving...thought-provoking" – "New York Times Book Review" on "Thirty Minutes Over Oregon"

It is Veterans Day, and this year I'm thinking in particular of a vet I never met but have grown most fond of. His name was Nobuo Fujita, and he never fought for America.

Not during a war, anyway.

His uplifting journey is the subject of my latest book, Thirty Minutes Over Oregon: A Japanese Pilot's World War II Story. And that book is featured in today's New York Times Book Review. I've been in the Times before, but this is the first time the paper of record has reviewed one of my books. Thank you to the Times, and thank you to vets everywhere.

"Sometimes the most inconsequential episodes in larger stories can turn out to be the most moving, and so it is with Thirty Minutes Over Oregon … a thought-provoking meditation on the power of forgiveness"

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Top of Tennessee, bottom of Virginia

I spent the first week of November speaking at six schools, five close to the northeast corner of Tennessee (the Knoxville suburbs) and one in the southwest corner of Virginia (Abingdon).

Come back along with me...

Most of the TN schools were in Oak Ridge, famous for being the Atomic City (AKA the equally cool-sounding Secret City) during World War II. The town was built from scratch and encircled by a fence so scientists within it could help develop the atomic bomb. Signs of that are frequent there today, even in schools:

Day 1. Webb School greeted me with an elaborate and colorful set on which to perform. They also loaded me up with a generous superhero-themed gift bag. (We had to start later than planned because a fierce storm swept through late the night before, felling many trees, which forced school to open on a delay.)

 photo courtesy of Webb School

Day 2. One of the two schools, Norris Middle School, asked me to tag their author graffiti wall. It was my honor...and my first time with a spray can, hard as that may be to believe, given the edgy persona I sport.

Students at Norris had spent some time with Brave Like My Brother (and asked more questions about it during the Q&A than any other group ever). They'd created these character sketches...

...and one student even wrote a "deleted scene" in the form of another letter from Charlie to Joe. I loved this dearly.

Day 3. Robertsville Middle School had an impressive wall to acknowledge their past author visits. Surely nothing intimidating about following Jacqueline Woodson and Jason Reynolds.

Only a day after I'd been there, I was already added.

At Jefferson Middle School, library tables are strewn with picture books and an invitation/challenge to students to pick one up despite the perception by some that picture books are only for elementary kids.

For my last school of the trip, I drove 2.5 hours through scenic (if rainy) country to cross the border into Virginia. A teacher at that school runs (with her family) a picturesque, new construction rental barn for special occasions like weddings. It has a large event space on the ground floor and one cozy bedroom/bathroom on the second. That rainy night, for the second time in six months, I was the only guest in a house. Though the rain pelleting the roof was moody, no ghosts this time.

Thank you again to Scot Smith, Kristie Atwood, Debbie Callis, Kat Hall, Emily Havercamp, Kim Hobbs, and Teresa Campbell for making this lovely week possible.