Tag Archives: Emmanuel’s Dream

Everyone Has a Story… and We Need Them All

MLK Day panel at WSHM

Last Monday, I was honored to participate in a panel on diversity and changemaking in children’s literature as part of a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration at the Washington State History Museum (you can read an excellent summary of the full panel here). In preparing for my part of the panel, I couldn’t help thinking back to my Emu’s Debuts from exactly two years ago (have a really been here that long? Meep!). That seemed like a good place for me to start.

In that old blog post, I referenced an MLK quote that resonated with me…

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

…and I talked about how our job as authors is to facilitate that kind of communication through story, whether true or fictional, and how stories can speak to universal human truths, even when the specific life experiences and situations are very different, such as mine and Emmanuel’s, as shown in Emmanuel’s Dream.

While drafting my recent speech, I also went through my transcripts from my interview with Emmanuel in 2010 and stumbled across this gem I hadn’t noticed before for some reason. He told me,

“When you hear about so many people—their story and their lives—you can say whoa, that guy’s story sounds like my story. It’s familiar. Because you know, the rich person has a story to tell, and the poor person has a story to tell, and the person who won the race has a story to tell, and the person who is in last place has a story to tell. So people have to come together to educate ourselves with stories, so that we can be able to move forward.”

As I concluded in my speech on Monday, I believe Emmanuel is right: stories will help us move forward. I have almost nothing in common with Emmanuel, yet his story touched me, and I hope it touches young readers, too. I hope it will help them understand and value other people despite their obvious differences. I also hope it will show them that each and every one of us—including themselves—has value and can make a positive difference in the world, just like Emmanuel did, and just like Dr. King did.

Their stories matter, and so do everyone else’s. That’s why so many of us in the children’s literature community are supporting the We Need Diverse Books campaign. The more diversity we have in our stories, and in our storytellers, the more we can all communicate with one another, the less we will all fear each other, and the better we can all get along. Diversity in literature builds understanding, and understanding builds empathy. With enough mirrors and windows, maybe we can finally stop the hate.

So, please, keep sharing stories–stories like Emmanuel’s, Dr. King’s, and, most importantly, your own. The world needs them all, now more than ever.


Laurie Ann Thompson head shotLaurie Ann Thompson’s debut young-adult nonfiction, BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, was published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse in September, 2014. Her debut nonfiction picture book, EMMANUEL’S DREAM, was published by Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House in January 2015. MY DOG IS THE BEST, her debut fiction picture book, will be available June 2015 from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Macmillan (May 2015). Maybe then they’ll finally force her to retire from Emu’s Debuts, unless…
Please visit Laurie at her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.

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Dreams to Inspire

All week you’ve been hearing about Laurie Ann Thompson’s gorgeous and inspiring debut Emmanuel’s Dream. Laurie has captured a true story that will resonate with young readers through its message of hope and determination in the face of adversity. Today, we’re bringing you some other inspiring thoughts – books and quotes that nurture our souls and our writing in much the same way as Emmanuel’s Dream is sure to nurture readers.

Read on, and then, go become a Dreamer!

Susan Vaught says this quote has been on her wall for a year and inspires her every day, and is true for Emmanuel: “Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.”

after_ever_afterMylisa Larsen says, “I really love Jordan Sonnenblick’s After Ever After. It’s about an eighth grade boy who had leukemia when he was younger and still has residual effects and disabilities caused by the chemotherapy…it’s inspiring…and it’s hilarious…When a book works for both a 47-year-old mom and an 11-year-old boy, that’s a keeper.”

Donna Janell Bowman responded with her favorite: “Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy, by Bill Wise, illustrated by Adam Gustavson. A childhood illness left Hoy (1862-1961,) deaf, but that didn’t stop him from becoming one of the pioneers of Major League Baseball. He is credited wiSilent Starth creating the hand signals that are still used today in baseball. I had done some research on William Hoy before this book came out, and found his story so remarkable. Imagine playing early baseball, when all calls were verbal, yet finding a way to fit in, invent a solution, and grow into a record-setting ball player. Wow!”

Maria Gianferrari says, “When I think of Laurie Thompson’s Emmanuel’s Dream, the first book that comes to mind is A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin, by Jen Bryant, with illustrations by Melissa Sweet, an inspiring tale about artist Horace Pippin. Horace is a young boy who loves to draw, but aftdownloader his father leaves, he must work to help support his family, just as Emmanuel helps to support his family…Horace enlists as a soldier in WWI, and his right arm is irrevocably injured…[yet] he finds a way to paint by supporting his injured arm with his good one…Both Horace and Emmanuel have indomitable spirits, and resourceful natures…being disabled does not mean being un-able.”

Penny Parker Klosterman added this: “One of the books that really inspired me this year is Grandfather Gandhi (Arun Ghandi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk). This is a story of how Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Arun, wondered how he could be a Gandhi when he felt anger instead of peace. I love this line that proved a turning point for Arun. ‘Arun, we can all work to use our anger, instead of letting it use us.’ “71i8tQLQl0L

And I’ll end with one of my own favorite inspirations, Sherman Alexie’s novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Despite being bullied for his disabilities and his outsider status as Native American in an all-white school, Junior “attacks life with wit and humor and discovers a strength inside of himself.” Junior dreams big, just like Emmanuel.

Don’t forget to comment here to be included in our giveaway of a copy of Emmanuel’s Dream!

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Emmanuel’s Dream Launch Party Continues With Agent Ammi-Joan Paquette

We are having a wonderful week as we celebrate the release of Laurie Ann Thompson’s new book, Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. Laurie has done an amazing job of telling Emmanuel’s inspiring story.cover

Remember to comment on any post this week and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Emmanuel’s Dream.

Ammi-Joan PaquetteToday we are happy to have Laurie’s agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, on the blog to answer a few questions about working with Laurie.

How did you come to represent Laurie?
AMMI-JOAN PAQUETTE: I first started corresponding with Laurie in 2010, when Erin sent her my way as someone she felt might be an excellent fit for my list and interests. She couldn’t have been  more right! Laurie and I corresponded for a good year, during which time she did some terrific revisions and sent me a number of her projects to consider. The more time that passed, and the more I read, the more I knew that I had to work with her. The combination of passion for her subjects, a strong desire to make a difference, and of course incredible writing talent had me hooked!

What was it about Emanuel’s Dream that caught your attention?
AMMI-JOAN PAQUETTE: EMMANUEL’S DREAM (then under a different title) was actually the first project that Laurie queried me with! At the time I was looking for a non-fiction author to work with, and both this character and his story really compelled me. I was also impressed that when I sent Laurie revision notes, she dug in with zest and really transformed the project.–Not only that, but during this time of revision she actually met with Emmanuel Yeboah in person (and came out of the meeting with 18 pages of notes, which she then used to inform her next draft). EMMANUEL’S DREAM has changed hugely over the course of its polishing, submission, and later still further after acquisition. But the core story is still the same as it first was, and it has only gotten more glorious in the retelling.

Laurie’s book, Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters, debuted in September. Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah is a changemaker and did start something that matters. Does Laurie have other books on the horizon that highlight people who have changed the world?
AMMI-JOAN PAQUETTE: I guess you’re seeing a trend here, aren’t you? I can’t get into specifics here, but Laurie definitely has other ideas in mind spotlighting people who have changed the world. I love this side of Laurie’s passion and I’m eager to see how these next projects may come together!

We’re eager to see them too, Joan. Thanks for joining us for launch week and sharing about your work with Laurie.

*     *     *
 Remember to comment on any post this week and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Emmanuel’s Dream. Pick up a signed copy at  Secret Garden Bookshop (if you add your personalization request in the comments section, Laurie will sign it for you!) or check out IndieBound for a local bookstore near you. Of course, you can also find it on Amazon.com or BN.com.

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Introducing EMMANUEL’S DREAM (plus a book giveaway)

Every week,  I come out of the library lugging an armful of picture books. I’m looking for one thing–a good story, well told, with beautiful art. It’s a rare find. So it is a pure pleasure to introduce you to just such a book today–Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson and Sean Qualls is out in the world. It’s a great story, told in a storyteller’s voice with art that beautifully complements the telling.

coverWe’ll be celebrating that book all week here. We have a book giveaway. Interviews with the illustrator, Sean Qualls, and Laurie’s agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette. A roundup of  places where you can find out more about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. And the Emus recommendations for other inspiring books. It’s going to be a great week.

And it’s all in support of a great book.

Here’s what some other people have been saying about it: “Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah’s inspiring true story—which was turned into a film, Emmanuel’s Gift, narrated by Oprah Winfrey—is nothing short of remarkable.

Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled.

Thompson’s lyrical prose and Qualls’s bold collage illustrations offer a powerful celebration of triumphing over adversity.” (Schwartz and Wade, publisher’s web page.)

and

“Emmanuel is a young boy born in Ghana who overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to prove that disabled does not mean unable. In Ghana, individuals who are differently abled are often seen as useless or cursed, but Emmanuel never let that stand in his way. Despite having only one leg, he attended school, hopping two miles each way, earned money to support his family without having to beg, and bicycled 400 miles in just 10 days in an attempt to change the conversation about disabilities. Emmanuel’s Dream is an inspirational story about a young man who recognized injustice, set out to fix it, and refused to take no for an answer.” —Sara Grochowski, Brilliant Books, Traverse City, MI (Winter 2014-2015 Kids’ Indie Next List)
 soccer
Comment on any post this week and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Emmanuel’s Dream. Pick up a signed copy at  Secret Garden Bookshop (if you add your personalization request in the comments section, Laurie will sign it for you!) or check out IndieBound for a local bookstore near you. Of course, you can also find it on Amazon.com or BN.com.

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Shiny Packages

115061459_c3f31c4ae2_zNo, not those kinds of packages.

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Over there.

Have you noticed? All those new book covers along the left? In the past several weeks, a bunch of us have gotten cover art. We now know what our books are going to look like on a bookstore or library shelf. Take a minute to scroll down the left side and see the different styles.

Aren’t they glorious?

Cover art is a big deal. That cover has to get the right reader to pick up the right book. Like visual matchmaking. The cover has to say, “You should open this book. You are going to love this story.” All this has to happen in the one or two seconds that it takes for a casual glance.

So, how well do these covers do? Try something. Imagine all of them without the titles, without the names of the creators. Just the art. Even without being able to see the trim sizes, can you still tell which are YA, which are middle grade, which are picture books? Can you still tell which ones are funny? Which are mysteries? Pretty nice, huh? (I think this even works with Susan’s book where the title is the art. If you preserved that cover just as splashes of color with those quirky drawings, I think it would still say contemporary middle grade, funny.)

It makes me want to pick up a stack of these books and spend a few days curled up on the couch.

BUNNIES cover9780449817445All of us at Emu’s Debuts will be taking a short break over the holidays. But in January, you actually will be able to curl up with Kevan Atteberry’s BUNNNIES!!! and Laurie Thompson’s EMMANUEL’S DREAM. Stay tuned for the wild rejoicings.

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Evidence for Connection

In one of his lectures on the craft of writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, the great Tim Wynne Jones said that the only place for a coincidence in a story is at the very beginning.  Random events, coincidences—fate—can set a story into motion. But to bring in a coincidence to resolve the unruly details of a complex plot is a cheap trick. That is unless a book’s theme is built around over the top coincidence as in Uma Krishnaswami’s brilliant The Grand Plan to Fix Everything. By chance, or was it design, Lindsey Lane, was in the room listening that day. In her fantastic debut, Evidence of Things not Seen, Lindsey finds a novel way to use coincidence, fate, and random connection: as the premise of a novel, in which a chance event connects a series of lives that might not otherwise be intertwined.

Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane

To celebrate the role of fate and coincidence, we’ve gathered up coincidences that have shaped our books and our lives. Where books start and life begins is not always clear as this coincidence story from Megan Morrison demonstrates:

A long time ago, I co-founded a Harry Potter web site. After a few years of running the site, I became less involved and rarely posted anymore – until one day, when I saw a post written by someone whose username I’d never noticed before. The post was snarky and hilarious; it was something I’d been dying to say, but as a founder of the site, I felt that my saying it would be inappropriate. Still, it was so satisfying to see someone else give voice to my schadenfreude that I privately messaged a thank-you note to the snarky stranger – something I had never done before. Now, the internet is a big place… but what do you know? It turned out that the snarky stranger lived just a few subway stops away from me, in Brooklyn. So we met up for a drink on July 30th (Neville Longbottom’s birthday, for you HP nerds). Nine happy years and one son later, I’m pretty glad that I randomly replied to that post!

Donna Bowman Bratton also found her partner though literacy and coincidence:

I once replied to a two week old casting call for a mystery fundraiser to benefit our local Literacy Council. There was to be a play. On a stage. Now, I’m sure my parents considered me a drama queen, but I had never been in theatre. Yet here I was, in my twenties, answering this ad. What the heck was I thinking? Lo and behold, all parts were cast, except one, the director explained by phone.
      “You wouldn’t happen to be in your twenties,” she asked. “And, by any wild chance, do you have long blonde hair?”
      “Um, yeah,” I stammered, In the most theatrical voice I could muster.
I showed up for rehearsal and learned that my character, Lotta, was to be murdered, strangled, by her “husband” over a winning lottery ticket. Between rehearsals and performances, I died at least thirteen times, falling to the floor with a flourish. And, each time, my gentlemanly “husband” ensured that my skirt didn’t billow up to reveal too much of, um, me. That last part is what got me.
        A few years later, I married my murderer. Yep, falling in love was murder.
Fast forward a few years and we had all but given up hope of having a baby. Until one very memorable day when, in an hugely unexpected way, I discovered I was pregnant. It was Valentine’s Day!

Friends matter every bit as much as partners. Jennifer Chambliss Bertman believes that fate brought one of her best friends into her life:

I’m never quite certain about the difference between coincidence and fate, but I suppose I could chalk one of my best friendships up to coincidence. Katherine and I knew each other peripherally as undergrads. Then, by chance, we attended the same small MFA Creative Writing program—so small, she and I made up 25% of our class! I initially worried that we wouldn’t get along. I am quiet, introverted, and not comfortable with all eyes on me. Katherine is vivacious, talkative, and not self-conscious about being loud. I didn’t think we had much in common, which is hilarious to me now, given how much it turns out we actually do have in common. We both double majored in English and Dance. We’re both from northern California. We both have brothers. We’re both crafty. We have a similar sense of humor. We have both spent a lot of time working with kids. Of course we both love to read and write. We both have a lifelong love of children’s literature. Our MFA program was challenging in ways I hadn’t anticipated, and I don’t know if I would have hung in there that first year without Katherine’s friendship. And that was just the beginning of one of the most enduring and meaningful friendships of my life. Now that’s a coincidence to be grateful for.

Coincidences give us faith. They are signs that we are on the right path as Tamara Ellis Smith found with marbles:

So I signed with my agent, Erin Murphy, primarily for the middle grade novel that became my debut, Another Kind of Hurricane. At the time it was called Marble Boys, because a big part of the story is that one of the main characters, Henry, has a lucky magic marble that he trades back and forth with his best friend…and then loses…and goes on an adventure to find. Shortly after we began working together Erin sent me an email that went something like this: “You’ll never guess what happened! I was digging in a new garden plot, and guess what I found way down deep in the dirt? A marble! A magic marble! A sign!”

Since then, this has happened a few more times with kids in my neighborhood. They have found marbles in their gardens too! I don’t know, but I’m thinking magic marbles grow, like sunflowers or irises…

Laurie Ann Thompson shares how coincidence brought her book to life!

Many coincidences resulted in my third book, My Dog Is the Best, coming next June. After workshopping it for a couple of years, I learned that people either loved the manuscript… or hated it. When I submitted the manuscript that became Emmanuel’s Dream to agent Ammi-Joan Paquette in 2011, she replied saying she liked it and wanted to see what else I had. I sent her the manuscripts that would become Be a Changemaker and My Dog Is the Best. She responded with an offer of representation! We quickly got to work getting Be a Changemaker and Emmanuel’s Dream ready for submission, but she never said anything about My Dog, so I just assumed she hated it. Two years later, Janine O’Malley happened to casually mention to Joan that she was looking for a cute dog story. Joan remembered filing My Dog away for just the right editor—one who would love it—and she sent it to Janine. Janine loved it! She had a particular illustrator in mind who turned it down, but a few days later author/illustrator Paul Schmid just happened to be in New York handing out postcards, one of which landed on Janine’s desk. She thought his style was a good fit, and he got the job. This book truly wouldn’t have come together without the numerous coincidental intersections between Joan, Janine, Paul, and me. It feels like it was meant to be!

Coincidence and fate shaped my book life too. In August of 2012, on my way from my home in Vermont to spend the year in Yerevan, Armenia my flight from Newark to London was cancelled. As a result, I was sure to miss the once a day flight from London to Yerevan. The folks at United suggested that I just stay put in beautiful Newark for the next 24 hours and take the same evening flight one day later to London. But to be sure not to miss the flight again, I insisted instead that they put me on the early morning flight to London. I was completely unaware that the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) annual meeting was just wrapping up in London at that very moment. I arrived well into the evening, got some take out Indian food, and a decent night’s sleep. The next day, I boarded the tube to return to Heathrow. At the tube stop after mine, a woman struggled to board the train with a number of heavy bags. I helped her get in and settled. Her modest dress, beautiful dark eyes and high cheekbones made me wonder if she, like me, might be heading to Armenia, so I asked her. It turned out that Sahar Tarhandeh, was the Bookbird Correspondent of the Children’s Book Council of Iran and a juror for the Hans Christian Andersen Prize. She had come to London to attend IBBY. Our friendship began with an hour-long magical conversation about children’s literature and the power of books to transcend political boundaries and to promote peace and connections across the globe. A few months into my stay in Yerevan, when Ammi-Joan Paquette sold my verse novel, Like Water on Stone, to Delacorte Press, it was especially sweet to know that Sahar cheered me on from a land just to the east of where my story is set.

In Armenian we say that our fate, jagad a kir, is literally written on our foreheads. Do we write this ourselves or do these events just happen? Whether they are about marbles, books, long lasting friendships, or love, these events, like Lindsey’s Evidence of Things Not Seen, affirm our fundamental human connectedness.

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