The significance of Multicultural Children’s Book Day and the Children’s Book Academy Diversity Scholarships
by Koloud 'Kay' Tarapolsi
This past Friday was Multicultural Children’s Book Day, an annual event held the last Friday in January. This was the 9th annual, and it is growing each year as word spreads. I have been honored to be a co-Host for this wonderful initiative for six years.
The mission of MCBD is, “to raise awareness for children’s books that celebrate diversity by getting more of these books into classrooms and libraries. This nonprofit also strives to shine the spotlight on the diverse books and authors that often get overlooked by mainstream publishing and media.”
The nonprofit was started by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen, two diverse moms who had a desire to highlight wonderful multicultural authors and their books that they used in their own homes. For the past 9 years, they have managed to deliver over 10,000 diverse books into the hands of readers and their educators.
The MCBD website is full of free resources, teaching tools, classroom kits, booklists, and downloads. More resources can be found on social media by following #ReadYourWorld. In 2017, 3.6 BILLION social media share impressions were logged on one day using that hashtag. I even wrote a blog post on how to get MCBD into school libraries.
While MCBD is a wonderful initiative to get diverse books into the hands of children, scholarships like those at the Children’s Book Academy help get diverse and low-income authors to write the stories.
At this point, the CBA offers full and half scholarships to underrepresented and low-income writers and illustrators in the children's publishing industry as well as children's librarians who might not be able to take the courses otherwise.
Programs like MCBD and the CBA scholarships are important opportunities to assist unrepresented authors in a disproportionately white middle-class publishing industry that has not caught up to the diversity of its readers. They not only help diverse writers learn the craft, but also navigate the publishing industry and then physically deliver their diverse children’s books into the hands of young readers.
Seeing themselves reflected in the books, diverse readers develop a sense of pride about themselves and their history. Reading books with diverse protagonist, all children begin to understand the impact immigrants, minorities, and others have contributed to society.
I am a beneficiary of a CBA Yuyi Morales Scholarship, which helped hone my writing craft. Through my second CBA course, I received five Golden Ticket opportunities with agents and editors, which led to a book contract, a second book at auction and an agent. In the near future, inshaAllah, I hope to have my published diverse book ready to give away for free on MCBD and the Picture Book Palooza, which is CBA's magical fundraising event to help support more scholarships, one day.
It is my dream that by writing about these opportunities, an inspiriting author reading this blog post will be encouraged to apply for a Children’s Book Academy scholarship. Then their story will also be shared on Multicultural Children’s Book Day or the Picture Book Palooza.
By Sharon Giltrow
…a pig in mud.” We all know the saying, but what if contrary to popular belief, you are a pig or hog who doesn’t like mud. To be contrary is to do the opposite of what is expected. As writers, we can use this contrariness to create memorable characters. A great example of this is in the book, HAPPY AS A HOG OUT OF MUD. The main character, Charlesworth Oinkington (how great is that name), is a hog that doesn’t like mud. He prefers to sip tea, go bird watching, and read poetry. This is not what we expect a hog to do. Take a look at the front cover, you can see Charlesworth’s disdain for mud.
Happy as a Hog out of Mud
Written and Illustrated by: Sean E Avery
Published by: Larrikin House , 2021
Warthogs LOVE to play in mud. But not Charlie...
Charlesworth Oinkington is a sophisticated gentle-hog who would rather sip tea, go bird watching and read poetry.
Happy as a Hog out of Mud celebrates difference and acceptance via light-hearted humour and cannonballs!
Readers will enjoy exploring a range of different animals, engage with the hilarious and quirky illustrations and marvel at the memorable characters.
Let’s look inside HAPPY AS A HOG OUT OF MUD to see other examples of where Charlesworth is acting contrary. Sean also provides some insight into why these spreads are his favourite.
S - The warthogs playing in mud and 'cannonballing' have great energy from left to right — I think I've done a good job leading my readers' eye around the spread and setting up for some chaos on the next page.
Sh- In this page, Charlesworth is happy to be who he is and do what he enjoys doing regardless of the other warthogs asking him to go in the mud.
S- I love the nasty flamingos and the variety of animals. I also got to indulge in a bit of rhyme here too, which I always enjoy!
Sh- Here you can see one of the reasons Charlesworth doesn’t want to act like the other warthogs - the flamingos are saying mean things about warthogs.
Thanks Sean for introducing us to your quirky and humorous character Charlesworth Oinkington.
When you create your next character, make them act contrary to what is expected. If you do, I promise they will be a much more interesting and memorable character.
See you in February with another great Aussie book.
Share a laugh, and connect with someone today.
For a chance to win a copy of AS HAPPY AS A HOG OUT OF MUD
Sharon Giltrow grew up in South Australia, the youngest of eight children, surrounded by pet sheep and fields of barley. She now lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband, two children and a tiny dog. Sharon has taught for all of her career. Previously a teacher of children who are hearing impaired and Deaf-Blind, she now teaches young children with Developmental Language Disorder. Her humorous debut PB, BEDTIME DADDY! released May 2020 through EK books. Sharon’s humorous follow up PB, GET READY, MAMA! Is due to be released through EK books in April, 2022. Her third PB, LET’S GO SHOPPING, GRANDMA! is due to be released through Dixi Books in 2022. SAMARA RUBIN AND THE UTILITY BELT, book one in Sharon’s early MG series – THE UTILITY BELT, will be released in 2022 through Clear Fork Publishing. With book two TOBY KING AND THE UTILITY BELT to follow.
by Bryan Patrick Avery
Happy New Year, everybody. The beginning of a new year always feels like a chance for a fresh start. We set new goals, prepare to face new challenges, a make resolutions. I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but I decided to make one this year. Yes, just the one. If you’re the type make resolutions, I invite you to add this one to your list:
"I will not measure my writing success by comparing my accomplishments to the accomplishments of anyone else."
It sounds simple enough, but I see so many writers who experience frustration and self-doubt when they see their peers announcing agent signings, new book deals, and awards. Soon, the ALA awards will be announced. Most of us won’t win but we shouldn’t let that put a cloud over our own writing.
You might wonder how I came to this realization. Here’s how: In the past few years, I’ve sold 13 books and two short stories. It’s been a fantastic ride and I’ve loved (almost) every minute of it. Still, with all the success I’ve had, I’m not even the most accomplished writer in my immediate family. My brother, Kevin Avery, has won two Emmy awards. He’s won a Writer’s Guild award and a Peabody. To top all that off, he actually took our mother to the Emmy awards ceremony. There’s no way I’ll top that. You know what? I’m okay with that. He’s pursuing and reaching his goals and I’m pursuing and reaching mine.
My great-grandfather “Dad AB” used to sit at the children’s table at family meals and always told the kids “keep your face in your plate”. You didn’t need to look around. You didn’t need to see what everyone else had or what they were doing. You just needed to focus on what was in front of you.
It’s good advice. Let’s face it, publishing is a tough business. It’s even tougher when you get distracted but what others are doing. Take Dad AB’s advice and keep your face in your own plate. Focus on what you’re doing and you’ll be much happier.
One way that’s helped me stay focused on me is to celebrate. I celebrate everything. Finished a draft? Celebrate. Sent off a manuscript to my editor? Celebrate. Booked a school visit? Celebrate. You get the idea. Remind yourself to enjoy these moments, and writing will be joy whether or not you win awards or end up on bestseller lists.
Well, that’s all for this month. Happy writing and have a magical month.
At the age of 7, Bryan Patrick Avery discovered a love of reading and mysteries after receiving his first Bobbsey Twins Mystery Book. Today, he is an award-winning poet and author of books for children. His middle-grade story, “The Magic Day Mystery”, appears in SUPER PUZZLETASTIC MYSTERIES, an anthology from HarperCollins and the Mystery Writers of America. His debut picture book, THE FREEMAN FIELD PHOTOGRAPH, illustrated by Jerome White, was published by Clearfork Publishing/Spork. His early reader series, MR. GRIZLEY’S CLASS, illustrated by Arief Putra, is available now from Picture Window Press. He is the 2021 recipient of the SCBWI Work in Progress Award for his chapter book mystery THE ROBOT IN THE LIBRARY. His middle grade non-fiction book, BLACK MEN IN SCIENCE, illustrated by Nikita Leanne will be released in February by Rockridge Press. Bryan lives in Northern California with his family.
by Melissa Stoller
The year 2022 is filled with the number 2. So for my first Blogfish post of the year, I’m going to have some fun with this number. And hopefully, if you play along, you will find some inspiration as you set up your writing life for the next 12 months!
Pick 2 projects you want to work on this month. Perhaps you will pull them out of a forgotten file on your computer or in your drawer? Or maybe they are 2 new-ish projects. Spend time revising or fleshing them out. See where your creativity will take you.
Find 2 ideas that you think are worthwhile and commit to pursuing those story ideas in the next 2 weeks. Or, if you are stuck for a new idea, look out your window. Write down the first 2 things you see. Try to incorporate those things into a story. Or, find 2 images online and write stories about those 2 images. Or think of the titles of your 2 favorite songs or movies and pick 2 words from those titles to incorporate into a story title. The possibilities are endless.
Read 2 mentor texts in the next 2 weeks that will help you along your writing journey (or 2 per week, or more!) Or, pick 2 genres outside your normal genre and read 2 books in those areas. Experiment, play, and learn.
Read 2 writing-related blog posts and leave 2 comments. Interact with 2 writing friends online. Or watch 2 writing-related videos. Take notes using a #2 pencil :)
I hope you have fun with these mini-challenges. Cheers to writing in 2022!
Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Return to Coney Island and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush; Ready, Set, GOrilla!; and Sadie’s Shabbat Stories. Planting Friendship: Peace, Salaam, Shalom (co-written with Callie Metler and Shirin Rahman, illustrated by Kate Talbot), released from Clear Fork Publishing in October, 2021. Building Bridges: Peace, Salaam, Shalom releases in 2022. Melissa is a Blogger and Course Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a volunteer with SCBWI/MetroNY, and a founding member of The Book Meshuggenahs. She also interviews authors on her blog, This Writing Life, and offers book tips and resources. In other chapters of her life, Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. She lives in New York City with her family, and enjoys theatre, museums, and long beach walks. www.MelissaStoller.com
by Laurie Smollett Kutscera
As writers, we all know inspiration can come from just about everywhere. Listening to a child’s conversation, or watching critters outside interact on a crisp autumn day. Sometimes inspiration comes from the memories woven into a faded photograph, or the grief that follows the loss of a friend. I’m hoping to help you find the heart of your story by sharing how I found the heart of my 2nd published book – Maya’s Treasures.
Maya’s Treasure Summary:
Each morning when the sun rises, Maya and her sister, Alita, go to the shore to collect the beautiful seashells the waves wash up on the beach overnight. The sisters scrub their finds until they sparkle like stars, then string them together to make beautiful jewelry they can sell to the people in their island village. When Alita discards shells she deems too broken or ugly, Maya rescues them and remembers the words of her grandmother: ''Even the tiniest nub can be quite beautiful. You just have to find the magic in it.'' But can Maya turn the cast-off shells into something truly special?
It was an overwhelming feeling of loss that inspired me to write Maya’s Treasure. I wanted to put into words the ‘gifts’ my friend Enid had shared with me, and everyone who knew her.
Wherever we were, sitting on the porch of their vacation cabin in Grand Lakes Stream Maine, or just traveling down a quiet road near our home, Enid would always notice something remarkable happening that none of us were paying attention to. “Did you see that gnarly tree?” Or, “Ohhhh, did you notice the wings on that turkey vulture?” She saw beauty in everything. Enid taught me to connect with the magic around me, and when she passed away, I felt lost. That’s when the words came to me.
I sat down and began writing about a girl, who guided by her grandmother’s words, finds beauty and purpose in the shells used to make jewelry that her sister deems damaged.
That first draft was beyond helpful to me emotionally. To share what Enid had meant to me and get it down on paper was in many ways healing. But I also knew if this was to be a picture book I needed to make sure the heart of the story was strong enough to connect with young readers.
I continued to write and rewrite. With each new draft I added another layer— more tension between the siblings, problem solving opportunities for Maya, and finally, the all-important environmental obstacle that helped bring Maya’s Treasure to a satisfying ending. Each new layer building on the other through the use of lyrical language. It took me two years, but I had finally created the emotional arc that made the heart of the story even stronger.
Now it was time to work on the illustrations. Having found the perfect model for Maya, the dummy and final sketches came together quickly. But choosing the right medium was another dilemma— it was as crucial as my choice of words.
Digital wasn’t going to work for this project. I needed a medium that would evoke more emotion. I started playing with watercolor and colored pencils but I wasn’t feeling “the heart” in either. I wanted a medium that would add richness and vibrancy to Maya’s world. Pastel, I thought, would be the perfect choice.
Deep, starry night blues and dark, stormy purples added quite a bit to the dreamy quality of the story. An organic and more textural material, pastel gave Maya’s Treasure the “visual heart” I was looking for.
After subbing Maya’s Treasure for over a year, I was excited to receive an offer of publication from Peter Pauper Press. At the same time, I also found representation with my wonderful agent, Matt Belford at Tobias Literary.
My journey to publication began in 2016 and the book was just released last month, November 2021. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the idea of being a published author. Don’t rush. Let changes percolate for a while. If you take your time and give your work room to blossom, getting to the heart of the story will be a much more rewarding experience.
So now I’d like to ask you to dig deep into something tender or touching in your story and see if perhaps that might be the heart of your story. Then ask yourself how you can focus on that to make it even more meaningful, poetic, and touching
Laurie Smollett Kutscera was born in New York City, and studied fine art and children’s book illustration at Queens College. Her love for art, storytelling, and most of all those stories representing characters who discover hidden strength flourished throughout her graphics design career, leading her to illustrate Ravita and the Land of Unknown Shadows. Maya’s Treasure, her second solo project after middle-grade novel Misadventures of a Magician’s Son, also shares a story inspired by a dear friend. Laurie lives on the north shore of Long Island with her husband, and rescue dog Abby, where she continues to bring her stories to life. Laurie is also a Children’s Book Academy graduate She is available for lively virtual visits for schools and other groups interested in kidlit art and children’s literature.
Find Laurie here and participate in her giveaway
Purchase Maya's Treasure here:
And now for some great news! Laurie is giving away either a signed book for someone in the US or a 500 word or less PB critique to some lucky winner. All you need to do is follow Laurie on Twitter or Instagram and tag her with #MayasTreasurePB and post something meaningful or touching from your own life below. You have 10 days to enter until January 13th! Fingers crossed for you. Wish I could enter.
Oh my, I couldn't resist making a wee video review for this book because I loved it so much. So proud of Laurie and her beautiful and meaningful work. I hope you like it and get a sense of how lovely this book is.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with awesome multi-published former student Shirin Shamsi who will be focusing on Muslim and cultural kidlit.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature STEM, STEAM & SEL obsessed author Kourtney LaFavre sharing delightfully dorky, quirky, and fun info.
And 5th Mondays we'll be taking a break